Why I still do not buy the Obama hype
by tarheel74, Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 10:28:13 AM EDT
A few days ago I received a mail soliciting contributions from Obama. My friends here think that he is purer than driven snow, that he has the highest priorities of Americans and civil liberties on his agenda. Yet if the last two days have shown anything that he is just the same old politician playing the old game in a new garb.
I am sorry if I am not enthusiastic about Obama. It is hard for me to feel that way when now I have to live in fear of my calls, my emails, maybe even this post, being monitored by unknown suits all in the name of the security and anti-terrorism.
I was very happy when the Democrats won the congress but my enthusiasm has waned to the point that I can say that Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi are the two most clueless and spineless leaders in congress. If this is the state of the Democratic congress why not elect Republicans? Since it seems right now that they are the ones running the show. The approval rating of this congress is higher among Republicans.
To illustrate my point let me point out section 802 of the shamefully named Protect America Act:
A civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be properly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending that . . . (4) the assistance alleged to have been provided . . . was --
(A) in connection with intelligence activity involving communications that was (i) authorized by the President during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on January 17, 2007 and (ii) designed to prevent or detect a terrorist attack, or activities in preparation of a terrorist attack, against the United States" and
(B) the subject of a written request or directive . . . indicating that the activity was (i) authorized by the President; and (ii) determined to be lawful.
In other words now the telecoms or anyone else can spy on you with impunity. Any lawsuit against any entity that violates your privacy will be summarily thrown out. Moreover sec 803 strips the right of States to challenge the companies if they are found to be wiretapping or eavesdropping as long as they are collaborating with an intelligence agency or for that matter impose any administrative sanctions on them. And you thought the Patriot Act was bad?
In fact the whole bill dilutes the authority of the FISA court so much that Russ Feingold had this to say:
"The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President's illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration."
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) is a member of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.
Where was Barack Obama on all of this? After hemming and hawing for 24 hours or more he came out with this statement:
Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. . . .
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. . . 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.
It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives -- and the liberty -- of the American people.
Obama believes he will be President and wants these extreme powers for himself, no doubt, he believes, because he'll exercise them magnanimously, for our Own Good. Whatever the motives -- and I don't know (or much care) what they are -- Obama has embraced a bill that is not only redolent of many of the excesses of Bush's executive power theories and surveillance state expansions, but worse, has done so by embracing the underlying rationale of "Be-scared-and-give-up-your-rights." Note that the very first line of Obama's statement warns us that we face what he calls "grave threats," and that therefore, we must accept that our Leader needs more unlimited power, and the best we can do is trust that he will use it for our Good.
Many people here have shown an unquestioning devotion to the Obama brand. But this capitulation with vague promise of "work with the senate" to remove the provision of retroactive immunity smacks of political posturing. We are electing Sen. Obama to serve the constitution and not to bend it at his will or to play politics with it. Glenn Greenwald summarized his posture best:
"I think we do a grave disservice if we try to convince people that Obama is really going to work to get amnesty out of the bill. Reid is already saying it's just theater -- they know it's going to fail -- it's just a way, Reid said, to let people "express themselves." It's all designed to let Obama say, once he votes for this bill: "Well, I tried to get amnesty out." He's going to vote for amnesty -- and his statement today seals the fate of this bill. Why sugar coat that?"
So the big question of the day is whether Barack Obama will live up to his promise he made last year and if required filibuster this shameful bill that grants immunity to people who break the law? The bigger question is do we hold him to higher values that he so eloquently expresses or do we give him a pass? Is Barack Obama a man of his words or is it just words?
What troubles me more is that this same week Obama became the first person since Watergate to opt out of a public financed campaign even after he had repeatedly said that he would take public financing.
So in one week Obama was complicit in demolishing two important anti-corruption measures that were set in place after Watergate: Publicly financed presidential campaigns and the FISA court. Is this a portent of the kind of change we are hoping for? For better or for worse Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee and it is up to us to stop the blind adulation and hold him to the standards we expect of a Democratic presidential candidate chief among which is upholding the constitution of the USA and not playing politics with it and the creeping progression towards an imperial presidency.