Crystal balls at the BBC
The facts are as follows:
The Patriot Act was due to expire at the end of December.
President Bush wants Congress to extend the act indefinitely.
The House of Representatives passed an indefinite extension of the act back in July, precisely in accord with the President’s wishes.
A majority of the Senate favors indefinite renewal. However, some senators object to certain aspects of the act as it now exists, and want to rewrite or remove some of its provisions. Because they are in the minority and the president will get what he wants if it actually comes up for a vote, these senators have engaged in a filibuster, thus preventing a vote on indefinite renewal.
Given that the act will expire by law at the end of the month, and because the objecting senators are not entirely unserious, recognizing that the Patriot Act is a valuable tool despite whatever objections they may have with certain specifics, they voted Wednesday to postpone the argument over its existing provisions for now by extending the law by 6 months, by which point the specific objections will have to be addressed.
Since the law as passed by the Senate (6 month extension) was not in accord with what the House passed (indefinite extension), the bill had to go back to the House for passage there. The House, objecting to the efforts of the Senate to postpone making a firm decision, but mindful that it would be irresponsible to allow the law to expire altogether at the end of the month, voted to allow only a one month extension, thus keeping the law in effect, but forcing the Senate to re-address the issue sometime next month. The law then went back to the Senate, which hastily agreed to the one month extension.
Now, does this represent a “defeat” for Bush? Hardly. Whether or not the act ultimately gets renewed indefinitely, and whether or not certain provisions of it are ultimately removed or rewritten, remains an open question. Essentially, to return to our sports metaphor, the game has gone into extra time with the outcome still undecided. Yet the BBC, in its relentless campaign to diminish Bush in the eyes of its audience, disingenuously portrays this as a “defeat” for Bush.
What is most risible is the BBC’s deceitful suggestion that the move by the House to shrink the extension to only a month “is a rebuff to President Bush, who wanted the legislation extended indefinitely.” Given that the House had already passed precisely what the president wanted, and was in fact sending the Senate, not the president, a message in refusing to agree to the 6 month extension, and given the fact that the House agreed to the one month extension only after White House intervention and persuasion to do precisely that and prevent the law from expiring altogether, it is difficult to characterize the BBC’s narrative as anything other than an out and out lie.