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charliefootballlucy1978.jpgFor those who haven’t lost interest in democracy (41 House Democrats need not raise their hands), Matt Stoller has been engaged in a discussion with people from the ACLU about just what went wrong with the FISA bill. Basically, the Democrats seem to have gotten punk’d like they always do. BushCo. appoints some “new guy” who’s going to come in and save the day (in this case, Director of Intelligence Admiral Mike McConnell) who proceeds to make a deal with them and then betrays them.

Read Matt’s whole post, but much like the Dodd interview of yesterday regarding the Senate passage of the Military Commissions Act, the new FISA bill made its way through because of poor planning and downright bungling:

House leaders put the ‘good bill’ on the suspension calendar, which is a specific track for non-controversial legislation that requires a two thirds vote. Suspension calendar bills are often about things like naming post offices, and bills on this track do not go to the floor for amendments and debate. I asked a contact why this bill went on the suspension calendar, and she told me it’s because there had been no hearings on the bill so it couldn’t go to the floor (though she is going to get more information from a staffer who knows more about rules). McConnell, prodded by Bush, double-crossed the Democrats, and withdrew his support for the good bill, which then went down to defeat on the suspension calendar. Normally, the Senate’s awful bill and the House’s more reasonable one would be mashed together in conference, but in this case the Senate had already gone home. In other words, this was a procedural blunder. As a rule, you do not lose procedural fights like this in the House, as a friend told me it’s like ‘walking the pitcher’. The good bill should have been brought to the floor, but it was not. The whip operation, run by Clyburn, and the floor manager, Hoyer, failed to manage this properly.

That’s it. We now live in a virtual police state because the Democratic leadership screwed up.

Liberal groups, as Caroline noted, were cut out of the process by liberal leaders and Blue Dogs alike. House and Senate leaders trusted Bush, who of course double-crossed them, and trusted Mike McConnell, who is appointed by Bush as a Colin Powell-type respectable military man. And then, to add insult to injury, they rushed a complicated bill through out of fear of criticism by George Bush, the man who lied to them and prevented a FISA fix.

You have to wonder how many times they’re going to pull the football away before the Democrats get wise to the game. I realize they live in fear of being defeated in 2008 and don’t want to do anything to rock the boat, but aside from the moral argument — it really is their job to see that this stuff does not happen — the idea that standing up to George Bush on warrantless wiretapping is going to make them unpopular is patently absurd. As Glenn Greenwald has noted, that’s the argument Karl Rove tried to make before the 2006 elections and the Republicans got slaughtered. Those who tried to make it campaign issues like Nancy Johnson were hammered into humiliating defeat.

Matt says the blame for this fiasco lies at the feet of Hoyer, Clyburn, Emanuel, Pelosi and Reid. Since it’s August and these people are going to be back in their districts at some point for Town Hall meetings and other public events, it would be a great time (as Christy has noted) for people to show up and express their discontent with what happened. It’s not easy to find announcements of these events, but I did manage to find this one:

Senator Reid in Pahrump, Town Hall Meeting: Aug 15th

Senator Harry Reid will be in Pahrump Wednesday, August 15, 11:30 am till 1 pm. At the Bob Ruud Community Center, Highway 160 and Basin Street. Senator Harry Reid is scheduled for a Town Hall meeting.

If anyone can locate public events that Hoyer, Clyburn, Emanuel, Pelosi or Reid are going to be at, please leave them in the comments so that we can announce them. It would be great for people to organize Roots actions to go and pay their respects.

This one left a mark.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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