Bloggers on the House's refusal to renew terror surveillance legislation.

Bloggers on the House's refusal to renew terror surveillance legislation.

Bloggers on the House's refusal to renew terror surveillance legislation.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Feb. 15 2008 6:07 PM

Expiration Date

Bloggers weigh the (temporary) expiration of the Protect America Act, discuss the repercussions of superdelegate John Lewis' apparent Hillary Clinton betrayal, and note Jane Fonda's use of the C-word on NBC's Today.

Expiration date:The House went into recess without renewing the Protect America Act, a law passed last August that provides the government terrorist surveillance authority. For Democrats, the main sticking point is a provision that grants legal immunity for telecommunications companies.

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Scarecrow of Firedoglake notes that when the act expires, FISA will remain in effect and thus "by statute, existing surveillance efforts are allowed to continue for a year. By statue, related new surveillance under the existing efforts can be added during that period. By statute, unrelated new surveillance can be initiated under the pre-existing FISA provisions. And, telecom entities that follow lawful FISA requests are, as they always have been, immune for those actions."

At TPM Muckraker, Paul Kiel is pleasantly surprised that the Democrats finally stood up to the Bush administration: "The fear just didn't stick this time around. … The House broke for a week's recess yesterday – and not only did the Dems refuse to pass the Senate's version, but they also had the gall to pass contempt resolutions against White House officials on the same day."  Matthew Yglesias cheers the news: "[I]f you create the situation the Bush administration is proposing … then no company going forward is going to have any reason to refuse to comply with any sort of illegal requests."

On the Plank, the New Republic's staff blog, Eve Fairbanks critiques the Washington Post's headline: "Bush, GOP Rebuke House Democrats on Surveillance Bill": "[W]hy the hell is this the Post's headline? Here's what happened. … [T]he 35-strong liberal bloc in the House knocked down a temporary extension. … Then the Republicans threw a temper tantrum and walked off the House floor; Bush put out an angry statement -- and the tantrum made the headline. But it's what the Democrats did that was the news! … It's like writing a story about the Capitol burning down and headlining it, 'Many Cameramen Gather at Capitol.' "

Amanda Carpenter of Townhall says the Dems oppose telecom immunity because they're beholden to trial lawyers "suing those phone companies." She continues, "Court records and campaign contribution data reveal that 66 trial lawyers representing plaintiffs in lawsuits against these phone companies donated at least $1.5 million to Democrats, including 44 current Democratic senators."

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In response to comments by Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller—who supports the bill and says that House Republicans should have agreed to a temporary extension—Ed Morrissey at Captains Quarters offers: "Rockefeller claims that the House Democrats were 'jammed' by this bill. However, it was the Democrats who set the original deadline last summer, the Democrats who demanded a two-week extension in January, and the Democrats who kept this issue from a resolution over that entire period of time."

Read more about the expiration of the Protect America Act.

Super flip-flopper: Superdelegate and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights veteran, may defect from the Hillary Clinton camp. He previously pledged to support the senator from New York, but now he says he may cast his vote for Obama. At this point, he hasn't switched his formal endorsement, but rumor has it he may soon. Are the proverbial rats leaving the sinking ship?

"If there are tipping points in presidential contests, this surely is a possible one," says liberal David Corn of Mojo Blog. "Lewis paves the way for others who are also moved by Obama's 'movement' – or, to be polite about it, motivated by his momentum. While Clinton appears to have a modest lead in superdelegates, it is far from insurmountable. And like Lewis, many of the superdelegates will look to see what's happened on the ground before deciding how to cast their votes."

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Andrew Sullivan argues that "[i]f Lewis's original endorsement of the Clintons was a huge blow to Obama, then his reversal is an even bigger blow to the Clintons." How's that? "The Obama campaign has now not only built a rival machine to the Clintons', it is poaching loyalists." On the Page at Time, Mark Halperin also thinks the defection is a big deal: "[T]ake whatever you thought Clinton's chances of winning the nomination before and divide that number by as much as two – those would be the odds of her winning now."

But Tom Maguire of Just One Minute isn't so sure: "[A]re these switches by black leaders any kind of surprise? … With 80-90% of black voters backing Barack, who really thought that these black superdelegates would try to hold the line for Billary if Barack looked like a possible winner?" And on The Nation's Campaign 08 blog, John Nichols notes that "the pressure on superdelegates to vote like the voters will not always favor Obama. For instance, Massachusetts Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, both Obama backers, would come under pressure to cast convention votes that reflect the Bay State's support of Clinton in its February 5 primary."

Read more about Rep. John Lewis' flip-flopping.

Rhymes with punt: On the Valentine's Day episode of Today, actress Jane Fonda explained how she first heard of the Eve Ensler play, The Vagina Monologues: "I was asked to do a monologue called 'Cunt,' and I said, 'I don't think so.' " Whoops! NBC apologized to viewers for Fonda's C-word "slip," but bloggers have a field day.

"She said the baddest bad word, and she planned to say it," contendsAnn Althouse. "She's not out of control. She did exactly what she wanted to do, and she's got your rapt attention – something she's done for 5 decades. Object to the content all you want, but give her credit. She's a first-class media genius." Michelle Malkin has a different take: "The woman has no class. You already knew that. But here's more confirmation. Another reason not to let your children watch TV in the morning."

Read more about Jane Fonda's faux pas.

Juliet Lapidos is a staff editor at the New York Times.