I think the Bush administration really must be scared. Their numbers on the midterms must be bleak. Else why would they be pushing so desperately to pass laws that whitewash their record of 4th-Amendment and human-rights abuses?
What's most remarkable about both the Detainee Torture bill and the Wiretapping bill that are now the focus of the last days of the 109th Congress is that they both provide retroactive immunity from prosecution for wrongdoing.
These bills are nasty in their future implications to be sure: They give the current and all future presidents the right to eavesdrop on Americans at will, and solemnize the CIA's use of medieval and Soviet styled torture of suspected enemies of the state. Fighting fire with fire aparently means fighting "Islamo fascism" with a slightly kinder, gentler variant of the old-fashioned kind.
But what is most nefarious is that these bills...is that they offer a blanket authorization of all past abuses of power by this administration in terms of both torture and unwarranted surveillance. These bills rubberstamp the administration's highest crimes and misdemeanors, without any full accounting of what those crimes were. Without any debate about whether extremism in the defense of liberty truly is no vice.
We have only the most cursory understanding of the true scope of the NSA's Fourth-Amendment busting surveillance. And we're left to imagine the gulag worthy abuses were perpetrated in our names at black sites like like the "Salt Pit."
Most of the media coverage of these bills has been about the administration's hopes of wrongfooting the Democrats on issues of security. And certainly there's a gesture in that familiar direction. But unlike Rove's trademark Machiavellian efforts in 2002 and 2004, there's something deeply defensive about these bills.
It seems Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo & Co. really fear a Democratically controlled congress and the two years of subpoena driven accountability that it could exact from this administration. I'm adamant: We don't know the half of what these people did. But there's little doubt that it's conscience shocking.
In short, these bills offer Bush a get out of impeachment free card. We should wonder why they so desperately believe they need one.