May 21, 2024

FISA, Obama, and Reality

A new Newsweek poll shows Barack Obama slipping into striking range of John McCain, 44-41%.  This is good news, first because it means that Obama may not become president after all, second because independent voters like me matter more in a close race, and third because he will be forced to further mis-cast himself as a centrist candidate, something he’s not.

Matt Stoller thinks he knows why this has happened:

That is stunning.  Over half of the public, though perhaps has not heard of the FISA fight specifically, believes he shifts positions for political advantage.  And why shouldn’t they?  He did.

There’s no question about it – he’s changed his positions radically from the ones he used to court the radical progressive vote during the Democratic primaries, stances that were at once unrealistic and the only way he could defeat a better candidate.

Yes, John McCain has committed his share of flip-flops too now that he’s pretending to be a conservative.  But Obama was supposed to be above such things.  Now that he’s demonstrated his true nature, the young voters who agitated Obama past Hillary Clinton may be deserting him.

One issue that’s doing Obama in is his vote in favor of the new FISA bill that included retroactive immunity for the telecoms who helped the government after 9/11.  No surprise that he’s made enemies out of friends with that vote – the far left felt like they owned Obama after propelling him to the nomination.  Now they know different.

Whether the FISA bill is a good one is highly questionable.  I’ve written many times about the fact that telecoms do in fact deserve the immunity that the security bill provided for them.  But that is only one aspect of the FISA bill.  There are others that are more important and Obama sided with the administration’s invasive surveillance techniques and practices, essentially neutering a good portion of the left wing of American politics.

The ACLU is undeterred, however, and has filed a lawsuit that may test the constitutionality of some of the new bill’s provisions.  ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero:

"Spying on Americans without warrants or judicial approval is an abuse of government power – and that’s exactly what this law allows."

In today’s legal challenge, the ACLU argues that the new spying law violates Americans’ rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution. The new law permits the government to conduct intrusive surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and email addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it’s conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing.

This is exactly why I wrote, months ago, that Democrats were barking up the wrong tree by chasing after the telecoms.  That was a red herring and a waste of time and energy.  Democrats would have done much better for America if they’d capitulated on the immunity question straight away and worked to shape the new incarnation of FISA in a way that safeguards personal privacy and provides for the checks and balances Americans expect in their governmental processes.

Sadly, that didn’t happen.  Even Barack Obama, golden boy of the anti-war progressives, went along with Republicans in passing this nightmare.  Now we’re left with the ACLU carrying the load the Democrats dropped.  Strange as it may seem to my readers, I wish the ACLU well on their quest.  Win or lose, they’re doing something good for America, for a change.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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