“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent” — Proverbs 17:28
Senator Ted Kaufman may be dumb in the old sense of the word, but he’s not stupid. He’s an interim senator who knows his job: not to open his mouth, but to do the bidding of his long-time boss, Joe Biden, and Biden’s boss, Barack Obama. So Kaufman keeps his mouth shut and votes as he’s told.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, on the other hand, does not keep her mouth shut, even when to do so might be in her best interest. If Senator Klobuchar had kept her mouth shut during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting of October 8, 2009, nobody would have known that she hadn’t read the bill to reauthorize the Patriot Act, a bill that she was nevertheless all set to vote on. Nobody would have known that she didn’t understand the legislation in front of her if she hadn’t decided, seemingly on the spur of the moment, to speak up.
Senator Klobuchar decided to speak up in today’s meeting to explain why she was going to vote AGAINST the Durbin Amendment, an amendment which would restrict warrantless search and seizure of Americans’ personal information and property to cases involving terrorism or spying. My transcript of the exchange (see 10/8 webcast at minute 95:00):
Senator Amy Klobuchar: Yeah, thank you, um, Mr. Chairman, and I, I agree with you Mr. Chairman, and, uh, Senator Sessions, in opposing the amendment. And I would just point to the actual language in here, which is, uh it’s not like this is some pie in the sky standard here. I mean, it specifically says that there has to be, for this letter to issue, “reasonable grounds to believe that the information sought is relevant to an authorized national security investigation provided that such an investigation of the United States person is not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and pertain to a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power, is relevant to the activities of a suspected agent of a foreign power who is subject of such authorized investigation, or pertains to an individual in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power.”
So I just, for anyone listening to this, it is not like there is no standard! There is a standard in place here.
Senator Jeff Sessions: That’s the standard that is in the bill now?
Klobuchar: [nod and smile]
Senator Dick Durbin: Senator, that’s the standard of the amendment. It’s not in the bill now.
Senator Patrick Leahy: Clerk will call the roll.
Durbin: Mr. Chairman, can I have a moment?
Leahy: Senator Durbin.
Durbin: I’d like to make that point to Senator Klobuchar!
Leahy: Oh, I’d like to make it very clear, I’m not going to cut off anybody who wants to, obviously, I…
Durbin: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s rare we get a chance to talk about issues of this gravity, and I think we ought to take a few moments to do it. And I would say to Senator Klobuchar, you just read my amendment, and I think it’s critically important that you understand what we’re establishing here.
Dick Durbin is right: in explaining why she was going to vote against the Durbin Amendment, Amy Klobuchar read the text of the Durbin Amendment, thinking that she was reading the bill unamended, and praised the Durbin Amendment for having a reasonable standard that wasn’t “pie in the sky.” Read for yourself. Here’s the original S. 1692 bill proposed to reauthorize the Patriot Act for four more years. Here’s S. 1692 as altered through substitute amendment last week. In neither will you find the text that Amy Klobuchar read and said set a perfectly reasonable standard. The only place you will find that standard is in the amendment offered by Richard Durbin, the amendment Amy Klobuchar said she intended to vote against.
1. Senator Amy Klobuchar said she was going to concur with Patrick Leahy and Pete Sessions by voting against the Durbin Amendment.
2. Then she said “I would just point to the actual language in here, which is, uh it’s not like this is some pie in the sky standard here.”
3. Then, thinking that she was reading S. 1692, the bill she was defending from amendment, she read the text of the Durbin Amendment instead.
4. Then she summed up: “So I just, for anyone listening to this, it is not like there is no standard! There is a standard in place here.”
5. Then Dick Durbin pointed out that she had just read the text of the Amendment that she said she opposed.
6. And then, yes, Senator Amy Klobuchar went ahead anyway and voted against the Durbin Amendment she’d just inadvertently praised.
This sequence of events only makes sense if Amy Klobuchar were unfamiliar with the bill and the amendment, basing her votes today on marching orders instead of actually knowing what she was talking about.
There’s a modern version of Proverbs 17:28 that seems appropriate to the occasion:
“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
I’d laugh a bit more heartily if Amy Klobuchar hadn’t just dashed Americans’ civil liberties in her act of ignorant obedience.