OK, things were said. Patriotism was impugned, fear was mongered, attack ads were run. But that doesn't mean we can't work something out, does it?
The administration is ready to talk turkey, reports The Wall Street Journal. But if the administration "has signaled to Democratic lawmakers it is open to negotiation" about the surveillance bill, it's not entirely clear just yet where the administration is willing to give.
The centerpiece of negotiations, of course, will be whether telecoms will receive retroactive immunity for their participation in the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Though a number of Senate Dems crossed over to support that, the House has managed to hold firm, twice passing a bill without retroactive immunity. Some Dems are floating "a pared-back version of immunity," such as limiting immunity to certain aspects of the program or capping possible damages. Talks about other aspects of the legislation, for instance concerning judicial oversight of surveillance, might come more easily.
But the reason for the White House's new tack is pretty clear: they used every weapon at their disposal -- presidential statements and press conferences, alarming letters and public appearances by the director of national intelligence and attorney general, time pressures created by the lapsing of legislation or a Congressional recess -- and none of it worked. The House, after all that, still passed a bill a world away from what the administration was pushing for. It was, as the Journal points out, a strikingly different outcome from August, when the White House's squeeze play worked to perfection.
The difference? Well, a number of things. But one thing in particular is the fact that Dems no longer trust the administration's point man, DNI Mike McConnell. From today's Los Angeles Times:
On the eve of a House vote on controversial wiretapping legislation last month, the nation's intelligence director, J. Michael McConnell, convened a secret weekend meeting in northern Virginia with members of the House Intelligence Committee.
The two-day session was designed to promote a calmer atmosphere for discussing an array of intelligence issues, including the nation's eavesdropping laws. But participants said the event ended with a series of acrimonious exchanges.
Democrats accused McConnell of making exaggerated claims and of doing the bidding of the Bush administration, according to officials who attended the event. McConnell bristled at the Democrats' charges, and chastised members of the committee for failing to defend the intelligence community amid a barrage of bad press.
As a wise man once said, "Fool me once, shame on â shame on you. Fool me â you can't get fooled again."