Sunday, May 14, 2006

open letter to newt gingrich

dear newt gingrich,

heard your interview with tim russert on meet the press this morning and i have to give you credit, you can still talk a mean game. if your party's smart -- big if -- you'll get their 2008 presidential nomination and undoubtedly talk circles around your democratic opponent.

but oh, if only circles were the truth!

let's start with the top story of the week and the first question put to you, regarding the NSA phone call database:
Well, first of all, the amazing thing is--everything that has been done is totally legal. You just look at the, at the specifics of what they're doing, it is totally legal.
in true republican fashion, the lies emerge before you can even utter a complete sentence. well ok, if not an outright lie than at the very least a highly contestable opinion. first of all, i don't think anyone knows for sure "the specifics of what they're doing" and secondly, if it's so "totally legal" then why did qwest refuse to play ball? why have two laywers filed civil suit against verizon for handing over its customers' phone records to the NSA? what provision of the NSA charter allows domestic surveillance? what provision of the 1934 communications act enables phone companies to turn over customers' calling records? these are matters for the courts to decide newt, not you (even though i sincerely doubt whether the democrats have the intestinal fortitude to launch an investigation even if they do win back control of congress in november).

of course, your suggestion for how this president should reframe the issue to the american public is, as republican reframings always are, highly questionable:
Should the Congress guarantee that the United States government is capable of stopping terrorists, detecting terrorists and, if necessary, going back out and finding out who the terrorists worked with, once you know who the terrorists are?
first of all, no government plan or agency can guarantee that it will stop terrorists: it's one of the perils of a free society that the threat of terrorism exists. put it that way and of course no one is going to object. but the way you republicans put it is never accurate. example #2:
This is the choice. We're going to have a nuclear weapon some day or a biological weapon that could kill millions of Americans. We have the technical ability to stop it. Now do you want us to be able to stop it or not?
oh by all means, "bring it on." of course we want to stop it, no americans in their correct mind (not even those america-hating liberal leftists) want it otherwise so gimme a break. this is a false choice and you know it! because first of all a "technical ability" means nothing without human analysis: we had plenty of technical ability pre-9/11 but what we lacked, and what might have prevented 9/11, was human ability. second, your false choice assumes that going on a fishing expedition through trillions of phone records -- the very acquisition and compilation of which is of questionable if not dubious legality -- is the only guaranteed way to prevent another 9/11 and that not doing it will cause another 9/11. surely we can find a way to do this that's effective and legal.

and of course you never actually answer questions that are put straight to you. russert asks, "But you're not troubled with the government gathering data on phone calls made in this country by American citizens?" you reply with another nonsense, false dichotomy hypothetical:
Look, if you find out one morning that we now have five terrorists in the U.S. who are part of an active network who want to destroy New York City or Buffalo or Atlanta, and the government says, "You know, we could've tracked every call they made for the last 10 years, but that would've been wrong, Tim. So we don't know who they've been working with. We don't know what their network is and we can't stop it," you're then going to have a totally new set of congressional hearings by the same people who will then reverse their side, totally. I do think your civil liberties ought to be...(unintelligible). Nobody who's not involved in terrorism should be at risk. Nobody who's making normal phone calls should be at risk. But the idea that we're going to say to the United States government, for libertarian reasons, "We'd rather lose a city than have you gather data," I think is totally out of touch with the danger of the modern world.
you make these qualifications about protecting civil liberties as an afterthought when the program you so vigorously defend has clearly already violated civil liberties. gather data or lose a city? fearmongering, false choice nonsense.

not to mention that you republicans continually decry "big government" but what is a program designed to surreptitously amass trillions of phone records but the biggest government one could possibly imagine. orwell had a name for it and no self-respecting conservative would condone it, EVER.

i see too that when the interview turns to electoral politics your party's policy of "blame democrats first" is full operative. too bad you can't lay the blame squarely where it properly lies, namely at your party's very own doorstep. when
the head of the border for the United States government [says] that the border is essentially an invitation to illegal entry, you know something has to change. When you learn that maybe as much as 16 of the $18 billion dollars that we sent to Baghdad for economic purposes wasn't spent effectively, you know something has to change. When you look at Katrina and you realize that we, we--the United States government paid $1.75 to a general contractor who paid 75 cents to a contractor who paid 35 cents to a subcontractor who paid 10 cents to put the blue tarp on that was the temporary roofing, you know something has to change.
what has to change is obvious. these things all happened under republican control of the house, senate and white house. clearly it's this monopoly of governmental power that has to end.

you can, and you do and you will, demonize democrats all you want, but your party is utterly bereft of plans and ideas. russert pressed you on immigration, and of course your so-called compassion showed itself to be the bankrupt heartlessness it really is. one of your plans is to
create a worker visa program that has a background check, that has a biometric card, probably a retinal scan so it's really accurate and very, very hard to counterfeit, and have that card, by the way, run by AMEX or--American Express or Visa or MasterCard, because you know the Department of Homeland Security doesn't have any possibility of running that program.
you're not serious newt, are you? use biological information for immigration enforcement which you then contract outo the credit card companies? gee i guess a massive database of trillions of domestic phone call records turns out to be really quite trivial when compared with the civil liberties violations and privacy invasions of THIS program. really newt, i do hope y'all run on this one in 2008.

no, but seriously folks. russert presses, with repsect to the families your party values so highly by breaking them up and sending parents back over the border while their naturalized children remain here: "But Mr. Speaker, many of those people have children here who are American citizens. Do they leave their children behind?"

MR. GINGRICH: I--there are a lot of things you can do.

MR. RUSSERT: What do you do?

MR. GINGRICH: Look, if...

MR. RUSSERT: It's a real issue. It's a real human issue.

MR. GINGRICH: You go home long enough to obey the...

MR. RUSSERT: Without your children?

MR. GINGRICH: In every case, you can find ways to make accommodations.
classic. in other words, you don't have a plan for the tens of thousands of families you'd potentially break up, newt. and is that really in every case? who's going to review these tens of thousands of cases, american express and visa?

MR. RUSSERT: If Hispanics are listening to you today, Latinos, and Newt Gingrich is saying mother and fathers have to go home, and break up the families...

MR. GINGRICH: I didn't say break up the family, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: What happens to the kids?

MR. GINGRICH: I didn't say anything--I didn't say anything about that.
of course you didn't, because you have nothing to say. you responded with a non-answer about rewarding lawbreakers blah blah blah. wanna try again?

MR. RUSSERT: What happens to the kids?

MR. GINGRICH: I didn't--first of all, in the age of jet airplanes--you, you, you phase this in over three years. The--there are ways to do this that can be humane, they can be compassionate, they can be caring. But I think for you to take the, the most difficult possible case, you can decide on humanitarian grounds to have a handful of exceptions.
sure, there may be ways: care to name one? "in the age of jet airplanes, you, you" what, sign 'em all up for frequent flyer programs? phase what in over three years? all sounds real humane, compassionate and caring. your talk sounds real good newt, but behind the talk you've got nothing.

and i thought that was "in every case," or now is it just "the most difficult cases" possible? and who's going to go through all those cases and make the decisions about which are the "most difficult possible" cases and which are only "somewhat difficult"? sounds like the job for a big government bureaucracy -- if only we could afford it. which your party's tax-and-spend policies leave us with, namely nothing. what guard units are you going to patrol our borders with pal when they're all being deployed overseas?

the question-dodging continues unabated when russert turns to iraq: "Knowing what you know now, do you believe going into Iraq was the right thing to do?"

MR. GINGRICH: Well, let me start with the, the South Dakota quote, which,...
oh god, here we go. let's try again:

MR. RUSSERT: ...but knowing no weapons of mass destruction, knowing the level of insurgency resisting--resistance, knowing the sectarian violence, knowing the cost, do you believe it was still worthwhile and do you believe it was a war of choice or necessity?

MR. GINGRICH: Look, I believe that the president was exactly right in the State of the Union in 2002 to say there is an "axis of evil." I think he was exactly right to say North Korea, Iran and Iraq are very, very dangerous...
oh, GOD! answer the question!! how about deficit spending:

MR. RUSSERT: But, Mr. Speaker, in all candor, 2001 till now, complete Republican control, hasn't the welfare state grown?

MR. GINGRICH: I just said to you a minute ago, I think they have to have real change. I'm not, I'm not defending the current spending, I--your numbers there.

But let me take your second part, which is there's an enormous opportunity which I think would get substantial support...
please, please, PLEASE ANSWER A QUESTION THAT'S PUT TO YOU!

keep it up, newt, at this rate you're well on your way to the 2008 republican ticket.

p.s. oh yeah, and "Saddam had a direct relationship with al-Qaeda"? yeah, you and dick cheney are the only ones who still believe that canard!

1 comment:

Chris Vitiello said...

Tom,
Circles are by definition perfect, and are therefore true.
Hold me,
--ChrisV