The Dems finally have their perfect scandal. In the past, they would howl with outrage over some action by the Administration...which would remain passive and quiet. So, the Dems would howl even louder...which would be met by more silence. Finally, they would reach a ridiculous crescendo of outrage...and the Administration would calmly release information that would conclusively show that its actions were justifiable and legal. The Dems would skulk away, looking like idiots (though their more rabid members would pretend that their version of the events was still the truth and keep on complaining).
That's not to say that they don't cause damage. The drop in the President's poll numbers has to be due, in part, to the endless attacks and negative publicity that the Dems, and their allies in the main stream media, heap onto the Administration.
Things could be different with the current make-believe scandal over the NSA's monitoring program; the White House will not be able to defend itself. To do so would involve disclosing details of the monitoring program that would provide invaluable information to Al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.
Things seem different this time. Usually, the President lets the Dems go on and on with their baseless attacks on an issue, allowing them to make total asses of themselves, before conclusively ending the argument by presenting the facts. It is unusual for the President to come out swinging. Though, one important difference this time is that, in the past, the issues were mostly political whereas THIS time it is policy and directly involves the way we are waging the war.
So, the Dems can complain all they want - they can make up all the nefarious details they want - and the Administration can't do anything to defend itself (at least without jeopardizing national security). Of course, even if the Administration did completely divulge the details of this program, the Dems would still continue to bray...the truth is never good enough reason to stop playing politics...but then they would also be able to charge that the Administration harmed our national security by disclosing details of the program. You already have Jay Rockefeller and Tom Daschle saying that although they were briefed, but did not support the program.
The President's only hope is that the American public will see the good sense in his actions. The Dems are using "Frankenstein monster" arguments: "Warrants GOOD! NSA warrantless searches, BAD!" The tin foil hat brigades of the left will buy into this quickly and completely. Many libertarians and "leave me alone" conservatives will be angry as well. But I think that many of the less partisan citizens on the left and in the center will see the wisdom of this policy.
The global war against terrorism is not like "the war on drugs" or "the war against poverty" (or even like Jimmy Carter's "moral equivilant of war" against the recession). This is a real, gun shooting, people killing WAR! We want the our country's security agencies to try and track down and monitor enemy communications.
I have no idea how the public will react to this issue. A lot of people just assume that the government is already monitoring telephone and electronic communications and agree with the process in general principles. I think the Dems are assuming that most people will have a strong negative reaction to the idea of warrantless wiretaps and domestic spying.
Certainly, the politically interested lawyers are having a field day discussing this even though NONE of us know the details of the program. Our only sources of information are the details in the NY Times reports (which are going to be inaccurate in many areas), the contents of the President's radio address and press conference, and a speech by the Attorney General. We do not know the details of the program and it would be insanity for the Administration to disclose those details in an effort to defend the President and the policy. Consequently, it is impossible for outsiders like us to evaluate the legality and constitutionality of the program.
My guess is that the program is tightly constrained, well supervised, and safely legal. Dems will disregard the facts and just try to tarnish the President by screaming "illegal domestic spying!" However, this gives the President a chance to come out swinging and show everyone that he is (as he has always been) a strong leader.
The Dems will come across as legalistic whiners who are more concerned with legal niceties than with keeping us safe. The President's poll numbers have finally started to come up...let's see if they keep rising. Of course, it is possible that this debate will cause his numbers to drop...but I think that the poll numbers for Congressional Dems will also drop (and those numbers are a lot lower than the President's approval numbers already).
The Dems are hoping that the American public will be so outraged at the thought of domestic spying that they can turn this into a political tsumani that will wash the Republican majority out of the House of Representatives (and maybe even the Senate) next year. The Dems are whipping their base into a frenzy with talks of impeaching Bush (and Cheney as well). Of course, under Title 3 USC Section 19, that would leave us with President Pelosi
Fat chance! Let's remember what happened in 1998. The pending impeachment of Bill Clinton was political poison for the Republicans. I think the same would be true for the Dems next year.
I am still amazed at all the people giving legal opinions about the NSA's actions and the Presidential approval of the program. They are mostly basing all their opinions on the NY Times report. We all know how inaccurate press reports are. Look at the Plame scandal and the inaccuracy of Joe Wilson's allegations (first made anonymously, then in that guest editorial in the NY Times). If the NY Times report is that inaccurate, it is doubtful that the NSA's actions are anything close to criminal. In all liklihood, the leaks came from the CIA, not the NSA...so there may also be an element of inter-agency rivalry (and additional possibilities for inaccuracy).
Of course, the looney left takes Joe Wilson's crazy claims as the absolute truth (even after he has been discredited and admits that he was wrong), so it will be with this issue. The truth will not distract the looney left from their conspiracy theories.
President Pelosi...what a nightmare!