Friday, December 28, 2012

The Newspaper of Record Ignores The News

The New York Times runs another episode in its carefully constructed sitcom, "That Darn Congress".  It begins it with a tried and sometimes true witticism:
Senators bid hasty goodbyes to families, donned ties and pantsuits in lieu of sweat pants and Christmas sweaters and one by one returned to the Capitol on Thursday to begin the business of doing nothing in particular.
 Har, har har. That kind of joke could have been uttered by Will Rogers while doing rope tricks at the Ziegfeld Follies back in Wilson's day. (If you don't get the reference, google it.) Problem is, the Senate was actually doing business yesterday that most people would consider important. Not that the NYT snark-meister noticed:
Amid the absurdity of an urgent, nonurgent holiday session, there was the odd hum of normalcy. Senators fulminated about espionage for hours on the Senate floor as they debated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congressional aides wore their workday best as they sped through hallways, clutching their phones. Taco Thursday continued as it does each week in the small carryout restaurant where staff members collect lunches to be eaten at desks. Mr. Paul, as per usual, tussled with the leadership over one of his amendments.
What the NYT person missed was the "fulmination" over FISA was actually a fairly significant debate, as the rules that govern how foreign intelligence is gathered would have expired on December 31, had the Senate not acted. (Yes, there was a looming FISA cliff, as well as a Fiscal Cliff.) The debate dealt with some basic issues in our Democracy -- the reach of the 4th Amendment, the craptacular way Congress handles significant legislation (there was only one day to debate this bill, and no practical way to amend it, if the FISA cliff were to be avoided), Obama broken promises, and failures by the NSA and the FBI to provide reports required by the currently expiring version of FISA. You'd  think the New York Times would pay attention to the words of the like-minded Pat Leahy:
When Congress has authorized the use of expansive and powerful surveillance tools that have the potential to impact so significantly the constitutional rights of law-abiding
Americans, isn't this exactly the type of situation that calls for that sort of vigorous and independent oversight?
 But, I guess the NYT narrative of the moment demands snark, mockery, and, when it comes to the sort of civil rights issue that used to engage them, silence.

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