In this week's edition of The Daily Banter Mail Bag, Bob, Ben and Chez discuss the rejection of the tea party, clemency for Snowden and our New Year's resolutions.
1. Do you think the establishment Republican plan to stop the "fools" in the Tea Party will actually work or will it only hasten a rift in the GOP (and is this a bad thing)?
Ben: Depends what you mean by work. Money generally wins elections, so more sensible candidates will probably have an advantage under the new plans coming from the establishment. But this doesn't go to the underlying problem that a significant sector of the population is now so far removed from reality that they think people like John Boehner are moderates. I think this will hasten a rift in the GOP and that could break the party beyond repair. Personally, I'm all for it.
Chez: I'd love nothing more than for cooler heads to prevail among the GOP so that at the very least it can be dealt with, but it's true that -- as Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone -- even the cooler heads don't bother actually governing. They want power for power's sake. So maybe, yeah, screw 'em.
Bob: If the GOP is serious about it, it'll work. And, frankly, I hope it does. I hope that both the far-right and the far-left break off and forms third parties. I'm so utterly fed up with both, I could barf.
2. Okay, serious question. Taking Greenwald's antics out of the picture and setting aside any personal feelings about what he did (whether you agree with it or disagree) do you think there's a good case for Snowden coming back to the U.S. as a protected whistleblower. The New York Times is pushing for it. (So is the Guardian but they really don't count.) What do you think?
Chez: I do disagree with what Snowden did and the reasons he claims to have done it. I don't think he's a whistleblower at all, so I'd have to say no, I don't think he should be offered any kind of clemency. That's a personal feeling, as you say, but it's rooted in the facts of what he did and why. Also, his behavior since leaking the NSA information, including his time in the very close company of some adversarial countries while carrying classified information, should immediately preclude him from being given a pass by the U.S. If he had stayed here and was being prosecuted, it would be one thing -- but he doomed himself by running to countries we have tense relationships with. Oh yeah, and letting him off would set one hell of a precedent for the next dozen nihilist hackers who steal government information that jeopardizes national security.
Bob: Why? Why should he be offered clemency and who would benefit, other than Snowden? He broke the law. The files are all out there already. Just because some people think he's a hero doesn't make him immune from the law. And you know what? If a prosecutor determines James Clapper or Gen. Alexander perjured themselves, they should be prosecuted, too. As Snowden himself said several months ago: we are a nation of laws, not men. Anyway, it'll never happen. Ever.
Ben: Personally, I do think there's a case to be made that Snowden be allowed to come back as a protected whistleblower. Federal Judge Richard Leon assertion last month that the NSA's mass collection of metadata was probably in violation of the fourth amendment is pretty serious, and that helps Snowden's argument. I'm not really sure what Snowden's motivations were (I'd bank on them being a mixture of an urge to do the right thing and a good deal of vanity) so speculation seems pretty pointless. Overall, I think the NSA leaks were in the interest of the public though, so he deserves to get some sort of deal with the government. Given Greenwald's insistence that everyone treat Snowden like the second coming of Jesus Christ, these words aren't easy for me to write. But that's how I see it.
3. What are your New Years resolutions?
Bob: To make fewer, if any, generalizations. For example, instead of writing "all Republicans are idiots," which isn't empirically true, I'll instead write "Steve Stockman is an idiot" or "Rand Paul is an idiot."
Chez: I make the mistake of bypassing little opportunities to do something nice for people who need it because I'm either busy or just preoccupied. I always regret it later. I should fix that. Also, I need to write another book.
Ben: I'm working on doing one thing at a time and finishing whatever that is. I tend to do lots of things at once and not finish anything (particularly when it comes to reading books).