A Teleconference With Sentors John Cornyn And Jim DeMint
A little earlier today, I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Senate Republican Conference to be on a teleconference with Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) to talk about the “Patriot Act and DOD authorization bill.” Vitter didn’t end up making it, but John Cornyn (R-TX) replaced him.
Cornyn started things off by talking about how essential the Patriot Act is and he also emphasized that the wiretapping authorized by the President was not only legal, but had been done by multiple former Presidents as well.
After Cornyn’s short opening statement, Cornyn and DeMint opened it up for questions about anything and everything.
The Patriot Act: Both Senators defended this as essential legislation for protecting America.
ANWR: Both Senators strongly supported drilling ANWR, but neither sounded sure we could get it through the Senate.
I asked why the President authorized the wiretaps instead of going through the normal process. The response was that they sometimes needed to do wiretaps almost immediately, but because of paperwork, it could take a little too long. The answers here were a little fuzzy.
DeMint emphasized that Carter, Clinton, and Reagan had all signed off on similar warrantless searches. He also added that our intelligence before 9/11 was completely inadequate and that the planes that hit the Twin Towers in New York could have had nuclear bombs in them. In other words, we better have great intelligence to stop these attacks or the smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud.
DeMint also said that the President has run out of patience with the Democrats, that he’s happy about that, and expects to see the President stay on the offensive all the way through the State of the Union speech.
I also asked whether we should have a special counsel investigate the leak to the New York Times about the eavesdropping program.
Both of them said absolutely.
Cornyn slapped the New York Times for complaining so much about the outing of Valerie Plame and then turning right around and compromising one of our most sensitive intelligence gathering programs.
Demint said that the real problem isn’t the wiretaps, it’s that the Congress can’t be trusted with sensitive information. Cornyn then added that the Congress wants to know about these hush hush programs and complains when the President doesn’t consult them, but then when the President does consult with Congress they leak the information that he gives to them. So, it’s a Catch-22.
Judge Alito: Cornyn said he was initially concerned about delay, but he doesn’t think the negative ad campaign against Alito has gotten any traction. He noted that despite Alito’s long track record, the Democrats have been stuck trying to use 25 year old memos to criticize Alito. Both Senators confidently predicted Alito would be confirmed.
Someone asked a question about the Democrats claiming that Republicans were corrupt. DeMint responded that if the Dems wanted to say Republicans were dirty for taking money from Abramoff, well, Harry Reid got money from Abramoff, too, while Baucus and Dorgan just gave money back. In other words, they’re being hypocritical.
DeMint also noted that the GOP hasn’t been on the offense and that allowed the Democrats to gain some ground. He seemed very happy the President was going after the Democrats and noted that his poll numbers have started going up since he has done so.
After that, both DeMint and Cornyn wished us a Merry Christmas and we wrapped things up. All in all, both Senators were very forthcoming and did a great job of explaining their positions. Combine that with the fact that there was an open mike format and we could ask the Senators whatever we wanted and it made for a really fantastic teleconference. Kudos to the Senate Republican Conference for putting this together and let’s hope they make this sort of thing — getting Republican Senators together with bloggers — a regular thing.