Asha Rangappa Demands Progressive Left Drop Bad Faith Beliefs in Op-Ed Riddled with Errors Demonstrating [FBI’s] Bad Faith

It’s my fault, apparently, that surveillance booster Devin Nunes attacked the FBI this week as part of a ploy to help Donald Trump quash the investigation into Russian involvement in his election victory. That, at least, is the claim offered by the normally rigorous Asha Rangappa in a NYT op-ed.

It’s progressive left privacy defenders like me who are to blame for Nunes’ hoax, according to Rangappa, because — she claims — “the progressive narrative” assumes the people who participate in the FISA process, people like her and her former colleagues at the FBI and the FISA judges, operate in bad faith.

But those on the left denouncing its release should realize that it was progressive and privacy advocates over the past several decades who laid the groundwork for the Nunes memo — not Republicans. That’s because the progressive narrative has focused on an assumption of bad faith on the part of the people who participate in the FISA process, not the process itself.

And then, Ragappa proceeds to roll out a bad faith “narrative” chock full of egregious errors that might lead informed readers to suspect FBI Agents operate in bad faith, drawing conclusions without doing even the most basic investigation to test her pre-conceived narrative.

Rangappa betrays from the very start that she doesn’t know the least bit about what she’s talking about. Throughout, for example, she assumes there’s a partisan split on surveillance skepticism: the progressive left fighting excessive surveillance, and a monolithic Republican party that, up until Devin Nunes’ stunt, “has never meaningfully objected” to FISA until now. As others noted to Rangappa on Twitter, the authoritarian right has objected to FISA from the start, even in the period Rangappa used what she claims was a well-ordered FISA process. That’s when Republican lawyer David Addington was boasting about using terrorist attacks as an excuse to end or bypass the regime. “We’re one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court.”

I’m more peeved, however, that Rangappa is utterly unaware that for over a decade, the libertarian right and the progressive left she demonizes have worked together to try to rein in the most dangerous kinds of surveillance. There’s even a Congressional caucus, the Fourth Amendment Caucus, where Republicans like Ted Poe, Justin Amash, and Tom Massie work with Rangappa’s loathed progressive left on reform. Amash, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul, among others, even have their name on legislative attempts to reform surveillance, partnering up with progressives like Zoe Lofgren, John Conyers, Patrick Leahy, and Ron Wyden. This has become an institutionalized coalition that someone with the most basic investigative skills ought to be able to discover.

Since Rangappa has not discovered that coalition, however, it is perhaps unsurprising she has absolutely no clue what the coalition has been doing.

In criticizing the FISA process, the left has not focused so much on fixing procedural loopholes that officials in the executive branch might exploit to maximize their legal authority. Progressives are not asking courts to raise the probable cause standard, or petitioning Congress to add more reporting requirements for the F.B.I.

Again, there are easily discoverable bills and even some laws that show the fruits of progressive left and libertarian right efforts to do just these things. In 2008, the Democrats mandated a multi-agency Inspector General on Addington’s attempt to blow up FISA, the Stellar Wind program. Progressive Pat Leahy has repeatedly mandated other Inspector General reports, which forced the disclosure of FBI’s abusive exigent letter program and that FBI flouted legal mandates regarding Section 215 for seven years (among other things). In 2011, Ron Wyden started his thus far unsuccessful attempt to require the government to disclose how many Americans are affected by Section 702. In 2013, progressive left and libertarian right Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to get the Intelligence Community Inspector General to review how the multiple parts of the government’s surveillance fit together, to no avail.

Rangappa’s apparent ignorance of this legislative history is all the more remarkable regarding the last several surveillance fights in Congress, USA Freedom Act and this year’s FISA Amendments Act reauthorization (the latter of which she has written repeatedly on). In both fights, the bipartisan privacy coalition fought for — but failed — to force the FBI to comply with the same kind of reporting requirements that the bill imposed on the NSA and CIA, the kind of reporting requirements Rangappa wishes the progressive left would demand. When a left-right coalition in the House Judiciary Committee tried again this year, the FBI stopped negotiating with HJC’s staffers, and instead negotiated exclusively with Devin Nunes and staffers from HPSCI.

With USAF, however, the privacy coalition did succeed in a few reforms (including those reporting requirements for NSA and CIA). Significantly, USAF included language requiring the FISA Court to either include an amicus for issues that present “a novel or significant interpretation of the law,” or explain why it did not. That’s a provision that attempts to fix the “procedural loophole” of having no adversary in the secret court, though it’s a provision of law the current presiding FISC judge, Rosemary Collyer, blew off in last year’s 702 reauthorization. (Note, as I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t think Collyer’s scofflaw behavior is representative of what FISC judges normally do, and so would not argue her disdain for the law feeds a “progressive narrative” that all people involved in the FISA process operated in bad faith.)

Another thing the progressive left and libertarian right won in USAF is new reporting requirements on FISA-related approvals for FISC, to parallel those DOJ must provide. Which brings me to Rangappa’s most hilarious error in an error-ridden piece (it’s an error made by multiple civil libertarians earlier in the week, which I corrected on Twitter, but Rangappa appears to mute me so wouldn’t have seen it).

To defend her claim that the FISC judge who approved the surveillance of Carter Page was operating, if anything, with more rigor than in past years, Rangappa points to EPIC’s tracker of FISA approvals and declares that the 2016 court rejected the highest number of applications in history.

We don’t know whether the memo’s allegations of abuse can be verified. It’s worth noting, however, that Barack Obama’s final year in office saw the highest number of rejected and modified FISA applications in history. This suggests that FISA applications in 2016 received more scrutiny than ever before.

Here’s why this is a belly-laughing error. As noted, USAF required the FISA Court, for the first time, to release its own record of approving applications. It released a partial report (for the period following passage of USAF) covering 2015, and its first full report for 2016. The FISC uses a dramatically different (and more useful) counting method than DOJ, because it counts what happens to any application submitted in preliminary form, whereas DOJ only counts applications submitted in final form. Here’s how the numbers for 2016 compare.

Rangappa relies on EPIC’s count, which for 2016 not only includes an error in the granted number, but adopts the AOUSC counting method just for 2016, making the methodology of its report invalid (it does have a footnote that explains the new AOUSC numbers, but not why it chose to use that number rather than the DOJ one or at least show both).

Using the only valid methodology for comparison with past years, DOJ’s intentionally misleading number, FISC rejected zero applications, which is consistent or worse than other years.

It’s not the error that’s the most amusing part, though. It’s that, to make the FISC look good, she relies on data made available, in significant part, via the efforts of a bipartisan coalition that she claims consists exclusively of lefties doing nothing but demonizing the FISA process.

If anyone has permitted a pre-existing narrative to get in the way of understanding the reality of how FISA currently functions, it’s Rangappa, not her invented progressive left.

Let me be clear. In spite of Rangappa’s invocation (both in the body of her piece and in her biography) of her membership in the FBI tribe, I don’t take her adherence to her chosen narrative in defiance of facts that she made little effort to actually learn to be representative of all FBI Agents (which is why I bracketed FBI in my title). That would be unfair to a lot of really hard-working Agents. But I can think of a goodly number of cases, some quite important, where that has happened, where Agents chased a certain set of leads more vigorously because they fit their preconceptions about who might be a culprit.

That is precisely what has happened here. A culprit, Devin Nunes — the same guy who helped the FBI dodge reporting requirements Rangappa thinks the progressive left should but is not demanding — demonized the FISA process by obscuring what really happens. And rather than holding that culprit responsible, Rangappa has invented some other bad guy to blame. All while complaining that people ever criticize her FBI tribe.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

45 replies
    • DMM says:

      It’s funny that the impetus for Rangappa’s editorial is the Nunes memo, when she’s being at least as deceptive, by twist or omission, as he/it is. There’s just no way she’s actually this ignorant of the field that is, ya know, her job. No, this is nothing more than a deceptive attempt by an intel insider and (general) elitist to smear defenders of civil liberties who criticize our expansive surveillance state, and are insufficiently grateful and deferential to them for operating it, by trying to associate us with Nunes.

  1. Rapier says:

    It should not go unremarked that the NY Times selected this article at this important juncture.  On a Sunday no less, the day when the narrative shaping of the Times is at it’s height.

    • Trip says:

      Not to defend them, which I’m not, nor to be picayune, but the op-ed was published on February 2, which was Friday.

  2. bmaz says:

    Uh,

    “normally rigorous Asha Ranghappa”

    I challenge that. I find her to be a consistently self promoting shill seeking TV and print love that has played a little fast and loose with criminal law (and other things) in her own self promotion. She may be a few steps ahead of Seth Abramson and at least one ahead of Renato Mariotti, but is much of the same in a lot of ways. And I have said this for a while now since she came blazing on the PR scene.

    • Rayne says:

      Thank to Marcy for this piece. Ranghappa’s tweets on this subject alone pissed me off royally.

      I’m with you about the self-promotion; Ranghappa comes off as if she is bucking for a new job. Why is that? At least Mariotti has an excuse — he’s running for office. Hope Ranghappa doesn’t think she’s going to do the same any time soon and expect anyone left of center to pony up cash if she’s going to be so ridiculously impolitic.

      • Phil Perspective says:

        I’m with you about the self-promotion; Ranghappa comes off as if she is bucking for a new job. Why is that? At least Mariotti has an excuse — he’s running for office. Hope Ranghappa doesn’t think she’s going to do the same any time soon and expect anyone left of center to pony up cash if she’s going to be so ridiculously impolitic.

         

        No idea what job she is after now.  Any opening at Brookings?  Mariotti didn’t decide to run for Illinois AG until after he became a Twitter sensation.  And if he did decide to run first, it’s interesting that he ended up becoming a Twitter sensation.  I wonder who is pushing him.  Ranghappa will get plenty of cash from center-left types.  Look at all the dubious characters people are ponying up money for, like the Janz guy running on the Democratic line in Nunes district.  I’d be willing to bet 95% of the people who gave him money Saturday have no idea where he stands on the issue, only that high profile “Resistance” Twitter users are promoting him.

  3. TomA says:

    The FBI consists of human beings (like every other agency) and hence there will always be a range of conduct among its membership. At one end of the spectrum are the scrupulously honorable agents who follow both the letter and the spirit of the law. At the other end are an unknown number of agents who are (euphemistically) overzealous in their willingness to bend rules and push the envelope. The temptation for the latter conduct only grows when the room is dark and no one is minding the store. In addition, the archived database of electronic communications is much larger than most people realize and the institutional controls are really just aimed at constraining the access protocols. Some agents simply cannot resist the temptation to “go fishing” in the archive in order to improve their chances of breaking cases and thereby enhance their track-record and career prospects.

    Regardless of the political shenanigans surrounding the Steele Dossier FISC process, if it helps bring about civil privacy legislative reform, then that’s a good thing. Keep up the good fight!

    • bmaz says:

      “The Steele FISC dossier process”?

      Seriously? That is how you are going to phrase it? With a dash of Sean Hannity and a teaspoon of Devin Nunes?

      Seriously?

        • bmaz says:

          Fair question, and thank you for that. Irrespective of what most people think, by my information, FISA warrants are never based on one uncorroborated thing, much less something like “the dossier”. Never. And it is almost insane that that accusation has been propagated as to the Page application, warrant and multiple renewals. I do not aim that at you, but at the pitch that has been made in the press by malignant Trump defenders. The “dossier” is a giant red herring and is not now, and never was, the lead item on any surveillance of Page.

    • dc says:

      People show up, assume the room is mentally challenged, and shill. TomA, stick your steel dossier process in your ass and recite ten times your Trump love poem. Ratfucker.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A little over the top.  Its customary here that only EW, the owner, and bmaz, commentator and principal moderator, get to be both potty mouthed and so direct.  When in Rome….

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Rangappa’s reading would also be the perspective her editors wanted to promote. Dirty Fucking Hippies Redux. They seem to be attempting to carve out space for the “centrist” position the Times wants to define and occupy.

    The NYT, never as staunch a civil liberties advocate as its mythology would have us believe, has moved rightward. Bret Stephens, David Brooks and Ross Douthat are just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps it is moving right to save itself from Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ. It seems more likely that farther right is where the new generation of family owners wants to be.

    The left has been critical of the FISA process and others that threaten civil liberties, especially the 4th Amendment, which have metastasized since 9/11. The FISA court’s secrecy creates the potential for abuse, as does its process for selecting judges, which is controlled by a single person, the Chief Justice, currently a passionate conservative. The use of an amicus is recent and inconsistent, as is the court’s resort to technical experts for what are sometimes arcane but necessary discussions of technology and process. We are far beyond the distinction between a hardwired home phone and a cellular phone, which might justify tapping one but not the other without a warrant.

    The FISA court’s proceedings may indeed be challenging and thorough, but its secrecy and its record of approving virtually all applications to it, in what have largely been ex parte hearings, allow little scope for citizens to verify it. We also need processes to keep the court’s proceedings rigorous. Just trust me has been shown not to work. Trust but verify is better practice, but it requires verification. Otherwise, we’re left with faith, not trust.

    More immediate to Rangappa’s editorial, the left’s wanting to make such a court work better is unconnected to Trump’s politics, demeanor and actions. It is not connected to Donald Trump’s drive to discard constitutional norms and to manipulate any process so that it protects him rather than questions him. That’s on Trump.

    • Trip says:

      Completely agree. And the talking heads on cable seem to support/promote this as well; in that the political polarization is because both the left and right are now radical. It leaves out that the New/Reagan Democrats went right, while the left was ‘left’ behind, and the right has moved off the charts toward lunacy. I’m not saying that there isn’t a fair share of crazies on the left. But this middle ground ‘centrist’ position is actually quite a leap to the right.

    • orionATL says:

      “…The NYT, never as staunch a civil liberties advocate as its mythology would have us believe, has moved rightward. Bret Stephens, David Brooks and Ross Douthat are just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps it is moving right to save itself from Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ. It seems more likely that farther right is where the new generation of family owners wants to be… ”

      i suspect the new editorial editor, james bennett, is behind this kind of trash opinion. i also suspect he is primarily looking for controversial, conflict-generating opinion pieces. bennett brought in the slick, professional controversialist, bret stephens, from the wall street journal to shock nytimes traditional readers and provoke empty controversy.

      bennett was brought in by arthur sulzberger to replace andrew rosenthal quite unexpectedly. my take is that the well-respected rosenthal was, to his surprise and his staffs, told one day to clean out his desk and git.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/15/business/media/james-bennet-will-lead-editorial-page-at-new-york-times.html

      james bennett, i’m confident, will replace dean baquet with the family’s hope he will do for the times what he did for the atlantic – make it unappealing to a reader like me who has had that magazine on his dining room tables for years – but broaden its readership.

      in my view david brooks, whose editorials i generally detest, represents the heart of the nytimes corporate/family political views – genteel republicanism.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    We are a nation founded on distrust of government power, and questioning that power is essential to promoting transparency and accountability. But those questions ought to leave room for the assumption — in the absence of specific evidence to the contrary — that most government servants are ultimately acting in good faith and within the constraints of the law.

    It’s hard to know where to start with that observation.  Giving a president or the government the benefit of the doubt is something that has to be earned every day.

    Investigative journalism has long established that in both the corporate and governmental worlds, good faith can be hard to find.  Enron-style predation is now a common business model.  Nakedcapitalism’s coverage of CalPERS suggests the pension giant knows little about good faith.

    It’s hard to credit Trump with good faith in his errant descriptions of what his tax “reform” would do, compared with what major corporations promised to do and are doing with their tax windfall: giving the money to senior executives and shareholders, firing workers and shifting more operations overseas.  The list of conflicts of interest, the firings, resignations, the indictments and plea deals in Trump’s first year suggest that good faith can be hard to find in his administration.  It wasn’t easy to find in Rangappa’s FBi during the tenure of its first director, J. Edgar Hoover.

    That lack of good faith is not new.  Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident.  Nixon’s crimes are legion.  Reagan and his Iran-Contra acolytes showed little good faith or ability to comply with the law.  Bush/Cheney lied us into war in the Middle East.  The majority of their prisoners at Guantanamo Bay – whom we were told were the worst of the worst – were innocent.  The US Senate’s good faith was absent in its year-long refusal to consider Obama’s judicial nominees, especially Merrick Garland, because the brass ring of another conservative Supreme Court justice was too good to miss.

    Assuming that the average government worker – state, local, federal – is acting in good faith might be a good bet. Assuming that more senior figures are requires a deeper assessment. Assuming that Mr. Trump is acting in good faith – after his half century of stiffing his partners, creditors, suppliers,  customers and wives – after his voluminous documented lies and his demonstrable insincerity on virtually every topic, would be stupid.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes. But that bleating horse manure is precisely what Ranghappa premises her entire ladder climbing PR ploy on. And has from the start.

      • Phil Perspective says:

        It’s worked, so far, for a lot of other “Resistance” people that are Twitter famous.  Why not her?

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Memo to Dahlia Lithwick:

    EW has a list of reasons why releasing the Nunes memo would be bad for criminal justice and intelligence cooperation worldwide.

    Regardless even of its content, its release tells those intel agencies that this administration and its congressional enablers can and would release anything they are given, if it can be used in their many domestic political squabbles.  Those are likely to expand, not lessen. To say that could put a damper on their giving us raw data and analysis, let alone information on sources and methods, is an understatement.  The Nunes memo depicts us as the quintessential unreliable partner, easily recognizable to any reader of John le Carre.

    • Peterr says:

      I suspect that the intelligence community folks who have sent reports up to Congress over the last year are busy re-reading those reports, to see what may be endangered in the coming year. As Trump and his minions feel more cornered and desperate, it’s not a stretch to think they may use some of that material as a bright shiny thing to distract, and screw the cost in assets blown. Mueller is coming? “Oh, look – terrorists!”

      And to take it one step further, the intelligence agencies of our putative allies have to be looking at this, then remembering Trump outing the Israelis to the Russians early last year, and wondering how much they want to share in the future. “I know what we gain by sharing X with the US, but what will we lose if Trump makes our role and methods public?”

  7. GKJames says:

    I agree with the assessment that Ranghappa is all about Ranghappa. (Are there NO editors left at the NYT?) First, the idea of an implicitly coherent “progressive narrative” is absurd. Second, she initially distinguishes between “progressive” and “privacy” advocates, but then bases the rest of her axe-grind on progressives only. Are they two different things? Third, her cause-and-effect logic is silly (and makes one wonder how good of an agent she could have been). She admits that “The [Nunes] move is nakedly partisan, and it certainly seems [sic] as if Republicans are trying to discredit the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling”. So far so good. But then she effectively justifies the Nunes memo on grounds that decades of progressive advocacy on FISA “laid the groundwork”. As if, rather than saving their collective asses, Nunes & Co’s real motive was a plea for FISA improvement. Third-graders do better than this.

  8. earofhuntingdon says:

    Memo to MSNBC:

    “How did the Amtrak train end up on the wrong track?”

    For starters, there was only one track.  The passenger train had the right of way.  The freight train it ran into was apparently stationary.  Never a good thing when a scheduled, high-speed passenger train, which has priority, is due to pass.

    Missed or not working signals?  Track problem?  Maintenance problem?  Human Error?  No one knows.  But this is the second crash and derailment inside of a week.  Coincidence or systemic failure?  Let’s find out.  But the passenger train’s driver and conductor are dead, up to 120 people are injured.  Consider treating this as more than filler in between salivating over the political theater that is Donald Trump and Devin Nunes.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The NTSB said that there is a single through track in this area.  There are multiple feeder lines, in effect, driveways, to various sites, such as manufacturing plants.  Current thinking is that the “wrong track” – here reporting reverts to the passive voice – refers to a siding.  The switch from the mainline to a siding or feeder track was apparently left open, diverting the passenger train to the siding and into the stationary freight train.

  9. pdaly says:

    I think my prior comments disappeared into the ether. My apologies if they do appear as this is then a repost:

    Rangappa mentions 9/11 twice in her short op-ed. Seems like a red flag to me–is she is blowing a dog whistle?
    Here is her second mention of it:
    “It was, after all, the F.B.I.’s rigid adherence to FISA protocol which prevented it from sharing intelligence among its own agents, leading to the failures of the Sept. 11th attacks.”
    By this comment I assume Rangappa is referring to FBI agent Coleen Rowley’s difficulty getting Moussaoui’s laptop evaluated before 9/11.

    Rangappa is stating FISA was to blame for 9/11?
    Or is she attempting to show that even when FISA eventually leads to bad outcomes (9/11), ‘good people’ in the FBI FOLLOW the rules (FISA), and that’s why we should stop assuming the worst in government workers and asking for oversight of secret decisions and warrantless mass surveillance?

    Rangappa’s “9/11 history lesson” focuses on FISA and leaves out the role CIA Alec Station and CIA Director George Tenet played in actively suppressing information about Al-Qaeda operatives in the U.S.

    From
    http://www.newsweek.com/2015/01/23/information-could-have-stopped-911-299148.html

    “Alec Station’s Michael Anne Casey forbade [FBI agents] Miller and Rossini [who were working in Alec Station in 2001] to tell FBI headquarters about al-Mihdhar’s multi-visa passport to enter the U.S.”

    and
    “[Bush White House Counterterrorism advisor Richard C.] Clarke found it odd that when CIA Director George Tenet came to an emergency White House meeting with [CIA Counterterrorism members Cofer] Black and [Rich] Blee on July 10, 2001, “they never mentioned that already two Al-Qaeda terrorists…had entered the United States.”
    “So you ask yourself, Why not?” he added. The “only conceivable reason that I’ve been able to come up with” is that they were running an illegal domestic operation to recruit al-Mihdhar or al-Hazmi. And they didn’t want the FBI to barge in on it.”

    Coleen Rowley has commented in interviews that FBI agents who were poor investigators often moved over to bureaucratic positions and ended up in higher paying supervisory roles. Rowley also sees a narrowing of backgrounds of the people the FBI hires compared to the diverse bachgrounds of the people the FBI hired when she first joined in the 1970s—now more military types. Rowley sees as problematic the quickly revolving door between government positions and private security corporations.

    Perhaps Rangappa can try to comment on some of that.

    • Rapier says:

      Off in the weeds here but I recall, perhaps in error, that when W came in FISA applications came to an almost total stop because Cheney’s crew objected to them on principal.  You know the principal.

      Is there any truth to my rapidly deteriorating memory? Not that it means a thing except we still do have FISA after all this time despite the hard cores who don’t want it and given more Trumpism we may not someday.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Tony Burman at the Star, Toronto (link removed, emphasis added), summarizes Trump’s dismissals of the DoJ and FBI lawyers that might attempt to apply the rule of law to Emperor Donald.  He concludes:

    Donald Trump is locked and loaded, as he would want it written, and America’s bleeding democracy is in his crosshairs…. [He] will soon try to shut down the Mueller probe entirely….

    Trump knows what Mueller must now know — that Trump is not only guilty of obstruction of justice and collusion with the Russians, but even more damning, his suspect business empire has been knee-deep in illegal money-laundering schemes with Russian oligarchs and mobsters for years….

    [Trump] knows that the longer he waits, the more damning will be the criminal case that Mueller and his team are building….[U]ntil the Democrats win next November’s midterm elections — he undoubtedly believes that a largely passive Republican Congress will let him have his way.

  11. joejoejoe says:

    I read all the 9/11 references from Rangappa as personal biography, not dog whistling. She graduated from Quantico as an agent in 2002 and decided to join the FBI because of 9/11. Here other pieces on the Nunes memo before publication were very different. I think she values the hot take too much and is something of a careerist but I don’t see any malice here, just shoddy work. She knows enough to know that ‘both sides do it, but liberals are the worst!’ is rocket fuel for your career in establishment media/national security circles.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Rep. Mike Quigley (D, IL) laments on CNN that we hear the truth mostly from lawmakers who are quitting, but only after being prompted by his host. His response is that the public should be more willing to let lawmakers tell them what they don’t want to hear. Polite guffaw.

    Mr. Quigley might have talked about rigid party discipline. He might have lamented the pernicious effects of both parties’ pay-to-play rules. These demand massive, extraordinarily time consuming fundraising efforts from each lawmaker – most of which benefits the party. The resulting time constraints achieve party goals. They enforce discipline and rule by elite party operatives. They force lawmakers into networking arrangements with elite donors instead of their constituents.

    They enhance the role of lobbyists in raising funds and drafting legislation, displacing efforts by lawmakers themselves. They cut the time, energy and willingness lawmakers have to pursue their own issues and legislation. And they make almost impossible the relationship building with colleagues across the aisle that is necessary to turn proposals into law.

    Mr. Quigley might have observed how evading party discipline can quickly lead to loss of financial support from big donors and the appearance of a well-funded party-backed challenger in their own back yard. He might have talked about that. So my guess is that he’s not leaving Congress.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The constitutional checks and balances that now seem not to work were designed before political parties as we know them existed.  We see that in today’s fundamentalist Republican Party (and in the establishment arm of the Democrats), there’s nothing this president could do – including whatever he fantasizes doing on Fifth Avenue – that would lead this party to impeach him.

      Long before we get to impeachment issues, we have the deconstruction of government as we know it.  Add in lobbying and pay-to-play and the regulatory function (giveaways on federal lands, walkaway for Equifax’s data breach) falls by the wayside like unpaid creditors at Trump’s door.  We’re no longer fighting for a place in the system; we’re fighting for the system.

      To paraphrase a wag from long ago, nice democracy, if you can keep it.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Lest I forget, the elephant in Congress’s living room, which helps maintain a narrow range of permitted discussion, is the military-security-industrial complex.

      The Pentagon and its private contractors have bases, plants and facilities in virtually every congressional district.  Both parties are subject to its discipline.  It narrows the range of policies that can be discussed without consequence.  This puts the Pentagon’s budget virtually off limits either to major cuts or meaningful audits.  Base closings, force reductions, project cancellations, powerful inspector generals and too obvious efforts towards creating a “peace dividend” are met with draconian responses.

      • Trip says:

        Imagine if money paid here, and physical energy as well, was dedicated instead to rebuilding infrastructure?  You have all of these physically fit people who wish to serve and protect their country, how about putting that to good use, in actually protecting the country from the rampant decay? How about nation-building in Puerto Rico instead of some foreign land we decimated during wartime?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Dumb.As.Post.

      Those feeding Jr. his scripts are not.  Ed Dionne would describe them as garden variety anti-democratic autocrats.   Freud?  I think he’d have a break down analyzing this crowd.

      • Trip says:

        The other highlight is Nunes denying that Pap ever met with Trump, when there is a photo that’s been in circulation for a while:

        House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in a Monday morning interview said there is no evidence former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos met with President Trump, despite a widely-disseminated photo of the two sitting around the same table for a meeting.

        “If Papadopoulos was such a major figure, you had nothing on him, you know, the guy lied,” Nunes told “Fox & Friends.” “As far as we can tell, Papadopoulos never even knew who – never even had met with the president.

        http://thehill.com/homenews/house/372315-nunes-claims-theres-no-evidence-papadopoulos-ever-met-trump-despite-photo

        Nothing gets past this “intelligence” guy, huh? Where’s Paul Ryan’s response? Not enough obvious incompetence/tainted perspective yet?

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