Despite his many, many failings, Bush is not a racist. At least I don't think so. But he is surely clueless, nattering on in the presence of the President of the Philippines about what yummy food those little brown people cook.
I was so revolted by the House's passage of the warrantless wiretapping/telecomm immunity bill--and the Democrats' craven acceptance of same--that I couldn't bring myself to write anything here for a couple days.
Things still look rather bleak, but at least Feingold and Dodd are going to try to mount a filibuster. We'll soon see if the Senate gets 60 votes for cloture.
Insofar as I can find anything "interesting" in this revolting, un-American piece of legislation, it is this: many of the bill's opponents, including the above-named two Senators and most of the bloggers who have rallied against the bill, have focused on the telecomm immunity provisions. I agree it's appalling to give fat-cat lobbyists a get-out-of-jail-free card for their lawbreaking clients. It weakens the whole principle that we are a government of laws, not men. It will make it difficult, if not impossible, to find out the truth of what this administration has done to our civil liberties over the last seven years. It weakens Congress as an institution: yeah, we made warrantless wiretapping illegal, but see we didn't really mean it before . . . .
Still, if I had to pick the worst aspect of the bill, I'd pick the seven-days provision, which allows the government to wiretap people for a week without even trying to obtain a FISA warrant. I don't recall anything about there being a seven-days exception to the Fourth Amendment. And I guess I am more worried about what the government may do in the future than what it has done in the past. For that matter, I have serious reservations about the FISA system as is. Secret courts run by anonymous judges that approve warrant requests 99.9% of the time are hardly much protection against a government bent on violating people's civil liberties--but it's marginally (very marginally) better than nothing.
Perhaps it's easier to whip up outrage over amnesty for phone companies; nobody likes them much anyway. Still, if I had to choose which is worst between telecomm immunity looking backward and warrantless eavesdropping looking forward, I'd opt for the latter.
Keep your fingers crossed on cloture, and keep your fingers busy dialing your Senators' offices.
We may blog while our frozen coffee drinks melt, but we would really
rather be fucking like our caveman ancestors, our ancestral pilgrim
settlers, our slave-owning forebears, and our white-trash in-laws. It's
our way. (It's mine, anyway.)
Perhaps the reason people aren't marching in the streets over the House's action on telecomm immunity and warrantless surveillance is that the issues are hard to understand, and there is so much disinformation out there, courtesy of TIME magazine and others. Here is a pretty good explanation of what's at stake:
In any event, it is not clear why the United States would need more
than a handful of big bases in the future, and most if not all of those
are already there and looking quite permanent, from the KFC and Burger
King outlets, to the car dealerships, to the 6,000- person mess halls.
"Car dealerships"? We have car dealerships at our bases in Iraq--you know, the ones that aren't permanent? Baghdad Bob's Ford is ready to DEAL!
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?
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.