The Democrats in the House have worked out a new “compromise” on Telecom Amnesty, if by “compromise” they mean “let’s give Bush everything he wants.” The law they will vote on tomorrow — and almost certainly pass — will say that it’s okay for telecom companies to break the law, as long as the President asked them to and said it was legal.
That’s not democracy. The President shouldn’t have the power to unilaterally give huge mega-corporations permission to break the law because the President says so. The President shouldn’t have the power to spy on American citizens, without court oversight, because he says so. This is a betrayal of the Constitution, of the principle of equal treatment, of separation of powers.
Back in October, the New York Times wrote:
This provision is not primarily about protecting patriotic businessmen, as Mr. Bush claims. It’s about ensuring that Mr. Bush and his aides never have to go to court to explain how many laws they’ve broken. It is a collusion between lawmakers and the White House that means that no one is ever held accountable. Democratic lawmakers said they reviewed the telecommunications companies’ cooperation (by reading documents selected by the White House) and concluded that lawsuits were unwarranted. Unlike them, we still have faith in the judicial system, which is where that sort of conclusion is supposed to be reached, not in a Senate back room polluted by the politics of fear.
If corporations break the law, they should have to face up to it in a courtroom. Donating millions of dollars so that a compliant Congress — and a President eager to cover up his own lawbreaking — can keep them out of a courtroom isn’t the rule of law. It’s monarchy of the money.
So, naturally, huge number of Democrats (and virtually all Republicans) in Congress will vote for it. For further reading, check out Glenn Greenwald, the ACLU, Matthew Yglesias, Tapped, Hilzoy, and I’m sure many others.
Barack Obama — who claimed to oppose telecom amnesty during the primaries, back when liberal votes mattered to him — hasn’t said a word against amnesty recently, when a speech or a press release from Obama could have made a real difference. Obama is the de facto leader of the Democratic Party — but when actual leadership is required, he’s too much of a coward to stand up to Bush and corporate millionairres. All that matters is what’s good for Barack Obama; what’s good for the country is a secondary consideration (if a consideration at all) for the Obama campaign.
If you’d like to tell Obama’s campaign what you think of that, call his campaign at (866) 675-2008 (choose 6 on the menu). If he gets tens of thousands of phone calls, maybe next time he’ll hesitate to screw over the causes he once claimed to stand for.
When I called, the very nice Obama campaign worker I spoke to reminded me that Obama had once co-sponsored Dodd’s excellent bill opposing telecom amnesty. That’s swell, but having done right months ago doesn’t exempt Obama from responsibility to do the right thing today.
Progressive change can’t come from leaders like Obama or Clinton; they’re too beholden to money and power to make any changes. It’s up to us to lead them in a more progressive direction; if we wait for them to lead us, we’ll wait forever. Putting pressure on Obama is just as important as arguing against McCain.1 Call Obama. Call your Representatives and Senators. (You can use this website to find out where your Representative stands on telecom amnesty.) Let them know you’re pissed off.
And if you’re a pro-Obama blogger, and you haven’t blogged about Obama’s silence and complicity — not to mention his active support of right-wing democrats over actual progressives — what the frak are you waiting for?
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