George Bush Is Engaged in an Epic Battle to Cover His Ass

Something astonishing happened the other day in the House: The Democratic leadership found some courage. After over a year of demoralizing, often inexplicable capitulation, they actually gathered the fortitude to push back slightly against Republicans on so-called national security issues. The Republicans’ response was swift: They took their ball and went home, after a brief stop at a prearranged press conference on the Capitol steps.

Two issues caused the dispute: One, in a stunning display of rudimentary oversight, the House issued contempt citations for two former Bush staffers, Harriet Meiers and Josh Bolten, who’ve been ducking House subpoenas for months now. This was predictably dismissed by weepy Minority Whip John Boehner as a “partisan fishing expedition,” a boilerplate clich if ever there was one.

The second issue, which the indignant Republicans preferred to discuss, for obvious reasons, was the House Democrats’ refusal to cave on retroactive immunity for telecom companies, like AT&T and Sprint, for collaborating with the White House in spying on domestic internet and phone communications, which, to be clear, was tremendously illegal.

What’s less encouraging, but interesting, is that the Democrats were ready to sign off on extending the repugnantly named Protect America Act, except for telecom immunity. To Bush, this made the bill dead on arrival. That’s right; Bush promised to veto the bill if it reached his desk without a get out of jail free card for Comcast.

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