Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why it doesn't pay to answer stupid questions from Senators

A couple of days ago, Senator Bernie Sanders asked a stupid question: Does NSA spy on members of Congress? I'll grant you, the response he got was in the "non-denial denial" category.
"Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons," the spokesman said. 
It all reminded me of the last time a Senator asked a stupid question - then it was Rand Paul. He wanted to know whether the Obama administration would target US citizens on American soil for a drone strike. To understand that as a stupid question, it helps to look at events both before and after he asked.

On March 5, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech outlining the legal rationale this administration uses to approve drone strikes - including under what circumstances an individual would be targeted.

On February 4, 2013 an administration white paper on the same topic was leaked to Michael Isikoff.

On March 4, 2013, Attorney General Holder wrote a letter directly to Sen. Paul in response to his question.

And still, on March 6, 2013, Sen. Paul staged a talking filibuster on the grounds that he needed this question answered, by gawd!!!!

Subsequently, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote another letter. This time he left out all attempts to engage as if talking to an adult and brought it down to Sen. Paul's level.
It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: "Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?" The answer to that question is no.
Apparently that was enough to satisfy Sen. Paul (after all, it was the notoriety of the filibuster he wanted, so mission accomplished for him). But was it clear enough for the poutragers? Of course not!
Because now we need a definition of what “engaged in combat” means.
I kid you not. Go check the link. That was a serious response from Marcy Wheeler (otherwise known as "emptywheel").

That's why it doesn't pay to think this administration will EVER satisfy these people. Because aside from the effort to grandstand, they're not interested in engaging in conversation. From nuanced speeches to infantile clarity, there's no trick pony here.

In that light, I find the administration's response to Sen. Sander's question to be completely adequate - if not a bit amusing. Making it clear that members of Congress are treated exactly the same as every other American is not a bad way to go because it points to the stupidity of the question in the first place.


  1. meh grade school level regress objections by people who think they're smart.

    1. I'm wondering if this motivated another meme by "people who think they're smart" among radicals. It was posited that 'clear language' , meaning things that can be understood by lots of people, was 'repressive' so the more complicated and abstruse the argument, the more politically correct it would be. It did not last long as a movement I think. Funny how when you write things no one can understand, no one reads them. The idea that speaking clearly - different think from regress if I understand this (and I'm not at all sure I do) - is considered oppression. I think it's definitely elitist to write so NO one can understand you, or at least no one outside of your in-group. What I can't determine from the article is which side the author is on.

  2. It's cool that we have a Democratic socialist in Congress, but it's not cool when he's 'standing up to the man' that is quite liberal enough, thank you, and has done more to inform Congress and the public than any other Presidential Administration ever. Stroking the emotarians, libertarians, and right-wing nuts is about the least liberal thing an admittedly liberal congressperson can do right now.

    I'm still p.o.'d that Wyden asked Clapper a question he couldn't legally answer in an open hearing, and that he's not loudly and proudly standing behind our POTUS.

    I'm curious--- does anyone here know the records of Sanders and other hippie lovers in Congress? Wyden has been an effective Senator and most of his concerns are mine also. This is the second time in 14 years that he's set my teeth on edge, but I haven't been following him closely--- didn't feel that I needed to before arguments over the ACA, and worse yet, his grandstanding on this NSA non-scandal.

    Oregon is the whitest place I've ever lived in as an adult. I've no doubt that Wyden, Schrader, and Merkley have a lot of racist constituents, but I expect my democratic representatives to at least honor and respect our Democratic POTUS openly and consistently.

    1. Wyden has a bug up his rear about his version of health reform that he crafted with a Republican (I've forgotten who) and that negatively impacted Medicare was not accepted in 2010. I was at a B&B once where he was also a guest, and a ruder man I've rarely met. That ego gets in his way I think. His attitude, much like that of Howard Dean, is that he should have been elevated by PBO to higher calling, so his pique is entirely personal. When PBO accepted Sanders' proposal to make Vermont's state option a single payer one, did Bernie trumpet it to single payer supporters? NO. I apparently was the only person who'd found the incredibly obscure story and passed it on. Sanders did not even announce it on his web page but only linked his MEDIA page to that story. That means he did not have PBO's back with single payer people but glommed all the credit in VT. exclusively for himself. I'm sorry - I am done with 'sandbox' politics, the 'take my toys and go home' immaturity of so called progressives.

    2. Yeah, the AARP and the Gray Panthers took him to the woodshed over his bright idea. Am sorry to hear he's remarkably rude. Merkley seems to be more sober and perseverant, but I don't follow them closely.

      We need a lot more liberal women in Congress--- these sword fights are embarrassing.


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