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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Here’s How You Do It

posted by on July 10 at 11:58 AM

Washington State Senator Patty Murray’s statement on FISA:

I am committed to giving our intelligence professionals the legitimate tools they need to make America more secure, while at the same time protecting the constitutional liberties of all Americans.

For that reason, I oppose granting blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have illegally allowed the government to spy on innocent Americansí phone calls, email, and Internet activity. Granting immunity would not make America safer, but would only serve to prevent Americans from asserting their constitutional rights and legitimize the presidentís warrantless wiretapping program.

I voted for three amendments that would have improved this bill by increasing accountability and protecting the liberties of Americans. Unfortunately, each of these amendments failed. At that time, it became clear that I could not support the surveillance bill in its current form.

I remain committed to ensuring that the government is able to collect vital intelligence information in order to protect America, while respecting the civil liberties we so strongly fight to defend.

See, Obama? Not that hard. Your colleagues didn’t pander on FISA; why did you?

RSS icon Comments


Darcy isn't running for Prez. I'm sure people in WA can understand nuance and the importance of civil liberties, but the dumbfucks in MO certainly don't.

And there are far more dumbfucks in this country. I'd rather have Obama pander and win than stay true and lose. And, yes, it is an either/or situation in this dumbfuck country.

Posted by Mike in MO | July 10, 2008 12:14 PM

I also liked that Cantwell spoke against the bill on the floor yesterday. While it's nice that both of our senators voted against the bill, I almost (but not really) wish that one had voted for it--just so I'd have someone I could complain to. Right now it's just Obama, and I don't think he's reading his email these days.

Posted by sleestak | July 10, 2008 12:14 PM

@1 I don't really buy that. I don't believe that Obama really would have lost votes that he had by coming out against FISA. Do you know of anyone that really felt that strongly that supporting telco immunity was the deciding factor in believing Obama was tough enough on security to earn a vote? Or even supporting broad right to spy? I don't. The only folks I know that feel that strongly pro FISA are not supporting Obama either way.
he certainly lost some votes by caving.

Posted by DJSauvage | July 10, 2008 12:22 PM

I'm another Obamaniac who is really pissed about his vote on this.

But while I've heard (and generated) a lot of kvetching, I have yet to hear anybody explain WHY he voted the way he did. Anybody have any insights?

Posted by MonkeyNose | July 10, 2008 12:23 PM

His colleagues didn't pander? Really?

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | July 10, 2008 12:24 PM

@3: I'm curious to learn whether he'll actually lose votes over the issue, especially once debates with McCain begin and he regains the clear upper hand on other issues (mental clarity, for one). He's certainly going to take a hit in campaign contributions, a shame since he's depending on his internet-savvy left-leaning base for small on-line contributions.

Posted by Ziggity | July 10, 2008 12:25 PM

The first thing that popped in to my head was, "Because he's running for President", but I'm so pissed off and tired of this whole issue that I'm not even sure what I mean by that.

Posted by Hernandez | July 10, 2008 12:28 PM

@ 6 - he's so far ahead of McCain, financially, that whatever contribution hit he takes isn't going to matter.

Posted by UnoriginalAndrew | July 10, 2008 12:29 PM

The Executive always wants to expand the Executive's powers. And since there's a pretty good chance that Obama will be the next Executive . . .

Posted by NealH | July 10, 2008 12:31 PM

Me too: why did he vote this way? I sure don't get it.

Who is Obama pandering to here? That's the part I can't figure out. Is he just reacting to the unamaerican/muslim/bitter attacks?

Posted by elenchos | July 10, 2008 12:32 PM

he is running for president against one of the most useless candidates the gop has ever put out. no one in their right mind would vote for a hawkish loon like mccain, he didnt need to do this. yes he was going to be attacked by the gop for being soft, but so what, the gop is done.

i always thought he was the better candidate, i still do , but i never thought he was the big progressive saviour everybody made him out to be.

lets hope the move to the center stops right there. and hopefully some of the old primary senator obama remains intact. remember this guy?

"This Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. When I am president, there will be no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens; no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime; no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. Our Constitution works, and so does the FISA court."

Posted by SeMe | July 10, 2008 12:34 PM

I agree with the insightful comment @1.

Additionally, if Sen Obama is successful, somebody's got to spy on the anti-American Red Bushie neocons loose in our country, and being a President with no restrictions on your powers to do so makes it a heck of a lot easier.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 10, 2008 12:43 PM

Here's an interesting refutation from Laurence Lessig. Although it uses the word "hysteria" in the title, which apparently renders the rest of the argument moot.

Posted by Ziggity | July 10, 2008 12:49 PM

it is possible that he actually believes that prosecuting the telecoms would be unproductive or unfair. in other words it might not be all political maneuvering. even typing that makes me roll my eyes at the naivety of it, though.

Posted by douglas | July 10, 2008 12:52 PM

He might have lost my vote:

-Washington is going to be blue anyway, he doesn't need my vote.
-There's no good 3rd party candidate, but I always consider no vote an option.

Now, granted if I thought it would be close in this state I'd suck it up and vote for him anyway, because I wouldn't want McCain to win.

Maybe he'll win me back. I do have a very short attention span and he's kinda hot. Wait, what were we talking about?

Posted by DJSauvage | July 10, 2008 12:52 PM

Hahahaha some Obamatons are pissed now. I just knew fr. the beginning he's nothing but a typical politician. It still amazes me how he miscalculates by voting for FISA. McCain can't use his vote against him had Odrama voted against the bill since McCain didn't even show up!! Thank you Obamatons for nominating a such good spineless and ball-less Dem (hey Jesse Jackson didn't even have to cut Obama's balls off; he already did it himself)

Posted by Odrama | July 10, 2008 12:53 PM

I don't like it at all. Sure would be nice if we had a Supreme Court that understood the Constitution is more than one convoluted sentence long.

Posted by Fnarf | July 10, 2008 12:53 PM

LOVE me some Patty Murray!

If a politician is going to claim the high road, I think they should be held accountable for changing their positions. They should be ready, willing, and able to articulate their rationale for changing. Or be ready to be take to task.

If a politician is merely changing their position because they think it will help them win an election, then I think they should have the courage to be honest about it. Otherwise everything they say is suspect. And never again can they reclaim the position of the high road.

Note to Obama: pick one!

Posted by fluteprof | July 10, 2008 12:54 PM

One of the thing many Bush's admirers (and former admirers) is that he hardly backs down from his positions no matter how fuked up they are. Is there any Dem who can stand up to the Democratic principle for once ? Look how Al Gore and Kerry pandering to the right have gotten them. The Dems deserve to lose another election.

Posted by DukeNukeEm | July 10, 2008 12:59 PM

Makes you wonder if Obama is gonna keep his "promise" of getting out of Iraq "soon".

Posted by nkotb | July 10, 2008 1:03 PM

I think the bigger question is why Nancy Pelosi caved like a 1960's secretary when the men told her to bring this stinker of a bill to the table.

Posted by Hey Nancy! Get me a beer! | July 10, 2008 1:17 PM

Why believe anything he says? I sure don't.

Posted by Vince | July 10, 2008 1:22 PM

It kind of makes me wonder what The Pantsuit would have done, had she been nominated: Probably consulted with her focus group, and then screeched out some tired cliches or told a story about some imaginary single mom.

The post-menopause set and the any-vagina-in-the-white-house crowd would have loved it!

Posted by Hey Hillary! Iron my shirt! | July 10, 2008 1:25 PM

Yup he could have kept his promise, by simply repeating, "the rule of law".

3 possible rationales:
1) wanted to send a pro-business message
2) wanted to defend himself against the political fallout of a potential October surprise terrorist attack
3) wanted to send the message that he was not going to prosecute Bush & Cronies to foster a smoother transition and more bipartisanship.

Sort of like Fords' pardon of Nixon.

Still, I don't buy it. The FISA bill would have passed without his support.

As for the political cost, the money of the relatively small number of people who care about FISA is not going to hurt him. The real cost will be in the idealism and dedication of his followers, that is, Obamas' free labor pool.

Check out the numbers on the no-on-FISA-group". Obama is potentially losing a lot of hard core activists. These are people who do more than vote. They put their lives on hold, run phone banks, travel to other states, put up signs and go door to door in potentially hostile neighborhoods. These activists help get out the vote on election day and are crucial for a 50 state strategy. What campaign can afford to lose 20K+ activists?

Posted by LMSW | July 10, 2008 1:40 PM


Lessig's a pretty smart dude and presents some interesting points. Obama voted to strip immunity from this FISA compromise. He still voted for the bill (sans filibuster), but it's not like you can say "oh, he's FOR immunity" since he voted against it. In any case, I still don't like the whole immunity thing, but it's not like I thought Obama was some sort of uber-liberal or anything. Obama's still 1000 times better than Mccain. The old man must go down.

Posted by bearseatbeats | July 10, 2008 2:23 PM

Meanwhile, out in the real world, the one that isn't exclusively populated by middle to upper class white people who use the Internet, no one gives a fuck about FISA. Seriously. No. One.

Would I have preferred he voted differently? Yes. But I've yet to see anyone explain why Telecom Imunnity was so so important beyond being a fuck you to the administration.

Why did Obama vote for it? Because he thought passing FISA reform was more important than a symbolic and ultimately meaningless gesture. Is that so difficult to understand?

So what's all the fuss about? It's about the Netroots establishment finding out how irrelevant and powerless they are. The vast vast vast majority of bloggers are all talk/outrage and dick for actual organizing and action. And since Obama has little use for talk/outrage, he ignored them.

And their poor little egos couldn't handle it. Jerome Armstrong(bitter over not being hired), Chris Bowers(bitter that Obama's campaign didn't tank like he declared it would), even Markos(bitter that Obama didn't kiss his ring). They've spent the bulk of the primary season making plainitive cries for attention.

That's why the netroots establishment backed candidates that pandered and sucked up to them like Edwards and Dodd.

And now we're to this, their Alamo. They figured that they could flex their muscle on FISA despite having done jackshit on the issue in the leadup when it might actually have mattered. And like every other establishment in every other special interest group(and make no mistake, the netroots is one), they discovered that because Obama never pandered to them, they had no power over him.

Remember, Telecom Immunity didn't become a netroots issue until Chris Dodd hired an establishment blogger and turned the rest of them into useful fundraising tools for a few weeks. Before then, not a word. There's no principle involved, just attention-whoring.

So between it being a lost cause, a symbolic gesture and primarily championed by attention-starved whiners, I can't be bothered to work myself up in a lather over this.

Posted by ru shur | July 10, 2008 2:28 PM

@26 for the win.

You guys really need to leave the Hill once in a while.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 10, 2008 3:02 PM

FISA reform? Really?

There was no reform about this legislation. If nothing had been done, the 1970s-era FISA rules would have remained intact. This legislation was a step back from the original FISA, which itself is a pretty wretched affront to the Constitution.

Immunity was important, but in comparison a sideshow to the horribleness of the legislation itself.

Posted by Cascadian | July 10, 2008 3:32 PM

I'm going to simply believe that President Obama, and a majority Dem congress can do something about FISA. In order to do that, he actually has to win the presidency. We all react to the "Obama! Crazy secret muslim!!!" with derision, but I would not put it past everyone else to do the same. This issue is over for now. Obama should be criticized if you disagree, but Dems should not spend all of there time and energy on this one issue. There are other things to worry about as well.

Posted by hal | July 10, 2008 4:01 PM

@26 culpability for illegal wiretapping is very important. If corporations believe that their bottom line will be threatened by cooperating with illegal searches they will fight them in the future. If corporations believe there will be no penalty for enabling illegal searches, then corporations will cooperate with illegal searches in the future. It is that simple.

As for only the internet-using white middle class caring about wiretapping, this is both factually untrue and a poor argument. (Also why are you bringing race into it? Don't you think people of color care about surveillance? Try reading a book about government surveillance during the civil rights movement).

There are plenty of people across the wage and political spectrum who value their civil rights.
Surveillance generally and wiretapping in particular have been key elements of the US governments strategy to suppress dissent in the past (Nixons' dirty tricks/Cointelpro and the McCarthy period come to mind) and present (the documented harassment of peaceful groups who were against the war).

It sounds more like you have an axe to grind with the left.

Posted by LMSW | July 10, 2008 4:07 PM

There's a Japanese saying-- "You can't steal a cub without entering the lion's den".

We've selected Obama to go into that den, and now we are jumping to disown him? There was absolutely nothing Obama could have done to change this bill besides obstructing it perhaps. Any which way, it would be a buffet of red meat for the Republican vultures had he done anything but support it.

Do you fellow lefties really expect Obama to not play politics in a national campaign? Seriously, get with it!

Posted by justin | July 10, 2008 4:43 PM

@26 - This didn't become a big issue until Dodd got the message out because the media doesn't do its job any longer. The media was not reporting on this bill.

As for the telecom immunity's importantce, it's very important. We cannot investigate the crimes if we don't know what they were asked to do. The President ordered these companies to commit felonies. That makes the President a felon. Republican or Democrat, that must be investigated. But now, because of the spineless Democrats, it will never be investigated (I suspect it's because they are just as liable as the Republicans).

@31 - You're right. We selected Obama to go in the den. The problem is that he didn't go in. As the nominee, he is the de facto leader of the party. A majority party which could have easily killed this bill. They wouldn't even have needed to get any Republican support.

Posted by sleestak | July 10, 2008 5:14 PM

Yes Justin, we expected him to continue asserting that principles matter. Obviously that didn't happen. Thus, disappointment.

Posted by Greg | July 10, 2008 5:35 PM

@30: Ah, I see. You actually think phone companies would pay money to a civil suit if the immunity hadn't passed.

It's kind of like how I can't get worked up over impeachment being "off the table". Both are symbolic gestures.

And yes, I have an axe to grind with *on-line* left. All talk and no action. That's why they're great for donations; it requires so little effort before you go back to your keyboard to be outraged some more.

Obama's trick, of course, was getting those people engaged in other ways with his campaign - converting the talk into action. Another reason why the netroots establishment hates/fears him: he's done everything they set out to do except he succeeded where they failed. And now Democratic politics is going to have Obama's stamp of inclusiveness instead of the Netroots stamp of perpetual outrage.

And while I'm sure you can dig up exceptions, the netroots are overwhelmingly white and well-off.

Out in the real world, no one cares about Telecom Immunity. They care about losing their job and/or house, health care costs, gas prices going up and their family/friends getting killed in Iraq.

The netroots, for the most, don't have to worry about that shit which is why they spend their time on all this navel-gazing shit.

A couple years ago I thought the netroots could've become a force to be reckoned with... Instead they've let their egos run the show and devolved into just another special interest group with one overriding issue: attention-whoring.

Or to put it another way, they Crashed the Gate.. And then tried to shut it behind them.

Posted by ru shur | July 10, 2008 5:52 PM

Because issues and votes don't really matter! Obama's still better than McSame man! He's still gonna pick lefties for the SCOTUS, man!

Go Obama! We don't care what you believe or how often you change your mind on things! You're not John McCain!

Well ... not exactly him.

Posted by Bob | July 10, 2008 5:55 PM

If you're wondering why Obama and the other Dems supported the bill, there's a pretty good answer to it about halfway through this post (my first time posting a link--sorry if I screw it up).

Posted by sleestak | July 10, 2008 5:55 PM

Y'all are asking for Obama's political suicide!!

And he couldn't have killed the bill because there were close to 70 votes for it-- more than enough to defeat any filibuster.

Had he pressed for that, he would've only humiliated himself.

In principle, I wholeheartedly agree with everyone's disappointment. But politically, it'd be suicide. Period.

If the Repubs paint Obama as untrustworthy, and soft on terrorism, they will win. Okay?

They would've used this bill to put Obama on the constant defensive about why he voted against 'catching terrorists'.

America has come a long way since 9/11, Iraq invasion, and 2004. Buuuut, let's not get ahead of ourselves! (I mean hell, even Dan Savage was for invading Iraq at one point, right?)

It's wonderfall that progressive Seattlelites understand the scope of the FISA bill, but mainstream America can and will not wrap their simple little heads around it.

Again, P-O-L-I-T-I-C-A-L S-U-I-C-I-D-E

Posted by justin | July 10, 2008 6:07 PM

National elections are dirty and hypocritical. Especially in a racist country, where the discourse has been dumbed down so as to comprise of slogans that one can put on one's car.

Look at the presidential elections since 1980: They've all been about pandering, sloganeering and BS - and they've been overwhelmingly won by Republicans, because they know that that's what Americans want.

You can keep pining for a purist like Dennis Kucinich, and get assholes like Bush and Clinton, with their odious policies and stupid wars, or you can grow up, and realize that politics is a nasty game, played by cynics for the delight of morons.

It's your choice.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | July 10, 2008 6:13 PM

@26/34 wins Slog for the week

Posted by pointing out the obvious | July 10, 2008 6:21 PM

@31/37 wins Slog for the week!!! Hehhehe

Posted by justin | July 10, 2008 6:36 PM

Because principles don't matter! Not as long as you're not John McCain they don't. We don't care what you believe Barack Obama or how willing you are to stand on principle, we just want you to win because you're not John McCain.

Posted by Bob | July 10, 2008 6:52 PM

#26 you are the freaking idiot - the fuss about Odrama is he broke his promise to filibuster the bill if it contains retroactive immunity during the primary. He not only broke the promise but actually voted for it. What else do you think he is gonna running away from ? What about withdrawing troops from Iraq ? This is not about netroots or lefies' egos.. It's about him acting like fuking Bush which y'all kept harping John McCain is. Y'all are fuking idiots.

Posted by Odrama | July 10, 2008 7:14 PM

We won't support ball-less NO-Bama and will re-defeat him in November!!!!

Posted by clintonsarmy | July 10, 2008 7:16 PM

If corporations believe that their bottom line will be threatened by cooperating with illegal searches they will fight them in the future. If corporations believe there will be no penalty for enabling illegal searches, then corporations will cooperate with illegal searches in the future.

So all of a sudden the phone company is supposed to say no to the federal government? What are they, some fourth branch of government, co-equal with the executive and the judiciary, with the power to review wiretap requests for legality? It is to laugh. The phone company has to take executive requests as valid. Beat on Bush, not the stupid phone company.

Posted by Ma Bell, Defender of Freedom | July 10, 2008 8:07 PM

Ma Bell wrote:

So all of a sudden the phone company is supposed to say no to the federal government?

Are you kidding? Of course they're supposed to say, "no" -- today, yesterday, and 200 years ago. What AT&T and the others did was illegal and unconstitutional. In the United States, no one at any level of government has the authority to order us to break the law. The legislative branch writes laws, the judicial branch interprets them, and the executive branch enforces them. The executive branch does not get to determine what is legal and what is not, and no one in the executive branch -- not even our present motherfucking war criminal of a president -- can authorize us to break the law.

Ma Bell, do you live in a dictatorship, or are you an American who is too young to remember living prior to rule of the Bush regime?

Posted by Phil M | July 10, 2008 9:55 PM

oy. is not about pandering. is about winning presidency. vote against national security, then terrorist attack (outlying possibility but nevertheless exists) in any form no matter how minor, boom, game over, mccain win presidency. vote FOR immunity bill, win presidency, rewrite immunity bill, game won. effort.

Posted by J Loomnor | July 10, 2008 10:50 PM


vote for whoever terry macauliffe is getting paid by, lose presidency and probably congress b/c of boomer wussiness, act self-gratified while world falls to shit b/c don't care about end result only care about feelings, etc.

Posted by J Loomnor | July 10, 2008 10:56 PM

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