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Purple Nation

May 30, 2013

Freedom of the Press vs. National Security – A Tough Balance  By Lanny J. Davis

I have known and been a friend of Attorney General Eric Holder for many years. He is a progressive Democrat who believes in First Amendment values and especially vigorous freedom for investigative reporters to publish the facts. So I give the Attorney General a heavy presumption of good faith and trying to make the best judgment at the time.

I also know, as widely reported, that now, with the wisdom of hindsight, he is willing to express regrets about the approach used in subpoenaing telephone records of certain reporters in the course of a serious national security leak investigation, especially the ill-advised decision to name Fox investigative reporter as a criminal “co-conspirator.”

By the way, the words Eric Holder testified to in front of the Judiciary Committee were, as far as I can tell, accurate – there was never an intent to bring criminal charges against (or “prosecute,” the word he used) Mr. Rosen. That is a fact. And that is what he said. Naming Rosen as a co-conspirator, however ill-advised, was for the purpose of establishing him as a fact witness, not to prosecute him.

I for one believe the bar should be very, very high – that is two “very’s” – before any reporter should have to be subpoenaed to testify and required to reveal the source of a story.

Rogers Ailes, Fox News Channel’s CEO and president, was right to be angry and to denounce the naming of his respected Fox investigative reporter James Rosen as a co-conspirator in the affidavit supporting the subpoena for telephone records. (If I were in trouble, I would want Roger Aisles in the trenches to take the spears for me. P.S. I am a Fox News contributor and friend of Ailes for many years. P.P.S. –  another fan and friend of Roger Ailes is progressive MSNBC TV commentator, Chris Matthews, who got his first TV job from Ailes.

The best – the only answer – to resolving the inherent tension between First Amendment freedoms and the need to deter national security-implicated leaks that could be illegal is – forgive what seems to be a trite expression – a balanced approach. And this is what we see, thank goodness, from two Senators from both sides of the aisle — Senators:  Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) and Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.), who released a legislative proposal over the weekend that from now on, any subpoena for telephone records or wire intercepts of journalists should be decided by a judge, not the DOJ or FBI alone.

The judicial balancing standards proposed by Messrs. Schumer and Graham are as follows:

“In national security leak cases, demands for reporters’ phone or email records — whether sought by subpoena or National Security Letter — would need to be approved by a judge under a strict legal standard. The judge would need to be convinced that there is a ‘significant and articulable risk of future terrorism or harm to the national security’ and that the information sought would materially assist the government in preventing that risk.”

The proposal would also require the news organization to be notified ahead of time to be given a chance to object to the judge or the Justice Department before the subpoenas are issued. I would also suggest that the definition of a journalist be taken into consideration by the judge — with a free-lance Blogger (who could be an Al Qaeda member in disguise) given less weight for protection by a judge than a reporter of a known, serious news organization, such as James Rosen.

This should be a truly purple issue – both liberals ACLU members and conservative libertarians and Tea Party members do not want expansive government power that can chill First Amendment expression or vigorous investigative reporting. On the other hand, since 9/11, there is no “Red” or “Blue” difference between the need to protect against genuine threats from terrorists and hostile powers to our homeland’s security.

We need to protect our individual privacy rights – libertarians and liberals agree on that. And we need to avoid another 9/11 – libertarians and liberals agree on that. Let’s go ahead with that purple position and find the right balance.

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Mr. Davis is former Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton and is principal in the Washington D.C. law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, in which he specializes in crisis management.  He is Special Counsel to Dilworth Paxson of Philadelphia, Pa., and the author of a recently published book, “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life” (Threshold Editions/Simon and Schuster).  He can be followed on Twitter @LannyDavis.

www.lannyjdavis.com

Available on Amazon.com

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Great article from Lanny Davis – a “Mensch”

Purple Nation

April 24, 2013

George Bush — the President and the Man…Revisited

By Lanny J. Davis

http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/lanny-davis/295699-revisiting-a-former-president

http://dailycaller.com/2013/04/24/george-bush-is-a-good-man/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lanny-davis/george-bush-the-president_b_3149314.html

Tomorrow, April 25, on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas, Texas, four living presidents — Jimmy Carter, No. 39; George H.W. Bush, No. 41; Bill Clinton, No. 42, and Barack Obama, No. 44 — will honor one of their colleagues, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, at the dedication of his presidential library.

So I take this occasion to remind my fellow liberal Democrats, many of whom continue to attack Bush in harsh and personal terms, of three things about him that I don’t think they understand or appreciate.

First, while there were many polices under Bush with which liberal Democrats (myself included) disagreed — such as tax cuts, the Iraq War and not paying for either (as well as the Afghan war) with current revenues rather than borrowed money — there must be a distinction between disagreement and personal attack. For example, many Democrats still use the “lie” word in describing Bush’s rationale for the Iraq War — that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. This turned out to be wrong. But Democrats in the Clinton administration also believed Saddam had WMDs, as did most experts in the U.S. intelligence community. Our politics have become so poisoned and our government so dysfunctional precisely because too many people — on both sides — can’t make a distinction between lies and being sincerely wrong.

Second, Bush is known for his brilliant slogan when he first ran in 2000, describing himself as a “compassionate conservative.” But let’s not forget that on many issues, Bush was more “compassionate” than “conservative” — indeed, he was sometimes closer to Republican Theodore Roosevelt’s free-market progressivism than William Howard Taft’s laissez-faire conservatism. Examples include “No Child Left Behind” education reform, presented together at the White House by Bush and the liberal icon Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the early days of the Bush presidency; support for broad immigration reform, very similar to the bipartisan legislation recently proposed in the Senate; and an extension of Medicare to include prescription drug benefits — the most far-reaching and generous Medicare reform since Lyndon Johnson.

Third, it is important to remember what a good man with a good heart George W. Bush is.

I know from personal experience.

As I have written before, I remember sitting next to Bush when we were in the same residential college at Yale (Davenport — he graduated a year after me). I recall an evening when a group of us was sitting in the common room outside the college dining hall after dinner and a fellow Yale student walked by who was known to be gay, but in those days was not “out.” Someone said some ugly homophobic slurs. I didn’t like it, but sat silently. But Bush snapped, saying something like “Hey, knock it off. Why don’t you walk in his shoes awhile and feel what he feels?”

I remember thinking, “Whoa. This guy is much different inside than the fun-loving frat brother partying with me at Delta Kappa Epsilon.” As I watched him grow and evolve over the years, overcoming times of great personal pain and challenge to become a two-time governor of Texas and a two-term president of the United States, I only came to admire and like him even more than that evening at Yale.

My late mother always used to say you can judge people on how they love and treat animals — good if they do, bad if they don’t. When Bush’s beloved dog, Barney, died recently, the statement he issued exemplified for me the inner core of goodness on my mother’s scale of judgment.

“Barney never discussed politics,” he said in bidding Barney a sad farewell, “and he was always a faithful friend. Laura and I will miss our pal.”

I know my mom in heaven, who would never have voted for George W. Bush for president, would have read that comment about Barney and insisted:

“He is a good man.”

I agree.

Godspeed to you, George Bush, and blessings for your mom and dad and family on this great occasion.

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Davis, a Washington attorney and principal in the firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, specializing in legal crisis management and dispute resolution, served as former President Clinton’s special counsel from 1996-98 and as a member of former President Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from 2006-07. He currently serves as special counsel to Dilworth Paxson, and is the author of Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping With Crises in Business, Politics, and Life, recently published by Threshold/ Simon & Schuster. He can be followed on Twitter @LannyDavis. This article appeared in The Hill today.

www.lannyjdavis.com

Available on Amazon.com

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http://www.lannyjdavis.com
Purple Nation

March 22, 2013

A Wrong Purple Moment for Obama and Boehner

By Lanny J. Davis

http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/lanny-davis/289453-a-wrong-purple-moment-for-obama-boehner

http://www.newsmax.com/LannyDavis/Purple-Obama-Boehner-budget/2013/03/21/id/495669

http://dailycaller.com/2013/03/20/a-wrong-purple-moment-for-obama-and-boehner/

I have been writing this “Purple Nation” column for a long time, waiting for the “purple moment” when President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would agree on an important position on the budget and deficits. Little did I know that when it finally happened, I would be disappointed, to say the least.

“We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt,” President Obama told ABC “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos, in an interview that aired March 13. “In fact, in the next 10 years it’s gonna be in a sustainable place.”

Then a day or so later, Boehner said he agreed with the president!

Instead of cheering this as a magic purple moment, I could only think of this metaphor, which I believe is apt: There’s a ticking time bomb in your living room, you know the bomb will certainly explode in 10-15 years, and you choose only to reassure your family, “There is no ‘immediate’ danger.”

That is pretty much the situation we face today. Here are a few scary facts:

According to a CNN report, the nonpartisan and highly respected Congressional Budget Office projects the national debt will continue to rise over the next 10 years by a total of $7 trillion. Recently, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles pointed out that even if we were to accept the president’s budget proposals, and experienced an optimistic rate of growth over the next 10 years, the national debt would still be above 73 percent of gross domestic product by 2023 — a danger zone for most economists. And, they add, this scenario “leaves no margin of error if the economy grows slower, no wiggle room in case politicians are fiscally irresponsible in the future [shocking thought!], and no flexibility in case of a war, recession or natural disaster.”

According to Simpson-Bowles, at the current rate of spending and revenues, there will be sufficient tax revenues to be able to finance only interest payments on the debt, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Every other federal activity — from national defense to homeland security to transportation and energy — will have to be paid for with more borrowed money. Interest on the national debt could rise to nearly $1 trillion by 2020.

Talk about ticking time bombs: given that the baby boomer generation is already coming of age at 65 and older, if we do nothing to restructure the Social Security, there will be no money at all left in the trust fund 25 years from now. That means an immediate cut in benefits of more than 20 percent, affecting everyone today who is 40 years old, and for those who are younger, the cutbacks grow more and more severe.

Add to that the increasing cost of Medicare substantially above the rate of growth in projected revenues for the next 10 years, causing further combustion power to the ticking time bomb. Simpson reminds us that ten thousand Americans each day are turning 65 and that life expectancy is 78.1 years today, and in five years will be 80. “This is madness,” he says. “Who is kidding who? This will eat a hole through America.”

I have written in this space often that the run-up of the national debt in proposals made by the president and leaders of both political parties is the moral equivalent of the following: If you travel around the world, use credit cards to pay for all your airfares, hotels and fancy restaurants, return home after the trip and dump all the credit card receipts on your children’s laps and tell them to pay, that is downright wrong. And I say that the word immoral is the right word.

Why don’t the president and Boehner also agree that assuring today’s generation that there’s no “immediate” deficit crisis, while dumping our credit card bills on our children’s and grandchildren’s laps in the next 10-15 years, is wrong — plain immoral?

And why don’t they both announce support for passage of all the Simpson-Bowles Commission recommendations, supported by a bipartisan vote of more than 60 percent, including liberal Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and conservative Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Mike Crapo (Idaho)?

That would be the right thing to do, the moral thing to do, the purple thing to do.

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Davis, a Washington attorney and principal in the firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, specializing in legal crisis management and dispute resolution, served as President Clinton’s special counsel from 1996-98 and as a member of President Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from 2006-07. He currently serves as special counsel to Dilworth Paxson and is the author of the book, Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping With Crises in Business, Politics, and Life, that was published by Simon & Schuster on March 5, 2013.

www.lannyjdavis.com

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