Friday, July 04, 2008

Life, Liberty & BBQ

So, it's the 4th of July. A day for picnics, swimming at the pool or beach -- and a day we generally celebrate the founding of our country and its basic principles that we (supposedly) hold so dear.

This year, there's yet again a little bit less to celebrate, since we seem to be more focused on the BBQs than the rights that form the bedrock of our nation's founding. As Scott Horton of Harper's so elequently put it, it's more of the same trend of the Bush Administration (with the complicity of the Democrats) who are Treating the Constitution as a Doormat.

A reoccurring theme of late has been the government's unrelenting intent to spy on its citizens at will, without justification and without our knowledge or any recourse. I have discussed Congress' likely cave in on the domestic surveillance and telecom immunity reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, You Say Compromise, I Say Capitulate.

As the NYTimes points out, Obama has taken heat from his liberal supporters for expressing his intention to vote in favor of this legislation, Obama Voters Protest His Switch on Telecom Immunity, especially with the telecom immunity intact:

During the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama vowed to fight such legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. But he has switched positions, and now supports a compromise hammered out between the White House and the Democratic Congressional leadership. The bill is expected to come to a vote on the Senate floor next Tuesday. That decision, one of a number made by Mr. Obama in recent weeks intended to position him toward the political center as the general election campaign heats up, has brought him into serious conflict for the first time with liberal bloggers and commentators and his young supporters.

Many of them have seen the issue of granting immunity to the telecommunications companies as a test of principle in their opposition to Mr. Bush’s surveillance program.

He has been so much flak for his concession on the FISA issues that he has posted a response on his website. Mike Stark, the activist/blogger who started the on-line protest, is not impressed, saying the latest response is "a stiff arm to the people that care about the Constitution." I'd add that it's also a stiff arm to the constitution itself. His essay, as well as the spin worthy explanations of his campaign, do not provide justification for the turnabout, other than politics as usual. As Glenn Greenwald, who has been all over this issue, said, Obama advisor Greg Craig: Adding insult to injury:

It's bad enough that Obama is supporting a new warrantless eavesdropping scheme. They should just candidly admit that he changed his position rather than feeding incoherent and insultingly false rationalizations to the public -- whereby they throw around the terms 'National Security' and 'balance' enough times and hope that nobody notices or cares that what they're saying makes no sense. One of the strengths of the Obama campaign has been a willingness to have adult discussions about complex political issues, assume a fair amount of rationality and intelligence on the part of the voting public, and avoid manipulative, obfuscating sloganeering like this.

I have been among the bloggers criticizing Obama for the surrender of his principles, see You've Changed and Everything Must Change. As I've noted before, Obama wasn't my first choice (and he even tied with Clinton until she started getting crazy), mainly because I didn't think he was particularly liberal. And I most certainly am/was not a Obamaholic; I'm much too cynical for that. However, I appreciated the enthusiasm his candidacy has engendered by a public that has largely been disenfranchised and/or disinterested in politics.

The view of his evolution, best advocated by Andy Borowitz, Liberal Bloggers Accuse Obama of Trying to Win Election, is that a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do to get elected, which was seconded by Andrew Sullivan. I know that it's the conventional wisdom that you have to appeal to the base in the primary and then move to the center to succeed in the general election, which I could certainly understand -- up to a point. However, there is even some question whether the CW on this is true, as explored by Glenn Greenwald. As he notes, even if there were some truth to that theory, the current climate of unhappiness with the state of the state would belie the argument this time around. In addition, as he observes, in The baseless, and failed, "move to the center" cliche:

For that reason, isn't the perception that Obama is abandoning his own core beliefs -- or, worse, that he has none -- a much greater political danger than a failure to move to the so-called "Center" by suddenly adopting Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies? As a result of Obama's reversal on FISA, his very noticeable change in approach regarding Israel, his conspicuous embrace of the Scalia/Thomas view in recent Supreme Court cases, and a general shift in tone, a very strong media narrative is arising that Obama is abandoning his core beliefs for political gain. That narrative -- that he's afraid to stand by his own beliefs -- appears far more likely to result in a perception that Obama is "Weak" than a refusal to embrace Bush/Cheney national security positions.

I think the biggest problem is the fact that he flipped on so important and fundamental an issue that has dismayed his supporters, compounded by the fact that he so suddenly and substantially change his position on FISA and other issues.

I hardly expect that any candidate will echo all of my opinions, even on the important issues. I try to prioritize and support whomever I feel will be the best out of the bunch & will hopefully defeat these dastardly republicans who are destroying our constitution in many ways, big and small. Ultimately, I think what is concerning is that his recent forays further to the center/right are hardly the best harbinger of what to expect from his presidency, if he is elected.

Ultimately, I have to agree with the opinion of Daniel Larison (from the American Conservative, no less), who discusses Obama's dissembling on FISA and says, in Is There Anything Worth Defending?:

It seems to me that there have to be some things that are not negotiable and things that should not be compromised for electoral expediency. You might think constitutional protections would be among those things, and that this would not be the concern of left-liberals alone. Apparently, you would be wrong.

I would also note that McCain has also been less than clear (or steady) about his position on FISA, McCain's Lack of Clarity, but that's just par for the course for him (and the GOP) in general, so it's not worth commenting on.

(I found this cartoon via Jeff parker, Florida Today after I wrote my post and figured it fit perfectly)

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