From yesterday’s interview with Wallace. Any reason to believe he’s telling the truth? Sure:
1. It wouldn’t be the first time a Democratic leader privately approved a secret Bush policy reviled by the left. See, e.g., Madam Speaker giving thumbs up to CIA interrogation sites in 2002, back when the political calculus on counterterrorism measures was a wee bit different than it is now. Apparently, she was willing to take a tough line on terror so long as she didn’t have to suffer any political consequences among her base. Apply that same logic and you’ll see why Democrats might not have been eager to see Bush come to Congress seeking public authorization.
2. As Maguire notes, the New York Times reported three years ago on Democratic acquiescence in the wiretapping program — although the detail provided by Cheney about them discouraging him from seeking congressional approval appears to be new. (Democrats claimed predictably in 2005 that the briefings they’d gotten hadn’t revealed how extensive the program was.) Three Democrats did object at various points, one of whom was Pelosi in the form of a letter sent in October 2001. But unless I’m misreading it, the crux of her concern wasn’t that the NSA was wiretapping people without Congress’s or a court’s approval. It was that Bush hadn’t yet specifically authorized the practice at the time.
3. It’s now more than 24 hours since the Cheney interview aired and nary a peep from any of the Dems accused. If this is some egregious smear or lie, they’re being curiously shy about calling him on it.
Exit question: Wallace raises a good point. Why didn’t Bush seek congressional approval when the program first started, shortly after 9/11? Given the political climate at the time, he probably would have received it.
Update: I changed the headline slightly to reflect that top Republicans also didn’t demand congressional approval.