Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Reclaiming The Issues "Why Is Bush Spying On Dems"

Reclaiming The Issues: "Why Is Bush Spying On Democrats?!?"

by Thom Hartmann
Published on Monday, July 10, 2006 by

Every time Democrats and progressives speak out about George W. Bush's spying on Americans without mentioning that he may also be spying on Democrats, they're playing into Karl Rove's "National Security Frame" and actually strengthening Republican electoral chances in November.

To short-circuit this, Democrats need to invoke the ghost of Richard Nixon.

If they don't, even Pete Hoekstra's new revelations that there are even more as-yet-unreported secret spying programs that Bush has been hiding from Congress will be used by Rove to say to average voters, "See? We're really looking out for you!"

The Bush administration doesn't deny it has been spying on Americans - they brag about it. They're listening to our phone calls, reading our emails, and looking at our bank transactions. They're gathering databases about our medical records, what we charge on our credit cards, and where we travel.

When Democrats point out that this is illegal without a court order, Rove simply floods the airwaves with Republicans who say, "We're doing it to protect you!"

The average American doesn't think this all the way through, and the Rovian frame seems like pretty commonsensical. In fact, it's at the heart of the right-wing rant.

For example, when some unfortunate and nearly illiterate idiots talked about attacking New York last week, the Bushies and the corporate press trumpeted the sting operation that led to these clueless wannabees' arrest as a "triumph in the war on terror!" Limbaugh intoned sternly that liberals would have prevented the United States from discovering such criminals, and all over America dittoheads nodded in agreement.

What's been entirely lost in the discussion about Bush administration spying is why so much of what Bush is doing is illegal.

And that takes us back to Richard Nixon, the last Republican to have an active domestic spying program without judicial or bipartisan congressional oversight. The one whose Bush-like abuses led to the FISA and other, similar laws.

Nixon said he was spying on Americans to keep us safe from communists. We were in the middle of a war, after all. The Soviets were out to get us (and armed with real weapons of mass destruction), and the North Vietnamese weren't far behind. He had to spy on Americans, he said, to protect the liberties of Americans.

Problem was, he had turned the tool of domestic surveillance against his political enemies (and those who weren't, like journalist Daniel Schorr, but whom he believed were). Nixon was spying on Democrats, and trying to cover it with the fig leaf of "national security."

Set aside all the highbrow talk about separation of powers and intent of the Founders, and this is what the FISA and other, similar, laws boil down to - stopping the president from spying on his political opponents. To prevent political abuse, he has to check in with a judge or a congressional committee before using our super-spies.

Imagine if Bill Clinton had been found to have a domestic spying program going on - even after the bombing of Oklahoma City and the first World Trade Center hit. Republicans would have been foaming at the mouth. "What's he hiding?! It must be that he's spying on us!!"

Yet Democrats seem unwilling to even raise the possibility of Bush administration political espionage, and the compliant corporate press hasn't raised a peep. Even though there's a precedent for Republicans - and, more recently, Bush Republicans - spying on Democrats.

Remember November of 2003? Using naked political espionage, Bush Republicans used intelligence gained in an illegal spying operation to outflank Democrats.

Republicans in the Senate - including a staffer for Republican Senator Orrin Hatch - hacked into the computers of several Senate Democrats, including Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin. Reading Kennedy's and Durbin's correspondence, the Republican operatives discovered the strategy the Democrats intended to use to attack Republican high court nominees. They leaked fifteen bits of Kennedy's discussions to The Wall Street Journal and other Republican-friendly sources, who used the information to successfully trash and thwart the Democratic plans.

As the story began to unfold several months later, the headline from The New York Times on February 10, 2004, read: "Democrats Suggest Inquiry Points to Wider Spying by G.O.P."

But it stopped there, because Republicans control the Senate. Despite loud Democratic objections, Bill Frist has never allowed a serious investigation by the Senate's members into the data theft - even though these Republican burglars were actually more competent than those busted at Watergate.

Americans should demand that the Bush administration follow the law and gain court orders and/or serious congressional oversight for their domestic spying, because we don't want America to become a gulag-nation where average citizens are afraid to speak out about political issues, or where opposition politicians are routinely neutralized by such spying.

And the easy way for Democrats to drive that point home - and to snatch from the hands of Rove the "we're protecting you" torch he bears every time another Bush spy scheme is unveiled - is to start yelling: "I want to know why Bush, Gonzales, and Negroponte are spying on Democrats!?!"

When Democrats stop giving Bush a pass on this and start pointing out that Republicans from Nixon in 1972 to Orrin Hatch in 2003 have been caught spying on Democrats, the average American will get the reason for congressional and judicial oversight.

Inside-the-Beltway Democratic strategists wrongly take it for granted that Americans understand the potential consequences of unrestrained presidential spying activities. Unfortunately, most Americans don't give it a second thought.

But they will when Democrats begin to demand - loudly - to know which Democrats, Democratic Party donors, and people who vote for Democrats have been spied on.

When did Bush use the voter databases that Republican politicians like Jeb Bush and Ken Blackwell have compiled to compare the bank accounts, phone records, and doctor's records of people who vote as Democrats?

When did Bush use his illegal NSA wiretaps to listen in on Democratic Party political strategy sessions?

When did Bush begin snooping into the private lives of average people who committed the crime of registering as Democrats?

What information has he gathered by reading our emails? What is he doing with it? Who's on his "enemies list"?

Not only is this the only way to neutralize Rove's "we're doing it to protect you" frame, there's also a reasonable possibility that Bush actually is using his illegal domestic spying programs to target everybody from elected Democrats to average voters.

His administration and party have already been busted by the BBC for targeting Democratic voters in Florida and Ohio to strip them of their right to vote; have already been convicted in Federal Court of jamming Democratic phone banks on election day; have already been outed for targeting groups like the Raging Grannies and The League of Women Voters for "terrorist" surveillance.

Who was spied on first? Probably every Democratic politician in America. (We know they got Kennedy and Durban!)

Who was spied on after that? Probably every journalist and liberal author, columnist, and progressive talk show host in America.

Who will be spied on next? Probably you.

Pass it on and raise some hell. Why is Bush spying on Democrats?


Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America," "What Would Jefferson Do?" and "Ultimate Sacrifice." His next book, due out this autumn, is "Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It."

Published on Monday, July 10, 2006 by

Permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is unchanged.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Gordon Campbell: On Why We Shouldn’t Be Pushed Into Re-Opening Our Borders

I believe in yesterday as much as Paul McCartney, but it was bemusing to see the amount of media attention lavished last week on the pandemic-related musings by former government science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman, former Prime Minister Helen Clark ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Media Collusion With National’s Attack Lines

For most of the past week, any consumer of this country’s management of Covid-19 would think New Zealand was actually Brazil, or Texas. The media language has been full of claims of “botches” at the border, and laxness and inexcusable errors ... More>>

Gregor Thompson: Don’t Be Too Pessimistic About New Zealand’s Future.

With the first hurdle hopped our Government will be turning its attention to trying to soften the economic damage this pandemic has on our little archipelago. More>>

Eric Zuesse: U.S. Empire: Biden And Kerry Gave Orders To Ukraine’s President

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at Strategic Culture On May 19th, an implicit international political warning was issued, but it wasn’t issued between countries; it was issued between allied versus opposed factions within each of two countries: U.S. and Ukraine. ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Welcome Deaths: Coronavirus And The Open Plan Office

For anybody familiar with that gruesome manifestation of the modern work place, namely the open plan office, the advent of coronavirus might be something of a relief. The prospects for infection in such spaces is simply too great. You are at risk from ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Why Thinking Makes It So: Donald Trump’s Obamagate Fixation

The “gate” suffix has been wearing thin since the break-in scandal that gave it its birth. Since Watergate, virtually anything dubious and suggestive, and much more besides, is suffixed. Which brings us to the issue of President Donald Trump’s ... More>>