Election 2008 National Security Obama Politics

Why Obama’s FISA Vote Shouldn’t Disillusion You

[digg-reddit-me]I agree with those such as Glenn Greenwald who are criticizing Obama over this issue. But my argument against those who have been disillusioned by this is several-fold:

  1. If you thought Obama was not a pragmatist who “attempts to find a rational common ground on controversial issues”, then you weren’t paying attention. Obama is not and has never been an ideologue – he is a mainstream politician.
  2. Obama promised to filibuster one provision which he still opposes, and voted against. He only changed the extent to which he would support opposition against it.
  3. The rhetoric about the “shredding of the Constitution” is over-the-top. The FISA bill – which Obama saw as flawed but better than the status quo, and which he never said he would oppose – strikes a balance between liberty and security. You can disagree with the balance – but to paint the issue as black-and-white is to misunderstand the issues in a basic sense. There are quite a number of issues which many of these same Obama supporters agree with that also would seem to violate core freedoms and the Constitution. For example, Obama supports gun control despite the right to bear arms; Obama supports campaign finance legislation despite it’s burdens on free speech; Obama supports a national education policy despite the tenth amendment. All of these require a balance between liberty and the Constitution on one hand and progressive goals on the other. In a similar way, the FISA debate is the balance between the fourth amendment on one hand and national security on the other. We can disagree where that line should be drawn – but the rhetoric of both the right and left ignores the FACT that neither side is taking a pure stand. Both are arguing for a particular balance.
  4. Much of the disillusionment stems from a hope that many people had that Obama would somehow make things right and undo the Bush years. But Obama is not some messiah – he is a politician, a cautious and pragmatic one. The hope that I have is not that Obama will fix things himself – but that he will take steps to allow those concerned to engage with power. Obama will not himself be able to accomplish what a strong movement will – but he will be able to magnify the power of the movement as he takes steps to ensure government accountability. We are the change we are waiting for.
  5. Obama is just another politician. But he is an uncommonly good one, an uncommonly thoughtful one, and an unusually astute one. He is a candidate worth supporting – and one who can achieve some real change with our support.

22 replies on “Why Obama’s FISA Vote Shouldn’t Disillusion You”

Barack Obama’s support for the FISA bill did not disillusion me. I just read his book “The Audacity of Hope”, and his support there (p. 221) of Bush’s faith-based initiatives didn’t disillusion me. I agree that we can’t agree with everything any one candidate stands for. The point is that they’re all human. It’s a matter of making a choice. Which candidate do you trust most, do you believe will respect your civil liberties, due process, habeas corpus, constitutional limitations on war powers?

I am feeling disillusioned because Americans are letting this all happen with their party blinders snugly in place. The first political campaign office I entered (and helped) was McGovern’s. Then it was Watergate and it was the break-in to Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and it was Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos and it was all in the interest of national security. What’s changed? The sheer magnitude. We couldn’t afford to ignore that cover-up despite the dangers of the world. We cannot afford to ignore this cover-up despite the dangers of the world. How have we acclimatized ourselves to such depredations on privacy, to such opportunities to consolidate power? Then it was one doctor’s office and the DNC headquarters. Now it’s most of the country, apart from Qwest territory. Now will we ever be able to find out in court the details of what has happened?

Moreover the Qwest CEO reportedly says the first requests for info came more than 6 months before 9/11. Barr writes of an FBI wish list during the Clinton administration. A Princeton classmate who teaches law told me that habeas corpus suffered a major blow in 1995. Barr brought to my attention CALEA, which may prove to be the means whereby government executive officers try to wrestle control of the internet. It’s all a mess, and it’s both parties instead of just one. What to do?

I happen to be reading a book about John Wilkes, a British politician of the 1770s and 1780s, whose raunchy poems and political exploits inspired our Founders, well, at least the latter. Indeed, the author, Arthur Cash, argues we owe thanks to Wilkes for the prohibition in our 4th Amendment against general warrants. Madison had earlier written a proscription against “general Warrants … to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons named, or whose offence is not particularly described and supported by evidence.” [Cash (2006) John Wilkes, p. 371] Does this remind you of Congress’s action at the outset of the War on Terror? Remind you of FISA? I found Wilkes via a googled political cartoon. Must we relearn this from experience? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to read about it and educate our children?

Back to the point, which mere mortal is in the best position to roll back the depredations on civil liberties?

There are some compromises you just don’t make & FISA was one of them. This isn’t about being “progressive” or “liberal” or any other label or agenda you want to throw out there but rather cherishing our freedoms & realizing if we’re willing to give them up the “terrorists” have won. This vote was hugely important. Now I see that both parties are owned by the same corporate interests and that Iran will be the next victim of American imperialism.

“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

Gotta give Obama credit. He talks a good game & had me there for awhile. Actions tho speak louder than words.

Este –

The FISA bill was a bad bill – but nowhere near as bad as you are making it out to be.

Voting for this bill doesn’t show that people don’t cherish our freedoms or that people are owned by corporate interests or that Iran will be “the next victim of American imperialism.” The only way to come to this conclusion is to have never read the bill itself, or to have not understood the issues.

The position you are coming from – whatever label you wish to put upon it – is a result of the partisanship and polarization of our times.

In this type of environment, an issue which, by any objective measure, involves the careful balancing of liberty and security becomes a battle between cherishing freedom and disregarding it; between making life easier or harder for the terrorists; between tossing out the Constitution, or keeping it; between one extreme and another. Yet in reality, the issue is much less clear cut.

Just as issues such as gun control and campaign finance reform involve the careful balancing of liberty on one hand and worthy social goals on the other – with an awareness of the rights protected by the Constitution – so does this issue. Obama expressed his opinion that this bill was not a good bill – but thought it was better than the alternatives. On this we disagree – but I don’t pretend that those who disagree with me must be trashing liberty and selling out to corporate interests. Life isn’t that simple – and politics even less so.


I don’t have to read the FISA bill to know that it gives complete immunity to the telecomm companies & therefore throws out all lawsuits, all DUE PROCESS for those who feel they have been unfairly treated. Now we’ll never know if they were and they will never have any recourse to the injustice they may well have suffered. That’s plenty bad enough for me. Our founding fathers fought for the freedoms you and many others so blithely allow them to take from you as “the real world” whatever that means. As for Obama’s “imperfect bill” talk, actions speak louder than words. He told us FISA was wrong & he wouldn’t vote for it. Obviously the bill would have passed without his support and yet he voted FOR it anyway.

Then of course there’s his flip flopping on public finance. He’s racking up the large corporate donors and just like McSame but of course we’re not supposed to care where a politician gets his money so long as he’s not bailing out corporate America (S/L scandal, Freddie Mac) or loading the bills with their pork, which of course we know doesn’t happen in the “real world.” So I agree, why should we care where he gets his money just like we shouldn’t care about our rights being taken away from us.

He’s also talking up Iran and imposing sanctions on them like Bill Clinton did when he was President, which resulted in the deaths of half a million Iraqis. He’s also completely Pro-Israel, even saying Jerusalem should be all theirs and does not represent a balanced view of the conflict. The wider conflicts in the region are directly tied to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and their widely held and largely correct view is that America is Pro-Israel and Anti-Palestinian and also Anti-Muslim. Sure you could say people falsely accuse Obama of being a closet Muslim (like that’s a crime) but he betrays his loyalties in the other direction and does not show balanced thinking in his comments so far.

The sad truth of the matter is that no matter who you vote for for President they are both owed by corporate America but you keep believing in the “change you can believe in.”


It is clear that you don’t know the FISA bill or the issues surrounding it. The FISA bill only gives civil immunity – it is unconstitutional to give criminal immunity after the fact. Due process generally involves ensuring that the government respects the rights of individuals – and so does not apply to the telecom’s actions – which were almost certainly criminal according to the original FISA law. My point isn’t that Obama should have back down – but that the issue is not as extreme or fundamental as you portray it. Don’t throw the founding fathers in my face – because they were the ultimate compromisers. They fought for liberty – but they were not, most of them, ideologues. They believed in compromise and they believed in balance.

The issues relating to FISA are about balancing liberty and security – to say that I am “blithely” allowing my freedoms to be given away reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of the issue itself.

Regarding the other issues your bring up:
Campaign finance: I am happy Obama is taking every advantage he can get here. Circumstances changed – and Obama realized that he could raise large amounts of money from small donors – and he decided to cash in. Yes – he is also raising money from corporate America. Yes, he should not have indicated he was willing to accept public financing and backed out – and if this is your fundamental issue, then vote for McCain.

Iran and the Middle East: Obama never claimed to embrace the positions you desire. And in my opinion, Obama has demonstrated a balanced and nuanced view of the Middle East. He has not been anti-Muslim nor anti-Palestinian. US policy is not anti-Muslim. Under Bush, it has been anti-Palestinian. But under Clinton and the 1st Bush, it was not.

[Sorry for the abbreviated response – I’m running out at the moment.]

Maybe we can’t agree with everything a politician says, but we can all agree that without freedom we have nothing. Today we see so much chipping away of our freedoms in defense of “terror”. Are all of you really afraid of “terrorist” so much so that you’ll trust others to spy on you without any oversight?
I hold this vote against Obama and I hold his vote to fund the Iraq war. We are left without a Pro-Peace candidate.

Please!!!?? Your advice to vote McCain is ridiculous, absurd, or you’re joking. HA Ha! Funny if you’re joking.
First, some politicians don’t take corporate money in forms of money bundles look up ( If they do they are beholden to that money and not to our interest. Remember never vote for a politician that is corporate sponsored, they will always vote against you, they have to.
Even within your party you can find honest politicians and they tend not to be the candidates that are spoon feed to you by our media that promotes satus quo.
So Joe lets enjoy our freedom while we have ’em.

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