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July 03, 2008

Comments

"The Rolling Stone...."

It's just "Rolling Stone," actually. Not like "The Rolling Stones."

But originally it was The Batman, not just "Batman," so it all evens out eventually.

It seems worth mentioning that the piece is by Matt Taibbi, not someone you never heard of.

Unless you've never heard of Matt Taibbi, in which case never mind.

Fixed ( the the part.) And, yeah, I've heard of Matt Taibbi. Silly me didn't check to see who wrote it.

I was hoping the "the" was ironic, as in "the Internets."

You could have pretended it was.

On another note: Are you all looking at the same article I am? On my computer, it says, "by Tim Dickinson."

Correction: It just says, "TIM DICKINSON"...in the presumed byline spot.

Oh, silly me, I was confusing Hilzoy's linked piece with this piece on McCain. My bad.

(I haven't read Hilzoy's linked piece yet; I need to go to bed.)

Naah, when I look for managerial skills, what I really want in a candidate is a Harvard Business School MBA. I figure if Obama's all that, he would have used Daddy's name to get himself into a top 5 business school. Sorry, Barack, you can't be the "CEO President".

Gary: you snarked me for missing the author without reading the piece?

I am definitely saving this up for future use. ;)

"Gary: you snarked me"

Er, no? I confusedly thought it was the Taibbi piece, so I mentioned that that seemed worth mentioning, since I thought people would find it more interesting if they knew that was the case. No snark involved anywhere. [?: scratches head in even more confusion]

On something that he cares deeply about (getting elected), he's very disciplined and focused and runs a tight ship. Which makes the housing debacle in his district all the more embarrassing.

And speaking of message discipline, that article seemed like an extension of the Obama campaign, as well as an example of a timewarp back to March 2008. I'm thinking in particular of this--

"Obama began this campaign with a clarity of purpose and a transformative vision for American politics. "


Also, perhaps I'm wrong, but didn't people used to say the same things about the Bush campaign? Message discipline, loyalty, etc..., though of course there's been a steady trickle of rats deserting a sinking ship during his term in office. Running a smart campaign with message discipline is a morally neutral trait, though a good one in someone you trust.

Hilzoy:

It's an interesting glimpse into the innards of the campaign. And, coming on a day when McCain (again) scraps his entire campaign operating structure and starts from scratch, it couldn't provide a starker contrast. It's certainly a testament to Obama's style and skill as a manager. I'll admit to some frustration that the one kind of process story that never seems to garner sufficient attention is this - the only one that really matters. Obama quite simply outmanaged Hillary, and the early indications are that he's outmanaging McCain, as well. That's worth pondering. Hillary proved too rigid, too reliant on a closed circle of advisers. McCain has the opposite problem, constantly changing course, cycling through staff, and spreading authority too diffusely.

But there is one aspect of your post with which I beg to differ. You write that "assembling the next generation of stars" is "very, very hard to do." I think that's wrong on two separate levels. First, consider that political stars are defined ex post facto. Had Obama himself said one more truly stupid thing on the campaign trail, he might have lost - the primary was that cloose. And if he had, his staff would've been excoriated as fools, and innumerable post-mortems would have detailed their blunders. But having won, they're definitionally geniuses, and Hillary's staffers get to play the role of fools. For the most part, it's winning that creates the brilliant staff. I'm not saying that there aren't actual differences in talent and orientation here, just that it's incredibly tough to separate that from the outcome.

The second reason is that there are a heck of a lot of really talented, really bright, political staffers out there. The frontrunner normally has the luxury of hiring only the most experienced staffers with proven track-records, and this almost inevitably proves to be a terrible burden. I remember walking into Gore2000's office on K-Street, and seeing the awesome assemblage of proven talent. Craig Smith, Karen Hancox, and Stacey Spector - fresh from the White House. Marla Romash and Johnny Hayes - longtime, seasoned loyalists. Tony Coelho atop it all. And it was a complete frickin' disaster. Everyone was busy measuring drapes for their next White House office. For the most part, these were nice people, mind you. And as smart as they come. But the only one of the whole bunch with fire in her belly was the inimitable Donna Brazile - fresh from her uber-influential post in the office of Eleanor Holmes Norton. Moving the office to Carthage and putting Donna in charge saved that campaign (er, well, you know what I mean). It turns out that experience ain't all it's cracked up to be. For the most part, political aides who have already made their reputations are a liability, not an asset. What fresher faces lack in knowledge and experience they more than make up for in raw, gnawing hunger. Moreover, these younger staffers are naturally drawn to insurgent campaigns, which are almost always the incubators of the next generation of political talent. They can rise faster in those environments and assume responsibilities commensurate with their skills. Insurgent campaigns are just a hell of a lot more fun to work for. People are there because they believe in the candidate and his cause, or because they want to win. No one joins an insurgent campaign, definitionally a long-shot, because it's the smart bet for career security or advancement. What I'm saying is that if you want to give Obama credit for something, applaud him for keeping his campaign headquarters in Illinois, far from the beltway. Praise him to the skies for vesting management of his campaign with a bunch of folks who hadn't, in the past, run national races. But once he'd made those decisions, I suspect selecting the rest of the staff took neither luck nor particular skill. Talented young staffers beat down the doors of campaigns' like Obama's, and the challenge is generally that you've got to turn down talented people.

Is there a "cannot criticize Obama" rule on ObiWi? Because this is a nice post and all, but given recent events it seems like reaching for something positive to say. As another commenter notes, Bush also ran a fantastic campaign ("buttoned up like a business") and he was a great campaigner generally. Turned out not to be very relevant to being POTUS.

Yea, right; I remember the Gore, and Kerry campaign coverage. They were described as 'superior management' and 'leading edge' too.

Now this author trashes them.

We're supposed to believe you this time?

Observer: I might, when I read this, have been influenced by having recently seen, on CSPAN, part of a symposium thingo with various candidates' web/internet drectors, on which the Obama representative was just in a different (and better) universe from the rest. Most of them were talking about how to use the web to do traditional things: fundraising, organizing, compiling lists, and so on. And they were (or seemed) very, very smart.

The Obama person (Hughes?) was on top of all of these things, but a lot of his comments concerned things like: how can your web operation enable people to construct relationships with one another, relationships that can not only lead them to make a stronger organization and come up with innovative ideas, but also generally strengthen democracy and civic engagement down the road? That is: he was clearly thinking not just of doing stuff for consumption by voters, but of enabling voters as active participants who should be given any tools they need to do what seems to them worth doing, and also about general political goals that transcended the campaign (but not in a way that conflicted with it.)

I am undoubtedly not doing justice to this, but it really did seem to me that he was just playing a different game altogether from the rest of the incredibly smart people on the panel. And it was a game that not only didn't detract from, but clearly enhanced, the normal goals of web stuff in campaigns, and that also, as he saw it, strengthened democracy in general.

It was fascinating. And I remember thinking: wow. Where did they find this guy? (If he helped found facebook, that would explain a lot.)

Bill Sanford: well, I didn't describe them that way. Nor, offhand, do I recall who did.

Abut the comparison to Bush: I think the only real similarity is in the fact that Bush's people didn't leak, for a while at least, and in the fact that he doesn't do much second-guessing. The part about really listening to people, poking and prodding them to make sure he understands their positions, etc., is quite unlike Bush.

Likewise, the part about never having to wonder what's really going on, or who's really in charge. -- The moment when I first began to realize exactly how dreadful Bush was as a manager was when I read Paul O'Neill's book, which describes him -- the Treasury Secretary -- as being out of the loop on economic (and other) policy, and as having no idea what that policy would be in, say, a couple of days' time.

He'd sit around trying to figure out what Bush wanted him to do, propose something, get a kind of vague approval from the President, and then a couple of days later, the opposite policy would be announced, and where it came from, he had no idea.

If you read it from a strictly management point of view, it's absolutely staggering, and has very little in common with what this article describes.

This is the one thing that's impressed me most about Obama. His campaign has been a model of efficiency and organization without the rigidity that normally goes with that. On the contrary, it's been remarkably agile. I wasn't that taken with Obama to start with, but watching his organization do its job with energy and precision has been quite impressive to me.

Managerial ability is an admirable quality. However, the question people really want answered is how Obama intends to "transform" America. What does he want to change and how does he intend to do that? I know of NO ONE who can answer that question, and it's turning a lot of people off; the luster and enthusiasm level have definitely disappeared. Voters want to know Obama's core values and what his priorities will be as President. What does he want power for? If he can't answer those questions, the best campaign in the world isn't going to get him elected.

Hilzoy:

I'll readily grant the more narrow claim that Obama's internet staff is head-and-shoulders above that of his rivals, past and present. And that's partly a testament to his fluency with the technology and willingness to empower his followers, a legacy of his experience as a community organizer. But it's also the case that Howard Dean's internet staff was light-years ahead of any of his rivals in 2004, and that Bradley did a better job with that stuff than Gore in 2000. Insurgencies are generally willing to adopt disruptive technologies far more rapidly than establishment campaigns. Those at the top are less threatened by the introduction of new approaches which they don't fully comprehend, and the insurgent campaigns tend to have younger staffers at more senior levels who are themselves fluent with the approach. That's not to downplay the importance, at the end of the day, of Obama's willingness to run with this approach. But I do think it's worth noting that it's at least partially circumstantial.

hilzoy...
Apologies - I didn't mean you in my comment, but instead more a generic Liberal "They". My recollection of recent campaigns is that the Democrats generally posture to be superior in all things (including election savy), and trumpet that claim.

Then after failing, a few years later they 'again' become the leading edge... or so they claim.

Specifically, today, the Dems have Obama on a pedestal. The guy can't do anything wrong. Just like Kerry, just like Gore...

The Newsweek piece on Obama's senior campaign staff said that one of his mantras is "No drama." I really appreciate that in a manager.

What does he want to change and how does he intend to do that?

Well, after Obama came out in support of the FISA bill, it became clear that he wants to be able to wiretap Americans without a warrant, and he wants to be able to order corporations to break the law without running the risk of their getting prosecuted. But you can't really call this a "change": it's just what George W. Bush was able to do, Obama wants to be able to do too.

However, the question people really want answered is how Obama intends to "transform" America. What does he want to change and how does he intend to do that? I know of NO ONE who can answer that question [...]

Which is odd, because he's gone into great detail, at length, on numerous occasions--and answered your questions. If only there was a tool we could use to review his speeches and learn about his proposals. Imagine how that would transform elections in this country!

You will forgive me if I'm short on patience with the tired canard of "we don't know what Obama's values/positions/proposals/policies are". Claiming this is either blatantly dishonest, or indicative that you haven't expended even the most cursory effort to learn this for yourself. If you're interested in correcting this, you can start with his website.

Well, after Obama came out in support of the FISA bill, it became clear that he wants to be able to wiretap Americans without a warrant, and he wants to be able to order corporations to break the law without running the risk of their getting prosecuted.

Except for the part where it's not at all clear that he wants to do any of these things. If you want to argue that his decision to support of the FISA bill was a bad one, you'll find near-universal agreement here. We part ways when you start inferring things about his motivations completely unsupported by either his words or his record.

Chad, the reason you are seeing that is because the media doesn't really cover it and leave it open for interpretation. If you pay attention to his personal history, the policies of the campaign at large, and the groundwork he is laying through his campaign, it becomes much clearer.

In his first book, one of the underlying themes is the injustice that power being invested in just a few people can cause - in Indonesia in his youth, Chicago while he was as community organizer, and Africa when he visited his family. This injustice left a definite impression. Moving on to the campaign in general, you can see this same meme coming through in his opposition to lobbyists and PACs and his core policy call to make the processes of government transparent. And finally there is the groundwork he is laying through his campaign and the 1 million+ volunteers -- both in his recent speech with the faith based service communities and in previous emails setting up training camps for community organizers, initially focused on voter registration, but also on general social reform.

The message I have picked up looking at these things is that he wants to change the general power structure in this country. He seems to want to move away from power centralized in corporations and the top 0.1% with millions of dollars and move it back to the people, the voters, through empowerment and organizational training. It is vague, it is large and overarching, and it is idealistic, but judging from the way he has mobilized so many people already, I can see it starting. This is also why finding someone that can answer your question is harder - you have to take a look at the whole picture, with information from all these sources and put them together as a cohesive whole. This is something the MSM has no ability to do anymore, and since Obama himself isn't explicit about, it often goes overlooked.

Specifically, today, the Dems have Obama on a pedestal. The guy can't do anything wrong.

do you know what is the largest group on Obama's own website ? it's one telling him he's doing it wrong.

Except for the part where it's not at all clear that he wants to do any of these things.

And yet, he supports the bill that will allow him to do all of these things, legally. The turnaround - Glenn Greenwald makes clear this is a change, Obama used to be part of the opposition - happened right after Obama became the Democratic nominee, with solid expectations of being the President as of January 2009.

And his opposition to prosecuting the telecom companies for breaking the law at the President's behest just suddenly went away. As did his opposition to the President having the right to order warrantless wiretapping.

If you want to believe that despite supporting the bill that will give him those powers it's not clear that he really wants those powers, well, I hope it keeps fine for you...

...but I think you're terribly, terribly naive.

BillSanford: Specifically, today, the Dems have Obama on a pedestal. The guy can't do anything wrong.

Really?

Catsy: If you want to argue that his decision to support of the FISA bill was a bad one, you'll find near-universal agreement here.

Oops.

Dammit. That should be: And his support for prosecuting the telecom companies for breaking the law at the President's behest just went away. Sorry for confusion.

If you want to believe that despite supporting the bill that will give him those powers it's not clear that he really wants those powers, well, I hope it keeps fine for you...

I think it far more likely--and more consonant with available facts--that this was a political calculation, and a poor one at that. Politicians regularly support legislation they think they need to for political reasons, without having any personal stake in said legislation beyond its impact on their candidacy. There's certainly no shortage of Dems who've caved to the Republicans on these issues, and while we rightfully condemn it, we also recognize that it's politics, not principle.

I can't express how disappointed I am with Obama for making this calculation. I suppose it's possible he's playing some kind of deeper game here, and given his intelligence and sophisticated campaign I wouldn't discount the possibility. But I don't think it's any less likely than him wanting super-warrantless-wiretap powers.

Occam's Razor and all.

His ability to listen closely to people (and often make them think he agrees with them) is reminiscient of Bill Clinton. That's probably what we'll get from Obama--another Clinton presidency, without the sex scandals and perhaps with a more loyal staff, though I don't really care about that. Better than what we have now, obviously. Not something fundamentally different.

Oh, by "not something fundamentally different", I meant in comparison with Clinton, not Bush, though it didn't come out that way.

Catsy, Occam's Razor says that when a politician supports a bill that will give the politician certain powers, that's because the politician wants those powers.

I'm sure Obama believes he will only use those powers for good and righteous causes.

I'm also certain that he made the political calculation that he could afford to support it because the only people who would oppose him for his support are people who understand that McCain is worse. Plus, he's certainly calculating that a lot of people who formerly supported him will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's such a good guy he's not really claiming these powers.

And he's right, isn't he? It's a good political calculation. People who care about their Constitutional rights will support Obama anyway because he's better than McCain.

But Catsy, when a politician claims powers, never, ever believe that s/he doesn't really truly want those powers, or that s/he'll only make good use of them.

"There's certainly no shortage of Dems who've caved to the Republicans on these issues, and while we rightfully condemn it, we also recognize that it's politics, not principle."

Not all of us recognize this, actually. There's probably a continuum--some Democrats have spines, some are spineless, and some are honest supporters of Bush-like policies. (Lieberman, obviously). Where any particular Democrat falls on this line will vary with the issue.

That's probably what we'll get from Obama--another Clinton presidency, without the sex scandals and perhaps with a more loyal staff, though I don't really care about that.

As Yglesias points out today, Obama's foreign policy appears to be a good deal more liberal than what Clinton proposed. His health care policy is definitely more liberal than what Kerry or Gore proposed, as is his climate change policy. We really don't know what he'll do in office, but the signs are encouraging. Of course, he's also failed in lots of ways IMHO, and I don't agree with all his decisions, but there's no getting away from the fact that Obama is a more liberal Presidential nominee than we've seen in decades.

And while you may not care about how loyal his staff is, I think the professionalism required to avoid leaking continuously while duking out policy disagreements in the WAPO is vital for actually getting good legislation passed. If nothing else, it prevents the news channels and newspapers from shaping the narrative based on disgruntled insiders and helps kill off the meme that Democrats can't run a government effectively.

I'm sure Obama believes he will only use those powers for good and righteous causes.

This argument might make sense if we were talking about useful powers. I'm sure you've noticed Jes, that the Bush administration often does things that are spectacularly ineffective means of achieving their stated goals. They often develop bizarre highly emotional attachments to these means in fact, no matter how ineffective they are. I honestly don't see how the warrantless wiretapping is a useful power: the ability to apply really crappy machine learning algorithms at tremendous expense to billions of conversations so that you can generate millions of pages of "leads" that do nothing but keep the FBI from doing real work isn't what I'd call useful. And this power comes with a cost: there are plenty of conservatives in government service who might be OK with blatantly illegal spying when ordered by Bush but who would balk at such spying ordered by Obama. These people could easily leak information to the wrong reporters and turn the whole project into a political nightmare for Obama. Remember, the flip side of IOKIYAR is that the same thing is death to Democrats and Obama knows that: he knows that he is held to a much higher standard.

Perhaps I'm mistaken though. Can you explain why you think the powers we're talking about are actually useful given the dangers to Obama?

There's probably a continuum--some Democrats have spines, some are spineless, and some are honest supporters of Bush-like policies. (Lieberman, obviously).

But you started out talking about Democrats.

I honestly don't see how the warrantless wiretapping is a useful power

Very useful for spying on your political opponents.

The Bush administration began their warrantless wiretapping program early in 2001 - at a time when they were not in the least interested in opposing terrorism

And this power comes with a cost: there are plenty of conservatives in government service who might be OK with blatantly illegal spying when ordered by Bush but who would balk at such spying ordered by Obama.

Absolutely - indeed, as Glenn Greenwald documents, the same conservatives who accept that Bush has a right to order warrantless wiretapping, were virulent opponents of Clinton having far lesser powers. But, if Obama has shown any realization that there's a major double standard - that Bush and Republicans can get away with committing crimes with the full support of conservatives and media indifference, while Obama will be attacked for acting within the law - I haven't seen it.

Now this author trashes them.

We're supposed to believe you this time?

If you could link to any of these alleged past instances of Hilzoy's words, you might have a case. Presumably either they exist, and you can give a link, or they don't, and you can't. Thanks!

Observer's 09:15 AM is spot-on.

Another Clinton presidency: if you're talking management styles, as opposed to policy (where I also think he differs a lot from Clinton), not at all.

Clinton was famously late, went in for long long long rambling meetings, and did have a lot of drama, over and above what he personally contributed. 'Listening to all points of view' seems to have crossed the line into 'spending way too much time on the pros and cons of a given decision'. None of this seems to be true of Obama.

Catsy, Occam's Razor says that when a politician supports a bill that will give the politician certain powers, that's because the politician wants those powers.

No, that doesn't follow.

Very useful for spying on your political opponents.

So, explain to me how that would work. I imagine that the request to spy on this set of people would travel through channels until it produced data which would then get regularly reported to the President or one of his close aides. The names on the list would be obvious giveaways since "Bill Frist" doesn't really sound like "Abdul bin Haim al Saud" and many of the names would be recognizable. There would have to be a completely separate process for dealing with this data carved out of the regular process since normally raw intelligence doesn't go straight to the President and presumably this spying data would not be sent to the intelligence community like all other intelligence is. Excuses about security wouldn't work here at all since the people dealing with this data are already trusted to see just about anything. Along the way, hundreds of government employees would have to get clued in as to the nature of these "special requests" or at least to the fact that data pertaining to a special list of names gets recorded but never gets near the intelligence community. Out of these hundreds of people, you expect that not a single one will leak their concerns to the press or blab to another federal employee who will do the same? That seems plausible to you?

Even if you think Obama is too stupid to understand IOKIYAR, wouldn't the fact that IOKIYAR ruin this scheme anyway? I mean, even if I believe I'm invulnerable, bullets will in fact still kill me.

But, if Obama has shown any realization that there's a major double standard - that Bush and Republicans can get away with committing crimes with the full support of conservatives and media indifference, while Obama will be attacked for acting within the law - I haven't seen it.

Just so I'm clear here: are you saying that Obama watched the Clinton and Bush Presidencies unfold and failed to conclude that IOKIYAR is real? Doesn't that mean that he'd have to be a lot dumber than you and pretty much everyone who's read a liberal blog in the last 5 years?

gwangung: No, that doesn't follow.

....okay.

In a perfect universe one might suppose an imaginary politician who supports legislation that will give him certain powers but who doesn't want those powers.

We do not live in such a universe, and Obama is not a perfect and imaginary politician but a real person with ambition and drive who really may be President of the United States next year. Talking about Obama as if he were a perfect person can surely wait until his obituary - which hopefully, will be written decades hence.

I'll be happy to be wrong about Obama and find that he's, say, another FDR. I'm not expecting this. He seems to be a master triangulator now, in the grand Clinton tradition, and Sister Souljahing on several issues, more than even I expected in the past few weeks.

If Obama is more liberal than earlier Democrats on certain issues it's probably for the same reason that Bush is the one, rather than Clinton, that started giving large amounts of money to fight AIDS in Africa. The political climate changed for the better on that particular issue. On health care I think there's been a strong leftward shift in how the issue is perceived. I'm not very wonky on this issue (or any other), but that's my impression, at least.

I don't see a big difference between Obama and Bill Clinton on foreign policy. Clinton negotiated with North Korea, for instance. Stephen Zunes, a lefty foreign policy guru, gave his partial stamp of approval to Obama earlier in the campaign season based on who he had advising him, but that's changed in recent months and now he's got advisors who are Clinton retreads.

Obama is not a perfect and imaginary politician

I don't think that Obama is perfect; I just think that he's at least as smart as the average liberal blog reader when it comes to observing the most basic facts of our political discourse. Do you disagree with that assessment?

I think if if there are civil rights abuses under Obama the victims would most likely be Muslims--the same sorts of people who are most likely to be victimized by Bush's gleeful trampling on the Constitution. People who can be accused of being Hamas or Hezbollah supporters, for instance.

Donald, do you have any basis for your belief? I mean, I think that under an Obama administration, the 101st Airborne Division will be deployed to Idaho and ordered to systematically eliminate all potato farmers, but I don't pretend that that's anything beyond delusional fantasy on my part...

Belief for what? That Muslims are more likely to be targeted unfairly and accused of support for terrorism than other groups? Belief that Kafkaesque injustices are possible under a Democratic Administration? Belief that it's a bad idea to grant too much power to a government based on the notion that it's okay, because the guy at the top is "progressive"?

I think you're asking if I have proof that Obama will go out of his way to oppress Muslim citizens of the US. No.

Don't really know much about the politics of potato farming or the best tactical method for dealing with the threat they pose to the American people.

Extreme measures are necessary to deal with the pomme-de-terrorist threat.

I just think that he's at least as smart as the average liberal blog reader when it comes to observing the most basic facts of our political discourse.

I think you're trying to presume that the smart thing to do is to support the FISA bill, and I reject that presumption.

If you mean that "the average liberal blog reader" believes that it's politically necessary for Obama to support a bill that the majority of his base don't support and a majority of people who will never vote for him do support, well, that doesn't actually make those "average liberal blog readers" all that smart: it makes them fairly gullible, since they've swallowed the Republican narrative.

I think Obama is much smarter than that. As outlined above: I think he's done the political calculation and figured that the voters who care that he supported this bill, will know they have to vote for him anyway because he's better than McCain, and this way, he gets the powers Bush claimed, but he has them legally.

If this bill passes, and Obama wins, he can order warrantless wiretapping, though conservatives who approved Bush will oppose it; he can order corporations to break the law because the legal principle has been established that when the President orders, corporations who break the law get immunity.

The argument that Obama may support being given such powers but doesn't want them is an argument that Obama is a perfect politician, flying high on wings above all mundane ambition. Nope. If he supports the bill, after months of opposition earlier, in teeth of popular opposition from his own base, it's because he wants those powers. You may trust he will not use them badly, but, as previously discussed in a different context, I believe in the principle that no one ought to be handed ungoverned power and trusted to behave well.

I think you're trying to presume that the smart thing to do is to support the FISA bill, and I reject that presumption.

No, I'm not. I'm arguing that Obama has to understand that the IOKIYAR principle holds and therefore understands that he's held to a higher standard than Bush with respect to wiretapping of political opponents. Assuming that he does, then I don't see how he could use warantless wiretapping for political gain without paying a much higher price in the future.

"I'll be happy to be wrong about Obama and find that he's, say, another FDR."

Donald, I can't think of a more triangulating, incoherent, reversing, chaotic in policy, constantly-disappointing-liberals, let alone more despised by leftists, for backing and forthing, being cowardly, and not going far enough, and being constantly criticized for giving in to right-wing critiques, President, than FDR. Did you have some other politician in mind?

Because I have to wonder what you're thinking with this odd comment, which seems deeply ahistoric.

Or maybe it's been a while since you've read a good bio of FDR during the New Deal? :-)

Belief for what? That Muslims are more likely to be targeted unfairly and accused of support for terrorism than other groups? Belief that Kafkaesque injustices are possible under a Democratic Administration?

I know they're possible and I expect them. But I have hopes that after a lengthy transition period, the DOJ's focus will shift to more important things, because, let's face it, if you're interested in Justice or even just security, there are much better uses of your time than harassing Muslims or Arabs for no reason. I guess my point here is that I don't see why Obama would be any worse than say Bill Clinton on this one issue...do you?

Belief that it's a bad idea to grant too much power to a government based on the notion that it's okay, because the guy at the top is "progressive"?

What are you talking about? Who is granting too much power to the government and what specific powers are they granting? Am I missing something here? I ask because you seem generally ticked off but I can't even guess what you're ticked off about.

I think you're asking if I have proof that Obama will go out of his way to oppress Muslim citizens of the US. No.

Forget proof: how about any indication at all, even if it is not enough to win in court?

Don't really know much about the politics of potato farming or the best tactical method for dealing with the threat they pose to the American people.

Not the American people so much as our taste buds.

As for tactical methods, we need to nuke the site from orbit. Its the only way to be sure.

And while you may not care about how loyal his staff is, I think the professionalism required to avoid leaking continuously while duking out policy disagreements in the WAPO is vital for actually getting good legislation passed.

This is something sorta troubling. We're sitting here going on about how it means no mixed messages, and clear focus for an Obama administration, but when I read through the article the impression that I got was that an Obama administration will be marked with strong personal loyalty to the hypothetical President Obama, coupled with... well... for a lack of better words, secretiveness.

Turbulence: I'm arguing that Obama has to understand that the IOKIYAR principle holds and therefore understands that he's held to a higher standard than Bush with respect to wiretapping of political opponents.

He will be operating on a higher standard than Bush when this bill passes: he'll be doing it legally. That's what this bill is about.

The argument that Obama may support being given such powers but doesn't want them is an argument that Obama is a perfect politician, flying high on wings above all mundane ambition.

That may be your argument, but it's not mine, nor is it any argument that I've observed so far in this thread. It's certainly not the only possible interpretation of his actions, unless you think every other Senator supporting the bill also wants to use those powers.

My argument is simple: there is nothing--and by that I mean nothing whatsoever--in Obama's record, speeches or platform--that suggests he wants the powers Bush claims. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nashi. Nada. If anything, there's the opposite: one of his signature achievements in Illinois was enacting a requirement to videotape police interrogations. He expended a lot of political capital and sweet-talked a lot of opponents to make it happen. It's politically unpopular measure. That's the action of someone who cares about transparency in government.

Jes, I disagree because the whole point of IOKIYAR is that even doing legal things can bring down a Democratic President. Do you really think that there wouldn't be a political firestorm of epic proportions if some whistleblower from deep in the bowels of the national security bureaucracy shows up on Fox News and starts bleating about how Obama forced him to spy on Republicans? Even if it is legal, do you really think that sort of thing will play well on national television? That Obama could survive that politically?

I just don't understand how it would be feasible for Obama to actually spy on his political opponents without reaping the worldwind, and I don't think he understands it either.

I think Obama is much smarter than that. As outlined above: I think he's done the political calculation and figured that the voters who care that he supported this bill, will know they have to vote for him anyway because he's better than McCain, and this way, he gets the powers Bush claimed, but he has them legally.

In general I agree with what you've said in this thread, Jes, but on this one point I must beg to differ. Obama is doing craven, old-fashioned, unprincipled triangulation (as expected, by me anyway). No argument there. But for FISA? I don't really think he wants this power to explicitly abuse. Mind, I don't think much better of him: I think he feels this violation of privacy for no serious benefit is no big deal. Which is, IMO, a plenty vile stance without assuming he lusts after these powers for his own purposes. I really have trouble thinking he deeply believes they're dangerous, but is shrewdly sacrificing them with the conviction that he'll consequently put himself in a position to safeguard them. It seems far easier to believe that he's discounting us silly Chicken Littles and doing something that at worst will do neither harm nor good to anyone, and at best will give US intelligence and law enforcement "useful but unintrusive" powers. Which is a charmingly condescending, paternalist attitude, and basically what I've come to expect* from a centerist of his ilk.

*Which, yes, means I'm concluding my suspicions to be remarkably well-founded, and hence really need to consider the possibility my conclusions are rooted in selection bias. But still.

In a perfect universe one might suppose an imaginary politician who supports legislation that will give him certain powers but who doesn't want those powers.

You're arguing from the wrong premises entirely.

Pete Giangreco, Obama staffer:

"With Obama, you have to do this horrible thing: You have to treat voters like adults."

Heh.

the impression that I got was that an Obama administration will be marked with strong personal loyalty to the hypothetical President Obama, coupled with... well... for a lack of better words, secretiveness.

I don't see what secretiveness you're talking about. If you're referring to dueling with leaks in the WAPO, I don't think such "openness" helps us much: we don't learn any actual policy details through such disputes and in any event, the news media lacks the knowledge needed to interpret or explain them, so all we get is a highly misleading mash that has nothing to do with reality. The WAPO simply is not a good place to hash out policy (let alone personal) disputes, even at the highest levels of abstraction. If the WAPO plays any role in how internal policy disputes are resolved, the results are going to be garbage.

In that sense, a willingness to honor the basic "don't talk about internal discussions for a while" rule that pervades in every corporate, government, and family setting I've ever seen isn't so much loyalty to Obama but loyalty to the campaign/administrations goals and its processes. The point is that when you as a policy person have a dispute with another policy person, you deal with it like an adult, through discussion, negotiation, and maybe resignation. You do not deal with it by leaking highly selective bits of your opponent's policy proposals out of context in the worst possible light to the press in the hopes of making their entire policy agenda politically radioactive, thereby ensuring that you "win" the internal policy debate. Professionals, or even just adults, respect the process, which means that when the process goes against them, they accept it and move on. We saw a lot of this infantile behavior during the Clinton administration and I really don't want to see it again.

Does that mean that Americans have no insight into the policy formation process? Of course not. But it does mean that we don't get complete accessibility into every single policy discussion.

"What are you talking about? Who is granting too much power to the government and what specific powers are they granting? Am I missing something here? I ask because you seem generally ticked off but I can't even guess what you're ticked off about."

I thought we were talking about this.">http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/06/21/obama/index.html">this.

Maybe Greenwald is all wrong here, in which case he's the one with the arguments you should be refuting, not me--I'm just acting as his dittohead here.


As for being ticked off, that's the constant emotional background to all my comments about presidential candidates.

"With Obama, you have to do this horrible thing: You have to treat voters like adults.""

That depends on the issue, I think.

I thought we were talking about this.

Ah, sorry, I thought your statements about more power were connected to the violating civil rights of Muslims comment that you made. My bad.

That depends on the issue, I think.

As well it should I'd say. An honest conversation with Americans about energy policy might very well lead to a national consensus for nuking population centers throughout the middle east.

"As well it should I'd say. An honest conversation with Americans about energy policy might very well lead to a national consensus for nuking population centers throughout the middle east."

Hmm. Maybe not quite that bad, but I'm not sure. I've heard people joke about our "right" to take Iraq's oil as compensation for the war, and I'm not sure they were really joking.

I was thinking, though, of Obama's stand on Israel/Palestine, and the way he imitates Jeanne Kirkpatrick by denouncing 60's types who blame America for everything. (I just saw a quote of him doing that.) And this FISA issue. Which is linked to my Muslim comment, though, in that I think Muslim Americans are the ones most likely to have their civil rights violated in the current political climate under any President.

Donald,
I hold your opinion in very high regard, and what you say gives me cause to reflect. But to be devil's advocate, don't we have to look at the Israel/Palestine stand thru the lens of the campaign to portray Obama as a Muslim, and the other campaigns? There are a number of other links, and TPM has posted several, but 3 is all the blogging engines will take.

Jes,

I don't see where you're getting the notion that the FISA amendment would give Obama the power to order warrantless wiretapping. The whole point of the amendment is to make it clear that no wiretapping program can legally go around the FISA provisions - all are in the jursidiction of the FISA court. The FISA amendment makes Bush's and all future possible programs of that nature illegal. It does loosen some restrictions on the process of getting those warrants under the conditions that the person being wiretapped is outside of the US and is not a US citizen, but it only loosens them after adding on several additional layers of oversight, both within the executive branch and the legislative branch. So that part of your argument is patently false. The other question about telecom immunity, I think you are more right. It sets a bad precedent; however, it would not exculpate the government from ordering a company to break the law. It's not perfect, but it does stay within the principle of international law that culpability flows up the hierarchy. Regardless, Obama continues to state that he opposes the telecom immunity portion of the FISA amendment, and there is talk that the Democratic leadership in the Senate will attempt to split the immunity off from the rest of the bill.

I'd like to strongly echo what Turbulence is saying here (pretty much all of it, so I won't use quotes), except for the GWOTT (Global War On Tater Tots).

With apologies for being late to the FISA party (I was out of town on vacation), here's my take:

I don’t think Obama is personally lusting after secret wiretapping powers. I suspect that on constitutional grounds he views them less benignly than his recent public statements regarding the FISA bill indicate and his critics here are assuming.

But IMHO this is a very bad time to try to fix that particular mess, because doing so risks turning it into a central issue in the ongoing Presidential campaign and deflect attention from other issues such as Iraq and the economy, which are already winners for the Democrats and are regarded by a majority of voters as more urgent and directly relevant to their own personal lives.

Nate Silver pointed out that the pro-immunity votes from House Democrats were concentrated in 2006 swing districts, which means that Obama had to make a choice not just on the merits of the issue but also with an eye towards the 2008 and 2010 Congressional races and their impact on the entire legislative agenda for the duration of the next administration.

Also, keep in mind that what the commentariat here on ObWings sees as a low political cost to stopping telecomm immunity could change dramatically if there is another spectacular terrorist attack on US soil. That would give the GOP aided and abetted by the MSM a chance to reframe the wiretapping issue very much to the detriment of the Dems, and in a way which will greatly increase the chance for even more Orwellian power grabs by DHS and the FBI/CIA down the road.

Standing in the doorway on FISA now puts us at risk of replaying the political climate of 2002-2004. Is that a risk you are willing to take? Do you think we are safer and less at risk of another attack today courtesy of the Bush administration, and if not then do you feel there is no risk that another attack could help swing the election to McCain as an October surprise? My answers are respectively: No, and Yes I think the risk is serious. YMMV.

I expect that under an Obama administration Congress may be able to take up the issue of legislating a more thorough rewrite of FISA to deal with data-mining, traffic analysis, and other issues relevant to today’s more modern and sophisticated communications infrastructure in a more constructive and constitutionally sound manner than what can be accomplished today with W manning the WH bully pulpit, McCain sniping from the campaign trail, and an MSM still almost wholly in the tank for the GOP.

I am disappointed that Obama hasn’t taken a tougher stance against the current bill, but the political calculus necessary to justify his current stance seems to me to be very plausible, so I’m holding my brickbats on this issue for use at another time in the future. It seems to me that Al Giordano has the right take on this:


My duty to the causes I care about is not to cry that we've been victimized, or that "the sky is falling," or to play armchair quarterback shouting from the bleachers at the captain on the field that he must make his next play a run or a pass. Nor is it to yell, "I'm taking my money and support and game board and going home." It is, rather, to inform and organize greater public opinion to grow to see the issue as I see it, so that whenever he may take office, he will have to deal with the reality that we have created with or without him.

People that care deeply and legitimately about misunderstood or unpopular issues like abolition of the death penalty for anyone (even for child rapists), or that Israel has to end its terrible treatment of Palestinians, or that there should be no immunity for telecommunications companies that spy on behalf of the government on Americans that communicate abroad, or fill-in-your-pet-issue-here, have to first educate and organize the citizenry to demonstrably agree with them before they can realistically insist that any political candidate stick his neck onto their pet chopping block.

Regarding the issue of managerial style, leaks, secrecy, etc., it seems to me that one of the reasons you might expect fewer leaks from an administration run the way that Obama’s ship is portrayed in the Rolling Stone article, is that it sounds like Obama is investing more time and effort building internal consensus before finalizing policy choices, and then avoiding finger-pointing and blame-shifting games after the fact by himself taking final responsibility for the consequent results. Those things build loyalty because if a greater number of people in an organization feel that a realistic path exists for their voices to be heard and inputs weighed prior to a decision being made, the more likely they are to support a course of action which differs from what they personally were advocating for.

That is how you build legitimacy for a policy choice, and because it is built up from below rather than flowing from the top down, it is a different sort of loyalty from the personal fealty which is one of the characteristic signatures of the Bush administration. I’ve been lucky enough to see this management style in practice (Obama’s, not Bush’s), and it is highly effective at fostering teamwork without creating a siege mentality which the other kind of loyalty tends to produce.

Just to clarify, I'm not trying to defend telecom immunity. If Obama doesn't work to remove it from the Senate bill, as he said he would, I will be mad. And if he doesn't try to organize resistance to the bill if he is unsuccessful in getting it removed, I will also be mad. But remember that the bill hasn't been brought to the floor in the Senate yet, so I will be reserving judgement on that until it does happen. On the non-immunity parts of the bill, I think some people are making a whole lot out of nothing.

"(I just saw a quote of him doing that.)"

Could you share with the rest of the class, please, Donald? Thanks!

"There are a number of other links, and TPM has posted several, but 3 is all the blogging engines will take."

Usually it's four.

What TLTIA said at 04:24 PM

Also, keep in mind that what the commentariat here on ObWings sees as a low political cost to stopping telecomm immunity could change dramatically if there is another spectacular terrorist attack on US soil. That would give the GOP aided and abetted by the MSM a chance to reframe the wiretapping issue very much to the detriment of the Dems, and in a way which will greatly increase the chance for even more Orwellian power grabs by DHS and the FBI/CIA down the road.

And by the same token, if it irrefutably comes to light that half the Dems who switched their vote since the last time this came up did so after the Bush administration blackmailed them with private phone conversations harvested supposedly under the auspice of such wiretapping, having voted for it would suddenly become toxic. What, exactly, is your point? The history of what didn't happen has never been written. Do you have some specific reason to counsel us to live in fear of the consequences of this particular hypothetical?


And by the same token, if it irrefutably comes to light that half the Dems who switched their vote since the last time this came up did so after the Bush administration blackmailed them with private phone conversations harvested supposedly under the auspice of such wiretapping, having voted for it would suddenly become toxic. What, exactly, is your point? The history of what didn't happen has never been written. Do you have some specific reason to counsel us to live in fear of the consequences of this particular hypothetical?


I brought up that particular hypothetical because out of a galaxy of possible hypotheticals which seem to me to be relevant to the politics of the FISA ammendment passed by the House and now being taken up in the Seante, because it seemed to me to maximize the three criteria of: (1) relevance to the issue under discussion, (2) impact, and (3) likelihood of actually occurring.

Many other possibilities are available, which IMHO fall short in one or more of these areas, either by being tangential to the politics of FISA, or unlikely to have a large impact on our electoral politics as a consequence of happening, or unlikely to actually happen.

YMMV as usual.

With regard to the specific counter-hypothetical you brought up (subordination of Democratic votes in Congress via secretive blackmail), while I think this is a possibility in some limited number of cases, it seems to me that the more conventional, public and open form of blackmail known as electoral politics and the threat of running attack ads in the next election, especially in swing districts, is getting the job done reasonably well without having to resort to more Nixonian tactics on a large scale, and that if members of Congress need to fear exposure of their private pecadillos, they probably should consider what happened to Elliot Spitzer as a more likely scenario than their being asked to trade votes for silence.

(3) likelihood of actually occurring.

Depending on the definition of "major", there have been, what, three major terrorist attacks on US soil in the last 2 decades? So it's reasonably likely that another will occur in the next four months? MMMV, indeed. Basing concrete policy decisions on fear of the presumptive indirect public opinion consequences of a hypothetical, in the absence of a good reason to believe it will occur, strikes me as exemplifying "craven".

To expand upon the theme, if your hypothetical attack occurs, and it comes to light that the attackers crossed the US-Mexican border (a reasonably likely sort of hypothetical for our hypothetical), the GOP could and would gleefully tar Obama for his wavering support of a border fence. Shouldn't he therefore get out ahead of this and staunchly support a border fence? IOW, once we start down this path of fear, where will it end?

To clarify, while I personally adamantly disagree with your conclusion regarding the wisdom of Obama's calculus, I'm not trying to attack your overall thesis. I'm attempting to clarify that I think this particular justification you've offered is not something we should seriously consider.

Depending on the definition of "major", there have been, what, three major terrorist attacks on US soil in the last 2 decades?

They don't need an actual attack. All they need is for the FBI to announce that they just busted some bullsh*t terrorist "cell" in Ohio or New Jersey or Illinois. You know, a couple of guys talking about taking down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches or maybe planning to attack Ft Dix after they get the geek squad at Best Buy to help fix the PC they use for making Jihadist videos. The point is that while actual attacks are quite rare, publication of bullsh*t non-threats is quite common. There are a lot of stupid but essentially harmless freaks that the FBI knows about; they can be busted as needed. Eventually, two years later after the indictments or convictions fail to materialize, the press will get around to quietly mentioning that the whole thing was trumped up BS, probably on page A37. In the meantime, the press will be freaking out about an "Attack on American soil!" running chyrons asking "Are secret muslim terrorist cells operating in your town?!"

Our media is stupid and can be easily manipulated; the Republicans have demonstrated a clear understanding of this.

Thatleftturn's 4:24 comment makes sense to me, though I think there's nothing incompatible in voting for Obama and expressing disgust with some of his choices.

Gary--I'll go look for the link. I forget where I saw it.

So it's reasonably likely that another will occur in the next four months?

It seems obvious to me that AQ and other organizations which stand to benefit from polarization between the US and potentially hostile populations (vs. the US) from which they can recruit, might be paying attention to this US election cycle and might see it as being in their self-interest to influence the outcome insofar as they can adjust the timing of their operations to do so.

For that reason, I don't think a random distribution is a very good choice for modeling the probability of the next attack occurring within the next 4 months.

With regard to your "craven" label - well, yes you are correct, it is craven.

I don't like it. I wish Obama and the other Dems would show more backbone on this issue. But I vividly remember how irrational the political climate became in this country in the wake of 9-11, so while I don't personally appreciate it, I can understand that there is a rational calculation behind the thinking of politicians who are looking to protect themselves against the possibility of something similar happening again in the near-term future and being blamed for it.

I wish we had better representation than that, but in a democracy we get the quality of government we deserve. We don't just need better, and more courageous leadership, we also need better and more courageous voters. It seems to me that there is still a lot of grass roots level work yet to be done to get there (which was one of the points I took from Al Giordano's comments which I linked to), most especially with regard to terrorism threats that tap into atavistic fears with deep roots in American history - fear of the (mostly non-white) Other, which always seems to survive from one period to another and seek out a new object. I think we can make progress on this front, but slowly, and much of the progress we've made since 2002-2004 is IMHO very fragile and superficial, a potentially transitory result of the lack of follow-up attacks after 9-11. That could change, and I think the climate of fear that would return could be even higher after the next attack because it would no longer seem like such a singular event.

It will help greatly if Obama and the Dems can seize the bully pulpit of the WH and use it to push the message "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" (WHNTFBFI) long and hard, until the MSM starts to come around and the American electorate internalizes that idea. My pessimism comes because I see the media today as still being very largely a creature of the GOP (either by sympathy or thru intimidation). I think a longer term shift in power in DC will eventually reverse that trend as reporters seek to build insider contacts within the dominant ruling party, but these things take time. Right now we have a deeply conservative media environment and I think it will take a generation or so to change that. In that sense this next electoral cycle isn’t just about trying to take back the WH, it is about trying to take back control over the dominant media narrative, which matters because the MSM is effectively a fourth and informal but nonetheless very powerful branch of our system of government.

Why don't Obama and the other Dem leadership invest more political capital in pushing that WHNTFBFI message now? Because they don't control the administrative apparatus necessary to convert the promise implied in that slogan into actual safety. Our safety right now depends on the competency of the Bush administration. That is a pretty weak reed to lean on, IMHO.

Here's one of the things I saw--it's a recent speech on patriotism--

Link

The part I didn't like was this--

"Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself - by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day"

Acknowledging that in fact there were some antiwar types who spat on vets and did other things of that sort, it's still wrong to act as though it was the antiwar movement that was responsible for failing to honor Vietnam vets. And anyway, if I wanted to talk about national shame, he might also mention what we did in Vietnam.

The phrase "blaming America for all that is wrong with the world" is one that's always used to refer to people (usually on the far left) who criticize American imperialism. There aren't very many people who actually do "blame America for all that is wrong with the world". It's a way of marginalizing anti-imperialist lefties, and Obama surely knows this as well as anyone.

Going back to Thatleftturn's 4:24 comment, I could swallow some betrayals of principle by anyone who wants to get into the White House, but I think a certain amount of screaming and ranting when a politician does this is an important part of the process. How do they know we care if we don't call them names? There is of course another approach--voting for a third party candidate. But I've done that and it didn't turn out well.

I didn't like this part of Obama's speech either--

"Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views - these caricatures of left and right. Most Americans understood that dissent does not make one unpatriotic, and that there is nothing smart or sophisticated about a cynical disregard for America's traditions and institutions. And yet the anger and turmoil of that period never entirely drained away. All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments - a fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic, and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal."

I don't think he has to go this far in showing that he's not one of the dirty fracking hippies.

To clarify, while I personally adamantly disagree with your conclusion regarding the wisdom of Obama's calculus, I'm not trying to attack your overall thesis. I'm attempting to clarify that I think this particular justification you've offered is not something we should seriously consider.

N.V.,

I understand that this is an issue that many people feel very strongly about, including a not insignificant fraction of those on this blog who I admire and respect for the quality of their arguments and who are well represented on this comment thread. I certainly didn't interpret your vigorous dissent re: my viewpoint as being in any way a personal attack. No was offence taken, and I hope none was perceived.

"But to be devil's advocate, don't we have to look at the Israel/Palestine stand thru the lens of the campaign to portray Obama as a Muslim, and the other campaigns?"

Obama is just behaving the way most American politicians behave, which of course doesn't mean we shouldn't criticize him for it. The number of people who think he is a Muslim probably wouldn't be increased by a significant factor if he took a more balanced view of the I/P conflict.

I'm offline for a few hours (or longer).

It's a way of marginalizing anti-imperialist lefties, and Obama surely knows this as well as anyone.

Maybe, but it is also a way of neutralizing media and right wing attacks against Obama. Frankly, I think that is much more important than marginalizing anti-imperialist lefties (a group to which I think we both belong) since anti-imperialist lefties have ZERO power in America today. Seriously, the debate has been held and we've lost: we've failed to convince our fellow citizens that either imperialism is bad or that the foreign policy that we think is imperialistic actually is imperialistic. You can't marginalize a group as powerless as members of the anti-imperialist left are.

And anyway, if I wanted to talk about national shame, he might also mention what we did in Vietnam.

We've tried that before, remember? Remember when Kerry ran for President and footage of him talking about atrocities was used to politically mutilate him? Remember that?

Donald, you are older and wiser than I am, and you know that a large segment of the population does not accept the notion that America did anything wrong in Vietnam. Telling them they wrong, again, will not change that. Showing them pictures will not change that. First hand accounts will not change that. The war for the historical narrative of Vietnam in popular imagination is over and we've lost. You know all of this...right?

I could swallow some betrayals of principle by anyone who wants to get into the White House, but I think a certain amount of screaming and ranting when a politician does this is an important part of the process.

Very true.


I guess my bottom line here is that if Obama is going to get us out of Iraq, he is going to have to build a political coalition to support doing so. He has to reach out to conservatives so that even if they don't vote for him, they won't inflict too much punishment on congress when it comes time to bring the soldiers home. Cognitive dissonance will ensure that most of those conservatives will never in a million years accept the fact that America has had an imperialist foreign policy or that our actions in Iraq may be motivated by imperialism or that we ever did anything shameful in Vietnam. For these people, anti-imperialist leftists are the enemy, and if taking a swipe at us helps give Obama enough political capital to ease the withdrawal, I'm all for it. It is such a little thing but it means so much to the David Brooks of the world; it identifies him as one of them, as opposed to some scary monster. To be honest, I don't think we'd need as much of this stupid posturing if we were electing a white guy from a red state, but we're electing a black guy from Chicago.

The infuriating thing about this whole issue is that it was forced on Obama in the heat of a political battle with McCain by Democrats! With friends like that, can the Republicans really be worse?

I'm opposed to telecom immunity. I'm opposed to the who bill. But, perhaps, there's a point in there somewhere. However, I don't see there's urgency in this legislation. The time for this legislation is in the next administration, when we have a chance to find out what's really been done.

Robert, thank you for "Running a smart campaign with message discipline is a morally neutral trait, though a good one in someone you trust."

The same thing goes for the famous Clinton tenacity

He was a community organizer. Anyone who can get things done as a community organizer can probably even weather Washington politics.

sfguy: However, I don't see there's urgency in this legislation.

If this legislation had not been passed, it would have been possible to prosecute the telecoms companies who broke the law because the Bush administration told them to.

Once this legislation is passed, it becomes impossible to prosecute the telecoms companies, and indeed becomes completely legal for Bush - or the next President - to order the telecoms companies to break the law, spy on Americans without a warrant, and the telecoms companies can't be prosecuted for obeying the President's order. In short, as discussed above, it enables Obama to do everything Bush did with warrantless wiretapping but legally.

The urgency to pass the legislation comes from Bush, since obviously he doesn't want the telecoms prosecuted at a time where he won't be able to hand out pardons in exchange for not testifying against him. I remain unconvinced that Obama's sudden support doesn't stem from Obama wanting the same powers Bush took.

Turbulence: For these people, anti-imperialist leftists are the enemy, and if taking a swipe at us helps give Obama enough political capital to ease the withdrawal, I'm all for it.

That's a nice new argument. Like Bill Clinton spitting on his liberal supporters in 1992 so his conservative enemies would like and help him? Yeah, that strategy worked so well for Clinton, I'm sure it'll work for Obama.

Like Bill Clinton spitting on his liberal supporters in 1992 so his conservative enemies would like and help him? Yeah, that strategy worked so well for Clinton, I'm sure it'll work for Obama.

If I could get a Democrat elected president for two consecutive terms just by getting loogied on, I'd take it for the team...

If you could get a Democrat elected President who wouldn't run to the right on every issue and support the Republicans, wouldn't that be worth not being spit on?

But, enough of fantasies: you have a right-wing party and a far right-wing party in the US, OK.

Liberal Japonicus, my point was that Bill Clinton was very conciliatory towards the Republicans at the start of his first term. He made nice with them, just as Obama is doing.

As you may happen to recall, the Republicans didn't care that Clinton was making nice with him: they set out to destroy him and his wife.

Why bother making nice to people who are going to try to destroy you whether you are nice to them or not? Obama's got nothing to gain by supporting Republican policies: they're still going to make his Presidency hell even if he gets past the vote-rigging and succeeds in getting into the White House.

Clinton was making nice with them

Why bother making nice to people who are going to try to destroy you whether you are nice to them or not?

Who are these people? Do you distinguish between the hundred million conservative people in the US and the republican party apparatus? Bill Clinton made nice and it didn't soothe the Republican party, but it wasn't meant to. It did come in handy later when Republicans shut down the government or during the impeachment when Bill's approval rating was 65%. Bill's political capital with conservative people allowed him to drain congressional republican attacks of their power while shoring up congressional democrats. Perhaps you think it would have been better if Bill was further to the left, had a much lower approval rating and was actually impeached?

If you could get a Democrat elected President who wouldn't run to the right on every issue and support the Republicans, wouldn't that be worth not being spit on?

If I could get a magic pony and a billion dollars, wouldn't that be worth not getting shot in the head?

I like how you use the phrase "support republicans" and "run to the right"...your rhetoric has a nice totalizing feel to it. Instead of writing that, you could have just written "a President who does not agree with you on some issues". I am never going to get a President who does not agree with me on some issues. I am in the 95% percentile of leftism in this country: there is simply no way my country will elect a President who is not more conservative than I am on at least some issues. This is the real world, and I'd appreciate it if we could keep discussions focused on reality rather than some delusional fantasy world where Leftist Presidential candidates abound.

If this legislation had not been passed, it would have been possible to prosecute the telecoms companies who broke the law because the Bush administration told them to.

Only the government can "prosecute" an entity. Individuals "sue" entities. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I don't think Greenwald et al were concerned about losing the ability to prosecute the telecom companies; I though that what concerned them was losing the ability for individuals to sue companies. In any event, suing the telecoms would not deter them from future action since it is very likely that they acquired waivers before doing anything illegal. Which means that at the end of the day, no matter what happens in court, they would have to pay...nothing. Do you think forcing companies to pay nothing is a good deterrent?

Let's say we sue them and make them pay nothing. The discovery would be good. But I don't see any reason to believe that it will alter their behavior in the future. In the future, the government will encourage them to participate and threaten them if they don't and since they're going to get waivers again, their lawyers will still say that they're legally protected. These companies aren't stupid after all.

As for the fourth amendment, if you think it has any force in the US these days then you must not be familiar with life in the US right now.

By the way, you still haven't given a plausible explanation for why Obama might want these useless powers given the greater scrutiny he will be placed under. I'm not too concerned about him using useless powers, but maybe you could convince me.

" you are older and wiser than I am"

Agreed about the older part. I haven't noticed the wisdom-increasing aspects of getting older--there's an increase in the frequency of running injuries, with no compensating ability to persuade people on the internet. I'll think about what you've said, but I'm just feeling too lazy to try and come up with a reply outlining where I agree and where I don't.

"With Obama, you have to do this horrible thing: You have to treat voters like adults."

Heh indeed. That's why we got an explanation for his FISA turnaround that insults our intelligence.

Pull the other one.

Adam A: there is talk that the Democratic leadership in the Senate will attempt to split the immunity off from the rest of the bill.

OT in the sense of not being about Obama and his management skills/style, but pretty important in that the votes will take place this coming Tuesday the 8th, and the details are known (i.e., we're past the "there is talk" stage and have been for several days now).

An amendment to strip the immunity provision will be offered first, needing 51 votes to pass. Three amendments will be offered in all. Details are here.

The discovery would be good. But I don't see any reason to believe that it will alter their behavior in the future.

I'm actually inclined to think that the deterrent effect would be stronger on the government than the companies, if the telecoms do in fact have waivers sufficiently strong to ward off liability in the absence of immunity... something I'm not willing to concede quite so easily, incidentally. But if the government is shown to have done Very Bad Things (and one at this point may be forgiven for suspecting it has done so), there would be a greater chance of a public backlash and legal remedy put forth to ensure that thier like cannot be repeated.

Back to the main topic:

Irritated as I am by all the same things that have ticked off Donald Johnson, two things have helped me maintain an even keel and look forward to the next four years:

- The organizations that Obama supporters are building in their communities with the tools supplied through the campaign that put them in touch with each other. If local Democratic committees take advantage of this process constructively, this phenomenon will be an enormous party-builder. That, in turn, should have the impact of improving policies from the locality level on up, as well as building a deep pool of candidates.

- The government's going to work one hell of a lot better, at a minimum for those who are part of it. This isn't a straight deduction from the campaign management style: putting together a cabinet is done under different constraints than hiring campaign staff. (And, to the extent that it is, 'Observer's' points about insurgent campaigns and risks apply here in reverse: a front-running candidate, not to mention a president-elect, is not an insurgent, even if he is the first African-American elected president.)

But anyone who's read Paul O'Neill's book can appreciate how completely different this experience will be for those who work with Obama and his top staff. And that's bound to have an impact on how the agencies work. (For the moment, I simply close my eyes to the GOP ideological hires stuffed through the top layers of the civil service, a situation that I think the Obama organization is particularly unsuited to rectify, but which would be a nightmare for the most skilled bureaucratic infighters.)

Thanks Nell. Sorry for the offtopic, but the thread seems to have taken a turn in this direction. After all the stink that they've been making at TPM, I would have thought these developments would have been featured prominently in their news. I guess I could have missed them, but I am a compulsive news refresher. Do you know if there's any sense that the amendment removing immunity has a chance of passing?

@Adam: Sorry for the delay in responding; the making of many, many snowcones intervened.

An amendment to strip immunity from the FISA-related bill the Senate passed in February got 32 votes. This one might get more, but I'm not wildly optimistic.

TPM isn't exactly living up to their historical moment on this issue. The best sources for info have been Emptywheel and Glenn Greenwald; the Electronic Frontier Foundation is also valuable.

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