Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Thursday, November 02, 2006

  How Bob Casey lost my vote

The other day, after waiting as late as possible, I mailed in my Pennsylvania absentee ballot. With regret, I cast no vote in the Senate race. It was never a question of voting for the obnoxious twit, Senator Santorum. Instead, I've been searching for any sort of evidence that the Democrat, Bob Casey, has taken a stance on the important constitutional issues of the day. This, I thought, would permit me to cast a vote for him despite his mediocrity in so many respects.

I never did find any such evidence, despite hours of poking around the internet's cobwebs, so its absence was glaring. The Casey campaign ignored repeated queries; it was as if my concerns did not even register with his staff—though I advised them that if they continued not to respond, I would take them to task about it on line. In the end, I decided it wasn't enough that Casey is not a Republican. I'm looking for scruples, and all he's offering is piffle.

For me, this election is first about restoring constitutionalism and the rule of law. Plenty of other issues take second place, and all the important ones require casting a vote against the Republicans who have dragged the nation through the mud. But upholding and defending the Constitution is not an "issue", in the sense that tinkering with Social Security or even extracting ourselves from the quagmire in Iraq are issues for debate. The Cheney administration has used the Constitution as its doormat, and I can't trust any candidate who doesn't care about stopping it. What's more to the point, I won't pretend to trust a candidate who ducks this, the most important question of our time.

Bob Casey has always given me the impression that he's trying to evade the issue. So I began searching for evidence that Casey has taken a public stance on the Military Commissions Act—the new law that eliminates Habeas Corpus. That is about as clear cut an issue as anybody could wish.

Yet Casey's web site has nothing. My search engine located not a single news account in which Bob Casey addressed the subject. And as I said, although I repeatedly emailed and called his campaign asking whether Casey would have voted for this latest monstrosity of Republican government, never once did I receive the courtesy of a reply.

On that basis, I concluded that I could not in conscience vote for this man. At best, his campaign's silence was a mark of arrogance or disarray. More likely, I supposed, Casey just didn't want voters to discover his views about the rule of law. And who wants send another timid Democrat to Washington? He might turn out to be on the side of all things decent and sane, but then he probably won't ever let on.

To hell with Bob Casey, then. I'll let him know forcefully, I decided, that I'm still waiting for him to stand up for the rule of law, and to stand up against those who make a practice of trampling the Constitution.

Two days after I mailed my ballot—with a clear conscience, mind you—I discovered an audio recording of a recent interview with Casey, which confirmed my worst suspicions and then some. The Editorial Board of the Philadelphia Inquirer sat down to talk to Casey on October 17. In the second installment of the interview, Casey was asked about both the Cheney administration's warrantless wire-tapping and the Military Commissions Bill.

His response about the 'Torture Bill' is appalling. Casey endorses it because, he says, John McCain is serious about making sure that interrogations are as tough as possible (!). Not a word about Habeas Corpus. Not a word about torture, the presumption of innocence…or anything that really matters about the new law. In his dismissive treatment of this constitutional crisis, here is everything I need to know about Mr. Casey.

And I defy anybody to figure out where Bob Casey stands on the illegal wire-tapping that Bush continues to authorize. Casey's comments are so incoherent that at one stage a member of the Editorial Board laughs as he's trying to pin Casey down. Here is a full transcript of the relevant section of the interview:

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board Interviewer: Let me ask you to shift gears to the anti-terrorism initiatives. Last night in the debate, I think you said that you'd support warrantless wiretapping. How does that square with your suspicion about this White House? Why would you be willing to let them do that without judicial oversight? And on the Military Commissions Act, was…would that have been something you would have supported? In general, your outlook on anti-terrorism initiatives….

Bob Casey: Yeah, I think going backwards the, uh, with regard to detainees and interrogation: Look, we've had people like John McCain, and you could give other examples as well, but people who have looked at this for a long time who have been very serious about making sure that we are very tough in our interrogation, that we get as much information as possible from those we detain and interrogate. And also John McCain, showing the kind of independence that Rick Santorum never seems to show, took on the administration and I think they, based upon their experience, I think they got it right and I think we should support, I would have supported that.

Secondly, on the question of wiretaps, my position all along has been we've got to do everything possible and give every tool that government agencies need, intelligence, law enforcement, give them the tools they need to fight this war on terror. And I think we, in terms of wire tapping, whether its terrorists, known terrorists, or suspected terrorists, we've got to, we've got to give this government all the tools it can. And I think what we've seen in the past is that the system that has been setup when its operated according to the law, and when the administration goes and puts a wiretap in place and then comes back later and gets a warrant after the fact, the system that has been set up is a pretty solid system, but they often don't comply with it. You can support having a lot of tough wiretapping, but also support the kind of tough oversight of the administration, which I think has been lacking. And I think we can have the two in balance and right.

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board Interviewer: Well, it might have been misreported this morning, but it certainly seemed to me as if you were endorsing the NSA program which is warrantless wiretapping, without court oversight.

Bob Casey: Well, I think, look, my position all along has been you've got to have the ability to wiretap known or suspected terrorists, and I'm going to make sure that everything I do in this area is focused on anti-terrorism and making sure that we're being as tough as possible to ferret out any kind of plot or any kind of terrorist activity.

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board Interviewer: Bob, it's real simple…hah…and it seems to me you are dancing around it. Either you believe that the President or his designees need to go to the FISA court and provide some probable cause for the wiretapping, or you don't. They say they don't. They say they can do it on their own say so and there's no oversight of whether the person they're wiretapping is actually credibly a terrorist suspect or not. That's the issue. Do they have to go through the FISA court or not? Nobody's debating that we need to wiretap suspected terrorists.

Bob Casey: You know very well that Senator Specter has worked very hard on this, to try to get this right and I think with bi-partisan cooperation, working with people like Senator Specter, as I know I can, that we can get this right. I don't, I don't, I don't see what the...

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board Interviewer: It's a real simple question. Do they need to go through the FISA Court as the FISA law has said since 1973 or don't they? They say they don't. We say they do. What do you say?

Bob Casey: I think it's worked well.

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board Interviewer: WHAT has worked well?

Bob Casey: I think it's worked well when you use that system and you use it in the context of making sure that we are doing everything possible to, to...

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board Interviewer: So, are you saying that the President has been breaking the law since 2002, or whenever the NSA program started?

Bob Casey: I'm saying that people like Senator Specter have a lot of questions about whether or not the law was broken. I don't think anyone has made a determination about that. I think that's pretty clear.

This is Bob Casey at his most wishy-washy. You won't be surprised to learn that his model for an ideal Senator, as Casey says repeatedly, is Arlen Specter.


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