“In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.“ – Barack Obama, June 3, 2008
I’m disappointed in Barack Obama’s endorsement of the FISA compromise and I completely disagree with him on it. When I first read his statement over on TPM I was furious.
Over and over again, I’ve said that I believe this compromise erodes a core, fundamental value of this country. Not only because it erodes 4th amendment protections, but also because it will give the telcos the immunity they seek simply by going to court and telling the court that the President told them it was legal to do what they did.
I haven’t changed my mind on that.
What Barack Obama says about his decision is:
- It re-establishes at least a basic foundation of accountability;
- It restores FISA and existing criminal statutes as the only way to conduct surveillance;
- He doesn’t approve of the retroactive immunity but “will work in the Senate to remove [it]; and,
- It does not go far enough
On points 1,2 and 4 I agree. Point 3 is purely political; I don’t believe for a second that the retroactive immunity will be removed, particularly when this is attached to the much larger GI and War Funding bill. That disappoints me. It disappoints me that it doesn’t go far enough. It disappoints me that even one iota of our Constitution was the subject of a compromise, particularly by elected officials who swear to uphold and protect the Constitution.
It disappoints me because frankly, I want the head of George Bush on a platter for his flagrant abuse of the United States Constitution. (Figuratively, not literally, just in case there are any .gov visitors reading this). Hell yes, I want to impeach them all and put David Addington and John Yoo in jail for a very long time for what he’s done. I’m angry, affronted and offended that these brazen thieves and robbers have hijacked our government for what will surely be their personal gain.
This is why I am not a politician. I’m an opinionated citizen who has a voice, a blog and a vote. I have neither the patience nor the diplomatic skills to expect gray outcomes in a black and white case. And this is why a snippet of Obama’s speeches echoed in my mind. That snippet is at the beginning of this post.
What I lacked was perspective on just how deep the divide is in our country between those who fear and those who hope. By happenstance, I had a conversation with a couple whose daughter dances with mine and was completely taken by surprise when, with no prompting from me, the husband burst forth with a scathing diatribe about Obama and how much he hated the idea of him becoming President, because those damn liberals were going to allow our country to be attacked again and ruin the economy and appoint three liberal Supreme Court justices all in one four-year term.
This is a nice man. We have known each other for several years and he is a salt-of-the-earth GOOD person. He’s not ugly, but his words were.
Then I realized something else about him. He was deeply afraid. This was a true emotion running through everything he said and believed. Being fearful, he then chose news sources that stoked his fear. At some point I interrupted his diatribe and said “You must watch The O’Reilly Factor for your news. You sound just like him. In fact, you could do a screen test and sit in for him.”
To which he replied, “It’s the only show I watch. Me, my daughter and my wife sit down and watch it every day.”
As the conversation went on, I decided to see how he felt about FISA, because some conservative Republicans I know dislike the idea of eroding Constitutional rights as much as some progressives. His response was flat. “Wiretaps make us safer.” This was said in connection with a strong affirmation that torturing the bastards at Guantanamo was the least we should be doing to them.
Fear. Raw, unadulterated fear, with some O’Reilly style hate on the side. The thing is, he’s in the majority on this, which is why it wouldn’t have made sense for Obama to oppose it.
The FISA and torture issues have been framed to prey upon people’s fears, and it’s worked fabulously. Until these issues can be reframed in a way that exposes and resolves those fears, pushing back isn’t an option if one wants to have a political career that actually succeeds and gets them elected.
It comes down to this: Opposing this ‘compromise’ is too nuanced a position to take in a country where people decide who to vote for based upon whether they’d have a drink with them, or gender, or race, or whatever other superficial excuse is made for their surrender to the dark place where fears grow.
Realizing that, I also understand that my deepest disappointment, anger, and contempt is reserved for the corporate-controlled media, the Rupert Murdochs, Sean Hannitys and Bill O’Reillys who intentionally dumb down the issues of the day into 10-word sound bites and feeds them to the American public like hors d’oeurves next to their apple pie.
Yes, I wish that there were a way for Obama to step up and communicate with us in a way that would be persuasive enough for some to reconsider their position. But this is too hot an issue, too close to home for ones who fear to let go. It’s too big of a step.
Sad, but true. So I’m disappointed that Obama walked carefully down the center, but I understand why he did it, and just like Gotta Laff over at the Political Carnival,
Right now I’m angry. I’ll get over it.
That doesn’t mean I won’t keep holding his feet to the fire. I will. Because the antidote to fear IS hope. I’m the perennial optimist, I suppose, but I do believe that progress will be made back to a place where O’Reilly is irrelevant and people think for themselves, and fear is something they had but got over, just like my anger.