Democrats and Obama Surrender To Bush On Telecom Amnesty

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.

So what did Obama do this week? He campaigned for John Barrow — a right-wing, pro-war, pro-telecom amnesty Democrat in a primary fight against a genuine liberal. (Links: 1 2 3).

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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56 Responses to Democrats and Obama Surrender To Bush On Telecom Amnesty

  1. 1
    Jack Stephens says:

    Meh, maybe I’m just extremely cynical. But in my opinion and in the opinion of many others there ain’t no such thing as an NON-pro-business Democrat.

  2. 2
    RonF says:

    Obama isn’t worried about being “progressive”. Obama is worried about getting elected. His positions are geared towards that objective.

    If you folks had taken a good look at Obama’s career up to this point this would not surprise you at all. In the 2006 elections Obama came to Chicago and endorsed all the machine candidates while refusing to back any reformist candidates at all. This is nothing new and easily predicted.

  3. 3
    Meep says:

    But we want to BELIEVE (in Obama)

    By “we” I mean everyone else besides me.

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    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.

    Glad to see you’re coming around to my way of thinking. He’s a typical Chicago politician in that regard. Out here, Democrat and Republican are just labels used to fool the electorate into thinking there’s actually any substantial differences among the politicians. They’re really all representatives of the Combine, the group that runs Illinois. Their primary loyalties are to themselves, their contributors and their political bosses, regardless of party.

  5. 5
    Radfem says:

    But we want to BELIEVE (in Obama)

    By “we” I mean everyone else besides me.

    Well, some of us once wanted to believe in Democrats once upon a time. That they were the women’s party, the reformists and so forth. But they’re really not on many issues.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Glad to see you’re coming around to my way of thinking.

    Ron, that implies that my views have changed. They haven’t. I’ve had low expectations of Obama (and Clinton) all along.

  7. 7
    Mike says:

    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.

    Direct democracy… That’s the stuff. *nods*

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    Amp, during the debate on that previous post I got the idea that you and others of your viewpoint people were of the opinion that Sens. Clinton and Obama had visions in mind for the country that, while superior in your mind to that of Sen. McCain, fell short of what your vision was that it should be. I gathered that your comment that “we can do better” was based on a difference in opinion between you and like-thinking individuals and Obama on what the set of principles for running American should be and what’s the right thing to do.

    But to say:

    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.

    seems to me to say that you now believe that Obama doesn’t really have a vision for America that he’s trying to implement; that his vision is based not on principles but on a desire for power, and that he’ll pay lip service to (or throw under the bus) whatever principles he needs to in order to get elected. This viewpoint is certainly in agreement with my observations on Illinois politics in general, BTW. It’s also in agreement with the viewpoint of many conservatives regarding Clinton – hell, the Clintons, in fact.

  9. 9
    Molly says:

    Hi, I lurk here but this is far from my first time skimming the comments. I just figured that I’d put it out there that all politicians are concerned with winning the election. If they claim they’re running primarily for the better of the country, its most likely a lie for publicity purposes. The unfortunate fact is that most people run for the power. Thats why I’m not surprised at this. Obama hasn’t made it to the top off of principle. He became the nominee for doing whatever he could to claw his way up. I’m still voting for him in November, I’m just trying to be realistic about why he does what he does. Tis the state of politics. It might sound cynical, but I’m yet to see a reason to believe otherwise

  10. 10
    W.B. Reeves says:

    I note that t he text quoted by RonF refers to the agency of the “Obama campaign” rather than to the candidate himself. Rather a slim reed upon which to base the assumption of a complete about face on the part of the author. Sufficient though, if one’s intent is simply to play “gotcha.”

  11. 11
    Kevin Moore says:

    I feel safer knowing that corporate and government spying on my personal communications has such bipartisan support. I think I’ll install a webcam in my privvie so they know when I have a bowel movement.

  12. 12
    ILLAIM says:

    ” 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.”

    Wow…

    True for the most part…. but harsh…and coward?

    Disgusting repeated process or not, Obama is doing what he hast to do to get elected. Obama, no matter how much I disagree with his decision here or not, is not the problem, our populous is.

    He’s catering to the majority of us…whether we are misinformed ill informed or not informed at all.

    Given the opportunity cost of this issue…when trying to get elected..its not worth him rocking the boat.

    This isn’t a scared decison, but more of a calculated one, by a person trying to win the game.

    A game in which we help contribute to its f***** ** rules

    “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”

    I agree… But as a Person who wishes Dennis Kucinich looked like Brad Pitt so he would be taken seriously, sat back and watched the land cringe at the relatively tame John Edwards…, I can’t help but think pragmatically about Obama and his ilk.

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    W.B., as far as I can tell the text quoted by me is Amp’s own opinion, not “the Obama campaign”. What are you talking about?

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    Kevin, given that we take so much shit from the government it wouldn’t be ill-fitting to send them some back once in a while.

  15. 15
    W.B. Reeves says:

    RonF, the text you quoted refers to the attitude of the Obama Campaign rather than the candidate himself. One can assume, if one chooses, that it is indicative of the candidate’s attitude. However, that is a surmise rather than direct evidence and it is your surmise rather than Amp’s stated opinion. Ergo, a very slim reed indeed. Particularly so since it doesn’t address the question of competing “visions” at all. What you actually have is a difference of opinion on a particular issue. Attempting to inflate it into a complete about face on Amp’s part is simply hot air.

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    Take a look at the original post again, W.B. The text I quoted was the third paragraph after the blockquote. As far as I can tell that paragraph is Amp’s own personal opinion. Where do you get that it’s the “Obama campaign”?

  17. 17
    W.B. Reeves says:

    RonF, Go back and read it yourself. The text you quoted in your posted comment specifies that Amp was talking about the attitude of the “Obama Campaign”. That makes it a collective characterization rather than an assessment of the candidate as an individual and , in the context of Amp’s full post, one that focuses on a single issue. The subject of the sentence is the Obama campaign not the candidate. It addresses the larger question of Obama’s “vision” not at all.

    Now, I doubt that you would have chosen that quote if you hadn’t thaought that it provided strong support for your pecular reading of Amp’s meaning. If you hadn’t been so inteent on rhetorical oneupsmanship you might have noticed that it does nothing of the kind.

    It ‘s become a popular meme on the right to discribe support for Obama as an all or nothing proposition based on a view of the candidate as a messianic figure. I suppose for some folks this is the only explanation they can come up with for why so many people, white as well as black, would vote for an African American President. It really doesn’t do though, to project this imagined mindset onto others. Particularly in cases like Amp’s where the record clearly contradicts the fantasy.

    To be fair, Amp did say some very uncomplimentary things about Obama elsewhere in his comment but you didn’t quote those. Nor should you have, since none of them would indicated a “conversion” to your position either.

  18. 18
    Molly says:

    I’m gonna post in agreement to something ILLIAM said. The vast majority of Americans simply would not support Obama if he was as liberal as people commenting on this blog want him to be. Dennis Kucinich was regarded by the few who knew anything about him largely as a nutcase, and anything left of Hillary Clinton is generally seen as Communism in the US. Obama has to work with a conservative nation if he wants to get elected

  19. 19
    Ampersand says:

    Molly, do you really believe there’s a large popular constituency in favor of telecom immunity?

    There are a number of issues in which I think you’re probably correct — Obama would not be electable if he did (what I see as) the right thing. But I don’t think telecom immunity is such an issue.

    (To be fair, Obama has said he’ll try to get telecom immunity out of the bill in the Senate, although he’s been much quieter about it than he was in the primary.)

  20. 20
    Robert says:

    There’s not a large popular constituency against it, either. It depends on how you ask the question. Ask “should the President have the power to break the law whenever he feels like it, and also torture kittens for fun”, and 80% of Americans will say, hell no. Ask “should companies that help the President fight the terrorists who want to kill your babies be excused if they made any little weensie mistakes, and also are puppies cute” and the same people will say yes.

  21. 21
    W.B. Reeves says:

    Molly, I don’t think that “the nation” is either Conservative or Liberal in a strictly ideological sense. Most people, in my experience, are interested in what “works”. The definition of what works depending on their personal circumstances. The collapse of Cold War Liberalism in the US came about after a long string of perceived failures, culminating in the debacle of the Carter Presidency. The right capitalized on this by presenting themselves as the party of “new” ideas and effective solutions. Of course they really had nothing new. Just ideas so old that most folks couldn’t remember how bad they were. Current events are now reviving that memory. The “culture war” played a part but that was mostly as a means of manipulating the resentments of people who felt that liberalism was no longer serving their interests.

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    W.B. -
    Ah, I see. It’s Amp’s opinion of the Obama campaign. Well, frankly, I don’t see a lot of distinction in this case between the attitude of the campaign and the attitude of the candidate directing it. But then, why speculate when we can ask?

    Amp, do you see much distinction between the two?

    The collapse of Cold War Liberalism in the US came about after a long string of perceived failures, culminating in the debacle of the Carter Presidency. The right capitalized on this by presenting themselves as the party of “new” ideas and effective solutions. Of course they really had nothing new. Just ideas so old that most folks couldn’t remember how bad they were.

    Actually, from my viewpoint the problem with the revival of the right was not so much that the ideas they had weren’t actually new and weren’t effective. The ideas that the powers of the Federal government should be limited and that what governmental power that is necessary should be pushed down to lower levels of government as much as possible are certainly NOT new – they are the foundational basis of American government. The age of these ideas is not the problem. Nor is their workability, having been the basis of our country’s operations from it’s founding until after World War II.

    No, the failure of the right was that they elected people who didn’t keep their promise and that the voters didn’t keep those politicians and legislators accountable. They said they’d do all this, but when the right’s politicians got elected they merrily stuffed their noses in the taxpayers’ trough and expanded the Federal government’s power, betraying the very principles they’d run on just as the left did.

  23. 23
    RonF says:

    Amp, I figure that the issue of immunity for those telecommunications corporations that went along with the Administration’s requests for data isn’t going to affect the election one bit. I don’t say so on the merits of the issue. I say so because very few people are following the story and understand it and very few people perceive it as being something that affects them personally. It’s not a good sound bite issue.

  24. 24
    W.B. Reeves says:

    RonF, Ah me, I guess it doesn’t matter what someone actually wrote when the goal is the scoring petty rhetorical points. I think Amp is already on record as stating that your reading of the opinion was spurious but if you want to beat a dead horse, go right ahead.

    I would suggest that you take a refresher in US history though. The primacy of Federal authority was established during the civil war. People have debated the proper applcation of that authority ever since. If you think this principle dates only to the WWII era, you are sadly mistaken.

  25. 25
    sylphhead says:

    Numero uno, I can’t say whether or not the Obama campaign=Obama, but I do know debating it in this manner is completely cyclical and stupid.

    Dos,

    Actually, from my viewpoint the problem with the revival of the right was not so much that the ideas they had weren’t actually new and weren’t effective. The ideas that the powers of the Federal government should be limited and that what governmental power that is necessary should be pushed down to lower levels of government as much as possible are certainly NOT new – they are the foundational basis of American government. The age of these ideas is not the problem. Nor is their workability, having been the basis of our country’s operations from it’s founding until after World War II.

    … I’m skeptical of all claims blaming flawed mortals (always after the fact, of course) for causing a perfect, pure ideology to fail. Looking through that glass, Soviet communism looks a mighty fine proposition.

    Modern Republicans are quick to disavow Bush, but there is only a little leeway that sets him apart from Reagan in degree, and none whatsoever in kind. Iraq was considerably worse than Lebanon, Bush’s deficits were a bit worse than Reagan’s deficits, and the widespread scandals and revolving door cabinet are a bit of a wash, with Reagan maybe being a little worse. Really enlightened Republicans may disavow Reagan too, but where does it stop? Who would have been good enough to implement conservatism without corrupting it?

    Many have said that political alliance with the Religious Right tainted it from the start, as it prevented modern conservatism from taking a true anti-government stance. Yet this overlooks the fact that without the Religious Right, conservatism would have never come to power and the Reagan Revolution would have never happened. (Oh, maybe he would have won anyway, but it would have been more squeaker and less Revolution.) This begs the question as to what is it about true anti-government conservatism that alienates people so, so that it has no choice but to align itself with ideologically incompatible elements just to be viable. And of course, if it’s so alienating, what makes it so true?

    Ditto for military-industrial complex hawks and Southern white former Democrats.

  26. 26
    W.B. Reeves says:

    Sylphead, When someones says they don’t understand your point, you can either ignore them or you can try to explain. Is that what you’re calling stupid?

    I have basic agreement with most of your points vis a vis Conservative apologetics. The argument is virtually indistinguishable from the rationalizations various Marxist sects used to explain away the “excesses” of the old Soviet Union. It is likewise identical to the argument used by certain Christians when confronted by the reality of the Crusades or the Witchcraft persecutions. To whit: “Those people weren’t ‘real’ Christians”. It’s the last defense of the True believer against the encroachment of reality.

    One caveat concerning your estimate of the importance of the Religious Right. We shouldn’t slight the impact of the US defeat in Vietnam, the oil ahocks, the end of of the long post war boom, the onset of stagflation, the Iranian crisis, etc. I doubt that the Religious Right would have gained much traction had it not emerged in this context. Though Reagan rode the RR into office, he didn’t advance their agenda so much as he simply obstructed counter agendas. His lasting domestic legacies lay in facilitating de-Industrialization, de-Unionization, de-regulation and privatization. That and providing political, economic and social Reaction, misidentified as Conservatism, with a human face.

    This brings me to a last point. RonF attempts to reduce Conservatism to the basic principle of local control. Trouble is, there is nothing inherently Conservative about local control. It’s a principle that has been espoused at different times by wildly disparate ideological camps, ranging across a spectrum encompassing The Black Panthers, Federalists, Anarchists and more. More to the point, as enunciated by RonF, it isn’t really an Anti-Government position at all. It’s simply an argument for reversing the power relationship between parochial governing elites and national govening elites.

  27. 27
    RonF says:

    RonF attempts to reduce Conservatism to the basic principle of local control.

    I do no such thing. I did point out that conservativism espouses embracing the concept. But I by no means attempt to reduce conservatism to that. Liberalism used to embrace the concept as well – the difference was not in the mechanism but what they thought those governments should do. So I do not claim that the concept of local control is inherently conservative. It’s republican (in the uncapitalized usage I refer not to the political party but to our form of government). It’s American. It does appear to me that in recent years liberals/the left have abandoned it, however, leaving conservativism as it’s main proponent. Not that it’s been all that successful lately.

    … I’m skeptical of all claims blaming flawed mortals (always after the fact, of course) for causing a perfect, pure ideology to fail.

    Well, get used to it. Read though the Federalist Papers and other writings of the founders of this country and you’ll find a mistrust of the ability of human agency to implement fair government a constant theme. For example, the whole concept of separation of powers was to ensure that flawed mortals couldn’t screw things up too much because no one mortal had too much power and the other mortals had enough power to frustrate anyone who tried without having enough power themselves to take over.

    Looking through that glass, Soviet communism looks a mighty fine proposition.

    I’d contest that strenuously. Communism’s flaws are inherent. It’s failure was not due simply to a lack of implementation.

    Who would have been good enough to implement conservatism without corrupting it?

    This reads as though conservatism is something new that was just attempted (and failed at) recently. But compared to the current direction of the country we were “conservative” for the majority of our history. Conservativism has been successfully implemented in the U.S., it’s not anything new. Lots of people can implement it. It just relatively recently that it hasn’t been tried.

    There has been corruption under it, but there’s going to be corruption under any government. Corruption is not specifically inherent to conservativism. Government is a human enterprise, not divine, and is therefore imperfect. The founders knew that – that’s why they included a method for revising it. But no governing system will operate as intended if the governors ignore or pervert the construction principles.

    Unfortunately many Republicans have often shown themselves to not be particularly conservative and (more importantly) to not be willing to actually do what they said they would. Instead of trying to return to republican principles (again I refer to the design of our government) they sought to expand the power of the Federal government in directions they approved of instead of directions that the Democrats would approve of, and in numerous cases to simply change who gets enriched in the process. This is not what they promised to do. And in the end, that’s a major reason why they are failing – they didn’t deliver on their promises to make change.

    So now a new candidate promises change. Since the last group to promise such didn’t do it, the electorate looks to a new champion. Sen. Obama is nowhere nearly as specific as to what that change will be as compared to the “Contract with America” platform that the Republicans ran on back in the 90′s. Perhaps that’s because that way he will be not be able to be held as accountable when he doesn’t actually make changes as the Republicans were when they didn’t. He surely didn’t make any changes to the last body he was in that desperately needed it (the Illinois General Assembly where he spent 8 years), nor from the reports I’ve seen did his attempts at community organizing make much of a difference.

    I speculate that the left has decided that trying to attain their ends through persuasion of the electorate at large and though local and State governments is from their viewpoint unsatisfactory (perhaps because working via local governments means that what victories they gain only have local effect?), and so they prefer to expand the power of the Federal government. They see it as the quickest way to promulgate their principles.

    I think the Heller vs. D.C. gun case illustrates this to a certain extent. The majority essentially said “This is what the Constitution says, so this is what the laws have to conform to.” The dissents seem to say “The consequences of a plain reading are highly undesirable, so we need to interpret the law to a desirable end.” Liberals favored interpreting the 2nd Amendment as permitting restrictive gun laws – ostensibly because they believe that unrestricted access to guns presents a danger to the public. My point is not whether or not restrictive gun laws are desirable (that’s open to honest debate), but that the Constitutional (and proper) means to attain that end is not to have 9 unelected officials decide such. The principles of republican government as written into the U.S. Constitution requires the proponents of such a view to make the case to the people and have them make the necessary changes to the Constitution to permit such. Liberals seem to oppose this.

  28. 28
    Jake Squid says:

    I speculate that the left has decided that trying to attain their ends through persuasion of the electorate at large and though local and State governments is from their viewpoint unsatisfactory (perhaps because working via local governments means that what victories they gain only have local effect?), and so they prefer to expand the power of the Federal government. They see it as the quickest way to promulgate their principles.

    Hasn’t this been exactly what the right has done over the last 8 years? Expand the power of the federal government? Check. Seeing it as the quickest way to promulgate their principles? Check.

    Your arguments here are failing.

  29. 29
    W.B. Reeves says:

    Furthermore, what has passed for Conservatism in the US historically has never hesitated to expand Federal power in pursuit of its goals.

  30. 30
    sylphhead says:

    Sylphead, When someones says they don’t understand your point, you can either ignore them or you can try to explain. Is that what you’re calling stupid?

    There’s a certain point at which belabouring a pedantic point, even if you are in the right on said pedantic point, becomes a contest into seeing who gets to have the last word. In any case, it’s been dropped and I’m going to go no further in helping to resurrect it.

    This brings me to a last point. RonF attempts to reduce Conservatism to the basic principle of local control. Trouble is, there is nothing inherently Conservative about local control. It’s a principle that has been espoused at different times by wildly disparate ideological camps, ranging across a spectrum encompassing The Black Panthers, Federalists, Anarchists and more. More to the point, as enunciated by RonF, it isn’t really an Anti-Government position at all. It’s simply an argument for reversing the power relationship between parochial governing elites and national govening elites.

    I did point out that conservativism espouses embracing the concept. But I by no means attempt to reduce conservatism to that. Liberalism used to embrace the concept as well – the difference was not in the mechanism but what they thought those governments should do.

    You may not be reducing conservatism to small government, but there is no shortage of conservatives who consider skepticism of government to be perhaps the most essential trait of conservatism. This is false. The past eight years, as well as the eight years of Reagan, should give testament to that.

    Even if you argue that Bush or Reagan weren’t true conservatives – a false characterization, as conservatism is as conservatism does – were the liberals who raged against the PATRIOT act, back when we were mocked for it, not *true* liberals? What about the liberals who agitated for the legal rights of Gitmo detainees? Looks to me that liberalism never lost its pugnacity to the abuses of government.

    Also, as WB Reeves pointed out, there is some ambiguity as to whether conservatism is opposed to government in principle, or merely the federal government. (If you believe in delegating some existing federal powers to the states, by definition you favour strengthening and enlarging state governments, since they now have charges they didn’t have previously.) This is perhaps political positioning: people may profess to hate government in the abstract, but they sure like their own. Just like people hate “Congress” in general but nearly always have a very favourable view of their own Congressman. (Barring dead girl, live boy

    I have to leave to go on a trip, and I don’t know when I’ll have wireless access next, but I’ll have more to say re: the difference b/w liberalism and conservatism, though both oppose gov’t, when I get back on again.

  31. 31
    Robert says:

    There is a strain of small-government conservatism; there used to be a strain of small-government liberalism but as far as I know it is gone. Neither strain is often in the ascendant, for the obvious reason that it is hard to promise and buy your way into power when what you’re offering is invisible. “I’ll leave you alone” is compelling to a few people, but not to anything close to a majority.

    The real difference in scope preference between liberal and conservative seems to me to be that liberals prefer power to be pushed up the hierarchy, and conservatives prefer it to be pushed down. The total power is the same, but (by and large) liberals would rather have a big federal machine pushing the states around, and a state machine that can override the provincial locals. For conservatives it is the other way around.

    This tends to get complicated by the fact that everyone has a tendency to want to assign power to the level of government that just-so-happens to favor their interests at the moment. Pro-drug-legalizers in Colorado think that the cities should get to control drug policy, because the city of Denver has essentially legalized pot while the state government has only kind-of legalized it. ($100 fine, big whoop.) I’ll bet you $2 (it’s the same $2) that if Denver passes a death-penalty-for-potheads law, most of the very same people will be saying “the state should control! the state!”

  32. 32
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, I think you’re right regarding a strict reading of that one short quote from the original post.

    The particular phrase you focus on doesn’t really indicate that I’ve come around to your view of the 2008 election (for one thing, your view doesn’t seem to include a great deal of horror of what a McCain administration would do). It has more to do with my weakness for rhetorical overstatement when I’m angry. :-)

    I think Obama is a centrist Democrat, which is to say, he’s too conservative. I think substantial, long-term change comes mainly from the grass roots, although who is elected does matter, especially in the short term. And I do think Obama has a vision for what he’d like to do as President, which he believes will improve the country; but that vision is inescapably tangled up in his personal ego and ambition. (The same would be true of anyone making a serious run for President, of course.)

    Sen. Obama is nowhere nearly as specific as to what that change will be as compared to the “Contract with America” platform that the Republicans ran on back in the 90’s.

    This strikes me, frankly, as the media’s (and the Republican party’s) preferred storyline, but it’s not true. Obama’s website has many moderately detailed policy positions — certainly more detailed then what’s available from McCain (which is the most relevant comparison), and what I recall of the “contract with America” (which was limited to a relatively small number of points).

    I’m not sure that a greater level of detail than general policy preferences (preferably about dozens and dozens of specific topics) is desirable. I want to know all candidates’ general policy preferences in reasonable detail; but it seems to me dubious when candidates for executive office to make promises at the level of detailed legislation. Actual legislation will be a matter of give-and-take between Congress and the White House (and, in some cases, other parties), and cannot be decided by the President alone; for a candidate for President to promise more than his own policy preferences is making a promise that probably can’t be kept.

  33. 33
    Ampersand says:

    I pretty much agree with Robert in comment #31; both liberals and conservatives seem to prefer whatever level of federalism gets their particular policy preferences made into law.

    Robert, regarding telecom immunity, I think there’s a core of left-liberal activists who take this issue very seriously. They are not a huge percent of voters (and it’s not like they’ll ever vote for McCain); but they are probably a disproportionate number of donators and of ground-level activists. I think there is a limit to how much Obama can piss these people off, because his strategy is dependent on a very active, enthusiastic ground game. But he’d have to do a lot more than this, because after eight years of Bush the liberal base is very, very hungry for the White House.

    So why did Obama take the position he did? My guess is that either Obama’s campaign felt that opposition to telecom immunity would hurt them in the general election; or that Obama had known from backstage headcounting that he couldn’t win this one, and he chose to go along rather than create a public appearance of being unable to lead the Democrats.

    Interestingly, McCain is probably more limited in how much he can piss off conservatives, because conservatives aren’t as enthused about McCain as liberals are about Obama. This may limit how much McCain can move to the center as the election goes on; he may worry that if he moves too far left some conservatives may stay home, or vote for Bob Barr.

  34. 34
    Robert says:

    I agree with Amp in #32 (any more love-fest in here and we’ll need condoms). McCain is starkly limited in his ability to compromise with the center because he has a big group of disaffected Republicans who don’t like him much to begin with. I’m one of them; having studied his biography I’m coming around to the view that he is a great human being (while having many flaws) but he’s just terrible on many, many policies that are important to me.

    However, don’t overestimate that factor, because he could be 25% more liberal and I’d still support him because he’s right on the war. Many of the we-hate-McCain conservatives feel the same way. In some ways it’s a lot like Clinton and gays in his second run – the gay vote still turned out for him, but the activism and doorbelling and donations were way down because they felt betrayed. So in terms of actual direct votes it won’t matter much, but in terms of how much work we’ll do for him, it does matter.

    I wonder how much Obama will be blunting the enthusiasm of his corps of volunteers by his compromises with the center; I really don’t have information there.

    I do think it’s a positive and encouraging sign that the grassroots action on both sides is so important to a winning campaign. It didn’t use to be that way in my lifetime; it was meaningful, but not a game-breaker. Now it can be a game-breaker.

  35. 35
    W.B. Reeves says:

    I think we would do well to understand that the principle of checks and balances isn’t limited to the tripartite branches of the Federal Government. Since the Congress and the Senate are the direct representives of local authority on the Federal level , the principle is at the heart of relations between the Federal authority and State authority as well. The states have a great deal of lattitude in conducting their own affairs but there are sharp constitutional limits to their freedom of action. For example: the states are not free to establish any form of the local governance they may choose. The Constitution mandates that the Federal Government will guarantee a republican form of Government (ie, a representative government) in every state. What this has meant in practice has evolved over time in keeping with the socio-political evolution of the US. Pursuent to this duty, the Constitution also empowers the Federal authority to suppress insurections.

    It follows that under the Constitution the ultimate power, that of making and unmaking local governments by force majure, is lodged with the Federal authority and constrained soley by the representation of the states collectively within the legislative branch.

    Such being the case, there are equally strict limits on how much power can be devolved “downward”. Any devolution which exceeds these limits can hardly be described as Conservative since it would be in direct contradiction to Constitutional mandates.

    To put it concretely, local and national authority exist in a condition of creative antagonism or unstable equilibrium. Given this, any party, whatever its coloration, that attains a national majority will attempt to use Federal authority to forward its agenda. This is a practical institutional reality.

    That’s why Abstract calls for “pushing power down the heirarchy” amount in practice to little more than pseudo-populist moonshine. It is also why the practical domestic policy outcomes of such hugger mugger are deregulation, privatization and tax cuts, policies which in reality are nothing more than forms of government mandated patronage for select constituencies. In an economy dominated by corporate leviathans with international interests and alliances, this translates into a radical shift of social, economic and political power away from the population at large, concentrating it in the hands of elite interests. This concentration of power insures that government policy, both domestic and foreign, will serve those interests.

    The actual issue isn’t big government versus small government nor pushing power up versus down the heirarchy, it is whom government will serve.

  36. 36
    Robert says:

    it is whom government will serve

    That one is easy. Government always serves government, and buttresses the status quo of wealth and power in the society.

    Sometimes “revolutionary” governments overthrow existing wealth and power arrangements, and then immediately shift into protecting the wealth and power of the new upper class. Cf. Cuba, USSR, et al.

  37. 37
    W.B. Reeves says:

    Always, eh? I certainly agree that government isn’t immune to the institutional dynamics of self-agrandizement and self-preservation but does it follow from this that all actions of government are of identical character, or that there are no meaningful distinctions to be drawn between different forms of government? What you say was as true for Pharonic Eygpt as it is for the present day , it is the nature of the state, but which system would you prefer to live under?

    As with most political principles, the meaning of your observation is dependent on the larger social context. If a Government’s existence is dependent upon the support of warrior and priestly classes, its character will be determined by the necessity of placating those classes. If it is based on mercantile or aristocratic interests, it will serve those. The theory that governments derive their authority from the people as a whole is an attempt to insure that the institutional drives you refer to will be harnessed for the general welfare. The efficacy of this solution is open to debate but unless you argue that all governments are indistinguishable evils it’s not at all clear what your point is.

    I would add that if you do believe in the indistinguishable evil of all governments it would render the idea raising or lowering power on the ladder of heirarchy futile.

  38. 38
    Robert says:

    I would add that if you do believe in the indistinguishable evil of all governments it would render the idea raising or lowering power on the ladder of heirarchy futile.

    Not at all. Where power is located in the hierarchy is of direct effect in what you have to do to get away from a particular oppressive power center. If the local government has all the power, it is a lot easier to find a congenial one than if the national government has all the power. There are a lot more local governments.

  39. 39
    sylphhead says:

    Back.

    There is a strain of small-government conservatism; there used to be a strain of small-government liberalism but as far as I know it is gone.

    The more accurate way of putting it is that liberals and conservatives both oppose government, for their own reasons. When the shit really hits the fan, though, conservatives cannot be counted on to oppose government because the worst, most dangerous abuses of government are not the sort of thing they typically care about. (See Wire Tapping, Warrantless.)

    What you say was as true for Pharonic Eygpt as it is for the present day , it is the nature of the state, but which system would you prefer to live under?

    Yeah, I always cringe a little when I hear another libertarian Right winger essentializing “government” in a way that implies a clear unbreakable thread connecting Qi Shi Huang to the Sun King to modern American government. Whereas it takes thirty years to completely eliminate racism and sexism, the Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, the Enlightenment, the Revolutionary War, and 200+ years of Constitutional tradition has not made representative democracy much better than Charles I.

    Yeah you hate social programs, we get it.

  40. 40
    W.B. Reeves says:

    Not at all. Where power is located in the hierarchy is of direct effect in what you have to do to get away from a particular oppressive power center. If the local government has all the power, it is a lot easier to find a congenial one than if the national government has all the power. There are a lot more local governments.

    Certaintly not the historic reality for African Americans.

  41. 41
    Robert says:

    Certaintly not the historic reality for African Americans.

    You mean the African Americans who spent a century or so moving around the country, finding places where they could live in peace? Admittedly that was for purposes of finding social and economic congeniality as much as it was to get away from governments; governments don’t lynch.

    But governments do, or don’t, tolerate lynching.

  42. 42
    Robert says:

    When the shit really hits the fan, though, conservatives cannot be counted on to oppose government because the worst, most dangerous abuses of government are not the sort of thing they typically care about. (See Wire Tapping, Warrantless.)

    Warrantless wiretapping by you is the worst abuse of government?

    Funny, I’d have nominated mass murder and genocide.

  43. 43
    sylphhead says:

    When the shit really hits the fan, though, conservatives cannot be counted on to oppose government because the worst, most dangerous abuses of government are not the sort of thing they typically care about. (See Wire Tapping, Warrantless.)

    Warrantless wiretapping by you is the worst abuse of government?

    Funny, I’d have nominated mass murder and genocide.

    We live in America, not Nazi Germany. The abuses of the past decade, of which warrantless wiretapping has been one, have been as egregious and criminal as we could expect from a modern American government – well, a little more than I could have expected, to be honest – and have been as bitterly opposed by liberals as they have been excused by conservatives.

    Certaintly not the historic reality for African Americans.

    You mean the African Americans who spent a century or so moving around the country, finding places where they could live in peace? Admittedly that was for purposes of finding social and economic congeniality as much as it was to get away from governments; governments don’t lynch.

    The treatment of African-Americans under Jim Crow remains the main reason why many are skeptical of the bare moniker of “states’ rights”. On a more conceptual level, it also acts as a recurring reminder that weakening government can sometimes result in enabling private tyranny, so that while weakening government is otherwise a good thing, private tyranny is an unacceptable cost.

  44. 44
    W.B. Reeves says:

    You mean the African Americans who spent a century or so moving around the country, finding places where they could live in peace? Admittedly that was for purposes of finding social and economic congeniality as much as it was to get away from governments; governments don’t lynch.

    But governments do, or don’t, tolerate lynching.

    Robert , At the risk of appearing rude I’m going to tell you bluntly that you do not know what you are talking about. If you’d bothered to educate yourself on the subject you would know that lynching and a general policy of terrorist intimidation of African Americans was an intrinsic part of governance throughout the southern states from the end of Reconstruction until well after WWII. A policy that was openly defended and excused by local political leaderships throughout that period. Hardly surprising since these governments based their political existence on that policy much in the same way that latin American tyrannies based theirs on death squads.

    Neither is it the case that African Americans enjoyed the freedom of movement that you imagine to abandon their homes and flee the murderous white supremacist local governments .

    In any event, I think it a rather pecular mindset that would consider fleeing for one’s life to be a positive liberty. I’m sure the Jews and Gypsies of Europe would have something to say about such “liberty” since they “enjoyed” it for so many centuries.

    I wonder if you are aware of the rather nasty correlative embedded in your view? If your conception were accurate you would need to explain why the southern states were not denuded of their African American populations.This manifestly didn’t occur. Why would a population, disenfranchised, dispossesed, subject at any time to campaigns of murder, mutilation and rape, systematically reduced to a state of peonage little better than slavery, “choose” to live under such conditions? Do you think there is some quality innate to African Americans that dictated this “choice”? Historically, that has been the explanation offered by those who shared your views vis a vis local vs Federal authority in the US when confronted by such realities.

    I have to say that I’m not optimistic that you will provide a substantive response to any of the points raised. You haven’t really done so thus far with the points raised earlier. This makes for a pretty sterile discussion, if one can call a discussion and one that does little to justify the time and energy required.

  45. 45
    Robert says:

    If you’d bothered to educate yourself on the subject you would know that lynching and a general policy of terrorist intimidation of African Americans was an intrinsic part of governance throughout the southern states from the end of Reconstruction until well after WWII. A policy that was openly defended and excused by local political leaderships throughout that period.

    Yes, I know that. And many blacks moved to get away from those governments (and those local populations).

    Neither is it the case that African Americans enjoyed the freedom of movement that you imagine to abandon their homes and flee the murderous white supremacist local governments .

    And yet, millions did so.

    In any event, I think it a rather pecular mindset that would consider fleeing for one’s life to be a positive liberty.

    I don’t consider fleeing for one’s life a positive liberty. I consider the availability of somewhere to flee TO, a positive good. If all power is local, then there are more meaningful “somewheres” to flee to. If all power is centralized, then you’re stuck where you are.

    If your conception were accurate you would need to explain why the southern states were not denuded of their African American populations.

    Because not everyone sees fleeing as the correct choice, and not everyone has fleeing as an option. For many, community and religious ties were enough to keep them home. But for many, migration was the solution of choice and it was a good thing that there was somewhere for them to go, in my view.

    This piece is general, but seems to touch on most of the basic points of black migration.

    The onset of the Great Migration–the mass movement of black people from the rural areas of the South to the cities of the North–came in the 1890s, as black men and women left to settle in eastern coastal cities such as Philadelphia and New York. The single largest movement of African-Americans occurred during World War I when approximately 500,000 people moved from the rural and small-town South into the cities of the North and the Midwest. The steady migration out of the South lasted until the 1970s; from 1916 through the 1960s, more than 6 million black people made the move.

    (My bold.)

    I guess those six million weren’t aware of the W.B. Reeves Law of Black Immobility that said they weren’t allowed to move.

    Interestingly, by the way, in the 1970s and 1980s the migration reversed. Many blacks still moved north, but more moved back south. Those were also the years in which things started to turn around (glacially) in the south, in terms of racial relations. Things seem to be worse again, though, these days, at least from my horseback-diagnosis perspective.

    I wonder if you are aware of the rather nasty correlative embedded in your view?

    I am sure that there all kinds of nasty correlatives embedded in your fantasy of what my view actually is. I’m not responsible for your imagination.

  46. 46
    W.B. Reeves says:

    I am sure that there all kinds of nasty correlatives embedded in your fantasy of what my view actually is. I’m not responsible for your imagination.

    You are , however, responsible for the implications of your own arguments. If you refuse to shoulder that responsibility, that is your own choice and others are free to draw conclusions as to the motives for such dereliction.

    As for your citation, it really doesn’t prove a great deal, since it ignores the lapse of 50 years from the end of the civil war to the period cited. Had you inquired further into that earlier period you would have discovered that attempts at black migration during that time had been met by armed repression and that such repression was one of the primary purposes of the local regimes of terror that I mentioned. The effort to immobilize the African Americans also expressed itself in a plethora of laws modeled on the notorious “Black Codes”. Likewise, if you had given serious attention to the fact that the onset of the great migration began with advent of WWI you might have appreciated that National policy in the wartime boom required the infusion of African American labor into northern industries. A shift in national policy that intensified with the US entry into the war. You might also have appreciated that this crucial shift in the attitude of the Federal Government is what made that migration possible, buttressed by the expanding market for the raw materials and textiles of southern states.

    All this aside, the fact remains that the vast majority of African Americans remained trapped within brutally white supremacist regimes defended in the name of states rights and local governance.

    I was born, bred and live in the south so I’m well aware of the reverse migration of African Americans to this section. Since this has occurred subsequent to destruction of the longstanding white supremacist regimes in local government, in large part through the actions of Federal authority, it’s hard to see what relevance you beleve the reverse migration has. Do you think this movement would have occurred if conditions here were identical to those that existed prior to, say, 1956?

    I don’t consider fleeing for one’s life a positive liberty. I consider the availability of somewhere to flee TO, a positive good. If all power is local, then there are more meaningful “somewheres” to flee to. If all power is centralized, then you’re stuck where you are.

    So you would prefer a situation in which brutally oppressive local regimes proliferate rather than allowing a central authority to curb them, on the assumption that their victims would have some place to run to? I find that to be a rather fantastic, not to mention grotesque, position.

    I guess we needn’t have fought the civil war after all.

  47. 47
    Robert says:

    As for your citation, it really doesn’t prove a great deal, since it ignores the lapse of 50 years from the end of the civil war to the period cited.

    It proves that your statement about black migration being impossible was a load of crap. You didn’t say “for 50 years it was impossible”, you said it was impossible – in the face of a century of black migration. There have been far more decades when blacks did have mobility than when they didn’t.

    I am well aware that black Americans have experienced large amounts of armed oppression. I am also well aware that the severity and even the presence of such oppression has varied, often to extremes, on the basis of local polities.

    Do you think this movement would have occurred if conditions here were identical to those that existed prior to, say, 1956?

    No, I don’t.

    I am not arguing that the Federal government has not had a positive role to play. I am arguing, conceptually, that putting all of the eggs in one basket is riskier than doing the opposite.

    So you would prefer a situation in which brutally oppressive local regimes proliferate rather than allowing a central authority to curb them, on the assumption that their victims would have some place to run to? I find that to be a rather fantastic, not to mention grotesque, position.

    What is fantastic and grotesque is your ability to twist common English into bizarre distortions. I can argue that I think nutrition and exercise are important for health, without it meaning that I think antibiotics are the Devil. Thus far, your ability to extend my remarks and logically analyze the conclusions to be reached has about a 0% accuracy rate. You suck at it. So please stop.

    If there are bad local regimes and a good centrum, then I’m all for the centrum smacking the locals around. But as a general principle, I believe that a diversity of locales is going to provide a greater refuge against tyranny than is a hopefully-nice centrum. It takes one set of contingent events for a centrum to go sour. It takes millions of sets for millions of locales to go sour. Yeah, after the Civil Rights era, the Federal government started playing nice with minorities. Before that era, the Federal government was a huge oppressor. That’s a one-size-fits-all crapshoot that I don’t think is worth the risk.

    The farther down power is pushed, the more ability the individual person or small group has to fight against, change, or evade the power. That’s not a reactionary formulation of a crypto-fascist ultraright agenda, it’s basic organizational dynamics. Equally basically, the farther power is pushed up the hierarchy, the greater the ability of the higher-level organization is to curb excesses or abuses at lower levels – I recognize that. But at the same time, the high-level power has the ability to promulgate abuses downwards just as easily. The Fugitive Slave Act was not passed by the town council of Greenville, MS.

  48. 48
    Robert says:

    An addendum to my previous, in-moderation, post:

    It is obvious that you care a great deal about the plight of the people with the least power. I, although you probably won’t believe it, do as well. Please do not let your certainty that your motivation is pure and right, lead you to the error of deciding that that means your analysis is also automatically right, and that anyone with a different view must inexorably disagree with you because their motivation isn’t as good as yours.

  49. 49
    Sailorman says:

    Robert, would you agree that a more central form of government tends to be drawn towards a more moderate position?

    My own read is that the local-control model, while offering some advantages, is more biased towards the majorities than the central model. Since minority populations don’t necessarily exist in groups sufficient to create some (any?) majorities locally, they are more at risk of being in trouble when the majority is given free rein.

    Of course, the cost of the central version is that more people tend to not get exactly what they want.

    As someone noted above, my view on this is undoubtedly skewed by the fact that I am not in the majority.

  50. 50
    Robert says:

    Robert, would you agree that a more central form of government tends to be drawn towards a more moderate position?

    No, I wouldn’t agree to that. It’s too variable in terms of the underlying polities and the system of government. Also, “moderate” is a pretty loaded term. Thatcher’s government was moderate, by the standards of the 19th century. A Kucinich presidency would be moderate, by the standards of Amp’s cohort of cross-dressing duck fetishists.

    I would agree that it’s harder for a national-level government to get away with shit, in some ways. But that’s a pretty limited observation.

  51. 51
    RonF says:

    Hasn’t this been exactly what the right has done over the last 8 years? Expand the power of the federal government? Check. Seeing it as the quickest way to promulgate their principles? Check.

    You are confusing “Republicans” with “conservatives”. Two different groups. Some overlap, but not enough. Kind of like “Democrats” and “liberals”.

  52. 52
    Bjartmarr says:

    Yeah, Ron, I’m hearing that a lot now. I don’t recall hearing that much 4 years ago. What I seem to recall was, “Rah rah War! Rah rah Guantanamo! Rah rah Bush!”

  53. 53
    Joe says:

    Bjartmarr Writes:
    June 30th, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Yeah, Ron, I’m hearing that a lot now. I don’t recall hearing that much 4 years ago. What I seem to recall was, “Rah rah War! Rah rah Guantanamo! Rah rah Bush!”

    You mean that people were willing to overlook the stupid, wrongheaded things their allies did while in power? Unheard of.

  54. 54
    Lu says:

    A Kucinich presidency would be moderate, by the standards of Amp’s cohort of cross-dressing duck fetishists.

    I resemble that. Chickens, maybe, but ducks, never.

    Lord Acton, call your office. It’s human nature to try to game the system to arrogate more power to oneself, or to one’s group. (As the entomologist Edward O. Wilson famously said of Communism, “wonderful theory, wrong species.”) In recent years Republicans have looked, and been, more corrupt than Democrats because they’ve had almost all of the power at the national level. Only a few very good people can at least to some degree resist power’s corrupting influence, and, interestingly enough, they don’t necessarily make good leaders. (See Jimmy Carter.)

    I am still voting for Obama, or whoever becomes the Democratic nominee, because I still believe that at this specific juncture in history almost any Democrat will be a better president than almost any Republican.

  55. 55
    W.B. Reeves says:

    Robert, You were so obviously upset in your previous post that I hesitated to respond, since I think anything that I can say in good conscience will only upset you further. However, since I criticized you for being unresponsive earlier, I feel obliged to..

    I say obviously because in that post you make accusations that are demonstrably false, yet you do so in a manner that makes me think that you are quite sincere in your belief. For example: you assert that I said that it was “impossible” for African Americans to emigrate from the southern states. You can search through the entirety of this thread and you will find that nowhere did I make any such claim. What I did do was challenge your claim that the African American experience bore out your theory that local governace was more congenial to liberty than national governance which I attributed to historical ignorance on your part. I specifically suggested that you had an exaggerated notion of the freedom of movement enjoyed by African Americans following the Civil War.

    I regret to say that nothing you have written here gives me cause to alter that view.

    You further accuse me of “twisting” your words. Exactly how am I supposed to have done this? Did I misquote you? Did I claim you said something when you manifestly did not?. No, what I did was pose questions that grew logically from the actual history of African Americans and the historical context of arguments for local versus Federal governance. Evidently this offends you but it doesn’t require any “twisting” on my part.

    Far from being “illogical”, these are questions that anyone arguing that the African American experience vindicates a belief in the superiority of local governance would be obliged to answer, given the historical reality that it was local government that inaugurated the de jure systems of white supremacy and racial exploitation and that these systems were finally overthrown, however tardily, through the agency of Federal authority. To fail in comprehending this is to confess an inability to appreciate perspectives and experiences outside the realm of white identity, irrespective one’s good intentions.

    I am genuinely sorry that you find confronting such realities so upsetting. I must point out though, that facts are stubborn things, however distressing they may be for our cherished pre-suppositions. When belief conflicts with fact it is our belief that must be re-examined and altered, not the reverse. Killing the messenger, while emotional satisfying, is no solution.

  56. 56
    nobody.really says:

    Dear Friend,

    Thank you for contacting us and sharing your strong feelings about this
    important issue. Please find a statement from Senator Obama below.

    We appreciate hearing from you.

    Sincerely,

    Obama for America,


    Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have
    the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they
    strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of
    the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration,
    with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that
    authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of
    innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

    That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which
    expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient
    independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent
    Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those
    who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

    After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from
    perfect, is a marked improvement over last year’s Protect America Act.
    Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against
    terrorism will continue, but the President’s illegal program of warrantless
    surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap
    statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that
    the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of
    the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight
    over all domestic surveillance in the future.

    It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three
    times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for
    past offenses. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful. But this
    compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our
    national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and
    ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight
    and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill
    that is far better than the Protect America Act.

    It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face,
    providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards
    is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm
    pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the
    report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any
    additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of
    the American people.

    ———————-
    Paid for by Obama for America