TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Polls Now Bolster Bush on Domestic Spying

Polls Now Bolster Bush on Domestic Spying

Julie Mason (
Sun, 15 Jan 2006 15:24:07 -0600 --
Jan. 14, 2006, 9:16PM

Polls bolster Bush on domestic spying
Position reversal on hearings could be linked to public ambivalence on
wiretapping issue
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - In a noteworthy reversal, President Bush last week said
he would welcome congressional hearings on whether he was legally in
bounds to allow spying on Americans without obtaining search warrants

At a forum in Kentucky, Bush was asked by a member of the audience
about "that National Security Agency thing," a reference to the
super-secret agency's domestic eavesdropping program, which has roiled
Washington since it was disclosed last month.

"There will be a lot of hearings and talk about that, but that's good for
democracy," Bush said. "I invite patriotic Americans to discuss what I
did and continue to do," he urged.

As a rule, the White House does not invite congressional meddling on
any subject. But Bush's about-face can be traced to at least two
strategic considerations.

First, polls have shown that the public doesn't care all that much
about the program, which permits domestic wiretapping of phone calls
and e-mail without first obtaining a court order.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that about 50 percent consider
wiretapping an acceptable way for the federal government to
investigate terrorism, and 65 percent said it's more important to
investigate threats than safeguard privacy.

The same poll found that 32 percent believe personal privacy rights
trump the need to investigate possible threats.

Another key factor in Bush's thinking was the performance last week of
prominent Democratic senators in Samuel Alito's Supreme Court
nomination hearings.

In the days leading up to the hearings, White House spokesman Scott
McClellan repeatedly issued warnings that Bush was expecting dignified

But whatever the occasion, the Senate Judiciary Committee is a hotbed
for partisan speechifying. Alito came under tough questioning by
Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sen. Charles Schumer of New

The White House expressed outrage at what it considered a lack of
dignity and propriety shown by Democrats.

Cheney gives Fox his take on Alito hearings

When the Alito hearings started looking dicey, the White House got Vice
President Dick Cheney on the horn -- to Fox News.

Cheney, who remains popular within the Republican Party, is often deployed
to rally the grass-roots on behalf of the administration.

Checking in with host Tony Snow by telephone, Cheney took issue with a
line of questioning Kennedy put to Alito about whether the
administration has the right to skirt a ban on torture when it comes
to investigating terrorism, a position the vice president supports.

"Sometimes I think people get caught up in trying to make a political
argument so that they don't spend a lot of time on the facts with
respect to any particular situation," he said.

A few hours later, Cheney rang up commentator Sean Hannity, sounding
even more upset about the hearings.

"I think Judge Alito has acquitted himself very well, and I can't say
the same for some of the senators," he said.

No, he's not quitting, and he's not running

Cheney was briefly hospitalized after experiencing shortness of
breath, which was later attributed to a reaction to anti-inflammatory
drugs he was taking for a foot condition.

The recurring health woes of the 64-year-old renewed speculation that
he could step down and allow Bush to appoint a replacement who could
run for president in 2008. One problem: The White House has no heir
apparent for Bush's right-hand man.

Cheney, who has had four heart attacks, also sought to dispel any
notions that he's flagging -- or that he's going to run himself in

"I'm doing fine," Cheney told Snow. "I'm back at work."

As to 2008, Cheney said, "No, when I finish this tour, that's going to
be it."

Short take

"You took an oath to defend our flag and our freedom, and you kept
that oath, underseas and under fire," Bush on Tuesday told the
Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Copyright 2006 --
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