Barack’s FISA Vote

I’m disappointed and disturbed by Obama’s vote for the FISA bill expanding the Bush administration’s wire tapping powers. That being said, I still believe Barack Obama is our best hope, and I think it’s important to fight both for his election and against FISA.

I think his decision probably had a lot to do with Democrat’s fears of appearing weak on defense, as suggested in the New York Times article.  While I know that’s the nature of politics, and am not surprised to find Barack has changed his position on this and other issues since winning the nomination.  This one is particularly disturbing though, especially given that he’s a constitutional scholar and knows better than most of us what these attacks on the Fourth Amendment mean.

Most of the articles focus on the immunity given to telephone companies who participated in Bush’s warrentless wire taps, which Barack actually did try to get our of there in a failed amendment.  I look at the ACLU’s fact sheet on the FISA Amendment, though, and there is considerably more at stake.  The government can monitor the phone and internet communications of anyone they want, without explanation, with little judicial oversight, as “the FISA court is regulated to reviewing only the government’s ‘targeting’ and ‘minimization procedures’.  It has no role in overseeing how the government is actually using its surveillance power.”

Ironically, I attended an Obama Salon last month on restoring the constitution.  We discussed habeas corpus, which the Supreme Court had just restored, and I was impressed when shortly after Barack did take a stand supporting the Supreme Court’s decision and took flak from McCain for doing so.  So why cave in on this one?

I think Norman Soloman’s article, “Obama and the Progressive Base”, puts the situation in perspective. 

These days, an appreciable number of Obama supporters are starting to use words like “disillusionment.” But that’s a consequence of projecting their political outlooks onto the candidate in the first place.

    The best way to avoid becoming disillusioned is to not have illusions in the first place.

Sad, but true (and not just for Barack, but politicians in general).  Soloman then makes an important point that it is our responsibility to keep on Obama (and other politicians) to hold him to those better ideals he’s claiming.

Barack Obama is an extremely smart guy. And I can’t remember a major contender for president less inclined to insult the intelligence of the public. Let’s return the favor by directly challenging him when appropriate. We’d do him – and the Obama campaign, ourselves and the country as a whole – no favors by opting for silence instead.

    We can help the Obama for President effort when we hold him to his good positions – and move to buck him up when he wavers.

And it is important to get Barack elected, despite our disillusionment or lack of illusions:

Some progressives, now disaffected, might consider the prospect of Obama falling short on Election Day to be his problem, not ours. But this isn’t about Obama. It’s about whether the levers of power in the Executive Branch, and the Supreme Court along with it, are going to be redelivered into the hands of the right wing for yet another four years.

I think he will be a substantial improvement, while not perfect, and it’s still going to be up to us to keep him on track on the issues that matter.

Under a McCain presidency, we’d be back to square one, where we’ve found ourselves since January 2001. Putting Obama in the White House would not by any means ensure progressive change, but under his presidency, the grassroots would have an opportunity to create it.

Along the way, let’s strive to eliminate disillusionment by dispensing with illusions. No one who is a presidential candidate can proceed to overcome corporate power or the warfare state. The pervasive and huge problems that have proved to be so destructive are deep, structural and embedded in the political economy. The changes most worth believing in are the ones social movements can make possible.

Meanwhile, there’s still work to be done fighting FISA.  The ACLU has filed a lawsuit, your can read more on the ACLU website, and sign onto their petition

Sadly, one thing that got neglected by many of us (myself included), due to the uproar about Obama’s position, was contacting our won Senators.  Check the Roll Call vote and see how your Senators voted.  I was happy to see both Senators Murray and Cantwell voted against it. Still, I can’t help but wonder if all of the 23,247 members of the Obama group to get tell him to do the right thing on FISA had also all been mobilized to contact their own Senators if maybe the vote would have been any different.  It certainly didn’t ride on one Senator’s vote alone, even a Presidential candidate’s.