Friday, July 4, 2008

Losing Hope

After a thorough re-reading (and re-reading) of Obama's statement on his FISA cave-in, I've come to this conclusion. What this sounds like to me is that Barack Obama's attitude is "Aw, aren't they cute? Look how the angry supporters self-organized to tell me how much they don't like that I flip-flopped on the FISA bill. That's just darling. Okay little cuties, run along now. Go back to your little blogs, and rant and rave all you like, and leave this Presidenting stuff to us grown-ups."

Obama just lost nearly all of my respect. Seeing Obama being weak on this issue and playing into the right's frames of national security, seeing Obama willfully participate in the denigration of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and see Obama act so patronizingly towards his supporters who firmly believe that we are first a nation of laws, not a nation of men, I am so very saddened.

While I could easily believe that Obama would not abuse the power of the Executive branch the way that George W. Bush has, I cannot accept that as a reasonable defense of his new position. It is not enough to say "trust me" on such a critical issue. It does not matter how trustworthy he may appear to be. But on that note, if we cannot trust Obama to stand by his own words and principles on such a critical issue, how can we trust anything else he says? Why won't we just expect him to do the politically expedient thing of the moment? Isn't that what the Clintons are famous for? Isn't that what triangulation is?

Here is why I find him to be so patronizing with this statement:

It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration's program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That's why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate.

Potentially weakens? No, it absolutely weakens the deterrent effect of the law. It is not as though we demand accountability for the sake of vengeance. Accountability for past abuses would have the effect of increasing the deterrent effect of the law, ensuring that those who might liberally interpret those laws in the future could be held accountable retroactively. As for supporting the removal of Title II, that just talk, and talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. Supporting this bill even while verbally objecting to Title II is like talking out of both sides of your mouth at the same time. Clintonism at its finest.

But I also believe that the compromise bill is far better than the Protect America Act that I voted against last year. The exclusivity provision makes it clear to any President or telecommunications company that no law supersedes the authority of the FISA court. In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people. But in a free society, that authority cannot be unlimited. As I've said many times, an independent monitor must watch the watchers to prevent abuses and to protect the civil liberties of the American people. This compromise law assures that the FISA court has that responsibility

The exclusivity provision is needless rhetoric. The current FISA law was just liberally interpreted by Bush, as could this new exclusivity provision be imaginatively interpreted by a future President. As for this "compromise law" assuring that the FISA court has the responsibility of "watching the watchers", the current FISA bill already does that just fine.

But leaving that aside, I am completely appalled at this new tone Obama is taking with his supporters. Firstly, he is talking to us like children, much like Bush did. And using fear - like Bush - to defend his position. "In a dangerous world..." WTF? Seriously, Obama. WTF? Who have you become?

The Inspectors General report also provides a real mechanism for accountability and should not be discounted. It will allow a close look at past misconduct without hurdles that would exist in federal court because of classification issues. The (PDF)recent investigation uncovering the illegal politicization of Justice Department hiring sets a strong example of the accountability that can come from a tough and thorough IG report.

Really? And how is that going, Mr. Obama? How is the uncovering of these illegal issues going? When a rogue Executive has the backing of a rogue Judiciary and the support of roadblocking Legislators, and when lawmakers can't enforce suppoenas against Executive staff members, ow are we to believe that this "new and improved" compromise bill will do anything to keep the government from violating our Constitutional rights again? The answer: It can't!

The ability to monitor and track individuals who want to attack the United States is a vital counter-terrorism tool, and I'm persuaded that it is necessary to keep the American people safe -- particularly since certain electronic surveillance orders will begin to expire later this summer. Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I've chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention -- once I’m sworn in as President -- to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

BOO! Are you scared yet? (I'll address in more detail the issue of these expiring electronic surveillance orders, but the short of it is that these orders need to expire, and their expiration will do nothing to make us less safe.) But to the point of Obama's intentions once he's sworn in, this goes back to the matter of trust. In the very statement he makes to defend his flip-flopping, he asks us to trust him when he's President. That sounds eerily familiar. I will repeat, we are a nation of laws, not a nation of men. That's where Bush got it wrong, and now it is looking like it is where Obama is getting it wrong.

Now, I understand why some of you feel differently about the current bill, and I'm happy to take my lumps on this side and elsewhere. For the truth is that your organizing, your activism and your passion is an important reason why this bill is better than previous versions. No tool has been more important in focusing peoples' attention on the abuses of executive power in this Administration than the active and sustained engagement of American citizens. That holds true -- not just on wiretapping, but on a range of issues where Washington has let the American people down.

Awwww. Aren't we sweet? Look how we got Obama's attention just long enough to tell us all to collectively go fuck ourselves.

Firstly, Obama supporters in the FISA group had nothing to do with this current compromise bill. While some in the group may have been vocal about the issue, this particular group was formed to tell Obama that we were not happy with this particular new bill, nor with his reversal on the issue, and his decision to go against his own words. Look how that has worked for us. We get a pat on the bottom and told to run along, while Obama goes off a plays nice with the telecoms. How much has he gotten from them anyway?

I learned long ago, when working as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, that when citizens join their voices together, they can hold their leaders accountable. I'm not exempt from that. I'm certainly not perfect, and expect to be held accountable too. I cannot promise to agree with you on every issue. But I do promise to listen to your concerns, take them seriously, and seek to earn your ongoing support to change the country. That is why we have built the largest grassroots campaign in the history of presidential politics, and that is the kind of White House that I intend to run as President of the United States -- a White House that takes the Constitution seriously, conducts the peoples' business out in the open, welcomes and listens to dissenting views, and asks you to play your part in shaping our country’s destiny.

Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That's ok. But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have. After all, the choice in this election could not be clearer. Whether it is the economy, foreign policy, or the Supreme Court, my opponent has embraced the failed course of the last eight years, while I want to take this country in a new direction. Make no mistake: if John McCain is elected, the fundamental direction of this country that we love will not change. But if we come together, we have an historic opportunity to chart a new course, a better course.

So I appreciate the feedback through, and I look forward to continuing the conversation in the months and years to come. Together, we have a lot of work to do.

I don't see a whole lot of "accountability" here at all, not with Obama being so dismissive of and patronizing to so many of his supporters. As for this being a deal breaker, I mentioned earlier that it is indeed a deal breaker for me. I hope Obama wins against McCain. I really do. I really believe that McCain would be horrible for this country, and despite this "new but not improved Obama," I think he'd be a great President. But he is going to have to do it without my help.

Obama's campaign was the first campaign I ever volunteered for. I have donated more of my money to his campaign than to any other, by far. I got on board back when he formed his exploratory committee, and have been supporting him on the phones calling almost every state, walking the streets of San Francisco, and the streets of San Antonio. I did this because he convinced me that he was not like other politicians. He convinced me that he was a true leader, not someone who was led by consultants. He seemed guided by principles, not blown by political winds. He talked to us all like we were adults, and treated us with respect.

I don't know who this new Barack Obama is, but I don't particularly like him, at least not as much as the old Obama.

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