I got a call late this afternoon from a young, enthusiastic Obama volunteer who had just arrived here in Northwest Ohio by way of her home in Pennsylvania and her college in New Hampshire. She was looking for people to go do voter registration canvassing.
I told her I would--I still support Obama--but I told her that I was doing it despite being pretty disappointed with his stand on the FISA legislation. The volunteer was perplexed, and asked what that was. I explained. She had heard something about telecomm immunity, but not recently, and didn't really know what it was all about. She knew nothing about the warrantless wiretap provisions of the bill Obama says he supports.
It struck me as amazing--and a little disturbing--that a campaign volunteer, someone who presumably is more attuned to politics and government than the average Joe, was unaware that her candidate had just announced that he supported the suspension of the Fourth Amendment and the abrogation of the rule of law.
Could it be, I wondered, that the person on the other end of the phone with me was just as uncritically in love with Barack Obama as so many Republicanoid zombies were in love with George W. Bush just four years ago?
Glenn Greenwald thinks that was the case:
The excuse that Obama's support for this bill is politically shrewd is -- even if accurate -- neither a defense of what he did nor a reason to refrain from loudly criticizing him for it. Actually, it's the opposite. It's precisely because Obama is calculating that he can -- without real consequence -- trample upon the political values of those who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law that it's necessary to do what one can to change that calculus. Telling Obama that you'll cheer for him no matter what he does, that you'll vest in him Blind Faith that anything he does is done with the purest of motives, ensures that he will continue to ignore you and your political interests.
Beyond that, this attitude that we should uncritically support Obama in everything he does and refrain from criticizing him is unhealthy in the extreme. No political leader merits uncritical devotion -- neither when they are running for office nor when they occupy it -- and there are few things more dangerous than announcing that you so deeply believe in the Core Goodness of a political leader, or that we face such extreme political crises that you trust and support whatever your Leader does, even when you don't understand it or think that it's wrong. That's precisely the warped authoritarian mindset that defined the Bush Movement and led to the insanity of the post-9/11 Era, and that uncritical reverence is no more attractive or healthy when it's shifted to a new Leader.
What Barack Obama did here was wrong and destructive. He's supporting a bill that is a full-scale assault on our Constitution and an endorsement of the premise that our laws can be broken by the political and corporate elite whenever the scary specter of The Terrorists can be invoked to justify it. What's more, as a Constitutional Law Professor, he knows full well what a radical perversion of our Constitution this bill is, and yet he's supporting it anyway. Anyone who sugarcoats or justifies that is doing a real disservice to their claimed political values and to the truth.
Obama himself frequently refers to himself as "imperfect," and I for one don't expect anything else from our human leaders. Still, for his imperfections to be made manifest on a question of fundamental American civil liberties is disheartening in the extreme.