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Could Steny Hoyer have seen the light on restoring Constitutional government?

[Welcome, Eschatonians, and thanks to Lord Atrios for the link. I called up Hoyer's office, and courteously informed the young staffer about the link. And you know what? They didn't know who Atrios was. So, this is a teachable momentMR SUBLIMINAL And be polite, dammit! to show Hoyer that (a) restoring Constitutional government is good politics, and (b) it's good to have the blogosphere with you. Why not call his office and do some teaching? (202) 225-4131. Did I mention that you should be polite?*]

Here's a very interesting speech that Representative Hoyer gave yesterday over at Georgetown Law School.** (I'm not clued into Village mores enough to know if the location is significant, but I'm guessing it is. Heck, it's the Beltway's own law school...). Here's the text of the speech, and some of what he had to say; I'm leaving out the terra-terra-terra ass-covering boilerplate to focus on what's new:

We also swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and to honor the values and principles that are contained therein for example, the Fourth Amendment right that Americans be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fifth Amendment right to due process of law.

Honoring the system of checks and balances carefully established by the Framers of our Constitution will make us more, not less, safe. This was the conclusion of those men in 1789 who had just fought a war, and who faced a very uncertain and dangerous future.

[Here follows a long list of abuses and usurpations; essentially, the same critique we've been developing on torture, surveillance, the rule of law, abuse of power, et cetera, et cetera.]

Nor have we helped our cause by dispensing with centuries-old legal concepts such as habeas corpus. And, the Administration s penchant for presidential signing statements that assert a right of the President to effectively ignore all or part of the laws he signs must give all of us pause.

It is long past time for effective Congressional oversight and Judicial review of this Administration's actions.

And now comes something I personally find amazing:

Hoyer quotes Federalist 47, the same passage we've been hammering on for years. (Mainstreaming is hard work! Our hair has been on fire about Federalist 47 since 2005 (here, here, here, and here).

As our fourth President James Madison, wrote in Federalist Paper Number 47 more than 200 years ago: 'The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.'

But let's be concrete. What about retroactive immunity for the telcos?

Simply stated, it would be grossly irresponsible for Congress to grant blanket immunity for companies without even knowing whether their conduct was legal or not. And, importantly, this view is shared by the Chairman and Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Until we understand what legal authorities were used to justify the terrorist surveillance program, there does not appear to be any practicable way to include retroactive immunity in this bill.

Which Bush will permit when Hell freezes over since He operates under the extremely Constitutional Theory Of We Get To Do Whatever The Fuck We Want, and he doesn't need to show no steenkin' legal authorities to anybody other than some Federalist Society operative chained up in Cheney's dank basement.

Further:

Let me add that I also believe we made a tremendous mistake in eliminating the right of habeas corpus. Congress must revisit this issue.

The writ of habeas corpus has a hallowed history. Initially mentioned in the Magna Charta of 1215, it is enshrined in our Constitution and is not dependent on any act of Congress.

Nonetheless, the Congress eliminated habeas corpus in the Military Commissions Act in 2005, against the objections of civil libertarians and conservatives alike.

For example, constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who served as Deputy Attorney General in the Reagan Administration has stated: 'Not a crumb of evidence has been adduced suggesting that the writ would risk freeing terrorists to return to fight against the United States.'

Excellent.

Now, at this point, I yield to very few in my cynicism about our Beltway Democrats. But I care about results a lot more than I care about motives or purity of heart. And when Hoyer goes on the record like this, in today's atmosphere, I think that's a big deal--whether he's taking this stand based on idealism, attacking Leader Nance from the left, performing some Byzantine maneuver, or because--surprise!--demanding the restoration of Constitutional government turns out to the good politics. Who cares, as long as the words are on the record?

So, maybe, just maybe, there's hope on preventing the complete collapse on the rule of law, and beating back retroactive immunity for the telcos. Hoyer seems to be saying immunity won't be in the House bill. And with Senator Dodd (D-With Stones) pulling, and the blogosphere pushing Senator Biden and then Senator Obama to do the right thing in the Senate, both Houses are covered.

Steny Hoyer gets the Constitution's back. But Hillary doesn't. Odd, that.

UPDATE I called Representative Hoyer to say that this speech was noted and appreciated: (202) 225-4131.

UPDATE * Fuck! Be polite!

UPDATE Some have pointed out this could be part of Leader Nance's PR blitz. But that's a good thing. How is it bad that the House [cough] leadership thinks that restoring Constitutional government is good for PR? How is it bad that that Hoyer's now on the record, and we can run the attack ads that quote this if we need to? We're dealing with the Beltway Dems here, so we're dealing with weak and venal politicians--but not ideologically driven sociopaths, and that's so much better. Personally, I'd rather that Hoyer got shown that restoring Constitutional government is good politics, than that he manufactured extremely pure sausage.

UPDATE ** And wouldn't it be great if Leader Nance's PR blitz cold be used as a club to beat Hillary into doing the right thing?

HRC: I am troubled by the concerns that have been raised by the recent legislation reported out of the Intelligence Committee. I haven't seen it so I can't express an opinion about it. But I don't trust the Bush Administration with our civil rights and liberties. So I'm going to study it very hard. As matters stand now, I could not support it and I would support a filibuster absent additional information coming forward that would convince me differently.

Hoyer:

Simply stated, it would be grossly irresponsible for Congress to grant blanket immunity for companies without even knowing whether their conduct was legal or not. And, importantly, this view is shared by the Chairman and Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Until we understand what legal authorities were used to justify the terrorist surveillance program, there does not appear to be any practicable way to include retroactive immunity in this bill.

I mean, compare and contrast.

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Sinfonian's picture
Submitted by Sinfonian on

Steny Hoyer is the keynote speaker at this weekend's Florida Democratic Party convention in Orlando, and I ultimately decided not to attend because of that. I was debating about going, but Hoyer as keynote was the proverbial back-breaking straw. I thought he was a singularly bad choice, and I still do.

However, had he said something like this two weeks ago, I might have changed my mind -- at least to the extent that I would go to Orlando and try to ask him why he hadn't stood up before. (Now, though, I have other plans, so it's moot ...)

Whether he and his colleagues will act in accordance with his rhetoric remains to be seen. Rest assured I -- and many others -- will be watching closely.

Blast Off!: keeping America's Wang™ safe for democracy since 2004.

Submitted by lambert on

But still: A speech like this is nothing but good news. We should be seeking to teach the lesson that restoring Constitutional government is good politics, not subjecting politicians to endless rounds of purity tests. And if Hoyer fucks up--we've got the material for the attack ads.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

if hoyer wants to support the constitution, then he ought to come out in favor of rep. holt's fisa bill - and not the horrible, constitutionally flawed so-called "restore act."

the "restore act" was pushed through the house, while holt's bill was kept stuck in committee and his efforts improve the "restore act" were undermined. see this clip of holt on the house floor last week.

the "restore act" contains basket warrants and prospective immunity - it should be trashed in favor of holt's bill which is not too bad. when hoyer comes out in support of holt's bill, then i will know he means what he says about defending the constitution. and if he doesn't, then i'll know it's just the lastest act in the ongoing kabuki meant to deceive us.

p.s. isn't prospective immunity (immunity for future lawbreaking) just another way to effectively repeal FISA?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Could it be that he knows that the Prez isn't going to get away with a whole lot more of this over the next year or so and he's gearing up for a Dem WH and Dem Congress when suddenly those things are absolutely vital to this republic?

I think that's what is going on here.

Sinfonian's picture
Submitted by Sinfonian on

But still: A speech like this is nothing but good news. We should be seeking to teach the lesson that restoring Constitutional government is good politics, not subjecting politicians to endless rounds of purity tests. And if Hoyer fucks up—we’ve got the material for the attack ads.

Oh, I know it's good, and I certainly don't mean to subject anyone to purity tests. Believe me, I got flamed clear off of Daily Kos last fall when I dared to criticize Nancy Pelosi for taking impeachment off the table. So, I know from purity tests.

But when there are other Democrats so much more worthy of the keynote spot in such a critical state as Florida, I was disappointed in the choice to bring Hoyer here. What about Russ Feingold? Or Howard Dean? (No, strike that one -- he and Florida aren't getting along very well right at the moment.) Hmmm ... now that I think of it, there really aren't that many progressive non-candidate Democrats out there ...

Perhaps this deserves a blog post of its own. I think I shall go write one ... :)

Blast Off!: keeping America's Wang™ safe for democracy since 2004.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

> flamed clear off of Daily Kos
Got a link for that? Do you recall what the diary was about? Were you posting as Sinfonian?

Listened to it on CSPAN yesterday. Was a generally good talk. Location isn't particularly special - it's just his alma matter (and a 5 minute cab ride from his office). My favorite part was the question and answer session, in which he (politely) destroyed some 1L who was going on about how we ought not extend due process to people "who would cut our heads off".

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Steny doesn't like to get out front (or left or right) on anything. It sounds to me like he's just afraid of being left behind ... which, as you have noted, is a good thing.

I suspect that his remarks were directed toward students and faculty still associated closely enough with a law school to have some understanding of the Constitution--not toward people who accept Congress's current sausage-making procedures.

But about this:

"Simply stated, it would be grossly irresponsible for Congress to grant blanket immunity for companies without even knowing whether their conduct was legal or not. And, importantly, this view is shared by the Chairman and Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee."

I can't get excited. He's basically laying out the conditions for immunity: Make a show of telling us what the companies did, get Specter to fold, and we'll give you what you want. If Steny were serious, he'd make the case that determining the legality of an action is a judicial responsibility, and none of Congress' business unless it proposes to legalize such an action in the future under the Constitution.

He's speaking for the hollow center, which longs for an excuse to collapse.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

“Simply stated, it would be grossly irresponsible for Congress to grant blanket immunity for companies without even knowing whether their conduct was legal or not. And, importantly, this view is shared by the Chairman and Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

So, I ask again: What has the GOP got on the Democrats, that makes them cave time after time after time after time?

What have they got on Pelosi, to make her throw Stark under the bus?

The GOP is NOT in the majority.
Not in the Senate.
Not in the House.
Certainly NOT in the nation.

It's got to be, now, something like extortion or blackmail. Whether it's photos or FISA take revealing lawbreaking (and it'd have to be some pretty heavy-duty stuff, like voter suppression, IMHO) ... or are they, like, holding threats of Blackwater visits to family members over the Dems' heads, "secretly"?

Woody--Tokin Librul's picture
Submitted by Woody--Tokin Librul on

Tom Cruise's infinitely reiterated challenge in the trailer of the new flick: "Do YOU want to be responsible for the NEXT attack, when it kills a HUNDRED THOUSAND PEOPLE?"

paralyzes 'em, like dynamite in a fishpond

Me? A Quick Study, But A Slow Learner

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Hillary told an audience in no uncertain terms that she would end the war in Iraq--about a week ago or so. This was not reported in the MSM. The New York audience erupted in cheers. What else could they have done?

My primary vote is, presently, for Dodd. He's walking the walk as well as talking the talk. But I strongly believe that the front-runner for President of the U.S. can't come out and say she will end the war 'in public'. She risks losing a lot of votes, although that risk is debatable.

Same with Steny here. He probably thinks he can't oppose this bill with the same vehemence he exhibits here. But if he DOES oppose it, on the floor of the House...and his actions match his words here...then this is a good thing.

These fucking dances Americans put their politicians through. It's all so sickening. Just do the right thing, why can't they?

The answer lies with our ultra-conservative-corporatist MSM. That's my guess.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Like, uh, dude, it's Georgetown University Law Center; not Georgetown Law School! (Or, you can just call it "The Factory" like we Hoyas if you want to sound really hip!

Woody--Tokin Librul's picture
Submitted by Woody--Tokin Librul on

Hillary told an audience in no uncertain terms that she would end the war in Iraq—about a week ago or so. This was not reported in the MSM. The New York audience erupted in cheers. What else could they have done?

she's said elsewhere that she can see no way to extract USer Troops from Iraq before 2113, by the end of the NEXT presidential term.
she has no intention of closing any USer facilities in Iraq...Richardson says he would, but I don't think he could do it. I think that, as a practical matter, the bases in Iraq CANNOT be closed. They may pretend to close 'em. We had invisible bases in Turkey during the cold war. Folks were stationed there, but their mail was addressed to an APO in rural Germany, from which it was forwarded on to Turkey. One of 'em was here. Right on the Black Sea, 200 miles across from the Crimea. There's prob'ly troops still there.

Me? A Quick Study, But A Slow Learner

Woody--Tokin Librul's picture
Submitted by Woody--Tokin Librul on

I wouldn't blog-whore, but for me the task of posting images here is daunting.

N.B. the similarities in the patterns of the Iraqi oil production and distribution nexi and the location of the biggest USer assets in the 'theatre'...

this one reason why "we" will never (for practical purposes) withdraw. Another is that, for even reluctant 'democratic' empires, being seen to "retreat" is not a sound self-preservation strategy.
just sayin'
Me? A Quick Study, But A Slow Learner

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Let get this straight: The office of the House Democratic Majority Leader does not know who Atrios is? How are we ever going to counteract the right wing noise machine when our leaders don't even know about one of the key liberal megaphones on the web? Can you imagine anyone in John Boehner's office not knowing who Assrocket and Powerline is?

The sheer incompetence of our leadership is breathtaking...

Submitted by lambert on

Let's seize the slightest opening to do what's right, snstead of complaining. I already know how to complain.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by lambert on

Like I said, I'm not from there. Thanks for the correction. Any more comments on the venue?

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...the House Majority Leader's office is not the place for basic Media 101 training and 'teachable moments.' To be clear, I don't expect Hoyer must agree with Atrios on this or any topic in particular. I do, however, expect our party's leadership to have a basic understanding of media communications and some strategy to execute meaningful message distribution. To simply be unaware of one of the preeminent liberal media voices is simply unbelievable, inexcusable and disqualifying.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

or Atrios, maybe that's a good indication of how out of touch with progressivism / populism / 21st century technology Hoyer et al really are.

I mean, c'mon: any good Congressmember can tell you IMs and the InterTubes only exist for purposes of sexual gratification.

Submitted by lambert on

Disqualified from what? Your own private Idaho?

You go to war (both senses) with the elected represenatives you have. And when one of them gives you an opening you use it.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

gdaeman's picture
Submitted by gdaeman on

I called Hoyer's office yesterday. Called today and the mail box is full.

It's critical the House NOT reauthorize the Protect America Act. If they do, even without telecom immunity, the reconciliation conference committee could end up with the Senate version that DOES include telecom immunity.

Bottom Line:

"Do NOT reauthorize the Protect America Act. The FISA law is sufficient."

That's the simple message to convey to your House member.

Turlock