Media uncritically aired false and misleading ads attacking Sen. Clinton

››› ››› ROB DIETZ, BRIAN LEVY, ROB MORLINO & JOE BROWN

In recent days, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and NBC News reporters and hosts have re-aired portions of two campaign advertisements by former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, a candidate for the New York Republican U.S. Senate nomination. These reporters failed to inform viewers that Spencer's charges about his potential opponent, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), and claims about warrantless surveillance are misleading and false.

Ad: Clinton "opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9-11"

The first Spencer ad claims that Clinton "opposes the [USA] Patriot Act and the NSA [National Security Agency] program that helped stop another 9-11" -- referring to the alleged terrorist plot to blow up multiple airliners traveling from the United Kingdom to the United States. In fact, Clinton voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 and for the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act in March 2006 and against a filibuster of that bill, although she supported a filibuster of an earlier version of the bill. There are also two inaccuracies in the claim that Clinton "opposes ... the NSA program that helped stop [the alleged British plot]." First, the media have not reported -- nor has the Bush administration asserted -- that U.S. warrantless surveillance of the international communications of U.S. persons played a role in foiling the alleged plot. News reports and statements by the Bush administration have asserted that no person within the United States was directly connected to the purported plot. It is therefore highly speculative to assert that warrantless surveillance of U.S. persons' conversations with terrorist suspects abroad revealed information that "helped stop" the alleged attack. Second, although Clinton has stated her opposition to the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program because it apparently violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), she has expressed support for wiretapping that complies with the law.

  • No evidence that warrantless wiretapping in U.S. helped stop U.K. plot

    Washington Post staff writers Dan Eggen and Spencer S. Hsu reported on August 13 that "[m]ore than 200 FBI agents and scores of analysts and other personnel" undertook "dozens of clandestine surveillance and search operations on individuals with possible links to the London plotters," including "people who had been called or e-mailed by suspects or their relatives and acquaintances." But while Eggen and Hsu reported that the extensive surveillance "produced a noticeable surge in applications for clandestine warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," they did not report that surveillance was conducted without warrants. Similarly, New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau reported on August 15 that "the Justice Department sought double or triple the usual rate of court-approved wiretaps to monitor the communications of American suspects" in the plot, reporting nothing about warrantless wiretapping.

    On the August 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly asked Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about "the fact that NSA" helped in tracking the suspects. Chertoff said, "I'm not going to confirm particular techniques we used." Similarly, when asked by Fox News host John Gibson, "What is the role that either the Patriot Act or the NSA surveillance program ... play in this investigation?" Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales did not answer, saying, "We want to be careful about how much we disclose at the initial stages of this investigation." Additionally, USA Today reported on August 14 that "Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty got daily updates while reviewing the increasing number of applications for wiretap requests." But the article gave no indication that warrantless wiretaps were used.

    Even if the administration did conduct surveillance of persons in the United States without warrants in violation of FISA, it appears unlikely that such activity contributed to the foiling of the U.K. plot: Chertoff stated in an August 11 press conference that "we do not have evidence ... that the plotting [for the attack] was done in the United States." He later added that "we did not see any U.S. internal activity in this plot." Similarly, the Post's Eggen and Hsu and the Times' Lichtblau reported -- respectively -- that U.S. law enforcement agencies found "no links" and "no direct connection" between the plot and anyone within the United States.

  • Clinton does not oppose legal wiretapping

    Further, although Clinton opposes the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program, she has repeatedly stated that she supports domestic wiretapping that is conducted consistent with the law. A January 25 article on CBSNews.com quoted Clinton in the issue:

"Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that's our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way," she said. "Their argument that it's rooted in the Constitution inherently is kind of strange because we have FISA and FISA operated very effectively and it wasn't that hard to get their permission."

In a June 16 speech, Clinton also stated:

CLINTON: [T]he president -- and I mean any president -- must have the ability to pursue terrorists and defend our national security with the best technology at hand. But we have existing law that allows that -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or so-called FISA. We have judicial mechanisms in place that this administration could have used to obtain authority for what it did; we have a system of congressional oversight and review that this administration could have used to obtain a legislative solution to these challenges.

Instead, they relied on questionable legal authority and bypassed our system of checks and balances.

As Media Matters for America has noted (here, here and here), conservatives have repeatedly mischaracterized Democratic opposition to the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program.

The following programs aired portions of Spencer's first ad without noting the false and misleading nature of these attacks on Clinton:

  • MSNBC's Tucker:

    On the August 15 edition of Tucker, guest host Joe Scarborough played the advertisement and asked Democratic National Committee vice chairwoman Lynn Cutler, "Doesn't [Clinton] see the positive aspects to some wiretapping, to the Patriot Act, again, to giving the U.S. government the same powers that the British government had to crack this terror plot?" Neither Scarborough nor Cutler debunked the advertisement's claims that Clinton opposes the Patriot Act and NSA wiretapping.

  • MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

    On the August 15 edition of Hardball, correspondent David Shuster aired the portion of the advertisement that said, "Senator Hillary Clinton opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9-11." While Shuster had earlier reported that "[a]nalysts say the Bush administration had little to do with unraveling the plot," Washingtonpost.com political columnist Chris Cillizza repeated the ad's claim, stating that Spencer said "Hillary Clinton has jeopardized our national security because she is opposed to the NSA wiretapping program, and because she voted against the Patriot Act." Additionally, host Chris Matthews asked, "[W]ill we see less Democrats' queasiness about surveillance because of this thing that happened in London the other day?" Chicago Tribune national political correspondent Jeff Zeleny answered: "I think Democrats are afraid of the [American] Civil Liberties Union, the wing of the party sort of taking over here."

  • NBC's Today:

    On the August 16 edition of Today, MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell described the advertisement as a "tough ad featuring [Clinton] and Osama bin Laden" while displaying the video of the advertisement, which read: "But Hillary Clinton opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop the next 9-11."

  • Fox News Live:

    On the August 16 edition of Fox News Live, after airing the entire advertisement except Spencer's official approval, host Gregg Jarrett asked former Rep. Tom McMillen (D-MD), "In the wake of the foiled airline bomb plot, does that put your party at a disadvantage when it comes to national security?" referring to Jarrett's earlier assertion that "some of the chief tools for fighting terror -- the NSA warrantless surveillance, eavesdropping, financial monitoring ... those are the very tools which many of your Democratic colleagues have tried to minimize or eliminate." Jarrett said that "the ad does seem to twist Clinton's voting record a bit. She voted in favor of the Patriot Act," but did not challenge the advertisement's claims about Clinton's opposition to the NSA. Fox News Live teased the advertisement by showing the portion that included the text "National Security Agency wiretaps were vital."

  • MSNBC's MSNBC Live:

    On the August 16 edition of MSNBC Live, host Amy Robach played the entire advertisement without addressing its falsehoods. Cutler stated that the ad was "factually all wrong. I mean, NSA is not a British agency." Ron Christie, former special assistant to President Bush, called the ad a "publicity stunt" but later hinted that Clinton opposed the Patriot Act, saying, "Republicans are going to try to take a look at [Clinton's] positions on the war on terror. You look at people like the [Senate] Minority Leader Harry Reid [NV] when he said that, 'Hey, we're glad that we killed the Patriot Act.' "

  • CNN's The Situation Room:

    On the August 16 edition of The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer aired the entire advertisement while speaking over it. CNN senior political analyst Jeff Greenfield later aired the narrator's statement that "Senator Hillary Clinton opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9-11."

Ad: "Senator Clinton opposes the program that prevented the attack on the Brooklyn Bridge"

A second advertisement was re-aired on the August 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes. The ad described a plot by Al Qaeda accomplice Iyman Faris: "[T]he attack was stopped only when National Security Agency wiretaps exposed it, but Senator Clinton opposes the program that prevented the attack on the Brooklyn Bridge." Fox News political analyst Dick Morris uncritically repeated the ad's assertion that warrantless wiretaps saved the bridge: "[I]t is very clear that the Brooklyn Bridge would have been destroyed if we had not been able to intercept the word 'Brooklyn Bridge.' " Although Faris's arrest has been cited by the Bush administration as an example of the NSA program's success, Media Matters has previously noted a January 17 New York Times report indicating that information gleaned from the warrantless NSA eavesdropping did not play "a significant role" in Faris's capture. Further, a May 22 Newsweek article described the Faris arrest as "the best catch the Feds have offered up" in defense of warrantless wiretapping but reported that the attack itself was "a rather farfetched plot to cut down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch" and then added in parenthesis: "Faris was apparently identified by a captured Qaeda leader; it's not clear the NSA played any role."

Co-host Alan Colmes challenged Morris's claim that Clinton "opposed the NSA wiretaps," stating: "You said she's against the NSA wiretaps. The idea was that she was against it without a warrant. ... [I]t's not that Democrats don't want wiretapping and don't want to go after terrorists, it's doing it constitutionally." Additionally, Colmes, perhaps referring to the first advertisement, said that the ad "also says that she opposed the Patriot Act," which "is not true" Colmes added that it "is a misleading, false ad."

Co-host Sean Hannity and Colmes teased the ad three times on the program, displaying the audio and/or still shots that said Clinton opposed the NSA program that stopped Iyman Faris, before airing the entire advertisement except Spencer's official approval.

From Chertoff's August 11 press conference:

QUESTION: What about the U.S.?

CHERTOFF: Regarding the U.S., as we get material from the investigation, our first priority is to examine it for any connection to people in the United States or the possibility of an event within the United States itself.

Currently, we do not have evidence that there was, as part of this plot, any plan to initiate activity inside the United States, or that the plotting was done in the United States. However, there are other people out there who are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. So I'm not prepared to let my guard down. We want to make sure, first of all, that we have fully examined all the evidence -- and that may take a little bit of time -- and second, we want to make sure there are no copycats, no one who was inspired by this to think that we're somehow going to be -- have our attention diverted, and they're going to try to do something themselves.

So we're going to be, obviously, very, very interested in tracking any possible U.S. leads, but at this point, my prior statement, which is that we did not see any U.S. internal activity in this plot, remains still active.

From the August 16 edition of NBC's Today:

ANN CURRY (host): Al, thanks, the midterm elections are less than three months away, and the war on terror will be front and center for voters. National security has been a winning issue for the Republicans in previous elections, but this year Democrats are trying to seize the upper hand. Here's NBC's chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell:

O'DONNELL: For two days straight, President Bush has staged a series of high-profile events highlighting his record on national security.

BUSH [video clip]: America is safer than it has been, but it's not yet safe.

O'DONNELL: And as election season kicks into gear, Republicans and Democrats are each making the case their party will best protect the homeland.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY [video clip]: The choice before the American people is becoming clearer every day. For the sake of our security, this nation must reject any strategy of resignation and defeatism.

O'DONNELL: That argument has helped Republicans win elections before. But Democrats this year are fighting back. Their message in a new internet ad: "Mr. Bush made America more vulnerable." In New York, Senator Hillary Clinton blasted the Bush administration for ignoring security needs at home, and Democrats argue failures in the Iraq war have fueled Islamic radicalism.

CLINTON [video clip]: This is not 2002, 2003, 2004, '5 when you appeared before this committee and presented, you know, many assurances that have frankly proven to be unfulfilled.

JONATHAN ALTER (Newsweek senior editor and columnist): The Democrats essentially want to go to country and say, "If you believe the war in Iraq is a success, vote Republican. If you believe it's a failure, vote Democratic." Democrats think that works for them.

O'DONNELL: In fact, polling by NBC News shows a significant erosion of support for Republicans on their counterterrorism policy. In October 2002, they held a 36-point advantage over Democrats. By December 2003, it was 26 points. In June this year, just 6 points. That hasn't discouraged the GOP. Senator Clinton's republican opponent recently released this tough ad featuring her and Osama bin Laden.

NARRATOR [video clip of first Spencer ad]: She'd leave us vulnerable

O'DONNELL: Both parties clearly convinced whoever the public believes will win the war will win control of the Congress. For Today, Norah O'donnell, NBC News, New York.

From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the August 16 edition of Fox News' Fox News Live:

JARRETT: Coming up next on Fox News Live, an attack ad you will not believe. A Republican who could be challenging Senator Hillary Clinton in November coming out swinging. We'll show you the ad with Clinton along side Osama bin Laden.

[...]

JARRETT: Hillary Clinton going after the White House hard on the issue of homeland security these days. The New York senator criticizing the administration for not doing enough to protect Americans from a terrorist attack. But, check this one out. Clinton's challenger for her Senate seat, John Spencer, has unveiled a new ad that says Clinton's views on national security actually help Osama bin Laden. Take a listen.

NARRATOR[video clip]: Islamic fascists still hate us. They still want to attack us. But the recent terrorist plot to destroy American airliners headed for New York was detected and defeated. National Security Agency wiretaps of terrorist suspects were vital to stopping this attack. But Senator Hillary Clinton opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9-11. She'd leave us vulnerable.

JARRETT: Karen Hanretty, Republican strategist, and Representative Tom McMillan, former Democratic Congressman from Maryland, both join us here. Thank you very much. You know, Karen, the ad does seem to twist Clinton's voting record a bit. She voted in favor of the Patriot Act. But, you know, that aside, come on. Is it really fair to accuse her of having views that help Osama bin Laden?

HANRETTY: Well, I think this ad is quite frankly less about Hillary Clinton because obviously she's going to win re-election, and more about drawing attention to the broader issue which is actually happening in the newspapers and on television today through this ad, which is: Do you trust the Democrats to protect America's national security and to protect our freedom? And this -- this is an over-the-top ad, but look, it's getting a lot of free media today, and it will in the days ahead. It'll be all over talk radio. It's in the newspapers, and this is what the conversation is going to be about.

JARRETT: Congressman, you know you guys have been doing your own ads and finger-pointing, and some in your party are blaming the president's policies for fueling Islamic radicalism and making our country less safe. I mean, is that a sound strategy, given that we haven't been attacked in five years, but we certainly were before President Bush took office?

MCMILLEN: Well, Gregg, I think that we are bungling the war on terrorism just like the Bush administration bungled the aftermath of Katrina. There are so many parts of our country that are unprotected. I mean we inspect 3 percent of our port cargo, 7 percent of our airplane cargo. I mean, just -- the list is so long. And the fact of the matter is that we are spending more money trying to secure Iraq than we are spending to secure our own homeland in this country. And I think it's misplaced priorities.

[...]

JARRETT: Congressman -- Congressman, some of the chief tools for fighting terror, the NSA warrantless surveillance, eavesdropping, financial monitoring, I mean, those are the very tools which many of your Democratic colleagues have tried to minimize or eliminate. In the wake of the foiled airline bomb plot, does that put your party at a disadvantage when it comes to national security?

From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the August 16 edition of MSNBC's MSNBC Live:

ROBACH: Well, the political slugfest over the war on terror is getting ugly at Ground Zero. A new attack ad shows Hillary Clinton cozied up with Osama bin Laden. Now, the ad was put out by her opponent for the U.S. Senate in the Empire State, John Spencer. Take a look.

[begin video clip]

NARRATOR: Islamic fascists still hate us. They still want to attack us. But the recent terrorist plot to destroy American airliners headed for New York was detected and defeated. National Security Agency wiretaps of terrorist suspects were vital to stopping this attack. But Senator Hillary Clinton opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9-11. She'd leave us vulnerable.

SPENCER: That's wrong. I'm John Spencer, and I approve this message because I won't play politics with our security.

[end video clip]

ROBACH: Well, an adviser on the Clinton campaign shot back saying, quote, "Mr. Spencer's history of making wild-eyed angry falsehoods like these are among the many reasons why no one takes him or his campaign seriously." Joining me now is Lynn Cutler, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, and Ron Christie, former adviser to President Bush. Thanks for joining us, both of you.

CHRISTIE: Good morning, Amy.

CUTLER: Good morning.

ROBACH: So, John Spencer, Hillary Clinton's opponent, is running nearly 20 percentage points behind Hillary Clinton. In fact, a lot of people here in New York don't know even who John Spencer is, if asked. Let me ask you this. Lynn, why would he put this ad out? Is it really going to push him forward?

CUTLER: He put it out because we're talking about it. First of all, he has a primary. He is not yet the nominee of the Republican Party, and you put out this kind of garbage, it's going to get covered and you're going to get a lot of free press. And I'm sure that was his intent. It's totally irresponsible. And it's factually all wrong. I mean NSA is not a British agency. It's just garbage, pure garbage.

ROBACH: Ron, the most well-known secret probably in politics is that Hillary Clinton is considering a bid for the White House in '08. Do you think this is more about that bid than perhaps her bid for senator in New York?

CHRISTIE: Well, first of all, I actually agree with Lynn. I think unfortunately you have a candidate who is putting out a publicity stunt, and the last thing that Republicans need to do is to play politics or play games with somebody like Osama bin Laden. He's a terrorist. We might disagree with Senator Clinton on some of the politics and some of the policies that she might advocate, but aligning her with Osama bin Laden, I think, is way out of line.

But to answer your question directly, I do think Senator Clinton has her eye on the presidency in 2008, and I think between now and November, Republicans are going to try to take a look at her positions on the war on terror. You look at people like the Minority Leader Harry Reid when he said that, "Hey, we're glad that we killed the Patriot Act." I think these are the sort of discussions that Americans should have. But Osama bin Laden and Hillary Clinton, I think, is just disgusting and out of bounds.

From the August 16 edition of CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Senator Hillary Clinton is calling a new attack ad against her "outrageous." Her Republican Senate rival in New York, John Spencer, is airing the spot. It accuses Senator Clinton of being soft on terror, and it features a photo of Osama bin Laden to try to drive home that charge. Senator Clinton calls it a, quote, "terrible injustice" to her, and she's accusing -- a terrible injustice accused of -- being accused of being in league somehow with Osama bin Laden. A leading House Republican from New York is accusing Spencer of wild-eyed and angry rantings. Meanwhile, the [House] Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King [R-NY] says he'd never question Senator Clinton's commitment to the war on terror. Let's bring in our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. He has more now on the politics of this war on terror. Jeff?

GREENFIELD: Wolf, the surest way to spot a key theme in any campaign is to watch and listen to the ads, because that's where the most money is spent and where a message has to be honed down to 30 seconds. This season, one of the most significant trends isn't what's being said, but what's not being said.

NARRATOR [video clip]: Whose banks wired money to the terrorists.

GREENFIELD: First, instead of changing the subject away from Iraq and terror, a lot of Democrats are taking these issues on directly. For instance, in a Democratic primary in an Iowa congressional district, candidate Bruce Braley tried to tie his opponent to Bush's Iraq policy.

NARRATOR [video clip]: We need a timetable to turn the fighting over to the Iraqis and bring our troops home. But Rick Dickinson agrees with President Bush and is against setting a timetable for getting our troops out of Iraq.

GREENFIELD: In Vermont, Congressman Bernie Sanders, running for the Senate as an independent, puts his opposition to the war front and center.

SANDERS [video clip]: I think the evidence is very clear that Bush's war in Iraq has been counterproductive in terms of fighting international terrorism.

GREENFIELD: And the Democrats' Senate Campaign Committee has an ad up that argues America is less safe now than it was five years ago. In Ohio, here's Senator Mike DeWine (R) talking about his Democratic opponent.

NARRATOR [video clip]: Where does [Rep.] Sherrod Brown [D] stand on protecting America's homeland? In Congress, Brown voted to slash national intelligence programs. He voted against strengthening criminal laws for terrorist attacks. He voted against the Patriot Act, which gives law enforcement the tools to fight terrorism.

GREENFIELD: And here's John Spencer, who wants to oppose Senator Hillary Clinton in New York. Note the visual aid here.

[begin video clip]

NARRATOR: But Senator Hillary Clinton opposes the Patriot Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9-11. She'd leave us vulnerable.

SPENCER: That's wrong.

[begin video clip]

GREENFIELD: And here's Republican Richard Tarrant, running against independent Bernie Sanders in Vermont.

NARRATOR [video clip]: For seven consecutive years, and over President Clinton's objection, Congressman Sanders sponsored legislation to cut our intelligence budget. Even today, Sanders's official website states his strong opposition to budget increases for our intelligence community.

GREENFIELD: So what is it that these Republican ads don't say? None of them mention Iraq. They're all aimed at voters -- at votes and propositions, rather -- they claim weaken America's ability to fight the broader war. This is a sure sign that these Republican candidates believe that the argument President Bush made two years ago -- that the war in Iraq made America safer -- simply is not gonna fly this fall. Wolf.

From the August 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

NARRATOR [video clip of second Spencer ad]: Senator Clinton opposes the program that prevented the attack on the Brooklyn Bridge. She'd rather leave us vulnerable.

COLMES: That new campaign ad, which hits the airwaves here in New York tonight, has provoked outrage among Democrats. Former Clinton adviser Dick Morris will join us in just a few minutes to explain if there's any truth to it, in his opinion.

[...]

HANNITY: By the way, Tom Kean of the 9-11 Commission will be joining us in a minute. Also, is it time for terrorist profiling to protect you while flying in the skies? We'll get into that issue tonight. Also, a new campaign ad features both Hillary Clinton and Osama bin Laden. But is it a fair critique of her record? We'll check in with that. And the elections, which are 84 days away, Dick Morris will be joining us, straight ahead.

[...]

COLMES: Coming up, is there any attack that Hillary's critics won't make? Dick Morris will join us to discuss a shocking ad that you're seeing now. And later, [Rep.] Cynthia McKinney [D-GA] hits the church to launch a new fight against what she calls spiritual wickedness, all still to come on Hannity & Colmes.

[...]

HANNITY: There are 84 days left until Americans go to the polls and elect Republicans --

COLMES: What?

HANNITY: -- but the attacks against New York Senator Hillary Clinton have already begun. Here's the latest from Republican challenger John Spencer.

NARRATOR [video clip]: The Brooklyn Bridge in 2003, a U.S. citizen named Iyman Fares plotted with Al Qaeda to destroy it. The plot was coordinated with Osama bin Laden, and the attack was stopped only when National Security Agency wiretaps exposed it. But Senator Clinton opposes the program that prevented the attack on the Brooklyn Bridge. She'd rather leave us vulnerable.

HANNITY: Joining us now, former Clinton adviser Dick Morris. An effective ad?

MORRIS: Well, it's effective except it's not what Spencer should be running. He needs to get his name recognition up and get his support up. Giving people the 900th reason to vote against Hillary won't help him.

But I do think it's -- it's a fair shot. She opposed the NSA wiretaps --

HANNITY: Right.

MORRIS: -- and it is very clear that the Brooklyn Bridge would have been destroyed if we had not been able to intercept the word "Brooklyn Bridge."

Nobody understands these wiretaps. Let me just explain them. You can't go to the FISA board and say, "I don't know whose phone I want to tap. And I don't know what I want to tap for, but give me a warrant."

So what you do is you tap everything in international conversations and you look for patterns. And when you see the word "Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge" --

HANNITY: You've got a pattern.

MORRIS: You say, "Hey, I've got a pattern." And then you go to the FISA board and you get a wiretap.

HANNITY: You know, it's interesting. If you read The New York Times today, and I don't often quote it. Democrats are using the arrest of the suspects, and this is the British case, to show Americans how the war in Iraq has fueled Islamic radicalism.

Now, what's interesting about, then, Bill and Hillary Clinton both independently went out and attacked the president on these issues. Here's the point. If they want the battle on this hill, I think fundamentally the Democrats make a mistake because they play to the president and the Republican strength 84 days out of an election.

Because, as you point out on FISA, as you point out on the Patriot Act, what did -- Harry Reid said we killed the Patriot Act, he bragged. Exploiting Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.

MORRIS: Right.

HANNITY: They're perceived already as weak on terror. [Rep.] John Murtha [D-PA] and --

MORRIS: I think you're exactly right. I think that when the Democrats attack Bush over Iraq, they're going to gain points. But if they're attacking him on homeland security, they're not. And it is absurd to say that our counterterrorist activities have alienated the terrorists, so now they're attacking us. What caused the 9-11 attacks? What did we do to alienate them before that?

COLMES: What's happened since? Dick, look, do you think it's fair to compare Hillary Clinton to Osama bin Laden?

MORRIS: That ad doesn't do that.

COLMES: You don't think that's the subtle message in that ad?

MORRIS: Does not --

COLMES: You don't buy that?

MORRIS: That ad -- wait a second -- that ad starts with a guy who wanted to blow up the bridge. Then it says Osama bin Laden, because he was proven to be with Al Qaeda.

COLMES: Yeah.

MORRIS: Then it says Hillary Clinton voted against the wiretap program that caught the guy that wanted to blow up the bridge. Fair shot.

COLMES: She's aiding and abetting. But it also says that she opposed the Patriot Act, which is not true. She actually voted for the Patriot Act, and she voted to renew the expiring portions of the Patriot Act. That is a misleading, false ad.

MORRIS: What she did do, as you know, is she voted for it first. Then she voted against it when it came up for renewal in December. Then, after it was watered down to suit her convenience, she voted for it in January.

COLMES: She voted for it originally, and then they worked it out. It was only -- it was supposed to be sunset provisions in the first place --

MORRIS: For it, against it, and for it. It's like John Kerry.

COLMES: -- that were sold to us as sunset provisions.

MORRIS: For it, against it and for it.

[...]

COLMES: Let me get back to Hillary Clinton just for a second. You said she's against the NSA wiretaps. The idea was that she was against it without a warrant. That's what Democrats -- it's not that Democrats don't want wiretapping and don't want to go after terrorists. It's doing it constitutionally.

MORRIS: And -- and as I explained, you can ask -- how do you fill out a warrant when you don't know what you're looking for and you don't know who you're tapping?

COLMES: You can go to a court and get immediate permission and then retroactively. You have 48 hours, as I understand it.

MORRIS: Immediate permission to do what?

COLMES: To do pretty much -- you can do whatever you want and then go to the court, and they will consider it while you're going about your business.

MORRIS: Yes but -- you don't know what you're looking for. They didn't know that somebody was saying, "I'm going to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge." They listen to chatter, and they heard the word "Brooklyn Bridge" a million times. And the computer kicked that out --

COLMES: And there's no reason why in a court can't immediately give permission to do it. They have judges 24 hours a day.

MORRIS: Yes, but you don't have a warrant to do it in the first place. You can do it after you get the word "Brooklyn Bridge", but you can't before that. And that's the difference between the warrantless one and the warrant one.

And the difference is not that you don't have time or constitutional grounding or anything to go back, get the warrant. You don't know what you're looking for, because it's a prophylactic process.

COLMES: But while you're going through the process you can do it constitutionally. That's all Democrats are saying that this administration has violated its own principles.

MORRIS: There is no way that you could have heard the word "Brooklyn Bridge" constitutionally through a wiretap, because you could not have -- I mean within your definition of constitutional, because you could not have gotten a wiretap.

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