"The President is wrong and I think he knows it."

"The Administration demands immunity...[for] companies for activities [in cooperation with intelligence efforts] about which the President wants only a small number of Members of Congress and no member of the Judicial Branch...to know anything about."

"Why would the Administration oppose a judicial determination of whether the companies already have immunity? There are at least three explanations:

"First, the President knows that it was the Administration's incompetence in failing to follow the procedures in the statute that prevented immunity from being conveyed -- that's one possibility. They simply didn't do it right.

"Second, the Administration's legal argument that the surveillance requests were lawfully authorized was wrong;

"or third, public reports that the surveillance activities undertaken by the companies went far beyond anything about which any Member of Congress was notified, as is required by the law."
~~Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi

This is a rancorous accusation.

The Washington Post notes that the Speaker "all but called the president a liar."

In response, the White House posted this stern retort on its website: FISA Fact Check: Setting the Record Straight on Speaker Pelosi,

and this brief but biting statement regarding the "partisan House bill":

"Today, the House of Representatives took a significant step backward in defending our country against terrorism...[and making] it easier for class-action trial lawyers to sue companies whose only 'offense' is that they are alleged to have assisted in efforts to protect the country after the attacks of September 11."

"The House bill is not a serious...effort to protect our national security. It is a partisan bill designed to give the House Democratic leadership cover for their failure to act responsibly and vote on the bipartisan Senate bill [already passed]."

What is going on here?

I am convinced that the House is not stonewalling merely to curry favor with the Democratic Party's admittedly important trial-lawyer constituency. On the other hand, I am certainly skeptical that the Senate bill is primarily designed to cover the mistakes and perfidy of the White House at the expense of the myriad honest Americans who purportedly gave up their civil liberties in the rush to install Bush's unitary executive regime.

What is really going on here?

1. The House is flexing its Article I muscles, reminding the Executive that we operate under a system in which there are three co-equal branches of government.

2. The House Democrats led by Nancy Pelosi despise this president, and they see an opening to do some damage to him politically.

Is Speaker Pelosi right that the Bushies probably bungled some of this early on? Bet on it. Knowing what we know about this administration (and the nature of humanity), there are likely embarrassing miscues within the process. Thorough investigations and judicial proceedings would undoubtedly produce wonderful opportunities for public recrimination and further humiliations for the Bush White House.

But is that good enough reason to derail this vital national security bill? Political vindication should not trump public policy.

Okay, folks, we understand: you don't like one another. But get this fixed. We have a serious situation on our hands.

Personal Note: my Congressman, Chet Edwards, Democrat from Texas 17, can help. I call on him to play a constructive role in healing this personal (and institutional) rift.