Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dammit, Barack

This is pretty annoying. The FISA fight in general is one of those pretty clear instances where there's a right answer, and a corrupt answer, and there really isn't much in-between. And for Obama to take the position he did is, to say the very least, unfortunate.

I'm not a huge fan of Glenn Greenwald - I think he only met Subtlety once, so he could stab it in the face with an icepick - but I totally sympathize with his anger here. And much of what he says is true.

But. I think a couple points are worth making here.

1) It's not clear to me that Obama could have won this fight, at least in the House. He would have needed to flip 83 Members, and even for St. Barack F. Roosevelt Christ, that's a lot. Maybe if he'd spent the last month or so going all-out on this, he could've done it, but even then it's pretty questionable. And it makes a lot of political sense for a candidate in Obama's position - having just clinched the Democratic nomination, getting a shit-ton of good press and polling numbers that are just. fucking. insane. - to not pick a fight he knows he's going to lose badly. (And of course, the more capital he invests in that losing fight, the worse off he'll be.)

2) He hasn't actually given up on the fight, it would appear. The statement he put out notes that he plans to try to strip telco immunity from the bill, which is by far the worst part of it (more on why in a second.) And if Reid is serious about trying to hold a separate vote on that provision, Obama could still pull this one out for the good guys. (Of course, Greenwald pretty strenuously disagrees with this interpretation, but if the votes aren't there to just strip immunity, I don't know why he thinks they might be there to stop the whole bill. Obama's team is smart enough to pick fights they think they can win, and they're a little more aggressive than most Dems, so if they thought they could pull this out, I bet they'd be trying harder.)

So why is immunity the worst part of the bill? Because it's the only part that couldn't be reversed once Barack's in office. I'm pretty confident that, once he's President and has more comfortable majorities in Congress, and a mandate to roll back a lot of Bush Administration damage, the most objectionable parts of this legislation will go away - I really don't think Obama's serious about needing this for the long term. And while it's not exactly a great idea to give Bush even more executive authority than he already has, he won't be President for much longer, and as I said above, there may not be any other choice.

But immunity is different from everything else in this bill because, unlike everything else, it can't be rolled back once it's signed into law: the telcos will be permanently immune from lawsuits. So the damage here wouldn't be reversible.

3) All of the above said, there absolutely needs to be a political price for this kind of bullshit, or it'll just keep happening. So I'm probably going to hold off on contributing to Barack for awhile, and if you care about this issue you should too. If the campaign sees a substantial drop in contribs over the next month or so, or if the amount is short of what they're expecting (since Clinton just conceded, so even with a significant protest movement they'll still raise a lot more this month than last) I think that'll send a pretty strong message about not doing this shit again.