Unless this all part of a brilliant plan to popularize the campaign of Libertarian candidate Bob Barr and thereby win some extra states, Obama is making a big mistake in moving to the right of Arlen Specter. And even if it is a political move, the FISA debate is about bedrock principles of constitutional rights, separation of powers, and the rule of law. Political dodges and maneuvers are inappropriate.
But here's an honest question. Who is saying this bill is good and necessary? Look around. Is anyone saying that who is not implicated in the wrongdoing? The New York Times thinks it is a terrible bill. The ranking member of the Judiciary Committee (Sen. Specter) thinks it's a terrible bill. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee (Sen. Leahy) thinks it is a terrible bill. The ACLU thinks it is a terrible bill. The entire blogosphere thinks it is a terrible bill. Who thinks it is a good bill?Even Reid, Pelosi, and Hoyer are not saying it's a good bill. They're calling it a good compromise or whatever. It's bad law. It's wrong to support this bill.
... Democrats will regret embracing the expansion of executive power because a President Obama will find his administration undone by an "abuse of power" scandal. All of those powers which were necessary to prevent the instant destruction of the country will instantly become impeachable offenses. If you can't imagine how such a pivot can take place then you haven't been paying attention.
Of course it's not just Obama but Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer who think we're stupid for not supporting their bad bill:
That is my primary objection, here. Democrats: if you're going to cave, just cave. Don't draft up flagrantly insulting talking points that pretend you've gotten something in return -- you haven't. You haven't gotten squat, except for the knowledge that the illegal is now legal, that past illegalities will be swept under the rug, and that future illegalities will be met with no action more substantive than a few harshly worded reports.
We all know how much money the telecommunications companies spent "lobbying" you for this legislation; fine. So just come out and say it -- you can't piss off corporate contributors that are that important, so the Fourth Amendment can go suck eggs. We all know you don't have any confidence you can both stand up for the rule of law and get reelected in the face of conservative demands that our laws be considered obsolete in the face of our own pants-wetting fear; fine. So just say that, and quit painting us as rubes who won't know any better if you shove a few noble-sounding sentences our way.
Pelosi's right about one thing, though. This is a democracy, not a monarchy. In a monarchy, the king would just violate the law at will, and nobody would say a word. In a democracy, the President gets to violate the law at will, and we'll jump through months of hoops to change the law so that he retroactively didn't violate it.
After all, Emanuel says these are the "civil liberty protections" you "deserve." If the President said it, that makes it legal, and if you don't like that new interpretation of your rights, hey -- you're just against "compromise." In this case, "compromise" means blanket immunity for everyone involved: they don't have to prove that what they were doing was legal -- because they can't, we know it violated the law -- they just have to prove that the President told them to do it anyway, and we'll just forget the whole thing. And let them keep doing it. And they don't actually have to come clean on the extent of what "it" was, or is.
Here's Digby, with the calm voice of reason (and the tie-in to the other outrages, as well as a little bit of excuse-making for the Dems which I personally refuse to buy):
Here on planet earth, the civil liberties issues, along with torture and Guantanamo and the entire GWOT legal regime is a central concern because I have watched a very ruthless and cynical right wing show themselves to be bent on rebuilding the police state of J. Edgar Hoover and the imperial presidency of Richard Nixon. I don't think it's a good idea. It's not that I don't realize that the Democrats have an equally awful history or think they are the exemplars of all that is true and good, it's just that in recent years the Republicans have shown they have a real fetish for undemocratic authoritarianism, and in a complicated system, you have to focus on those who are creating the most obvious and immediate threats.
Democrats have certainly enabled them over the years and will likely continue to. They are politicians, after all, not comic book superheroes. But there should be no doubt to anyone who isn't wrapped up in immature freshman dorm cynicism, that there is a distinct difference between those who believe in the concept of an imperial presidency and those who are simply weak and corrupt. They both undermine freedom, but the first is many orders of magnitude worse than the second.
And lastly emptywheel, who's closer to my level of upset:
In case you couldn't parse the three bolded sentences yourself, here's my take on them.
- I will make a showy effort in the Senate on Monday to get them to take out immunity. I will lose that effort 32-65. But hey! I can say I tried!
- But don't worry, little boys and girls, Inspectors General are an adequate replacement for our third co-equal branch of government!
- Nice little bloggers! Aren't you cute! After you demanded accountability we gave you piggy lipstick and fig leaves and told you it was time to move on while we important Senators told you--in polite terms--to fuck off.
The Senate vote is scheduled for Thursday. Don't waste your time with Texas Senators Perjury Technicality and CornDog. Call Obama's Senate office, starting tomorrow morning, and tell him what kind of vote you expect of a constitutional scholar.