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Asked about FISA at Netroots Nation, Nancy Pelosi Beats About the Bush

When Nancy Pelosi appeared at the Netroots Nation conference today, people questioned her decision as Speaker of the House to let the H.R. 6304, the FISA Amendments Act, come to the floor. Speaker Pelosi’s answers were anything but respectful to the intelligence and attention span of those who were listening.

Hotline reports part of her answer before the entire Netroots Nation:

“Was it a bill that I would have written? Definitely not. Was it infinitely better than the Senate bill? I believe so.”

Infinitely better? Infinitely? I don’t think Nancy Pelosi knows what “infinitely” means. If the House bill was really infinitely better than an earlier Senate bill, then clearly she would have wanted to have written it (which she didn’t) and voted for it (which she did). The bill is finitely different from the prior Senate bill and finitely similar, but such finite characteristics are beneath her explanation.

Pelosi is the latest politician to mouth the words to the effect that “this wasn’t a bill I would have written” (see Hoyer, Steny and Obama, Barack). If she really, sincerely means this then Nancy Pelosi, like Barack Obama and Steny Hoyer, should be willing to provide the following information:

1. How would you have drafted the FISA Amendments Act? What are the ways in which the FISA Amendments Act, in your judgment, is far from perfect? What are the specific provisions that would be present and absent in a bill that actually is all you want?

2. As the leader of the House of Representatives, what specific legislative actions do you intend to engage in to bring about the specific changes you identify as necessary?

That information is not forthcoming.

Did you notice the passivity of Pelosi’s characterization of H.R. 6304, the FISA Amendments Act? Why, it’s almost as if she were not the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the most powerful member of that body. It’s almost as if she stood by like a little kid, powerless to do anything. Elsewhere in her remarks today, the passivity about the FISA Amendments Act continued: “We had no options,” Pelosi complained. No options? The House of Representatives is a deliberative legislative body. It always has options. They include: 1) amending the bill, 2) rejecting the bill, 3) writing a different and better bill. But no, the Pelosi story is one of passive victimhood. Is Speaker Pelosi really such a hapless, helpless schmuck, or does she just want you to think so?

The helpless tone and passive voice are repeated and multiplied in a separate interview today with TPM Muckraker’s David Kurtz:

David Kurtz, TPM Media: On the FISA vote, was that an election year expediency to get that passed and get that off the table?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: No. No. Well, I think we have to protect the American people. We have to protect the American people, and intelligence is a way to do that. We didn’t have to have this bill. But the only alternative that was there, because of the actions of Democrats in the Senate, and I’ll be very clear with all the respect I have for them, they put us in this situation where we only had a choice between the Senate bill, which was completely out of the question, and the alternative that we were putting forth in the House. The bill that we voted for, that overwhelmingly the Democrats I think 100% supported protected the American people in a way that protected and defended the Constitution as well. The Senate didn’t go for it.

Kurtz: If it was a bill we didn’t have to have, then why…

Pelosi: Well we did have to have it. We had to have a bill, because everything had expired. Two reasons we had to have a bill. First of all, I don’t have to tell you that the technology has changed since 1978, and there needed to be a modernization of the FISA bill, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. There had to be a modernization that recognized all the new technologies. So we had to have a bill that recognized that and all the other legislation had expired. So what we wanted to do was to have a bill that protects the American people, insist that include all of the technologies, because what the administration wanted to do was say, “Well, it’ll include e-mail and… the rest of
things we have authority to surveill.” Bring it all under FISA because they wanted a lot of electronic communication to be outside of FISA.

So understand the bad intentions of the White House when it comes to this surveillance. Again, as with everything it was an excuse for them to use to expand the authority of the president, which they said he had inherently from the Constitution, but we wanted to remove all doubt: The FISA law is the sole authority to do that. So we had to have a bill.

And there are those that say, “Well, stall it until next year and under a new administration” — you still need 60 votes to bring up a new bill next year in the Senate even though you have a new president. And mind you 17 of our Democrats voted with the Republicans to give THEM 60 votes. So I put this at the feet of the Senate, and then we have to support it and they walk away from it!

Kurtz: Do you know if the president attached a signing statement to the FISA bill?

Pelosi: I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know, but you know what? 107 days until the election, what is it until the inauguration? He’ll be gone soon.

Let’s boil down the bluster to Pelosi’s core contentions:

1. It’s not my fault, it’s the Senate’s fault. Weird thing, but H.R. 6304 was passed by the House first. The Senate voted on the bill after the House did. This makes Speaker Pelosi a science fiction character who is somehow able to use the powers of her office to reverse the flow of causality. Shazaam!

2. We had no choice! See above comments. Legislative bodies have bushels of choices. Capable legislative leaders frame those choices rather than be framed in by a supposed lack of them. What Nancy Pelosi is really telling you here is that she’s an incompetent leader.

3. We had to give Bush a law to do this, because otherwise he was breaking the law to do it. How about impeaching him for breaking the law? Oh, right. Pelosi took that off the table.

4. We had to let the president spy on you without warrants or restriction for periods of 67 days because now we have cell phones. #?^$ !?($$*!?

5. Revoking American freedoms is necessary to protect the American people.. Because now, more than ever, American freedom will kill you. See Bush, George. Also see Franklin, Ben.

6. Don’t worry, we’ll fix everything later, maybe after the next election. See 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006. If you still believe this line after oh so many broken “just wait till next time” promises from the Democrats, see this beautiful bridge I have to sell you.

Excuse me for one moment. I have this wall I have to beat my head against.

Hm, no. It still doesn’t make sense.

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