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Decision on FISA delayed
July 4, 2008 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) delayed. Senator Dodd says, "This bill does not say, 'Trust the American people; Trust the courts and judges and juries to come to just decisions.' Retroactive immunity sends a message that is crystal clear: 'Trust me.'" Obama talks about why he supports the bill. Senate may vote after the Fourth of July recess. (previously)
posted by joannemerriam (156 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Glenn Greenwald lays out some of Obama's other shifts to the center during the last two weeks. He also analyzes Obama's FISA statement.
posted by about_time at 11:18 AM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks, about_time.

I should perhaps have added, if you wish to contact your Senator to express support or dismay, that Senate link has a "Find Your Senator" drop-down in the right-hand corner.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:21 AM on July 4, 2008


Sometimes I don't like Senator Dodd, and sometimes I just want to buy him a beer and say, "Thanks man. Thank you very much."
posted by Science! at 11:21 AM on July 4, 2008


Errr...is this another delay, or the delay that was announced last week?
posted by DU at 11:22 AM on July 4, 2008


It's the delay that was announced last week. I thought it was noteworthy since nobody had posted a fpp on it yet, and Obama's statement is from yesterday.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:24 AM on July 4, 2008


This was not an easy call for me... I know that the FISA bill that passed the House.. grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration's program of warrantless wiretapping.

This Obama guy. He keeps talking about change. I do think that word means what he thinks it means.

I'm already starting to regret voting for him and the election is 6 months away.
posted by three blind mice at 11:28 AM on July 4, 2008 [11 favorites]


Obama's really beginning to disappoint. I say this as someone who had given him hundreds of dollars, and as someone who still believes he's a damn sight better than Hillary.
posted by orthogonality at 11:31 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Americans: kill everybody and start over. Now you'll know how to do things properly.
posted by chunking express at 11:34 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obama's stance is truly baffling.
posted by odinsdream at 11:41 AM on July 4, 2008


Obama says he will vote to remove immunity from the bill, but he knows full well that this effort will fail and that the final bill will have telecom immunity in it. The bottom line is that he will nonetheless end up voting for this bill with immunity in it even though he previously vowed to support a filibuster of "any bill" that contains retroactive immunity. Put another way, Obama claims he opposes telecom immunity but will vote for a bill that grants it.

So he voted against it before he voted for it. Or something.

What a breath of fresh air.
posted by three blind mice at 11:43 AM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Everybody screams that they want their favorite politician to take a stand on every single issue that comes up. Admittedly this is a big issue and one that I think is stand-worthy, but if a politician took a stand on every issue that came up, nothing at all would get done and the decisiveness that permeates politics will continue as usual.

Pick your battles.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:49 AM on July 4, 2008


Pick your battles.

This seems like a worthwhile battle to pick.
posted by chunking express at 11:51 AM on July 4, 2008 [18 favorites]


I think I support retroactive immunity, because lawsuits against telecommunications companies for warrantless wiretapping were going to be bullshit anyway.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:51 AM on July 4, 2008


Pick your battles.

This particular battle is of high strategic importance.
posted by IronLizard at 11:51 AM on July 4, 2008


As a resident of CT, this is one of those rare times I can say I'll proud of the old gasbag.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:00 PM on July 4, 2008


TPM documents Obama's flip flop in ugly detail.

I think we need to start accepting Obama for what he is: A guy with a lot of charisma who's a bit of an intellectual lightweight and, like most politicians, sometimes a hypocrite. But he's enough of a good guy to bring some good people in with him and listen to their advice, and that's what really matters.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:03 PM on July 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Pick your battles.

But pick what side you're on first.
posted by three blind mice at 12:04 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


MPDSEA, I can't tell if you're being serious, but even if you aren't your comment isn't really intelligible.

And yes, this is of particular importance, because the law was broken at least twice - first this administration breaking the rules set by FISA, second by the companies that agreed to turn over access to their networks and thus to their customers' data. This is a non-trivial issue. It is very, very likely that your conversation, what we're typing right now, what you e-mailed to your sister the other day, the phone call you made to your friend in Canada, was recorded or monitored as a direct result of these actions. This is not abstract, and it is not hypothetical.
posted by odinsdream at 12:04 PM on July 4, 2008


But he's enough of a good guy to bring some good people in with him and listen to their advice, and that's what really matters.

That's what they said about George W.
posted by three blind mice at 12:06 PM on July 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


John Dean's reading of the statute suggests that it immunizes telecom companies against civil lawsuits but not criminal prosecution. It's possible that the Republicans could get this passed, only to have President Obama direct his Attorney General to open an investigation next January.

It's a little unclear what people would like Obama to do on this. It's going to pass whether or not he opposes it. If he stands up and tries to block it, it'll pass anyway and he'll look like a weakling and an ineffective leader of his party. If I had my druthers, yes, I'd like a scenario in which Obama is president and the telecoms are liable. If they're not going to be liable whatever he does, I'd rather he didn't hand McCain a tailor-made campaign issue over it.

In any case, if we're not going to prosecute the real criminal involved in warrantless wiretapping, it seems a little hypocritical to ask the telecoms to take the fall for him.
posted by EarBucket at 12:07 PM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


That's what they said about George W.

Well i am giving B.O. the benefit of the doubt that we'll have Al Gore as Secretary of the Environment and stuff like that.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:08 PM on July 4, 2008


A guy with a lot of charisma who's a bit of an intellectual lightweight

Seriously? The guy was president of the Harvard Law Review. How 'bout you?
posted by EarBucket at 12:08 PM on July 4, 2008 [12 favorites]


I'm fine with differences of opinion, and if Obama can support his positions, I'm fine with that. I'm even OK if there is some strategic advantage. There are a few problems with Obama's position, however. First of all, he's not being honest. FISA never expired. The Protect America Act, which he voted against, will expire later this summer. FISA is still in place. In fact, recently a federal court ruled that the Bush administration is not exempt from FISA, the third court to do so. There is no strategic advantage to his position, because no bloc of voters wants telecom immunity. Additionally, the new bill is worse than FISA, but Obama falsely claims that it will be an improvement and help bring people to justice. Problem is, what if he doesn't get elected? If we lose the ability to sue the telecoms in civil suits, the discovery needed to uncover the illegal activities of the Bush administration will not happen. He says the IG will uncover these issues later, but the Inspector General is very limited in its ability to investigate this matter. And a promise of action later for legal immunity now, while there is current and pending litigation that would be halted because of it, is not good enough. This is not just a critical issue. Obama's taking us in the wrong direction on a very critical issue for the sake of his election, and he's lying about why he's doing it.

I've given time and money to the Obama campaign, but I'm done with that for the time being. This is pretty slippery stuff, and he's coming off as someone who thinks we don't know any better that he's selling us down the river. I haven't given up on voting for him, but if this is who he is, then it's going to be another lesser of two evils campaign. What's so exciting or revolutionary about that? What's different at all? Sure, better than McCain, but that's not saying much. It's not how he built his campaign. He'll probably still win, but it will be on something other than his own merits.

Frankly, I think the DLC and other interests in the party got to him. Too bad. He can still salvage this, but he has to act quickly. I don't think that's going to happen, but I'm going to call his campaign office a few more times before the 8th.

I'm damn proud of Dodd, Feingold, et al. I've now started giving money to the ActBlue campaign against FISA that would have otherwise gone to Obama's campaign.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:08 PM on July 4, 2008 [12 favorites]


It's a little unclear what people would like Obama to do on this.

Stand up for his principles maybe?
posted by three blind mice at 12:09 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


John Dean's reading of the statute suggests that it immunizes telecom companies against civil lawsuits but not criminal prosecution. It's possible that the Republicans could get this passed, only to have President Obama direct his Attorney General to open an investigation next January.

A bad decision now for the promise of action later is not a good idea, and I'll give you a hint: if we let them get away with this now, there will be no action later. Why on earth is giving telecom companies immunity from the law passed to prevent such abuses a good idea? Who wants this to happen?

FISA is still in place. We do not need this bill.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Stand up for his principles maybe?

Even if it's not going to do any good? Even if it the bill's going to pass whether he opposes it or not? Even if it helps get John McCain elected?

I gather the problem with Barack Obama is he's not more like Dennis Kucinich.
posted by EarBucket at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


another way one can view this thing:
The Demns are going to sweep Congress. The next president will probably appoint 2 replacements to the Supreme Court. If I do not vote for Obama...do I not vote or vote for McCain. If I do not vote and lots of other people do what I do, does this then help McCain to win in a very close election? Is that ok with me? Now go forth and do what you think needs to be done.
posted by Postroad at 12:13 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the more I see from Obama, the more I think that he will get my vote, but not my money. I was ready to donate a few weeks ago, right when the FISA 'compromise' bill came around. I held off, and at this point, I don't think I'll be donating to Obama. I really don't want McCain in office, though, so if the race tightens substantially, maybe I'll donate. But really, politicians are looking more and more useless in this country. All of them suck, but they certainly differ in degree of suckiness.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:13 PM on July 4, 2008


And yes, this is of particular importance, because the law was broken at least twice - first this administration breaking the rules set by FISA, second by the companies that agreed to turn over access to their networks and thus to their customers' data.

I don't have any opinion about whether or not this "important." I personally don't care, but you clearly do. I just don't think that a private lawsuit is a good way to address it, though, because lawsuits are only really good for two things in general: recovering pecuniary damages and stopping ongoing harms.

There isn't really any pecuniary harm here. I'm not saying that there's no harm, but it's not the sort of harm that can readily be redressed with money.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:15 PM on July 4, 2008


Even if it helps get John McCain elected?

Even if it means governing exactly as John McCain would?
posted by three blind mice at 12:15 PM on July 4, 2008


The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is one of the provisions included in the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, and was designed as a response to the controversial writs of assistance (a type of general search warrant), which were a significant factor behind the American Revolution. Toward that end, the amendment specifies that judicially sanctioned search and arrest warrants must be supported by probable cause and be limited in scope according to specific information supplied by a person (usually a peace officer) who has sworn by it and is therefore accountable to the issuing court.


See, I think the only problem we have nowadays, is that dressing like Native Americans and throwing shitloads of oil into the ocean has been declared politically incorrect and enviornmentally unsound by the same people who are in charge of arranging this sort of gig.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:16 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Even if it's not going to do any good? Even if it the bill's going to pass whether he opposes it or not? Even if it helps get John McCain elected?

Tell me, please. What group of voters wants telecom immunity?

This is not a wedge issue. This is a telecom lobbyist issue.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:17 PM on July 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


McKinney wouldn't flip flop like this.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:18 PM on July 4, 2008


Even if it means governing exactly as John McCain would?

Jesus. Are you serious? You think Obama's going to appoint Supreme Court justices who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade? You think he's going to bomb Iran? You think he'll do his best to keep us in Iraq for a century? You think he'll veto laws banning torture? If you can't see any difference between Obama and McCain, then vote for Nader. That worked out great eight years ago, right?
posted by EarBucket at 12:19 PM on July 4, 2008 [9 favorites]


Obama is the second coming of GW Bush
posted by b1tr0t at 12:22 PM on July 4, 2008


I just don't think that a private lawsuit is a good way to address it, though, because lawsuits are only really good for two things in general: recovering pecuniary damages and stopping ongoing harms.

Also for discovery. A lot of the information coming out now due to the civil suits in progress would never have otherwise seen the light of day. That's why the telecoms are urgently trying to get this passed, and that's also why the Bush administration and the Republican Party wants it so bad. Obama was a top telecom money recipient, and you can draw your own conclusions about that.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:23 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you can't see any difference between Obama and McCain, then vote for Nader. That worked out great eight years ago, right?

I don't like being taken for a fool. I thought this guy was straight up. He's pretty far from it.

I can tolerate the political game, but this is serious, because he's putting the shine on a really bad piece of legislation for the sake of moneyed interests.

I've said it before, sure, I'm still convinced he'd be better than McCain. But I'm not a party guy, and I'm not into putting the man above the country, and I'll call bullshit when I see it. Otherwise, you get the government you deserve. I can't sit and be silent about these sorts of things, and if that's the sort of support Obama wanted, he never should have claimed that this sort of politics wouldn't happen. I took him at his word, and that was a primary reason for my enthusiasm. Without it, that's pretty much gone.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:29 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also for discovery. A lot of the information coming out now due to the civil suits in progress would never have otherwise seen the light of day.

I consider this abusive. The goal of a lawsuit should be the relief sought--not any collateral damage or costs caused.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:29 PM on July 4, 2008


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "I think I support retroactive immunity, because lawsuits against telecommunications companies for warrantless wiretapping were going to be bullshit anyway."

And of course, you can't trust a court and a Federal judge to decide, you know, issues of, like constitutional law.
posted by orthogonality at 12:31 PM on July 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


In Obama's own words:

"There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

"That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

"After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act.

"Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:31 PM on July 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Obama was a top telecom money recipient, and you can draw your own conclusions about that.

So you think he was bought for less than a tenth of one percent of the total money he's raised? The fact is, he's a politician, and he's running for President of the United States, not President of Daily Kos. He's going to take some positions we don't like, yeah. He's still a significantly more liberal candidate than anyone with a realistic shot at the Oval Office in decades, and he's going to have a sizable majority in the House and a pretty good margin in the Senate.

Obama's aiming for a landslide victory, the kind that will cut the heart out of the GOP for a generation. It's the kind that will allow even Democrats from more conservative states to sign onto things like universal healthcare and global warming initiatives. But he's got to get elected first.
posted by EarBucket at 12:32 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


What group of voters wants telecom immunity?

Fox News watchers. Because Obama voting against the FISA would be spun by them as Obama not being tough on terrorism. Simple as that. I wish like hell Obama would do it anyway and take the heat, but he seems to have made the Clintonian decision to move to the center till the general election is in the bag. I'm hoping John Dean is right, too.
posted by tula at 12:32 PM on July 4, 2008


And of course, you can't trust a court and a Federal judge to decide, you know, issues of, like constitutional law.

Class action lawsuits are very expensive to defend against, even if the actual harm to be redressed is small or the claim relatively meritless.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:35 PM on July 4, 2008


I consider this abusive. The goal of a lawsuit should be the relief sought--not any collateral damage or costs caused.

I don't know that any of the actual suits are about discovery or considered that a goal. But, as a matter of policy and open government, that's a good reason to keep the existing law in place and not grant telecom immunity, which would halt the cases in progress and quash any future discovery. I can't see why the existing cases should not go forward.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:36 PM on July 4, 2008


three blind mice writes "Stand up for his principles maybe?"

I think the problem is, it's beginning to seem like our principles aren't his, or maybe that he doesn't have serious principles at all.

Which was the crux of my problem with Hillary.
posted by orthogonality at 12:36 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Class action lawsuits are very expensive to defend against, even if the actual harm to be redressed is small or the claim relatively meritless.

Are you claiming that any of the current litigation is meritless? Or are you just making a comment about how unfair litigation is to telecom companies who broke the law?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:37 PM on July 4, 2008


Obama's really beginning to disappoint.

Hunh, one month.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:38 PM on July 4, 2008


I can't see why the existing cases should not go forward.

What are the monetary damages associated with having a telecom snoop on you? I don't know if there are statutory damages, but the real damages seem, to me, totally insignificant. What's being redressed is a weird hybrid political/dignitary harm, and I simply don't see the point of it.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:41 PM on July 4, 2008


So you think he was bought for less than a tenth of one percent of the total money he's raised? The fact is, he's a politician, and he's running for President of the United States, not President of Daily Kos. He's going to take some positions we don't like, yeah. He's still a significantly more liberal candidate than anyone with a realistic shot at the Oval Office in decades, and he's going to have a sizable majority in the House and a pretty good margin in the Senate.

Hey, bud, I'm not a Kos supporter, either. Do what you have to do for your party, and let me come to my own conclusions. Arguments about which party is better are not convincing in the least to me. I'm much more interested in good government than my "team" winning, and I don't have a team anyway.

I'm an independent voter who really wants an accountable government, and saw for the first time in a long time an honest, accountable politician in Obama. He's not just moderated his position, but he's flipped on a critical issue for no discernable political advantage, and he's lying about why he's doing it and the effects it will have on all of us. I'm still voting for him, in case you haven't been reading the rest of what I said, but I can't buy his bullshit anymore. You go out and campaign and lie for the guy, but I can't do it.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:42 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


What are the monetary damages associated with having a telecom snoop on you? I don't know if there are statutory damages, but the real damages seem, to me, totally insignificant. What's being redressed is a weird hybrid political/dignitary harm, and I simply don't see the point of it.

So, which case in particular do you have a problem with, and why?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:43 PM on July 4, 2008


it's beginning to seem like our principles aren't his

Ending Bush's illegal program of warrantless surveillance is a good thing. Obama will fight to remove retroactive immunity from this bill. He might not succeed, but fighting it is a good thing.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:45 PM on July 4, 2008


OK, let me ask this way, Steve. Why do you think it should be Congress' duty to halt pending litigation? If the cases are meritless or if there are other problems, then won't the courts deal with it? Why should Congress mess with the court system and its ability to deal with each case as it is brought before it?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:47 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why do you think it should be Congress' duty to halt pending litigation? If the cases are meritless or if there are other problems, then won't the courts deal with it? Why should Congress mess with the court system and its ability to deal with each case as it is brought before it?

Congress isn't "messing with" the court system. Congress moots ongoing litigation all the time.

I see no problem with Congress stopping these suits because Congressional action is quick and cheap, but letting it go through the courts would be slow and expensive.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:51 PM on July 4, 2008


krinklyfig is right. Discovery is the issue here.

There are something like forty pending lawsuits against the telecoms which would have required them to cough up a great deal of information (YouTube ahem) that they didn't want to give up. Those lawsuits will all be dismissed as soon as the amnesty provision passes.

There is zero reason that the bill couldn't have granted civil immunity (i.e. no damages, but you can still go ahead with the suit if you like) instead of short-circuiting the lawsuits.
posted by spiderwire at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, even if it gets John McCain elected. A democratic party that won't stand up for its principles serves no purpose whatsoever. With this "compromise" we're going to get telecom immunity. If the constitution had been suspended in 2006 and every Democratic lawmaker had been lined up against a wall and shot by Republican terror squads we would have... telecom immunity.

Before we can undo the damage the Republicans have done to this country, we have to craft the other party into a tool that is capable of, and willing to, achieve that. And if that means kicking them in the balls over and over and over again until they figure it out, then so be it.

It's not like McCain would be any worse than Bush.
posted by Naberius at 12:53 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


letting it go through the courts would be slow and expensive.

For whom?
posted by spiderwire at 12:53 PM on July 4, 2008


There is zero reason that the bill couldn't have granted civil immunity (i.e. no damages, but you can still go ahead with the suit if you like) instead of short-circuiting the lawsuits.

What would people be suing for? You're not supposed to go into court and say, "yeah, I know I'm not entitled to any damaged, but I just want to run this guy through the discovery wringer."
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:55 PM on July 4, 2008




I see no problem with Congress stopping these suits because Congressional action is quick and cheap, but letting it go through the courts would be slow and expensive.

To whom? A lot of litigation is slow and expensive. I'm not quite seeing why that's an argument against this litigation, per se.

I also don't see why slow, hugely expensive wars are good because they purportedly protect our country, but slow, expensive litigation in defense of civil liberties is not good.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:07 PM on July 4, 2008


You're not supposed to go into court and say, "yeah, I know I'm not entitled to any damaged, but I just want to run this guy through the discovery wringer."

Tell that to Ken Starr and the lawyers for Paula Jones!
posted by jonp72 at 1:09 PM on July 4, 2008


It's not like McCain would be any worse than Bush.

That's like saying, after a fire burns down half the houses in your neighborhood, that a second fire that burns down the other half wouldn't be any worse than the first one. We needed this shit to end a long time ago. Before Katrina. Before the Iraq invasion. Before the dropped ball on the Al Quaeda threat. Before the goddamn swearing-in. "No worse" is beyond unacceptable. It has to start getting a fuckload better, and do it yesterday.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:12 PM on July 4, 2008 [7 favorites]


It's not like McCain would be any worse than Bush.

Fuck that noise.. IN THE ASS. If you've learned nothing these past eight years, know this: things can ALWAYS get worse. There is no lower limit to how bad thing can get in this country.

The fact is, he's a politician, and he's running for President of the United States, not President of Daily Kos. He's going to take some positions we don't like, yeah. He's still a significantly more liberal candidate than anyone with a realistic shot at the Oval Office in decades, and he's going to have a sizable majority in the House and a pretty good margin in the Senate.

Amen. The hand-wringing over this (and on TruthDig and Kos and HuffPo) is way past tedious. Obama is running the campaign he needs to run to WIN. He's a very deliberate, considered, centrist politician with incredibly canny instincts who actually does have core values that he doesn't compromise on (they just aren't what many might have hoped they'd be) . I'm not exactly sure where it came up that he was hard left (likely from the Clinton camp who was trying to smear him), but it appears that this was wishful thinking to a lot of people.

Like most people I started out with someone else (Edwards) and came to support Obama. But I had done enough research on his record, his writings and his speeches to know that, while he was a step away from my own values (the things that I liked about Edwards), he had a lot more substance, and certainly a better temperament for the office. In the end, he's a very conservative Democrat, despite his positions on Dem red meat issues like rhymes with smushsmortion.
posted by psmealey at 1:15 PM on July 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


You know, after Mr. Carlin died, I spent a lot of time watching and listening to his routines. I think a lot of people should listen to what he had to say on this subject.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:16 PM on July 4, 2008


To whom? A lot of litigation is slow and expensive. I'm not quite seeing why that's an argument against this litigation, per se.

To the telecoms. The point is simply that Congress apparently believes that the costs of these lawsuits are far higher than the plaintiffs should be able to expect to recover, so Congress is going to nip them in the bud. This seems perfectly sound to me.

I also don't see why slow, hugely expensive wars are good because they purportedly protect our country, but slow, expensive litigation in defense of civil liberties is not good.

Nobody here is suggesting that wars are good. If you're suggesting that once Congress has allowed one expensive, pointless fiasco, it has to allow every other expensive, pointless fiasco thereafter, I disagree.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:16 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not exactly sure where it came up that he was hard left

I believe that was a Fox News talking point. They were constantly humping on that one theme "he's the most liberal member of the Senate" (where Liberal in Fox News parlance=evil).
posted by wabbittwax at 1:22 PM on July 4, 2008


Dr. Steve, there are substantial statutory damages provided for by the FISA statute. The primary goal of participating in a civil suit, if I were a member of the class, would be to extract thousands of dollars from the telecoms for knowingly breaking the law at the express order of the executive branch. In other words, to obtain the relief sought.

You claim that Congress believes the costs of the lawsuits to be higher than the plaintiffs should be able to expect to recover. So why completely eliminate the right to bring the action? Why not instead reduce the statutory damages? In any event, just because litigation is expensive is no reason to prevent it. Given a right of action, a plaintiff should be able to pursue that right if for no reason other than to vindicate his or her rights, damn the cost to the defendants.

Frankly, Congress believed at one time that high statutory damages were necessary to prevent spying on Americans, and the telecoms have simply bought a private law to save themselves after they got caught breaking the law.
posted by jedicus at 1:24 PM on July 4, 2008


The point is simply that Congress apparently believes that the costs of these lawsuits are far higher than the plaintiffs should be able to expect to recover, so Congress is going to nip them in the bud.

Really? Where is that being said? Why do the telecoms deserve this sort of special protection? Where does Congress stand up for our rights?

Nobody here is suggesting that wars are good. If you're suggesting that once Congress has allowed one expensive, pointless fiasco, it has to allow every other expensive, pointless fiasco thereafter, I disagree.

But this is really off the subject. Obama is not arguing that Congress has some sort of duty to stop this litigation because it's slow and expensive. That may make it distasteful to you, but I don't see the merit in that argument in itself. He's saying that we can still investigate later, but that makes the assumption that he'll be elected, and that he'll follow through. I have serious doubts about the second, and the first, well, that's not a good assumption to base this sort of decision on.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:25 PM on July 4, 2008


Given a right of action, a plaintiff should be able to pursue that right if for no reason other than to vindicate his or her rights, damn the cost to the defendants.

This begs the question--Congress is proposing eliminating the right of action. I personally think the statutory damages you linked are nuts. They're completely disproportionate to any actual anticipated harm.

We're not going to reach any agreement on this. You think there's some important interest being served by these lawsuits. Thankfully, Congress disagrees, but life will go on.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:30 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obama is running the campaign he needs to run to WIN.

That's fine, but if this is it, then he'll have to do it without me. I'll hold my nose and vote for him in November, but don't ask more of me than that, if this is it.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:31 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


He's a very deliberate, considered, centrist politician with incredibly canny instincts who actually does have core values that he doesn't compromise on (they just aren't what many might have hoped they'd be) .
posted by psmealey at 4:15 PM on July 4


I had hoped that a civil rights attorney would consider civil rights to be a core value.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:31 PM on July 4, 2008


I'm already starting to regret voting for him and the election is 6 months away.

I hope you're not thinking that Hillary Clinton would have been better then this.
Everybody screams that they want their favorite politician to take a stand on every single issue that comes up. Admittedly this is a big issue and one that I think is stand-worthy, but if a politician took a stand on every issue that came up, nothing at all would get done and the decisiveness that permeates politics will continue as usual.
I think you mean 'indecisiveness', and in the case of FISA, that's exactly what we want! The current situation is much better then anything in this new bill, all this new bill does is give bush and the telecoms everything they want.

I don't mind Obama moving to the center on issues where it will win him votes, but it bothers me when he moves to the center on stuff that benefits no one but telecom lobbyists. That's fucking ridiculous.
I think we need to start accepting Obama for what he is: A guy with a lot of charisma who's a bit of an intellectual lightweight and
Huh? What makes Obama an 'intellectual lightweight'? Seems like an odd thing to say, there are a lot of reasons why someone might not care about FISA, and stupidity isn't the most obvious one. Part of the problem is that Obama would need to go up against the house and senate democratic leadership at a time when the party needs to be 'unified' It probably wouldn't kill him but it could get ugly behind the scenes. It was total bullshit for Peloci et al to pull this stunt now (or ever). He essentially had to chose between the Dem leadership and the hard core of the dem base, and chose the leadership. Obviously I would prefer it the other way around, but I don't think siding with the insiders and their lobbyist buddies makes him dumb.
John Dean's reading of the statute suggests that it immunizes telecom companies against civil lawsuits but not criminal prosecution. It's possible that the Republicans could get this passed, only to have President Obama direct his Attorney General to open an investigation next January.
NO THAT IS COMPLETELY FALSE. Dean never said that the telecoms wouldn't be criminally liable. here is what dean has to say:
I said that when I read the bill, and talked to the folks at the ACLU who had been following it, that it was not clear. I raised it when appearing on Countdown with the hope that someone might figure it out. But that is the nature of this badly drafted bill that it is not clear what it does and does not do, and the drafters are not saying.

But even if the bill is unclear there is no question the Bush Administration is not going to do anything to the telecoms, so the question is whether a future DOJ could -- and here there is case law protecting the telecoms. But there may be language buried in the bill that protects them as well but it can only be found by reading the bill with a half dozen other laws which I have not yet done.

I made no declarative statements rather I only raised questions that jumped at me when reading the 114 page monster.
Olbermann is completely full of shit on this, and what he's talking about (obama prosecuting telecom companies) is pure fantasy based on nothing but his own imagination. It's Total B.S.

The Protect America Act, which he voted against, will expire later this summer.

It expired a while ago, but the wiretaps 'authorized' by it will expire later in the summer.
[stand up for his principles] Even if it's not going to do any good? Even if it the bill's going to pass whether he opposes it or not? Even if it helps get John McCain elected?
Oh come on, stopping this bill wouldn't be any more damaging then stopping it the last time it came up, which he was happy to do while the democratic primary was in full swing. Any demogaguing they could do for him not supporting this, they could do for him not supporting it this time around. And no one is going to not vote for him for not supporting the FISA extension who wasn't already not going to vote for him. This is about protecting the corrupt and cowardly democrats who run the house and senate.

Also, Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America always takes the contra side in any issue, because he's a troll. Of course he's supports retroactive immunity, because he's trolling. Ignoring him would save everyone a lot of time here.
Ending Bush's illegal program of warrantless surveillance is a good thing.
This doesn't end the program, it legalizes it. Also, as far as we know the program ended with the original Protect America Act expired. The program is already gone, except for the wiretaps which were authorized under the act, which will expire this summer. The legal ability to make new taps has already expired. The program was first legalized when the first protect America act was passed. It's really amazing how many people have opinions about this without knowing the basic facts, which I guess happens when politicians lie about it constantly.
posted by delmoi at 1:46 PM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also, I hope everyone who says they won't donate to Obama because of this will Donate here to help elect democrats who actually stand up for this stuff.

Also, what is it with people who seem to think that what Obama's doing will help him win the election? He's clearly alienating many of the people who would be donating or volenteering, which will cost him votes. On the other hand, anyone so afraid of terrorists that they'll vote against Obama because of this would be voting for McCain anyway. After all, Obama already filibustered the first version of this bill (during the democratic primary, of course) which means that he's already stopped the program once. Letting it start back up isn't going to win over the fox-news/rush Limbaugh listener demographic.
posted by delmoi at 1:50 PM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


"... He's not just moderated his position, but he's flipped on a critical issue for no discernable political advantage, and he's lying about why he's doing it and the effects it will have on all of us. I'm still voting for him, in case you haven't been reading the rest of what I said, but I can't buy his bullshit anymore. ..."
posted by krinklyfig at 3:42 PM on July 4

“You know, somehow, 'I told you so' just doesn't quite cut it. ”
- Spooner (Will Smith) from I, Robot

Awright, call me mean spirited for tossing in the Will Smith line here, but then also accept my kudos for waking up to ObamaCon when you see it, krinklyfig. BO's "summer run to the center" has barely begun, I'll bet. As a former worker for McGovern in '72, I remember well how painful having your political hopes co-opted can seem to an idealist, but you won't die of it, outright. You just sense a part of yourself that could hope slowly being replaced by another gray lump of cynicism; but that is American national politics, at the personal level.

Practically speaking, the political deals that will be made by BO between now and November in the interests of political expediency and recapturing the Presidency for the Dems, will peg your outrage meter, if this little kerfuffle has already shifted you into the "BS'd by Obama" camp. Obama's best hope for winning the election was never to become an intellectual policy wonk, but to continue as a charismatic generational replacement for Washington identified leadership, although he's got a bit of a problem positioning McCain as a real Washington insider. Getting pinned down on issue after issue is the death of a thousand cuts for Obama, and I bet he spends the rest of the summer getting as close to Middle American polled positions as he can, before returning to beauty contest tactics in the fall, in a race that isn't likely to remain on any high road.

My hope for the country, either way the election goes, is for a decisive victory, for the winner. Another 50.001% to 49.999% popular result in the general election isn't good for the country, regardless of who gets the 50.001%. If "Change" is really the desire of the electorate, that desire needs to come across as a real mandate. My fear for those of you who support Obama, and for the country, is that Obama's version of "Change," as it will cross the finish line in November, will be poorly defined and practically no different, in terms of near term actions, than poll derived centerist positions incrementally crafted to avoid losing in a close race.

Which brings me back to '72. The one thing McGovern did, in that horrendous defeat as a change candidate, was to stake out, however quixotically, a moral high ground that served the nation, later, when Nixon went down. 38% of the electorate could say, with a straight face, "We told you Nixon was a creep." Something of our national character was preserved in that result, that would have been lost had Nixon hoodwinked McGovern into adopting more centrist positions than McGovern did. As bad as Watergate was, 38% of America could say, it wasn't a failure of the American system, it was Nixon. And enough of the rest could then say, "We were wrong." to get us through.
posted by paulsc at 2:00 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America always takes the contra side in any issue, because he's a troll.

That's simply not true. There are some issues where I follow the majority pretty closely. Opposition to sexism and racism is one of them. I'm also hostile toward religion.

Plus, if I agree with the post and the comments, I'm unlikely to bother to comment at all. I guess I could start, if it would make you feel better.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:08 PM on July 4, 2008


Practically speaking, the political deals that will be made by BO between now and November in the interests of political expediency and recapturing the Presidency for the Dems, will peg your outrage meter, if this little kerfuffle has already shifted you into the "BS'd by Obama" camp.

I'm well aware of the political game, and I'm hardly new to it. I didn't think he'd get coopted this early in it, or at least had hoped he wouldn't.

Anyway, I was expecting this to happen, but I knew at that point that would be it for me, at least as far as actively campaigning or working for him. I was hoping he'd try to chart a better course at least up until he got elected. I'm pissed because he broke on an issue that will have a significant impact on the direction of the party which will likely be in power in the executive and legislative for at least a couple years, if not longer. It sucks that now I have to break from the exciting organization the campaign had become, but this is hardly the first time I've been here.

The Hoyer/Pelosi/Clinton/DLC machine and their phalanxes of corporate lobbyists is all there is left to the party anymore, as far as who really wields power, which is a serious problem. Clinton didn't get the nomination, but it's almost as if it doesn't really matter. We're gonna get the same policies and politics anyway. Fine, but this is where I get off. There are better causes for me to support, like the ActBlue effort posted previously and the people in Congress who are standing up to this. I'm not really interested in playing political games and have never been a party person, but I am interested in advocacy of good government and policy.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:21 PM on July 4, 2008


delmoi writes "Also, I hope everyone who says they won't donate to Obama because of this will Donate here to help elect democrats who actually stand up for this stuff. "

Well, frankly, I heard that the Democrats elected in 2006 were going to fight for America against Bush.

Then Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table. Any investigations have been stymied when the White House invokes "Executive Privilege", and the House obediently rolls over.

And now Obama has caved on FISA.

Forgive me, but the Democratic Party is looking at best toothless, and more likely complicit.

I mean, sure, I can keep donating, and get some more Democrats Congressional pensions and Congressional healthcare, but my salary is stagnant, my health care is a joke, and the country's going to shit.

The Dems have a majority in the House and control if not cloture in the Senate, and a lame-duck president with a 24% popularity. And yet they keep telling me that they can't do anything for me, except ask for more money.

When do I get to admit that I, and the progressive movement, have been played for chumps?
When do I just admit the Democrats
posted by orthogonality at 2:42 PM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


You think there's some important interest being served by these lawsuits.

just a teeny tiny little interest called THE RULE OF LAW.
posted by Hat Maui at 2:46 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you take the time to read the highly detailed history of the CIA--OLegacy of Ashes--you will see that what you thought was protected etc has been violated, and many times, and in the past by presidents from both parties.
posted by Postroad at 2:46 PM on July 4, 2008


Forgive me, but the Democratic Party is looking at best toothless, and more likely complicit.

Well, that's exactly the point that the people I linked too are trying to make. When I said "elect democrats who actually care about these things" I meant "un-elect democrats who don't care about these things".

That group is actually going out to target the major backers of the FISA cave in primaries. Specifically Steny Hoyer and Chris Carney. They are not going after Obama, but they are definitely going after the worst of the corporate democrats pushing this. Glenn Greenwald is a major supporter of these guys.

The republicans are out of power (or going out of power), the next challenge facing us is to make sure the democratic party reflects our views, rather then corporate interests. That wouldn't be eazy, but just throwing up your hands and giving up isn't going to accomplish anything.
posted by delmoi at 2:55 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


What are the monetary damages associated with having a telecom snoop on you? I don't know if there are statutory damages, but the real damages seem, to me, totally insignificant. What's being redressed is a weird hybrid political/dignitary harm, and I simply don't see the point of it.

What the fuck is wrong with you? What's the "monetary" damage of being spied on illegally by your own government? Is that seriously your question? You're asking for the price of one of the rights specifically outlined in the documents on which our entire system of government is based?

From this and the subsequent comments you've made, it's quite clear that you have no idea how the government is designed to function.
posted by odinsdream at 2:55 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


As mentioned upthread, Obama was the EiC of the Harvard Law Review. He taught con law at Chicago. He knows perfectly well that this bill is bunk that eviscerates our Constitution. And I don't doubt that he knows that it is absolutely unnecessary for the protection of "national security," particularly in light of its constitutional implications.

In other words, I can't begin to fathom why he would support the revised FISA bill. The CW is that it's part of his "move towards the center," but what part of the 'center' is calling for the executive branch to have the ability to wiretap without oversight, or to immunize telecommunications companies from legal responsibility for actions they knew to be illegal? As far as I can tell, people either don't care all that much about the bill at all or, if they do, are passionately against it.

So Obama is willing to infuriate his base--for what? For the proposition that he'll go back on clearly articulated policy positions--that he'll turn himself into a liar--because of the merest hint that he might, at some point in the future, be smeared as 'soft on terrorism'? Of course, the GOP will smear him regardless. Only now, when the smears come, he'll be also taking fire from his own side for spinelessness, for duplicity, for hypocrisy, for being more-of-the-same. And all because he stood up for what was right before he... didn't.
posted by Makoto at 3:04 PM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Just to offer my own, not particularly original view: my guess is that Obama was told by the powers-that-be that it was all well and good for him to make idealistic speeches, but now that he's going to be a fixture in the party, the time has come for him to Play Ball. And part of playing ball is covering the ass of Big Business when it gets in a bind, as it has here.

It's being presented as a craven cave to the Right in the name of national security because the real reason behind it is infinitely more despicable.
posted by Makoto at 3:07 PM on July 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


MPDSEA asked What are the monetary damages associated with having a telecom snoop on you? I don't know if there are statutory damages, but the real damages seem, to me, totally insignificant.

$13,000 per customer who was a victim of illegal surveillance, according to Kurt Opsahl, who represents the Electronic Freedom Foundation in its class action suit against AT&T.

At that rate, if large swaths of internet traffic are being monitored, and it sounds like they probably are, there could be potential for damages in the trillions of dollars.

Also note that some people suspect the telcos don't need to worry about getting immunity from congress if they have already been secretly indemnified by the executive branch.
posted by finite at 3:07 PM on July 4, 2008


What the fuck is wrong with you? What's the "monetary" damage of being spied on illegally by your own government?

My knowledge of the law isn't exceptional, but if there was no actual harm, I don't think there can be a case. I think that's why the poster was questioning whether or not the case(s) could go ahead.

As it stands, though, the statute itself does include a section on penalties to be assessed should it be violated, so it's a non-issue.
posted by Makoto at 3:11 PM on July 4, 2008


I was ready to donate a few weeks ago, right when the FISA 'compromise' bill came around. I held off, and at this point, I don't think I'll be donating to Obama. I really don't want McCain in office, though, so if the race tightens substantially, maybe I'll donate.

I suspect that most of the High-Minded Outrage people are expressing toward Obama can be reduced to this kind of candy-ass "only as long as I know he'll still win" position.

At that rate, if large swaths of internet traffic are being monitored, and it sounds like they probably are, there could be potential for damages in the trillions of dollars.

Yeah, good luck with that.
posted by mkultra at 3:23 PM on July 4, 2008


As a former worker for McGovern in '72, I remember well how painful having your political hopes co-opted can seem to an idealist,
The one thing McGovern did, in that horrendous defeat as a change candidate, was to stake out, however quixotically, a moral high ground that served the nation, later, when Nixon went down.

So... which thing actually happened? Did McGovern falsely co-opt your political hopes, or did he stake the high ground?

My fear for those of you who support Obama, and for the country, is that Obama's version of "Change," as it will cross the finish line in November, will be poorly defined and practically no different, in terms of near term actions, than poll-derived centerist positions incrementally crafted to avoid losing in a close race.

I'll be more interested in this kind of narrative when it serves to explain a real set of things that have happened, rather than when it attempts, as it does now, to pre-cast a conception of Obama as a candidate by extrapolating on a single issue.

And to reiterate EarBucket's point above, this is only one of many issues:
Are you serious? You think Obama's going to appoint Supreme Court justices who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade? You think he's going to bomb Iran? You think he'll do his best to keep us in Iraq for a century? You think he'll veto laws banning torture? If you can't see any difference between Obama and McCain, then vote for Nader. That worked out great eight years ago, right?
Now, more power to you if you wanna turn up the heat on B.O. on immunity and support ActBlue. I'm doing the same thing. Just don't get that confused with abandoning an entire host of other issues when it still looks like he's the best hope in the race for addressing them. Or, for that matter, that even if Obama's position looks somewhat compromised, McCain's is all but certainly completely so.
posted by namespan at 3:37 PM on July 4, 2008


This is one of the things I was worried would happen when Obama clinched the nomination.

I wasn't worried so much about the FISA thing -- I mean I don't like it, but I wasn't worried about something like this so much as expecting it -- but I was worried about the reaction of some of the more ardent Obama supporters.

As far as I was ever able to tell, he is, and always was, a left-leaning centrist very much in the mold of Bill Clinton. There are some definite differences, with regard to lobbyist money in particular, but he never is or claimed to be anything other than a left-leaning centrist.

Somehow, however, he ended up becoming something of the darling of the far left during the nomination process. I feel, I really do, that people latched onto his message of "change" and projected far more change onto it than was really there. He does represent a change from the Bush years, unquestionably. He even represents a change from the DLC. But he is not at all a change from the "new left" centrism that characterized the Clinton years and the Democratic congress under Bush.

Don't get me wrong; I don't LIKE his stance on FISA. I'm a far leftist myself. I absolutely agree that people should hold his feet to the fire about it; write, call, complain. But I don't feel betrayed by him, because I never really expected him to behave any differently.

I worried, when he got the nomination, that a significant chunk of his support would feel betrayed at some point. That the enthusiasm of his very enthusiastic base would dry up. Someone brought up McGovern earlier in the thread, who was sort of the classic example of that (the details very significantly, of course). Personally, I'm hoping that he ends up being more like Bill Clinton, and manages to walk the tightrope.

I came of political age during the Clinton years, and spent most of them mad at Clinton. Over and over he did or supported things I thought were horrible -- DOMA leaps to mind. But in retrospect, compared to Bush -- and, for that matter, compared to Bush I and Reagan -- Clinton was a frickin' dream come true. So much better there isn't even any comparison.

I don't think we can elect a real leftist in the U.S. right now, honestly. I think the best we can do is elect a left-leaning centrist and try to slowly push the pendulum back until the "center" goes a lot further "left". I think that will take years, though.

So, Obama still gets both my money and my vote. I don't like what he is doing, but he is the best chance we have right now, and he is far, far better than the alternative. This is not a lesser of two evils scenario. It's "OK" vs. "Utterly, Absymally Horrible".

I know a lot of people seriously thought that he would be better than "OK". But "OK" isn't bad right now. "OK" is actually good. After eight years of "Suck", "OK" is A-OK with me. But it doesn't exactly build massive enthusiasm, and I worry that what's driving his campaign will start to peter out as things move forward.

And I want him to win, so I hope a lot of people still think he's great. Or that people who thought he was great come to terms with the fact that he's OK. Or that enough people with a different definition of great come on board to his campaign now.

Kennedy was a left-leaning centrist, too. You wouldn't have liked a lot of his policies. In retrospect, however, he looks pretty damn good. So, I think, will Obama.
posted by kyrademon at 3:42 PM on July 4, 2008 [7 favorites]


Mr. President:

What would people be suing for? You're not supposed to go into court and say, "yeah, I know I'm not entitled to any damaged, but I just want to run this guy through the discovery wringer."

jedicus covered most of this, but yes, you can. You could sue for nominal damages; shareholders could file derivative suits; etc. etc. The point, however, is that the current bill short-circuits the judicial process by allowing the telecoms a free summary judgment; putting the burden of proof on the telecoms by making government compliance an affirmative defense would at least allow people their day in court. Congress could have adopted any number of rules that would shield telecoms from liability (which was the purported goal here) while not dropping an iron curtain over the entire thing.

If you're suggesting that once Congress has allowed one expensive, pointless fiasco, it has to allow every other expensive, pointless fiasco thereafter, I disagree.

You're begging the question repeatedly by baselessly asserting that all of the forty-some pending lawsuits are all "pointless fiascos." That is nonsense.

This begs the question--Congress is proposing eliminating the right of action.

What in the world are you talking about? The bill creates a blanket preemptive defense to any civil action under any statute. What particular "right of action" do you think is being eliminated here? You're implying that Congress is altering a civil penalty which isn't even remotely the case.

I personally think the statutory damages you linked are nuts. They're completely disproportionate to any actual anticipated harm.

Again, eliminating or significantly reducing the statutory damages attached to FISA violations would still be a suboptimal solution, but that's not at all what's actually being proposed by Congress.
posted by spiderwire at 3:44 PM on July 4, 2008


Oh hey, Another flipflop, this time on Abortion:
"Now, I don't think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother," Obama told Relevant Magazine. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions."

During the primaries, Obama was critical of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the federal ban on late-term abortions, saying that the court had disregarded "a woman's medical concerns and the very personal decisions between a doctor and patient."
Now, unlike the FISA bill, there are obviously a lot of people out there who are deeply opposed to abortion, and this kind of triangulation can move votes (as long as you're not too transparent about it). But there is no constituency for FISA beyond the telecom companies.

My view is that is has a lot to do with protecting the other democrats who pushed this. I mean, he can't really go out and attack Nancy Peloci and Steny Hoyer to explain his position, right? In theory, he should have been able to stop this behind the scenes, but that didn't happen. Now that it's out in public he has to either pick a public fight with the democratic leadership, or go along with it. It goes to show how much clout the telecom people have, if they're able to throw a monkey wrench in his campaign like this.

There's no huge user group on Obama's site about these other centrist issues, just FISA, because I think most people understand the diffrence between compromising on an issue with a huge base, and capitulating to Telecom companies.
posted by delmoi at 3:45 PM on July 4, 2008


krinklyfig saved me a lot of typing! (Thanks!)

I quit giving to O for the same reason, and every day, I try to do something to remind them why. All donations going to actblue from now on, which I hope will help elect folks who will bring the hammer down on the lawbreakers of this administration.

I am disappointed.

If I can't trust Obama to stick to his words now, why should I listen to anything he has to say?

You can't be sort of in favor of the rule of law anymore than you can be just a little pregnant.

The man has gone back on an extremely important promise, and I, for one, will not forget it. Contrary to GWB, the Constitution is not just a goddamned piece of paper. We need a leader who will live up to his pledge to support it.
posted by FauxScot at 3:46 PM on July 4, 2008


Also note that some people suspect the telcos don't need to worry about getting immunity from congress if they have already been secretly indemnified by the executive branch.

Incidentally, between this point and the recent court holding that Executive-branch 'privilege' isn't a defense in these cases, the "exclusivity" provision that Obama based much of his support on is looking more and more like the smart position to take. Regardless, all this armchair-lawyer handwringing about the death of the Fourth Amendment is not particularly convincing.
posted by spiderwire at 3:49 PM on July 4, 2008


By the way, MPSEA's legalistc arguments are idiotic. These case have come before real judges, who have ruled against dismissing the lawsuits. If the cases are so weak that even wankers on the internet could tell, then the judges would have dismissed them.

From Glenn Greenwald:
Judge Walker's decision (.pdf) was issued in the case of Al-Haramain v. Bush. That lawsuit was brought against the Bush administration by an Oregon-based Muslim charity and two of its American lawyers, alleging that the Government violated FISA -- i.e., broke the law -- by eavesdropping on their telephone conversations without the warrants required by law. The warrantless eavesdropping occurred as part of Bush's NSA spying program, which entailed spying on Americans' international communications without warrants (the lawyers were in London when they spoke on the telephone to their client in Oregon). What makes this case unique is that the lawyers and charity know for certain that they were spied on as part of the secret NSA program because the DOJ accidentally produced transcripts of those calls.
There is a lot more, but to call these lawsuits meritless is to be disconnected from reality. Now, obviously if they end up in the Roberts court, they could be overturned simply on political grounds, Ironically since essentially Obama would have to win the election and appoint some good judges by the time this gets to the supreme court, yet here he is, siding with those who want to cut these lawsuits off at the knees.

I don't think that AT&T et all will ever pay billions of dollars in damages, but they ought to go through the real court system, not be able to buy legislation go dismiss the lawsuits.
posted by delmoi at 3:51 PM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


There are some issues where I follow the majority pretty closely. Opposition to sexism and racism is one of them.

Way to go out on a limb with that one.

I'm also hostile toward religion.

... much like 'the majority'?
posted by spiderwire at 3:54 PM on July 4, 2008


Oh hey, Another flipflop, this time on Abortion

The obvious explanation (which may or may not be his position) would be that the Supreme Court upheld a ban that he considers too tight (therefore not allowing women enough latitude to address serious health), but that an unborn child in the third trimester should have some protections that may trump a number of concerns, such as a mother's anxiety about the prospect of having a child.

If so, he'd be one of the few people talking sense about abortion in a political landscape where so many seem to have adopted either choice or life to the exclusion of the other value.
posted by namespan at 4:05 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


The guy was president of the Harvard Law Review. How 'bout you?

Well, Dodd had sex with Princess Leia. How 'bout you?
posted by matteo at 4:52 PM on July 4, 2008


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "What would people be suing for? You're not supposed to go into court and say, "yeah, I know I'm not entitled to any damaged, but I just want to run this guy through the discovery wringer."

Principles, "Mr. America", principles.
posted by Falling_Saint at 5:28 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


"So... which thing actually happened? Did McGovern falsely co-opt your political hopes, or did he stake the high ground?"
posted by namespan at 6:37 PM on July 4

Actually, both things happened in that campaign, in different arenas. McGovern handled the Eagleton affair badly, so that Eagleton's withdrawal from the ticket not only looked like pandering to centrists, but called into question McGovern's executive judgement, and political savvy. And yet, at the same time, McGovern was still the straightest line from '68, and his principled anti-war stand was so solid and unassailable that it allowed Nixon, his Republican opponent, to run on a promise of ending the Vietnam war.

Call me when Obama can run in a way that allows McCain to explore war options in the right, as Nixon was able to do, because of McGovern. That's a level of pure political courage, and larger statesmanship, of which, I think Obama has no conception.

"I'll be more interested in this kind of narrative when it serves to explain a real set of things that have happened, rather than when it attempts, as it does now, to pre-cast a conception of Obama as a candidate by extrapolating on a single issue."

If Obama was flip-flopping on just one issue, you might be right. But his positions suddenly seem soft on several fronts, and he's still having problems solidifying support in his own party.
posted by paulsc at 5:42 PM on July 4, 2008


Also, what is it with people who seem to think that what Obama's doing will help him win the election? He's clearly alienating many of the people who would be donating or volenteering, which will cost him votes.

People donating or volunteering are highly likely to turn out, and only a bare few will end up voting for anyone but Obama. They might well stop volunteering or donating.

On the other hand, anyone so afraid of terrorists that they'll vote against Obama because of this would be voting for McCain anyway.

...if they vote. Which is the kicker.

The problem here isn't that voting and speaking out against immunity can be spun as SOFT ON TERRAH!!! and so will flip Obama voters into McCain voters.

The problem is that it can be spun as SOFT ON TERRAH! and turn a bunch of nonvoters into McCain voters, and maybe some Obama voters into nonvoters.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:23 PM on July 4, 2008


The problem is that it can be spun as SOFT ON TERRAH! and turn a bunch of nonvoters into McCain voters, and maybe some Obama voters into nonvoters.

I'd be interested in hearing exactly how that would work. Once you say "voted against immunity from lawsuits," well, that's not soft on terror; then it's about civil liberties and government spying. Even Republicans who truly believe in small government are against that sort of thing. I don't think it would work very well trying to spin it as a lack of strength, although it's a possibility. It seems to me that the Republicans don't really want to talk about this much, because their position is much harder to defend. Whatever political points may be won by the Democrats are not worth the very high cost in this instance. A much greater possibility is that the influence of telecoms is more important than the wishes of the voters.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:05 PM on July 4, 2008


ut his positions suddenly seem soft on several fronts, still having problems solidifying support in his own party.

Well, some Hillary supporters are going to move to McCain, but so what? Anyone can look at a poll and see Obama completely dominating. I'm not saying the election is a foregone conclusion, but vague, handwavy stuff like 'not solidifying support' or 'seeming soft' don't actually determine who gets to be president, nor do news cycles.

One of the most bizarre things about election coverage is the seeming desire to turn it into some kind of excersize in literary analysis. You hear over and over how a candidate is "doing" in the conventional wisdom, whether what they do seems arrogant or elites or whether or not they made a Faux Pas or whatever. But none of that has anything to do with who will actually win.
posted by delmoi at 7:07 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem here isn't that voting and speaking out against immunity can be spun as SOFT ON TERRAH!!! and so will flip Obama voters into McCain voters.

No, the problem is people who keep worrying about how things can be 'spun'. OBAMA ALREADY VOTED AGAINST THIS A FEW MONTHS AGO. If voting against it now can be 'spun', then so can voting against it now. THE PROTECT AMERICA ACT EXPIRED ALREADY only the wiretaps that had been authorized already continue, those expire some months from now (plenty of time to get FISA warrants, if they were actually that important).

If this program was really important, the previous vote would have been much more damaging. Really! Because that vote actually would have stopped the program. (Technically, though that particular vote didn't do anything, rather the bill died in the house).

There is a lot of technical details about votes here, but the bottom line any damage that could be done by fighting this bill in terms of being "spun as weak on terror" has already been done.
posted by delmoi at 7:12 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


If voting against it now can be 'spun', then so can voting against it now.

Er, I mean if "If voting against it now can be 'spun', then so can voting against it then".
posted by delmoi at 7:14 PM on July 4, 2008


Expanding the faith based programs still pisses me off the most of OBs recent announcements but this is a close second.
posted by fshgrl at 8:04 PM on July 4, 2008


Seems like people here are missing the obvious point. Why on earth would he be against this bill? He fully expects to be president. He wants the power of universal unconstrained surveillance. You don't pass up that kind of power. At least not someone who has the kind of personality to actually want to be president.
posted by dopeypanda at 8:39 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm disappointed in Obama. I'll still vote for him, but now I'll just vote where I will be living then, which is safe. I was previously planning to arrange a vacation home just to vote in a more important state. Oh, he also just lost any possible political contributions.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:08 PM on July 4, 2008


I'm unhappy with Obama's stance on FISA and a bunch of other shifts he's made since the end of the primary season. But I'm focusing on the fact (as others have noted here) that there is the strong, if not almost certain, likelihood that John Paul Stevens (88 years old) will retire once the next president is inaugurated, probably to be followed in quick or not-so-quick succession by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Souter. The odds with a McCain Presidency of Kennedy and Breyer being the only remaining justices on the court who are not complete Roberts/Scalia/Thomas clones is enough to make my blood run cold.

As Jeffrey Toobin noted recently in the New Yorker, "For all the elisions in John McCain’s speech [given May 6 on the future of the judiciary], one unmistakable truth emerged: that the stakes in the election, for the Supreme Court and all who live by its rulings, are very, very high."
posted by blucevalo at 10:04 PM on July 4, 2008


The odds are enough, not is enough. Sorry.
posted by blucevalo at 10:05 PM on July 4, 2008


And David Souter, not John Souter. Sorry again.
posted by blucevalo at 10:06 PM on July 4, 2008


The Democratic snake sure seems eager to eat its own tail.

Don't know why some of you blamed Rove for so much. You're doing his old job for him.

Unless you don't think the other side is taking notes...
posted by Cyrano at 11:28 PM on July 4, 2008


I really can't get all that worked up about telecom immunity. I'm sure there will be hearings, etc, when all is said and done, and we'll get the full story.
posted by empath at 11:38 PM on July 4, 2008


The entire retroactive immunity is abhorrent on principle. It's right back to "If the President says it's legal, it's legal." but with the added twist that he can now bloody well span time and declare things legal after the fact... secretly... without justification and with no avenue for oversight or appeal.

But despite that abhorrence, telco immunity itself is still a smokescreen, and hardly the most important part of all this. As with so much of the reverse progress of the last several years, this bill is horrible because it formally grants the President, and the President alone, powers that he simply should not have. No President should be this far above the courts on anything. That's contra to the entire idea of what the United States is supposed to be about.

In practical terms, I believe we all need to all accept that all Internet traffic in and out of the US, and very likely within the US, is monitored. With almost a decade of black budgets in the books since Vanguard, TIA, and Carnivore ostensibly "began", there's really no reasonable way to believe otherwise. There is a very good chance that this very sentence is not being dutifully scanned, interpreted, and filed away for later data mining. I think it's naive to think it isn't, in fact.

Is the purpose of all this state surveillance to prevent terrorism? Yes, I genuinely believe that's one of the uses.

The problem with this bill, and all the other apparatus before and around it, is that we're not allowed to know what the other uses may be, now or ever.

I find it especially ironic that Obama is pretty much accepting that the President's staff will have access to the calls and data he's racking up on his own iPhone. I wonder how this will impact the election? Or other elections where the incumbent has unfettered and unchecked power to monitor his opponents' "private" communications?

This isn't the threat of the beginning of some sort of police state. It's damn near the final nail.
posted by rokusan at 11:42 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd rather have a President soft on terror than have one with a hard-on for terror, but that's just me.
posted by mazola at 11:58 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, after Mr. Carlin died, I spent a lot of time watching and listening to his routines. I think a lot of people should listen to what he had to say on this subject.

Wow, Carlin was another "Gush and Bore" moron. I'd rather not have known that, thanks.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:18 AM on July 5, 2008


So Obama is willing to infuriate his base--for what?

Because his "base" is composed of petulant children who are impossible to please. Because this "base" isn't the base of the Democratic party at all. Because this "base" being angry makes Obama look good. Because "this" base is worthless compared to all the centrist votes he'll get by appearing moderate.
posted by spaltavian at 12:53 AM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Because his "base" is composed of petulant children who are impossible to please.

Funny how when Bush does this sort of thing the cause of opposing his abuses is considered noble.

You know what? Sucks when Bush does it, and sucks when Obama does it.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:16 AM on July 5, 2008


Putting the Obama story aside for a moment, here is a great New Yorker article about the origins of FISA, and especially the role of Mike McConnell in defining the vision of telecom/network surveilance in America. One of the things it mentions is the mess around passing that legislation.

I am making my way through a pile of last year New Yorkers, and just happened to read the story earlier today - an eerie coincidence.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 8:26 AM on July 5, 2008




Because "this" base is worthless compared to all the centrist votes he'll get by appearing moderate.

Supporting FISA will gain Obama precisely nothing. It has nothing to do with "appearing moderate," as it is in no way a moderate or centrist issue. It is an issue for absolutely no one, aside from the people who are against it. 'National security conservatives,' the one group that might be pleased about Obama's vote, would never vote for him over McCain in a million years. The only take-away from the entire affair is that it makes Obama come across as a bald-faced liar, a corporate shill or both.

Waffling on same-sex marriage, abortion, faith-based initiatives, even the war in Iraq--these I can understand, as they are honest-to-goodness hot-button issues for people on the Right ("moving towards the center" and "appearing moderate" being comfortable euphemisms for pandering to conservatives). The FISA about-face pisses people off for no net gain.

To paraphrase Fouché, it's worse than a crime: it's stupid politics. And it suggests that Obama is being influenced by the Beltway party hacks who came on board after he secured the nomination, the same losers who helped Kerry fumble the ball in 2004 with a campaign worthy of Dewey; who masterminded the 'let's do what the War President wants' electoral strategy in 2002; and who persuaded Gore not to rock the 'New Democrat' boat in 2000.
posted by Makoto at 11:02 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


(At least in 2006 the Democrats waited until after the election to demonstrate that they had no intention of following through with their campaign promises.)
posted by Makoto at 11:04 AM on July 5, 2008


Obama isn't Ron Paul. All the people who hyped Obama shouldn't start to complain now!
posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:08 AM on July 5, 2008


It's a Deal Breaker for This Intelligence Officer

Following is response to Sen. Obama's email of earlier today (Thursday). (For convenience, his email is pasted in below mine.)
----------------------------
July 3, 2008

Dear Senator Obama,

I speak from 30 years of experience in intelligence work. I don't know who actually briefed you on the eavesdropping legislation, but the bill is unnecessary for intelligence collection and POISON for our civil liberties--not even to mention the unconscionable retroactive immunity provision.

You have made a big mistake, Senator, in indicating you intend to vote for it. There is still time to change your mind. That's what big people do.

Your penultimate paragraph seals it for me. What you are saying relies not on principle--and still less on respect for the law, or respect for our Constitutional rights.

What I hear you saying is an all too familiar refrain: "Tough s___, progressive voter. You know you've got nowhere else to go. You want McCain in there?"

A painful reminder that the Republicans have no corner on arrogance. You think you have us over a barrel. Well let me tell you something those suits from K Street haven't told you; you need our active support, and you are about to blow it.

Your "explanation" was unworthy of one who has sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States (including the Fourth Amendment).

And your attitude is not that of a person I THOUGHT was different--and would be genuinely for change I could believe in.

We live just a couple of miles from where George Mason is buried. (As you may remember, professor of the Constitution that you have been, Mason actually refused to approve the Constitution--although he and fellow Virginian James Madison had pretty much drafted it--BECAUSE IT LACKED THE BILL OF RIGHTS).

Well, the air is still this evening. Our windows are open and George Mason can be heard tossing and turning in his grave, loudly moaning. Yes, moaning.

I went over to his grave; between the moans he explained that he had just heard of your plan to play fast and loose with his beloved Bill of Rights. "Hard to enjoy the Fourth tomorrow with the Constitution being shredded Right and Left," he whispered.

Remember, Senator, what Emerson said about those unable to change their "little" minds. Beware the K Street hobgoblins!

Again: Dissing us by the "So-you-want-McCain?" riposte is unworthy. Not only is it clear that you are "mis-underestimating" us but, frankly, I find it insulting.

Please get back on track.

Respectfully,

Ray McGovern
US Army Infantry/Intelligence Officer: 1962-64
CIA Analyst, 1964-1990
Co-Founder, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
posted by krinklyfig at 11:31 AM on July 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Obama isn't Ron Paul. All the people who hyped Obama shouldn't start to complain now!

We shouldn't complain that he broke his promises and lied about why he did it? Come on. I'm no loyal little soldier. I'm a voter who's trying to salvage what's left of his constitutional rights, while we still can. The election's not until November, and he's already sold our rights for a pittance. That's unacceptable.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:34 AM on July 5, 2008


Jeez, hysterical much?
posted by empath at 1:40 PM on July 5, 2008


Lincoln, despite thinking that slavery was a horrible evil, once he had the Republican nomination, promised that he would not ban slavery. In fact, he supported an amendment which would explicitly have denied the right of the federal government to ban slavery. And yet when the opportunity arose, he did the right thing. Presidents cannot be radicals. They must move with events. Obama, particularly, can't be seen as being a radical. He's going to carefuly weigh his options and then aim straight for the middle of the electorate, as much as possible; maybe, if we're lucky, skewing to the left more often than not.

It's our job to move the electorate to the left, not him. He may know the right thing to do, but he can't do it, unless the people know the right thing to do, as well.
posted by empath at 1:49 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also -- President Obama, with a huge democratic majority in both houses, is in a much different position than Senator Obama with a Republican president and a tied senate and a bare majority in the house.
posted by empath at 1:51 PM on July 5, 2008


Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Soon to be making the rounds on Fox News.
posted by mkultra at 1:53 PM on July 5, 2008


Obama, particularly, can't be seen as being a radical.

Obeying the law is radical? FISA is radical? Accountability is radical?

We live in interesting times.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:36 PM on July 5, 2008


Because "this" base is worthless compared to all the centrist votes he'll get by appearing moderate.

Oh come on. Obama is doing the exact opposite of what he pledged to do here, filibuster any bill with Immunity. The only thing it makes him "appear" to be is a flip flopper. I think the 2004 election illustrated that the base of votes for "centrist flipflopper" isn't all that great.

Look, I'm sure some people would like this guy to be Dennis Kucinich, but the fact is he made a direct promise and he's breaking it. The other important fact is that telecom immunity has no natural constituency. This dosn't earn him anything other then vapid praise from morons like David Broder who fetishize 'centrism' for it's own sake and think that any time centrist republicans join with centrist democrats and pass something it's good, even if the majority is opposed to it.

Obama has some other centrist or conservative positions, on Faith-based programs, on Israel, etc. I'm not complaining about those because 1) He's not going back on a pledge he made during the primaries and 2) Those issues actually will move votes. I don't like those positions, but those are legitimate disagreements.

This is an entirely different issue.
posted by delmoi at 4:36 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's our job to move the electorate to the left, not him.

I'm an independent voter. Leave me out of your "we," kemosabe.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:37 PM on July 5, 2008


Dude, I don't know if you've noticed, but if you think torture is wrong, the Constitution is worth preserving, and the president shouldn't be able to do whatever the fuck he wants? In this country, that makes you a leftist.
posted by EarBucket at 5:10 PM on July 5, 2008


Actually, both things happened in that campaign, in different arenas.

That's interesting. So, this would be a mix of this core absolute integrity you're discussing and... not.

Eagleton affair badly, so that Eagleton's withdrawal from the ticket not only looked like pandering to centrists, but called into question McGovern's executive judgement, and political savvy.

Eagleton's withdrawl was the betrayal? Wow. I'll have to admit, I wasn't giving you credit, but maybe you really *did* have some high standards then.

And yet, at the same time, McGovern was still the straightest line from '68

An interesting if true relative judgment.

and his principled anti-war stand was so solid and unassailable that it allowed Nixon, his Republican opponent, to run on a promise of ending the Vietnam war.

There were enough other factors that I think it's pretty hard to argue that the McGovern's stance was the political key that allowed Nixon to campaign on that promise.

Call me when Obama can run in a way that allows McCain to explore war options in the right, as Nixon was able to do, because of McGovern

Likewise, I find it ludicrous to suggest that Obama's the key to allowing McCain this kind of freedom.

If Obama was flip-flopping on just one issue, you might be right. But his positions suddenly seem soft on several fronts

The Iraq issue? That's hardly convincing evidence of unmoored principles; the telecom immunity is much, much worse. As Obama correctly points out in the CNN article you linked to, his position has been consistently nuanced throughout the campaign. In particular, the phrase "What I propose is not - and never has been - a precipitous drawdown" comes to mind, and I'm pretty sure that goes back to speeches at least to March, quite possibly earlier. Other issues seem fuzzy or overblown, mostly -- or they seem like the abortion issue I mentioned above, where he's taken a position that requires balancing tension between two or more valuable but competing principles, often a hard sell despite both its importance and the purported blandness of centrism. But after eight years of having an administration who's seemed to have difficulty usefully refining their policy, it really ought to be easier.

The FISA issue is the only one I've seen so far where it truly looks to me like there's a problem, and I'll admit, it's a puzzler, and Obama's explanations seem readily countered. Perhaps he'll come forth with a better response. Perhaps he'll be swayed by people discouraging him from this path. Perhaps it'll remain a mystery through the election. We'll see, but even if Cat Stevens is right and the first cut *is* the deepest, this is not at all a pattern yet.
posted by namespan at 5:32 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hellooooooo President McCain.
posted by tkchrist at 5:44 PM on July 5, 2008


Dude, I don't know if you've noticed, but if you think torture is wrong, the Constitution is worth preserving, and the president shouldn't be able to do whatever the fuck he wants? In this country, that makes you a leftist.

But if you don't buy into the rest of it, that makes you a libertarian, which some feel is a dirty word here. I'm a left libertarian, fwiw. I know these distinctions may be lost if your reaction is negative to the whole idea.

I don't really have an agenda to move Obama to the left after he gets elected. My interest is seeing that he keeps his promises, particularly on those issues that matter to me. I am not a Democrat.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:54 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


if you think torture is wrong, the Constitution is worth preserving, and the president shouldn't be able to do whatever the fuck he wants? In this country, that makes you a leftist.

But if you don't buy into the rest of it, that makes you a libertarian


To recap:

Anti-torture / Pro-Constitution / Anti-Executive Primacy / Other = "Leftist"
Anti-torture / Pro-Constitution / Anti-Executive Primacy = Libertarian

FAIL.
posted by spiderwire at 6:23 PM on July 5, 2008


Obama's position on FISA is a disappointment. But the rest is the same FUD that the GOP used in 2000 and 2004, and it's astonishing and saddening that people are still falling for it so easily. "Flip-flopper" was the term that Republican strategists came up with to demonize Kerry for any position he'd ever taken that couldn't be explained in a 15-second sound bite, and it's being used the same way now. We can't make it this easy for them.

If we fuck this up, there will be no going back. Period. If we lose this election, we are done. Unless you're totally comfortable with the thought of telling your children that you didn't do everything you could to get Obama elected in '08, then this can all wait until after the election. That doesn't mean you can't try to keep him honest, express your opinion, etc. -- far be it from me to tell people to sit down and shut up, and I don't think that's how politics should work.

That said, all of this "I'm not so sure about Obama anymore" stuff is horseshit. Did you think he was Buddha in a suit, or what? Even on a bad day he's one of the best candidates we've ever fielded; if you're so cowed that you have to start psychologically distancing yourself from the non-lunatic candidate 4 months before the election, why are you even here? They have your number. Go home, turn off the TV, unplug your phone and cross your fingers. We'll let you know how it turns out.
posted by spiderwire at 6:31 PM on July 5, 2008


FAIL.

At what? I didn't create these labels. I don't really think about it much, to be honest. The Libertarian Party is a joke, and most of the "organized" groups are way too reactionary, Randian-type for me. I just don't pick a party at registration time.

I do vote my conscience, however.

This can't wait until after the election. Then it's too late. And what if he doesn't win? We're screwed. Better do the right thing now, when it really counts, not make vague promises of later action that will never materialize.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:40 PM on July 5, 2008


"Flip-flopper" was the term that Republican strategists came up with to demonize Kerry for any position he'd ever taken that couldn't be explained in a 15-second sound bite, and it's being used the same way now.

Oh come on, "Flip-flopper" has been around for a long, long time.

Secondly, 15 seconds? Obama's change can't be explained in any amount of time, at least not in a logically consistent way (i.e. he says the safety of the American people is most important, but apparently it wasn't 3 months ago?)

Making a big fight over this (a big fight with other democrats) right now wouldn't be a very good use of his time and political capital, but he obviously don't want to say that.

The Anti-FISA people have been able to put the actual vote off for six months at a time for a while. All Obama would have to say is "Well, this is a complicated matter and we don't have time to go into it now, we can extends PAA wiretaps for another six months and then come back to it later" but he can't even muster that tepid level of "support".
posted by delmoi at 6:44 PM on July 5, 2008


Obama clarifies that he supports abortion for mental health reasons; his point seems to be that a clinical diagnosis is critical, which is something that anti-abortion activists tend to obscure. Actually an important distinction to make.
posted by spiderwire at 6:48 PM on July 5, 2008


delmoi: Fair enough re: "flip-flop"; I think the underlying point is correct, though what I said wasn't right. As usual, Wikipedia FTW:
In his "On Language" column in The New York Times, William Safire wrote in 1988 that "flip-flop" has a long history as a synonym for "somersault". [ . . . ] In the archives of The New York Times, which go back to 1851, the earliest unequivocal mention of "flip-flop" as a change in someone's opinion, is in an October 23, 1890, report of a campaign speech in New York City. [ . . . ]

The term also was used extensively in the 2004 U.S. presidential election campaign. It was used by critics as a catch-phrase attack on John Kerry, claiming he was "flip-flopping" his stance on several issues, including the ongoing war in Iraq.
posted by spiderwire at 6:52 PM on July 5, 2008


delmoi: I agree w/r/t FISA. Obama (and many others) just caved. I can't confidently judge whether it was a good strategic move; I find it personally pretty distasteful, and telecommunication law is an issue very close to my heart; but all told, it's not a deal-breaker for me (admittedly, not much right now would be -- I won't lie about that). I'm not happy about it, but it's also not the death knell for the Fourth Amendment; that's ridiculous.

krinklyfig: I do vote my conscience, however.

Does your conscience say to vote for John McCain? You do realize that if you stay home, you're effectively casting at least partial votes for all the candidates you oppose, even regardless of what it says about your willingness to participate in the process, right?

This can't wait until after the election. Then it's too late.

It can't wait until after he actually has, you know, actual authority? How on earth can it be "too late" then? Do you really and honestly believe that it's SOP for a President to just ignore their base? Someone should tell W.

And what if he doesn't win? We're screwed.

What do you mean by that? "Screwed" as in we didn't get Obama to support a bill that isn't going to pass anyway, or "screwed" in that we helped elect a complete nutjob to the White House based on a vague ideological litmus test?

Better do the right thing now, when it really counts, not make vague promises of later action that will never materialize.

Well, they're sure as hell not going to materialize if we lose. I'm pretty confident about that part.
posted by spiderwire at 7:11 PM on July 5, 2008


It can't wait until after he actually has, you know, actual authority?

As the presumptive nominee, he is the de facto leader of the Democratic Party. This is now the Obama Party, like it was the Clinton Party in '92 (although it's looking like there is very little difference). This will stick especially if he wins the general, and not so much if he doesn't. The way he chooses to go on this issue sets the course for the whole party, although there may be outliers. Looks like he's choosing the DLC path. I can't get on that path with him. I was under the impression that he didn't want to go down that path, but here we are. I can't see how this helps him, regardless of claims of centrism. This is just a bunch of BS. I'm not interested in candidates as much as policy. This is bad policy.

For you to have so much faith that he'll do the right thing after doing the wrong thing is precious. Been down this road before.

Look, when it comes down to it, I'll probably hold my nose and vote for the guy in November. I've never missed a vote since registering to vote against the first Bush, and I don't vote out of spite. McCain is a tool. But if this is the sort of campaign he's going to run, I can't be a part of that. Obama's looking pretty much like a tool, but he's probably slightly less evil. Go ahead and campaign and pretend like none of it matters. Don't ask me to.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:24 PM on July 5, 2008


For you to have so much faith that he'll do the right thing after doing the wrong thing is precious. Been down this road before.

Um, when? When everyone was saying that Gore was "slightly less evil" than Bush? I mean, preemptive apologies for flogging that particular dead horse, but how can we have "Been down this road before" when we can't even win an election? Democrats did OK in '06, but you don't get a mandate from one election. This is a long-term project.

Is this issue really such a dealbreaker that you have to force yourself to vote for him? This all seems very bizarre to me. Many of the positions that Kerry took -- seemingly out of political expediency -- were, I thought, way more distasteful than the hedges Obama's made. But the hue and cry being raised on the left over Obama's failure to live up to what strike me as unrealistic expectations, as well as the histrionics over manufactured flaps (Iraq withdrawal, abortion, campaign finance, etc.) is incredible.

I mean, is this election just less important than '04? Does Obama really not stack up that well against previous Democratic nominees? I don't really get it.

Someone (Josh Marshall?) said something the other day that rang pretty true for me: we've all becomes pretty acclimated to a President who lies to us and plays games simply as a matter of course. Admittedly, talking about Bush doing "the right thing after doing the wrong thing" makes little sense if any at all. Craven as politicians might be, Bush really raised the bar on venality.

It's worth considering that Obama might be substantively different from what we've been led to expect, simply by virtue of the fact that he's not (in my judgment, anyway) an overprivileged scumbag. Your mileage may vary, of course.
posted by spiderwire at 10:26 PM on July 5, 2008


Is this issue really such a dealbreaker that you have to force yourself to vote for him? This all seems very bizarre to me.

It is the height of arrogance to threaten those of us with these concerns with the fear of war. That's Bush's strategy. Are you going to coopt that, too?

Believe it or don't, I don't really care how my position looks to you. I think you're thinking we're all voting with the same concerns that you have, that all our interests are identical. They're not. This may be a long-term project to you, but I think you have a different idea of the desired outcome.

I don't necessarily want a Democrat mandate. Their goals are not always my goals. I want an honest, accountable president, for once, setting that sort of standard and vision. Looks like that's not going to happen. Again.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:49 PM on July 5, 2008


And, seriously, spiderwire, think about what I'm saying. I'm not saying I'm voting against Obama or for McCain. I'm saying I can't campaign any more for Obama. I can't campaign for the guy if I'm not genuinely excited about him, and I'm not anymore. I'll leave campaigning up to those who can look past that. What more do you want from me? You're not going to argue me into being excited again. That will only come about from Obama's actions, if it happens, if he should turn out to be a stand-up guy. So far, not looking so good, and all so quickly.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:58 PM on July 5, 2008


Perhaps Obama likes this bill because when he's President he can exploit it for his own political purposes. And, of course, use it to tackle the "evildoers".
posted by gsb at 5:14 AM on July 6, 2008


krinklyfig: It is the height of arrogance to threaten those of us with these concerns with the fear of war. That's Bush's strategy. Are you going to coopt that, too?

Total straw man.

krinklyfig: Believe it or don't, I don't really care how my position looks to you.

Then why do you keep posting it over and over in this thread? We get it, man.
posted by mkultra at 7:08 AM on July 6, 2008




But the hue and cry being raised on the left over Obama's failure to live up to what strike me as unrealistic expectations, as well as the histrionics over manufactured flaps (Iraq withdrawal, abortion, campaign finance, etc.) is incredible.

What's interesting is that many in the netroots, certainly Kos were oppsoed to public financing for the general. It was to the point where Kos actually said he would refuse to support Edwards because Edwards took public financing. The worry was if a candidate did that, they wouldn't have enough money.

So, the fact that Obama opted out of public financing was no big deal. The Iraq withdrawl thing is just the McCain campaign working the press, Obama's position hasn't changed at all. And the Abortion stuff is just statements right now.

But, the FISA thing is not just a statement, it's actual action he's taking (or not taking), one that is directly at odds with what he pledged to do in the past. And furthermore, it's not a "compromise" that will win him any votes, it's simply more of the same corporate bullshit, done to benefit the telecom companies and the corrupt Washington 'culture'
posted by delmoi at 8:44 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]








Constitutional Compromise
posted by homunculus at 10:10 AM on July 8, 2008








America: your country sucks.

This article from 2007 is a bit of a let down to read now: "To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."
posted by chunking express at 2:17 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


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