Obama, Telecom Impunity, and Critical Immunity

26 06 2008

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

It is absolutely false that the only unconstitutional and destructive provision of this “compromise” bill is the telecom amnesty part. It’s true that most people working to defeat the Cheney/Rockefeller bill viewed opposition to telecom amnesty as the most politically potent way to defeat the bill, but the bill’s expansion of warrantless eavesdropping powers vested in the President, and its evisceration of safeguards against abuses of those powers, is at least as long-lasting and destructive as the telecom amnesty provisions. The bill legalizes many of the warrantless eavesdropping activities George Bush secretly and illegally ordered in 2001. Those warrantless eavesdropping powers violate core Fourth Amendment protections. And Barack Obama now supports all of it, and will vote it into law. Those are just facts.

The ACLU specifically identifies the ways in which this bill destroys meaningful limits on the President’s power to spy on our international calls and emails. Sen. Russ Feingold condemned the bill on the ground that it “fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home” because “the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power.” Rep. Rush Holt — who was actually denied time to speak by bill-supporter Silvestre Reyes only to be given time by bill-opponent John Conyers — condemned the bill because it vests the power to decide who are the “bad guys” in the very people who do the spying.

Other than that being absolutely awful is it news?  Well, Obama voted for it.

Note that the very first line of Obama’s statement warns us that we face what he calls “grave threats,” and that therefore, we must accept that our Leader needs more unlimited power, and the best we can do is trust that he will use it for our Good.

 Making matters worse still, what Obama did yesterday is in clear tension with an emphatic promise that he made just months ago. As the extremely pro-Obama MoveOn.org notes today, Obama’s spokesman, Bill Burton, back in in September, vowedthat Obama would “support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.” MoveOn believes Obama should be held to his word and is thus conducting a campaign urging Obama to do what he promised— support a filibuster to stop the enactment of telecom amnesty. You can email Burton here to demand that Obama comply with his commitment not just to vote against, but to filibuster, telecom amnesty:


Incidentally, Chris Dodd made an identical promise when he was running for President, prompting the support of hundreds of thousands of new contributors, and he ought to be held to his promise as well.

Greenwald mentions that it is expected that we keep our mouths shut about this because we have to do everything we can to make sure Obama is elected in the fall.  He also points out that that is bull shit – and that what Obama did here is actually very scary. 

What scares me are the Obama supporters who are unwilling to critisize – who are unwilling to accept flaws in their candidate.  Those are the people responsible for both the Evil and the Lesser of the Evil.  Criticism, both from adversaries and from supporters, is a strong tool – both for the candidate and for the populace at large.

But does this critical analysis of politicians come to us through the main stream media?  Of course not.  Greenwald also points out herethat Keith Olbermann railed against amnesty for the telecoms one day and then praised Obama for voting for it the next day.

Obama is the lesser of the two evils.  But that should not make him immune from criticism when he engages in jack-assery. 

obama and bush









Here Obama is getting a little too chummy with the devil.




3 responses

26 06 2008

I disagree that Obama is the lesser of two evils. He is not evil at all. In fact, I’ve always found it remarkable hearing an atheist even use the word ‘evil,’ since it has almost nothing but religious connotations. Obama is a politician. That means he’s subject to the same jack-assery that any other politician is subject to. This is not a symptom of an evil system, this is a symptom of the American populace demanding that politicians running for office promise things that they simply cannot adhere to. We don’t end up caring whether or not they follow through on those promises, we just want to hear it.

Should those telecoms be held liable for the crimes the Executive branch forced them into? Yeah, I think so–in a country of laws, no one is exempt from them. No one is immune. But this is not just a nation of laws, but more importantly a nation of people. Compromises must be made for the greater good. I do not support Obama’s vote on this one. He should have stood firm. But he didn’t. He’s running for office. Expect more.

But I also expect that, if given the chance, if given the opportunity to shed the mantle of “evil” from both sides of the aisle, a President Obama is the best chance we have in this country to begin to repair our own “evil” description.

You simply cannot hold telecom immunity at the same level as, say, detaining and torturing potentially innocent people, or the obliteration of Habeas Corpus. Obama is not the lesser of two evils–he’s the only human running. If this makes me a fanboy, so be it, but he’s energized me with optimism, and a single infraction like this is not going to shove me back into the cave.

26 06 2008

All right. You’re a fanboy. Just because Obama (and every other politician, save a few) panders to the median American opinion doesn’t mean he’s not evil. It means he is a sell-out. And that is something I have to accept, but I don’t have to like.

Anyone who makes promises and breaks them is not my idea of a politician (well, it is, but it shouldn’t be). When I think of whom I want to be president I think of pretty much the exact opposite of a promise breaker. The american people don’t demand this of our candidates – it just works out that politicians want to be elected more than they want to stand up for what they truly believe. There are instances in this world of a democratic system that is not a two party system . . .

This is exactly why this fall will be the first time that I have voted. I always wanted to vote for the person I wanted to see be the president of the United States – and guess what . . . that person was never running. Well that person still isn’t running, but eight years of Bush have taught me the value of the lesser of two evils.

Obama won’t support gay marriage. That seems like a pretty huge, pretty bigoted stance from my point of view. And now he isn’t standing by something he swore to – he voted for a bill he swore to filibusterer. This is not progressive. This is not change. This is the same old shit that I’m sick of.

And so yes, I am going to vote for Obama in the fall. That doesn’t mean I’m going to sit by and shrug off every instance of ass-hatery he throws our way. I’m going to call him on it because, damn, the American people should.

And as a side note, I don’t think there is anything too inherently religious about the notions of “good” and “evil”. The religious have learned how to exploit those notions – that’s for sure – but that doesn’t mean that things aren’t good or bad.

Hamlet said that “nothing is good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.” Well that’s all and good as far as a philosophical theory goes, but lets face it, there are some things that are decidedly good and bad, in this time, in this place.

3 08 2008
More questions, more answers « Letters from Nebraska

[…] was certainly plenty of anger at Obama’s decision to sign the telecom-immunity bill. That said, one politically-caculated […]

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