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July 10, 2008

Comments

Obama lost my vote today. For the first time in my adult life I will not vote for a president.

Obama has proven he is no different from any other power hungry politician looking for votes. FISA is far from the only principle he has sold out. Add gun control, border fence, death sentence, Iraq stance, etc.

Only an ass would support him.

Altogether the right spirit, Hilzoy. We can't count on politicians to be much wiser than the electorate, so we have to get the electorate worked up about FISA. Alas, "the electorate" is made up of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues -- most of whom would find us tiresome if we made a serious effort to discuss the issue with them. (I've tried it.) So what to do?

The best I can suggest is: elect Obama and wait for the scared-shitless-of-them-terrists brand of Republicans to suddenly rediscover their courage and start quoting Ben Franklin on liberty and security. Assuming we maintain the courage of our convictions, a political alliance to undo today's dirty work should then become possible.

Incidentally, I just cannot understand why the GOP has been so tongue-hanging-out eager to expand the powers of 'the President' this close to the election. Do they really think McCain is going to be the one exercizing those powers?

-- TP

These people respect your opinion, Bob.

Despite his horrible position on FISA, I'm voting for Obama because he's way better than the other guy, and that's what voting in the general is about.

That said, this FISA vote just reinforces the importance of not placing all our hopes for undoing the damage of the Bush presidency on Obama. The main problem, in my mind, is the usurpation of power to the point that Bush is almost king and can, for instance, order anyone to be held in custody.

The whole Bush presidency (except the halcyon pre-9/11 days when the biggest issue was stem-cell research) has been a serious disruption to the constitutional order. But fixing it doesn't involve the next occupant of the White House, it mainly involves congress taking back these powers. We must assume, a la Madison, that no president would willingly part with power. That is, the real villians in the FISA story are the congressional leaders who let this abomination come to a vote. They simply must be replaced with others who are willing to play the constitutional game as it was meant to be played --- each branch jealously guarding its power relative to the others.

It's not "punishing him" so much as: I have better things to do with my time than doing volunteer work I'm not very good at for a candidate I don't trust, when even thinking about the campaign depresses me. And as far as contributions: I have better things to do with my money than buying tv ads for a candidate I don't trust. Involvement in campaigns is such an inefficient way to change things, which such a little hope of actually having any non-negligible effect....I'm heartened by the increased political involvement of liberals in the past few years, but I think buying TV ads for candidates is a pretty dumb use of resources as far as getting good policy enacted (especially once a candidate is already outraising & outspending his opponents--there are hugely diminishing returns on this stuff. Early money to hire staff & build an organization have a candidacy taken seriously are one thing, & are totally essential; saturation ad-buys right before the election are entirely another) & I swore it off all through 2007 (except for a small donation to Dodd which was more advocacy than an attempt to change the election outcome). Only to get swept up & get involved for basically emotional reasons in January 2007. Which resulted in a a lot of wasted energy, a net of several votes to Obama on Super Tuesday--more than I can say my canvassing for Dean & Kerry accomplished, at least--and a contribution which was based on a false premise about a difference between him and Clinton that apparently does not exist, which was based in part by deception by the candidate. Fortunately, money is fungible, so to make myself feel slightly less stupid: he got his general election donation a little early.

Katherine's point (in the McCain: Dead Iranians Are Funny thread) about discouragement is important.

Nearly everyone from the center leftward seems to agree on the principle that Congress and the President need sustained pressure from outside the party establishment to do the right thing. If left to themselves and normal channels, demonstrably they will capitulate to the Washington establishment, which is anti-democratic as well s anti-Democratic these days.

So one way of looking at the reaction folks like Katherine and I are having is that we are doing something now to help build the infrastructure that the rest of "us" (that is, people seeking anything more liberal and law-abiding than current Democratic consensus) already agree is necessary. If enough of us who'd otherwise pretty much just give up and watch do this instead, we may help make it possible to shift some elections down the ticket in good ways, and in any event we'll be helping prepare for the work that must be done the moment the election is over.

(also, this:

"In the long run, a citizenry who care enough about the Bill of Rights that this vote would have been a political disaster is the best guarantee I can think of that this will not happen again. Madison did not count on the virtues of politicians, and neither do I."

This would seem to suggest that a portion of the citizenry who cares enough about the Bill of Rights that this vote has at least some political cost would also be a helpful thing.

Obviously, there are limits to the costs you should rationally impose on a candidate whose opponent is worse on this issue & much much worse on a host of others. You don't want to take any remotely plausible risk of flipping the election--even in the absence of that, if one major party candidate is much better than the other, I think you should vote for him even in a state where your vote can't possibly affect the outcome. But maxing out to the Democratic candidate without regard to how he votes & acts, as long as he remains better than the Republican, doesn't make a lot of sense to me given the other good causes & avenues for involvement out there. It seems to be a way of ensuring that there aren't political costs to votes like this.

One can only hope that the announced challenges of(to?) this bill (on 4th amendement grounds) are successful.
I read at Greenwald's that congress's approval rates went into another nosedive.

I can’t claim to be surprised or disappointed. I’ve reached the point where I expect politicians to disappoint me. When they don’t, I look around suspiciously and clamp a hand onto my wallet.

Face it: He needed the netroots to win the primary. He needed your money and your passion. But you are a liability in the general, so… time to go under the bus with all the other liabilities. (Please consider that a general observation, I don’t mean it personally to anyone here or to be taken as an insult by anyone.)

I like to think that if it had really mattered, that if the vote had not been so lopsided and had been anywhere close, that he would have stuck to his guns.

OTOH, given that the reaction of his base to this was completely predictable, it would have been an ideal day to have been on the campaign trail, and to have simply missed the vote. So the fact that he made the vote and voted the way he did may indicate that he thinks that he really needs to peel off more voters on the right. He’s really not polling that much better than McCain…

IOW – he’s a politician - a politician who has to overcome a lot of obstacles (racism, his lack of serious experience, the librul label) to actually win the WH.

being out of the country, I'm still a bit confused about this. I am a lot more willing to take the line that Turbulence has taken, but my respect of Katherine and others certainly has me on the fence, so I don't mean to be attacking anyone who has registered their displeasure with FISA. However, I think this was an interesting take, especially in regards to the FISA.

don't mean to drop a hand grenade in the discussion, but I won't be online until for a couple of hours, but I did want to put the link up for youse guys to discuss. cheers


Of course, I read this thread first and then backtracked to the other one, so it really looks like I'm tossing an oblong brown object in the punchbowl. I really apologize, don't think I'm trying to rabbit punch anyone here.

Well, it's nice you did finally criticize Obama about this, but it's a shame you couldn't bring yourself to do it earlier when, you know, you could have invited people to get in touch with him before the vote, or to get in touch with their own Senators.

It's kind of like Republicans who suddenly discovered Bush was bad news in 2005. Or 2007. Obama's support for the FISA bill is bad news. Your criticism of him after the fact, and your defending him before the votes went in, is, well...

*shrug*

OCSteve: But you are a liability in the general

How odd to see a Republican admitting that in the general election it matters less whether people will actually vote for you than if the media like you. That may well be true for McCain, and was undoubtedly true for Bush: and it's possible, I suppose, that Obama has learned from 2000, 2004, and 2006, and rather than trying to behave so people will want to vote for him, has his own software experts in place to rig the election for him. Eventually, this is bound to happen; US elections will become a contest between who can rig the most voting machines, rather than who is actually the candidate most people vote for.

Jes, Hilzoy's linked at least once to her June 20th, 2008 entry entitled "Bleccchh", which ends, "Not that I wouldn't greatly have preferred the 'no FISA compromise' option. A lot." In it she is critical of his stance, wishes for a different stance, and examines the Democrats' support for FISA as a weakness. At no point does she endorse capitulation; she says that she supports Obama nonetheless in spite of this stance of his. It's getting a little old to see you keep not noticing any of that.

I read "Bleccchh" as a mild defense of Obama, actually. It added up to that.

Hilzoy even suggested that Obama's decision to support repeal of the Fourth Amendment (wow, and think of Brett's rage whenever anyone suggests tinkering even a little bit with his interpretation of the Second Amendment) didn't matter much because "politicians disappoint" - not a defense she offered for Clinton, or Lieberman, or indeed any other politician.

Look, I get that people are pinning a lot of hopes on Obama changing things if he gets to be President. And I agree that regardless of how bad Obama is - and this decision was pretty bad - he's still going to be better than McCain. But when a politician decides to support a bill that will give him unchecked, unsupervised power if he becomes President, this is something that there should be mass opposition to, not meekly agreeing that, well, Obama's got to go along with what political powerhouses tell him he's got to do, not stand up for basic civil liberties supposedly enshrined in the Constitution.

McCain supported the bill too - and has done worse, of course.

Though I came back to this thread to quote Super Bruce on something you'd said in another thread: I apologize for the hostility in my comments, because, as Bruce said in another thread to Super Turb "I don't really think you step into a phone booth and come out as Super Hilzoy, consultant to the political stars, or anything like that". (I still think it would be very cool if we all could, though).

Jes: How odd to see a Republican admitting that in the general election it matters less whether people will actually vote for you than if the media like you.

Not sure where you got all that from based on by comment, however…

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% of our population self-describe as liberal, vs. moderate or conservative. No one is going to win the general by adhering to everything that 20% wants.

FISA passed -- and I suspect that Obama voted for it -- because it was the best bill that was available. The desires of the netroots could not be put into policy without causing more damage than they would cure. Obama wisely chose a different path.

I expect Obama's formal abandonment of his 16 month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq to create similiar feelings among the netroots. But it's inevitable.

Incidentally, if you shot back at me on another thread and didn't receive a response, it's because I have been -- and will continue to be -- tied up with various matters.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% of our population self-describe as liberal

Yes, because conservative propaganda has made "liberal" into a dirty word. It's like feminism: the vast majority of women are feminists, because only a tiny minority of women really believe that women are inferior not-quite human people who deserve unfair treatment. Only a minority of women are willing to define themselves as feminists, because "feminism" has become tagged with a lot of unpleasant negative connotations. (If you study the history of the feminist revolution, the progress is slow but steady: radical feminist ideas become standard feminist ideas become normal liberal ideas become mainstream - and in the process, cease to become "feminist" ideas. The notion that a married woman ought to have the legal right to sign contracts in her own name and directly receive the money she earned, was radical feminism - 150 years ago.) Sorry, that's a sidetrack.

The vast majority of the American population support liberal policies. Including people who self-identify as conservative. See Republicans and brand loyalty.

Do you really think that 80% of Americans think the President ought to have the right to rule above the law - that if the President tells someone to break the law, that person ought not to be prosecuted for it, because the President ought to have the right to decide which laws should be obeyed? That's the right the FISA bill gives the President.

Do you really think that 80% of Americans think their government ought to have the right to wiretap their phone calls without needing to get a warrant? (In my country, unfortunately, the intelligence agencies do have that right - we have a legal system where the Crown has a certain number of damnable unfettered powers - and I can tell you it's not a popular one.)

The thing that...scratch that, one of the things that bugs me is the Democrats' apparent conviction that they can't ever set an agenda. Now, I agree it's hard with a press as in the bag for Republicans in general and McCain in particular as this one. But Obama demonstrated that one can run a highly successful campaign outside the establishment; someone's got to have some ideas for reaching the rest of the public on other matters, too. Right now there's a lot of diffuse public distrust of stuff Bush is grabbing for that could be mobilized in support of good explanations and solid proposals.

It would, of course, mean taking on the punditocracy. But then I have the strong impression, backed by long-term declines in ratings, that a lot of the public don't much like a lot of the blowhards, either. It's the utter refusal to try that irritates me.

Nearly everyone from the center leftward seems to agree on the principle that Congress and the President need sustained pressure from outside the party establishment to do the right thing.

only 2 in 5 can name the three branches of the US government. why would you expect that enough people will understand and care about something as esoteric as FISA legislation that they could pressure their representatives to vote the way you prefer ?

bah.

the Dems' default formation is the circular firing squad, and the GOP is more than happy to supply the ammo.

In all seriousness, if I thought the American public actually were that bad on a sustained basis (as opposed to its collective fits of barbarism in times of crisis), I'd go back to being a libertarian, and this time of the most utterly self-centered "I'll get mine out of what's yours, any way I can" type. I'm on the left these days precisely because I think the public has a whole lot of untapped potential.

"Nearly everyone from the center leftward seems to agree on the principle that Congress and the President need sustained pressure from outside the party establishment to do the right thing. If left to themselves and normal channels, demonstrably they will capitulate to the Washington establishment, which is anti-democratic as well as anti-Democratic these days."

LOL! Congress and the President ARE the Washington establishment. When they "capitulate" to it, they're doing what THEY want to do. This is what Obama wants, he's not being pressured into it by some outside force.

"wow, and think of Brett's rage whenever anyone suggests tinkering even a little bit with his interpretation of the Second Amendment"

And I'm not voting for McCain this fall, even though he's about as good as it gets on the Second amendment, because he's too bad on other issues for me to stomach. See, I also care about the 1st and 4th.

I mostly end up raving about the 2nd amendment here because this is a 'liberal' site, and the right to keep and bear arms is the civil right 'liberals' are most hostile to.

cleek: why would you expect that enough people will understand and care about something as esoteric as FISA legislation

It's not really esoteric, though, is it?

It's dead simple:

Do you trust the government to read your e-mail, tap your phonecalls, monitor your Internet usage, etc - without ever having to get a warrant?

Do you think the President of the United States ought to have the right to rule above the law, so that people who follow his orders can't be prosecuted so long as it's shown that the President told them to break the law and they were just obeying their President?

These are not complex issues. It's just that the Republicans have determinedly been framing this as "national security" and strongly implying that only bad people will be spied on by the government.

Jes: Do you really think… Do you really think…

I stated clearly what I really think: There is no way for anyone running on a platform that would make all (most) liberals completely happy to be elected president. Run this by the electorate:

-Full withdrawal from Iraq on January 20th at 1:00PM.
-Rollback the Patriot Act and disband DHS.
-Vow to begin criminal investigations of previous administration on January 21st.
-Slash military funding and expand social welfare programs.
-Repeal the 2nd Amendment.
-Abortion on demand with no restrictions anywhere anytime.
-Vow to nominate most liberal judges possible for any Supreme Court vacancies.
-Restore top tax rate to 91% and expand social welfare programs.
-Sign on to Kyoto and its successors, sign on to ICC, and generally subjugate national interests to the UN.
-etc.

Yes I’m exaggerating and no I don’t believe that’s really an accurate list of what most liberals want. (Certainly there are some who would go for all of that.) But I’m exaggerating because you’re choosing to ignore my really simple point – 80% of the electorate do not consider themselves to be liberal.

Do you really want a Democrat who stands up for liberal values and fills the netroots with joy all through the general and then gets his a** handed to him in November? What good is that?

Run this by the electorate

Oh, I thought you were trying to argue seriously. If you're just going to present Republican skew as "liberal policies", there's no point continuing.

It's dead simple:

Do you trust the government to read your e-mail, tap your phonecalls, monitor your Internet usage, etc - without ever having to get a warrant?

there are a whole host of qualifications there which you, for some reason, left out: warrants, courts, time frames, evidence, locations, citizenship, etc.. it's being demagogued on all sides - and if well-informed people can't even be honest about it among themselves, what chance does Joe 6pack have of understanding it ?

Do you think the President of the United States ought to have the right to rule above the law, so that people who follow his orders can't be prosecuted so long as it's shown that the President told them to break the law and they were just obeying their President?

this bill changes none of that.

Do you trust the government to read your e-mail, tap your phonecalls, monitor your Internet usage, etc - without ever having to get a warrant?

Do you think the President of the United States ought to have the right to rule above the law, so that people who follow his orders can't be prosecuted so long as it's shown that the President told them to break the law and they were just obeying their President?

Yes yes yes! As long as it keeps us safe from teh scary brown people! Where do I go to get my body cavity search?

"Do you really want a Democrat who stands up for liberal values and fills the netroots with joy all through the general and then gets his a** handed to him in November? What good is that?"

See, the thing is, the Republicans have no qualms at all about pandering to THEIR base. In fact, they were pretty successful with it, and their ideas were way further outside the Overton window when they started pulling than some of these. All Republican candidates at this point need to adopt their diametrically opposite extreme views in order to be nominated, let alone elected.

We deserve some politicians that do consider themselves liberal and will be honest and forceful in defense of those values.

Does it have to be the President? Maybe not. But we've got very few national politicians at any level who even admit to being liberal. Of COURSE the American public doesn't consider itself liberal when no one's up on stage willing to claim the mantle and define for them what liberalism is all about.

The worst bit is that our supposed leaders reflexively pander to the right even when they have a winning issue, where going right nets them nothing (because the general public doesn't care) and delivers a gut-punch to the base.


FISA was an own-goal.

Meh. I don't have the heart for this right now. I'm depressed, and freshly fearful for my country. I need rest, and some attention on something where I might be able to do some good. Back later.

But I’m exaggerating because you’re choosing to ignore my really simple point – 80% of the electorate do not consider themselves to be liberal.

Good god, that serves me right for not reading down to the end.

Okay, so you were presenting a Republican skew deliberately.

But let's take these skews:
-Full withdrawal from Iraq on January 20th at 1:00PM.

Polls say the majority of Americans want US troops out of Iraq as soon as possible regardless of what situation that leaves in Iraq - and that the majority have been saying that consistently for years. The Bush-McCain policy that the troops should be left in occupation indefinitely is decidedly unpopular.

-Rollback the Patriot Act and disband DHS.

Is the Patriot Act really so superpopular with Americans? And especially after Katrina, is the DHS really so superpopular?

-Vow to begin criminal investigations of previous administration on January 21st.

Criminal investigations of Bush administration was popular in 2006, and remains popular now.

-Slash military funding and expand social welfare programs.

Is having a military budget 50 times bigger than any other country in the world really so superpopular? Certainly the notion that people really don't like having a safety-net in case of disaster, enjoy having the crappiest and most expensive health system in the developed world (especially, the Republican idea that people just love going bankrupt because they fell ill with something expensive), and that women especially adore going back to work a few days after giving birth, is pure nonsense.

-Repeal the 2nd Amendment.

Well, there you have me. I agree that would be deeply unpopular. I know of literally no widespread liberal movement in the US to do so, however.

-Abortion on demand with no restrictions anywhere anytime.

Most people would agree that forced pregnancy is bad and the best person to make decisions about health care in pregnancy is the pregnant woman, in consultation with her doctor. Most people would also agree that a desperately ill woman who needs a third-trimester abortion to save her life shouldn't have to be shipped a thousand miles in order to be able to get one. Forced pregnancy and contraception/abortion denial is one of those conservative policies that is far more popular in discussion than in practice.

-Vow to nominate most liberal judges possible for any Supreme Court vacancies.

As opposed to the most useless judges possible, like the past administrations?

-Restore top tax rate to 91% and expand social welfare programs.

Make the very wealthy pay their fair share and ensure that people who need it have a safety net. Again - the notion that the very rich shouldn't have to pay and that people enjoy having their lives completely destroyed is more popular in discussion than in practice.

-Sign on to Kyoto and its successors, sign on to ICC, and generally subjugate national interests to the UN.

Certainly when it's phrased that way. I'm not sure that global warming is really as popular as you seem to think it is. But in fairness I'm also not at all sure that the majority of Americans really sign on to the idea that an American soldier who tortures prisoners ought to be prosecuted for doing so, and that if the US is unwilling to prosecute people who have committed war crimes, the international community ought to do so. So one point for your side: I think "American exceptionalism" is genuinely popular.

Do you really want a Democrat who stands up for liberal values and fills the netroots with joy all through the general and then gets his a** handed to him in November? What good is that?

Given that Democrats won a landslide in November 2006 by standing up for liberal values, which proved extremely popular with the electorate, I think what you're missing here is: in 2000 Gore won. In 2004, Kerry won. Bush got into the White House anyway.

A Democratic candidate who doesn't take seriously the fact that the Republicans will rig the election in their guy's favor, and who is prepared to fight that, will get his a** handed to him even though the electorate like his positions and vote for him. That's what happened to Gore. It's what happened to Kerry. It's what will happen to Obama - and all his kowtowing to the right-wing won't make a bit of difference.

Jes: Yeah I was being a little bit silly.

Your interpretation sounds much more reasonable of course. But my list is closer to how it would be packaged and sold to the voters by Republicans.

Heck, I maxed out for Kerry, and he was a much worse candidate.

Kerry did, however, vote the right way here. As did my representative (my other senator was out for health reasons). I take some consolation from that.

On this score, I'm not convinced that Obama's making the right call even from the viewpoint of political expediency. On the other hand, it's been amply demonstrated that he knows a lot more about running for president than I do.

OCSteve: Yeah I was being a little bit silly.

*grin* I felt like an idiot for blowing up when I hadn't read right down to the end of your comment, so we're even.

But my list is closer to how it would be packaged and sold to the voters by Republicans.

Didn't work very well for them in 2004 or 2006, though, did it? It's popular with the media, not with the electorate.

"I read "Bleccchh" as a mild defense of Obama, actually. It added up to that.

Hilzoy even suggested that Obama's decision to support repeal of the Fourth Amendment (wow, and think of Brett's rage whenever anyone suggests tinkering even a little bit with his interpretation of the Second Amendment) didn't matter much because "politicians disappoint""

Didn't matter?

Look: this matters immensely to me, and did when I wrote that. The one thing it does not matter to is whether or not I will work for the guy. And the reason it doesn't matter to that is because there are a whole lot of other things that leap to mind when I think of a McCain presidency. -- I mean: that's one of the things about Presidential elections: there are at least 100 things disagreement on which ought to be a deal-breaker, except for the other 99. And the thing is, Obama is better than McCain on all of them. Even FISA.

If you thought that earlier post was a defense of Obama, then you don't know me.

All elections come down to this simple fact: one of the people on the ballot will win and take office, and you must choose between them. You don't have the option of not making a choice--if you don't vote, that's still a choice, it's just a choice to not care whether or not John McCain gets elected.

Obama disappointed many people with his capitulation on FISA. I'm one of them. But I also recognize that however bad this decision was, it absolutely pales--by orders of magnitude--compared to the outright rape of the Constitution that McCain would be happy to embrace as part of enacting Bush's third term.

It's good to have principled positions on issues, but part of caring about those issues is facing the reality that one candidate is better than the other for defending them, and that even the best candidate is going to disappoint you sometimes.

You don't have to give Obama money. You don't have to volunteer for him. And I absolutely encourage you to be vocal to him about how you feel.

But if you want to be able to look yourself in the mirror after November and say that you actually give a damn about the issues you claim to, then you do need to vote for him. Otherwise you're just another schmoe demonstrating that they care more about demanding purity from their candidate than defending their values.

I put the question to myself a little differently...

Would I rather be disagreeing with, and fighting with, an Obama administration or a McCain administration.

I think I'll have a much, much better chance at getting my opinion considered by staffers in an Obama administration, and more support in Obama's congressional party caucus.

I'm bitter about the FISA thing as well. Specter argued against it and then voted for it, like the habeas corpus monstrosity. I think Specter reasoned that the courts would declare the habeas bill unconstitutional (they did, but by a whisker) in the end so he figured it was a freebie; and I bet he figures the key provisions of this one will be struck down as well. But I don't think one ought to gamble with fundamentals.

cleek: there are a whole host of qualifications there which you, for some reason, left out: warrants, courts, time frames, evidence, locations, citizenship, etc.

You argued that FISA was "too esoteric" for the ordinary voter.

I pointed out that the essence can be summed up into two questions.

You complain that the two questions simplify this too much? Your original argument was that it was impossible to present the case against this bill simply, and quite evidently, it is possible.

Hilzoy: If you thought that earlier post was a defense of Obama, then you don't know me.

Since you joined the blogmobbing of Clinton, I realized that I didn't know you.

Jes, I still don't understand why during the nomination contest anyone criticizing Clinton was helping to elect McCain (and thus criticism of Clinton was evil), but now you're perfectly happy to join in the "blogmobbing" of Obama, complete with repeated misrepresentations of what the legislation he voted for does. Is a Democratic win in November suddenly unimportant?

I'm extremely disappointed in the FISA vote, and sympathetic to Katherine's position (though I doubt I'll carry it that far). But I don't see any positive purpose in your attacks.

the real villians in the FISA story are the congressional leaders

Obama shouldn't get a pass for this - this is very disappointing - but the above is true anyway. However, I'd like to see the new leader of the Dem party...lead the party occasionally. In the end though, vis a vis the FISA 'compromise', perhaps Obama really means it when he says that there is more that unites us than divides us, depending on who 'us' is: both Republicans and Democrats agree that the 4th amendment is really sort of quaint; but Labor...I mean the Democrats...are just 'nicer'. I'd also say that it is hardly cynical to suggest that presidents, and presumptive presidents, generally are in favor of more power accruing to themselves. Good for HRC for voting against it, but I suspect Yglesias is right that if she were the nominee, Obama's and her votes would probably have been reversed.

The Nathen Newman post linked above points out that the original FISA bill was really just a shakey interregnum anyway. That doesn't make the current bill - which is a reversion, or rather a legitimation of illegal practices -better (it's worse!), but perspective matters.

To the non-voters above: Who ARE you people? It has only been two election cycles since "protest votes" gave us President Bush. Are you seriously that short-sighted?

I'm sure ideological purity is important in fantasy land, but from those of us in the real world who are facing the threat of a President McCain: the time for holding the Democratic leadership accountable is the primary. We will find challengers for Hoyer, etc, in 2010. But now is not the time.

You complain that the two questions simplify this too much? Your original argument was that it was impossible to present the case against this bill simply, and quite evidently, it is possible.

but what you described wasn't what just passed.

I agree that most of the electorate actually does not care much about this issue, nor did they care much about the Military Commissions Act by the way. That excuses nothing. On issues where the public isn't paying much attention, the GOP generally votes in close-to-lockstep (defections are allowed if they don't affect the outcome) & use all the procedural tools available to it to get the policy outcome its base wants--in fact, they very often do this even when the public IS paying attention & their position is incredibly unpopular. On issues where the public isn't paying much attention, the Democrats split; there are at least 8 & usually more like 20 or 30 defector. The party leadership declines to use the procedural tools available to it to get the policy outcome its base wants (e.g., they won't filibuster in the Senate or refuse to schedule a vote in the House, they bring a version of the bill their base hates out of committee, they won't attach affirmative legislation to appropriations or authorization bills which are its only chance of passage. And let's not even talk about the relative standards for impeachment). Instead, the D.C. establishment & contributors get what they want.

The idea that a FISA bill was "necessary" here is just part of this game. Bush goes around saying he'll veto the bill if it includes a provision even delaying telecom immunity until the Inspector General's report, but the Democrats must sign a bill that gives away the store because it is the "best bill available" & it's so very urgent that a bill pass. Bush doesn't need to worry about vetoing the bill that would extend his supposedly-essential-to-save-us-all-from-doom surveillance program because it doesn't hand out favors to corporations who abetted his lawbreaking quite fast enough--because he knows very well by now that if he vetoes a Democratic-favored bill or a compromise, the Democratic Congress will simply pass the bill he wants, and he will get his way with no political risk or cost today. You can almost see why people get nervous about the Democrats negotiating with foreign countries if this is our level of negotiating skill (except that fortunately the House & Senate caucuses don't participate, & Democratic presidential candidates are not nearly as afraid of supporting destructive foreign wars as it is of commercials calling it soft on national security).

The 'pro Bush impeachment' people have warned us of this. By ignoring Executive lawlessness, we are assuring that the arrogation of illegal power in the executive branch will continue, regardless of the successor to these criminals.

I have been hoping all along that Obama would disprove this prediction. He has, unfortunately, shown that, like the others, he would have little incentive to shed the additional, albeit illegal, lines of power over us.

"To the non-voters above: Who ARE you people?"

I count one of them. I wouldn't worry too much unless you find out what state he lives in.

The arguments about how much the public cares are ignoring the possibility that the public's caring can be asymmetric: they might care very little about the government listening in on their phone calls ("I don't have anything to hide; I don't have any terrorists on speed dial") but care quite a lot about (supposed) interference in the government's ability to listen in to terrorists' calls and keep them safe.

Anyway – something has to explain why Congress’s approval rating is at 9% vs. Bush’s hovering around 30%. Three people polled approve of Bush vs. only one who approves of Congress.

That would seem to indicate that an awful lot of Democrats are p*ssed at the Democrat controlled Congress…

I think Jes is being totally unfair to hilzoy, & "blogmobbing" is a truly ridiculous coinage up there with "Bush Derangement Syndrom" (it appears to be the irregular-verb for "criticizing a candidate on a blog & having a lot of people agree with you.")

That would seem to indicate that an awful lot of Democrats are p*ssed at the Democrat controlled Congress

it's hard to think of a reason not to be.

"The arguments about how much the public cares are ignoring the possibility that the public's caring can be asymmetric"

Well, in that case, I'd say the public DOES care & supports the GOP position, but actually, the polls don't show this as far as I know; if you have contrary evidence I'd like to see it. They show a divided public that votes on other issues (I assume the polls also swing wildly if you stack the question to support one side or the other, naturally.)

On issues where the public isn't paying much attention, the GOP generally votes in close-to-lockstep... & use all the procedural tools available to it to get the policy outcome its base wants... On issues where the public isn't paying much attention, the Democrats split; there are at least 8 & usually more like 20 or 30 defector. The party leadership declines to use the procedural tools available to it to get the policy outcome its base wants

Katherine,
I hope you'll forgive me for asking about this, but could it be that Democratic behavior concerning procedural tools is actually something that we support in a bizarre way? Would anyone feel comfortable if the Dems started replicating the way the Republicans trod all over procedure, holding votes open and threatening people to change their votes? It seems to me that these sorts of tendencies for circular firing squads and caucuses riven with fault lines represent something about the Democratic party that we want. While I, like many here, would love to see the Dems start using procedural rules to expose the criminality of the current administration, not to mention stopping the FISA, wouldn't we be asking the same question that people ask of Obama's vote to support the FISA, are we sure that you can or will want to hop off that slippery slope? I realize that it is not a perfect analogy, because you have pointed to particular bad outcomes of the FISA whereas I can't concretely identify the bad things that would happen if the Dems started to act like the Republican majority did, but I think there is enough similarity to warrent some thought.

To end on a note of agreement, I heartily concur with your 10:43.

BTW, I would guess Obama's calculation here is that there's some risk of a terrorist attack before the election & this vote minimizes the risk of McCain successfully demagoging & blaming him for it. That's the only scenario for it being politically necessary to cave that I even find plausible. Since I think that: (1) such an attack is very unlikely; (2) McCain will attempt this in any case & his success depends on the extent to which Obama is as skilled a politician as he appears to be, & whether the public instinctively rallies around the war veteran instead of the black guy with a funny name when it gets scared, not on Obama's vote on an obscure surveillance law most voters won't have heard of, it doesn't get very far. And the most people in Congress's position is probably not motivated by electoral need at all--trust me, my Congressman didn't need to vote for this; his district is 15 points more Democratic than Dennis Kucinich's & his seat is all too safe. Jay Rockefeller, another key player--also a safe seat. They both sure did get a lot of money from the telecoms, though.

LJ, I don't think it's necessary for the Democrats to emulate the abuses of the late unlamented Republican majority in order to control the agenda better. Not bringing a bill to the floor for a vote is a perfectly ordinary, nonabusive part of normal procedures. Reid could have brought up the immunity-less version of the bill instead of the immunity-full one, and there wouldn't have been anything to scream about. Similarly with Pelosi's decisions about what rules to bring various bills to the floor under.

"I hope you'll forgive me for asking about this, but could it be that Democratic behavior concerning procedural tools is actually something that we support in a bizarre way? Would anyone feel comfortable if the Dems started replicating the way the Republicans trod all over procedure, holding votes open and threatening people to change their votes?"

As I said before, I am talking mainly about standard Congressional procedural tools like occasionally filibustering horrible legislation you oppose & putting things on appropriations riders if you need them to pass & the majority party setting the agenda. I support those things, yes, obviously. I would also have supported more drastic actions like impeachment hearings & contempt votes; there is as much justification for them now as during the 70s & whole orders of magnitude during the 90s. I'm not requesting the full Tom DeLay, and it was perfectly clear from my comment what I was suggesting.

In general--the excuses people are making here are pathetic & disappointing. If you're so very concerned about how much I'm hurting Obama by becoming less involved, you'd be better served to just get more involved; you're doing nothing to convince me.

I'm not so confident that the risk of a terrorist attack -- not necessarily one that results in any deaths in the US, but at least something that Republicans can get people excited about -- is negligible. After all, Republicans are repeatedly telling terrorists that if they want to see a continuation of the Bush administration (with the president providing recruitment and PR for Al Qaeda and promoting the idea of a religious war) then an attack is a good way to help. But I agree that an Obama vote against the FISA revision would have been a negligible part of the Republican response to such an event, assuming the bill still passed over his opposition.

Fwiw: I have thought for a while that the risk of an actual attack is part of the calculus. But I hate talking about this: even though I know perfectly well that I would not be saying "the main thing about a terrorist attack would be its political implications", which would be abhorrent, but rather "on a list of political considerations, 'possible terrorist attack' probably figures", it's so easy to come off sounding as though I'm politicizing something I completely do not think should be politicized.

About likelihood: all I can say is, if I were a terrorist, I would want the party that keeps both doing things that help my recruitment and inexplicably failing to do basic defensive things like rail security and security for nuclear and chemical plants, to stay in power. Having said that, though, I hasten to add: I place about zero confidence in my take on what's going through bin Laden's head, and don't want to base many of my choices on that anyways.

In general--the excuses people are making here are pathetic & disappointing. If you're so very concerned about how much I'm hurting Obama by becoming less involved, you'd be better served to just get more involved; you're doing nothing to convince me.

I should emphasize that I'm not trying to convince you or anyone, I am trying to figure out what the deal is. I live in a country where almost all, if not all of the stuff discussed in the FISA bill would certainly be permitted, most definitely against me (as a non-citizen) and most probably against citizens so I'm following the discussion, but not really making a statement concerning the FISA bill. I was only drawn into asking you the question because it sounded like you longed for the message discipline of the Republicans. When you said use all the procedural tools available to it to get the policy outcome its base wants, it wasn't clear to me what you were suggesting, so thanks for clarifying.

" Having said that, though, I hasten to add: I place about zero confidence in my take on what's going through bin Laden's head, and don't want to base many of my choices on that anyways."

I think the chances or low because of Al Qaeda's ability more than its will--if they had the capacity to pull off an attack on the U.S. whenever it was in their interest, presumably we'd have seen some before now.

As I've said, the main issue with FISA for me is less surveillance itself (I think it's very bad, but it's not my highest priority) than as a proxy for another issue where Bush has authorized felonies on the theory that if the president does it for national security reasons, it's not illegal.

Barack has threatened those who would criticize Michelle’s politics. Barack thinks that he will be the next President. Of course he now supports FISA because it gives him more power. Duh. See also campaign finance, Reverend Wright, NAFTA, and his congregation.

Barack Obama Senior’s (a Harvard-trained scholar) thesis, Problems with Our Socialism, should be required reading.

Katherine; We’re on our own. Always have been, always will be. And that’s fine.

cleek: there are a whole host of qualifications there which you, for some reason, left out: warrants, courts, time frames, evidence, locations, citizenship, etc.

And you, for some reason, leave out the utter gutting of oversight. To quote the unreasonable commies at the ACLU:

The FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance by allowing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants. The FISC will not be told any specifics about who will actually be wiretapped, thereby undercutting any meaningful role for the court and violating the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The bill further trivializes court review by authorizing the government to continue a surveillance program even after the government’s general spying procedures are found insufficient or unconstitutional by the FISC. The government has the authority to wiretap through the entire appeals process, and then keep and use whatever information was gathered in the meantime. A provision touted as a major “concession” by proponents of the bill calls for investigations by the inspectors general of four agencies overseeing spying activities. But members of Congress who do not sit on the Judiciary or Intelligence committees will not be guaranteed access to the agencies’ reports.

'Do you think the President of the United States ought to have the right to rule above the law, so that people who follow his orders can't be prosecuted so long as it's shown that the President told them to break the law and they were just obeying their President?'

this bill changes none of that.

Um. Yes and no. It's setting a lovely precedent whereby private entities can, merely by stating that the executive told them it was legal to do so, engage in wanton criminal and unconstitutional activity. This is antithetical to rule of law. It's perfectly acceptable for rule of man. If we've an honest President, we don't need to have oversight of him, and he'll only order unconstitutional activity when it's right and necessary. And so forth.

The immunity also helps legislate away the standing for punishing the executive for felonies it committed. This bill can only hurt Al-Haramain v. Bush By going from legislated judicial oversight to faith-based executive oversight, secrecy is enhanced, and it gets harder for any responsible agency to know how exactly this power is being used, let alone having standing to do something about it in court.

As to your arguments that this is too obscure and esoteric for anyone to care about... no, I'd agree with Jes. The Republicans have no problem misrepresenting the bill as something simple by ignoring its contents. The Dem leadership, craven knaves that they are, could easily return the favor if they cared to. They don't. They're scared, and they figure that so long as they just repeat Republican misrepresentations ("compromise", "crucial streamlining", "reiterates judicial oversight"*), no one but the more wonkish portions of their base will understand it... and there will be no political cost for being lazy and craven, because the wonks daren't punish them. To my ear, your calls to accept this "compromise" bill as not so bad and in any case inevitable are accepting this wholeheartedly, and encouraging this calculus. But then, we've covered this before, and neither of us have swayed in our opinions one jot, I fear.

(*Digging around just now I found this WaPo editorial:

It reiterates that the legislation is the "exclusive means" by which the president is authorized to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance on U.S. soil -- preventing, we hope, a repeat of the Bush administration's end-run around the statute. The legislation is far preferable to two likely alternatives -- returning to the outdated strictures of the original FISA or returning to the overly lax authorities of the now-expired Protect America Act, last year's flawed FISA rewrite.

W.T.F.?!?! This bill is great because "it reiterates" that "outdated strictures" are "the 'exclusive means'" to conduct this intelligence? This cognitive dissonance is what passes for an editorial these days? Oh, for the days when the WaPo was respectable. Or I was naïver. I'll take either, thank you.)

BOB: Of course he now supports FISA because it gives him more power. Duh.

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

It's dead simple:

Do you trust the government to read your e-mail, tap your phonecalls, monitor your Internet usage, etc - without ever having to get a warrant?

I've long assumed that they were doing exactly that. I mean, a significant number of people in the US government aided and abetted genocides with no sanction whatsoever, so why the heck should unlawful surveillance bother them?

More to the point, getting FISA to review individual warrants doesn't seem that important to me because for many years the FISA court never turned the government down. How effective of a watchdog could it have been if it never barked? I've asked this question repeatedly on the other thread and I have yet to see an answer.

In general, I think all this talk of gutting the fourth amendment is ridiculous. The fourth amendment doesn't exist in practice. The government can already go to banks or ISPs and legally demand all data relating to you since those institutions aren't you and don't have standing to complain.

Turbulence: I've long assumed that they were doing exactly that.

And since early in 2001, you were right.

More to the point, getting FISA to review individual warrants doesn't seem that important to me because for many years the FISA court never turned the government down.

That's actually a valid point. The solution seems to me to be to set up a more effective watchdog, not disembowel the one you had.

Of course [Obama] now supports FISA because it gives him more power.

Unfortunately, I do think what BOB says here is indeed one reason for Obama's support of this FISA cave, but it's reductive to think it's the only one. I think there just really is a substantial chunk of 'liberal' (not just conservative) opinion which actually believes the gov. should have more/less these powers (politicians have one inviolate principle: CYA.). They may not all love this particular bill, but once you've decided to split the baby, it matters less precisely *where* you cut. The original FISA was not terribly burdensome anyway.

Time to take some flak, I expect:

About likelihood: all I can say is, if I were a terrorist, I would want the party that keeps both doing things that help my recruitment and inexplicably failing to do basic defensive things like rail security and security for nuclear and chemical plants, to stay in power.

I'm not sure I can agree with this. This statement seems to me to only really apply if we assume that the raison d'être of international terrorists is to attack America, rather than accomplish political objectives in their homeland or on the international level. If the terrorists in question are primarily concerned with advancing their agenda, the above calculus applies if there are only potential administrations who are wholly unwilling to help bring about conditions that advance said agenda. E.g., if Bush hadn't played ball and pulled troops from SA after 2001, Al-Qaeda would have presumably favored a hypothetical Kerry administration calling for such a removal over a Bush administration that would have been more helpful for recruitment.

The recruitment-and-vulnerability calculus exists, sure. But it's hardly the only thing going. Common sense tells us, or should tell us (and received wisdom be damned), that the individuals sacrificing their lives to attack the US aren't doing so simply out of an all-consuming hatred of America, but to try to reshape their world into something that seems to them to be a better place.

"How effective of a watchdog could it have been if it never barked?"

Effective enough that the Bush administration did a cost benefit analysis & concluded that it was better to participate in felonies than ask the court to authorize eavesdropping on this scale.

That's actually a valid point. The solution seems to me to be to set up a more effective watchdog, not disembowel the one you had.

I don't think getting a more effective watchdog is politically feasible, just like I don't think getting civil forfeiture laws voided is feasible. FISA is almost four decades old: if there was any serious interest in making it more than a joke, don't you think we would have ended up with a FISA court that turned down even one request? At this point, I'm inclined to think that the institutional structure of a secret court that can only hear one side of an argument and whose decisions are never published may not be redeemable. I'm having trouble imagining any procedural modification under which an institution structured like that could possibly be "fair".

So yes, Obama really sucks on FISA. I wish he had voted differently. I wish the Dem leadership in Congress wasn't bizarrely fixated on getting this outcome. But I also don't see how it makes much difference and I have trouble getting worked up about stuff that doesn't make much difference.

In general, I think all this talk of gutting the fourth amendment is ridiculous. The fourth amendment doesn't exist in practice. The government can already go to banks or ISPs and legally demand all data relating to you since those institutions aren't you and don't have standing to complain.

If this were the case, the immunity legislation wouldn't have been necessary.

Effective enough that the Bush administration did a cost benefit analysis & concluded that it was better to participate in felonies than ask the court to authorize eavesdropping on this scale.

If the Bush admin were even remotely competent, I'd find that plausible, but they're not. Sometimes they go off on bizarre ideological crusades that make no sense on the merits. Bush and Cheney have an obsession with removing restraints on executive power, even if those constraints exist in name only.

Nevertheless, I can't really argue the point because I don't know much about the program being discussed. Everything I've heard has lead me to believe that it was a shocking failure that never would have uncovered anything useful, and if the Bush admin was willing to go to bat for a failure that would never produce anything of value, well, that makes me question any cost-benefit analysis they did on the utility of the FISA court.

And you, for some reason, leave out the utter gutting of oversight.

oh noes!

here's the reason: it had nothing at all to do with the point i was trying to make.

The Republicans have no problem misrepresenting the bill as something simple by ignoring its contents. The Dem leadership, craven knaves that they are, could easily return the favor if they cared to.

not sure how that helps people understand and or care about the actual bill at hand, which was, after all, my point.

If this were the case, the immunity legislation wouldn't have been necessary.

No, not necessarily. The government can go to banks and such because they're talking about stored data and not in-flight communications. But the very existence of this sort of legal distinction is why I argue that the 4th amendment doesn't amount to much in practice these days: we've constructed a legal edifice in which most of my important data can be secretly and legally taken from me with no supervision or review. And this edifice was built before Bush became President. I worry much more about the privacy of my stored emails, my bank details, and my business dealings than I do about my cell phone conversations, but the law gives me no protection there when the government is concerned.

In general, I don't think immunity is "needed" because I expect the telecom companies have waivers and in any event, I think they should be hammered in court for breaking the law, waivers or no.

"If the Bush admin were even remotely competent, I'd find that plausible, but they're not. Sometimes they go off on bizarre ideological crusades that make no sense on the merits. Bush and Cheney have an obsession with removing restraints on executive power, even if those constraints exist in name only."

So they violated FISA because it was there, not because it constrained their power in any way? This is interesting but mainly looks like "101 rationalizations for why the Democrats should roll over". The whole story with the Goldsmith/Comey refusal to authorize the program & threatened resignation suggest strongly really, really, really widespread, unjustified, politically motivated eavesdropping that even the FISA court would not have authorized. But we'll probably never know the details, thanks to the Democrats' caving.

To clarify my comment vis à vis the "recruitment-and-vulnerability" calculation, what troubled me the most about that statement is that it seems to promote worldview whererin the US has no effect on the rise and maintenance of terrorist movements besides providing a handy, unjust target to demonize for recruitment and to, um, attack out of irrational bloodlust. It seems to ignore that such movements arise for a reason, and more importantly with a purpose of their own, that they actually want to achieve. The claim that all they'd consider desirable from the US is maintenance of a certain belligerent status quo from the US implies that they enjoy the struggle for its own sake... to the point that actual advancement of their agenda never even enters into consideration.

This is interesting but mainly looks like "101 rationalizations for why the Democrats should roll over".

I don't think the Dems should have caved and I did what I could to prevent them, but they did. Explaining why I don't think this issue is as important as you do is not the same as rationalizing the belief that the Dems SHOULD cave. Normative and descriptive, again.

I have to say, your adoption of Jes' policy is rather disappointing. Just because I disagree with some of your beliefs doesn't mean that I disagree with all of them. Just because I disagree about matters of fact doesn't mean I have radically different values than you.

Argh, excessive-yet-still-insufficient post-editing strikes again. Sorry for the convoluted, repetitive comment.

"Just because I disagree about matters of fact doesn't mean I have radically different values than you."

Maybe not; you are, however, taking a line that if widely adopted by liberals will kill any hope of success on the issues I'm working for. I don't really care if you deep down you oppose the same things I do if you're undercutting & marginalizing me.

Also, your "factual" statements are all false to the extent that the contain any factual content at all (e.g. prosecutions succeeding are "madness"--actually, the DOJ DID successfully prosecute one CIA contractor for killing a prisoner, whereupon the Bush administration transferred all the cases to political appointess it could trust not to make a serious attempt. E.g., wanting impeachment is like believing dragons will make toast for you--actually, a president was impeached for much less than this president has done less than a decade ago at a time when impeachment was less popular, whereas dragons haven't been seen in some time.) In fact, they're based so little on actual fact that they exactly resemble the behavior of someone casting about for any rationalization of Democratic failure he can come up with.

Maybe not; you are, however, taking a line that if widely adopted by liberals will kill any hope of success on the issues I'm working for.

When was the last time that my beliefs were widely adopted by liberals?! Do you see both Democratic and Republican politicians getting convicted for genocide or unjust war anywhere? Do you see George Bush being lead away in chains on the TV right now? Katherine, I actually took a class on electronic surveillance and the assorted law: that puts me in the 99th percentile of the population for knowing the basics about this issue. That means that none of my ideas on the subject are going to be widely adopted by anyone.

By the way, I do like how when you decide to do things that may be impossible, your failure to achieve them somehow becomes my fault for questioning their feasibility; I guess nothing is impossible at all. My insistence that you cannot fly through the air will ensure that you cannot fly. This is magical thinking at its best. I thought Green Lanternism was a province of conservatives?

I don't really care if you deep down you oppose the same things I do if you're undercutting & marginalizing me.

But, um, I don't care what you do. I've been trying to figure out why you think FISA is a problem because lots of people I respect are upset and I don't see why, so I think I should. If asking questions and talking about the facts as I see them undercuts and marginalizes you, well, I'm sorry. WTF does undercut and marginalize mean anyway? Are you really suggesting that no one should disagree with you regarding the feasibility of various policy options?

Have you ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? You are repeatedly claiming that things are impossible that manifestly aren't. What this says about your purported support for these "impossible" things, I couldn't say--it's rude to speculate--but it is certainly politically harmful. Thinking that a Department of Justice headed by oh, John Edwards & Barack Obama would be more likely to successfully prosecute people for prisoner torture than a Justice Department headed by Alberto Gonzales & George W. Bush is the most basic, elementary common sense, not "Green Lanternism."

E.g., wanting impeachment is like believing dragons will make toast for you

I never said that. I said that expecting impeachment given the structure of our government is like believing in fairy tales. Wanting has nothing to do with it. I very much want all manner of impeachments. But I don't see such things are feasible given the structure of our government. I've asked you repeatedly why you think an Obama administration could get away with impeachments without a serious political and media cost. You've explained that the media will fairly report whatever a majority of Washington insiders talk about and therefore if enough Dems talk up impeachment, the media will stop shilling for conservatives. I don't think that's true. I think the media has a strong conservative bias independent of what Dems talk about. And I don't think most Dems are willing to risk future GOP prosecutions, not just of Obama but of his staff. If you can explain why Democrats wouldn't be at risk in such cases, I'd be very grateful.


--actually, a president was impeached for much less than this president has done less than a decade ago at a time when impeachment was less popular, whereas dragons haven't been seen in some time.)

And that impeachment came to nothing. If you're arguing that it is feasible to punish an American President for crimes that matter and actually make it stick, Clinton's impeachment doesn't really bolster your case.

Thinking that a Department of Justice headed by oh, John Edwards & Barack Obama would be more likely to successfully prosecute people for prisoner torture than a Justice Department headed by Alberto Gonzales & George W. Bush is the most basic, elementary common sense, not "Green Lanternism.

Oh, I'm sure that such an administration would persecute someone. Perhaps one or two contractors; maybe even a Lieutenant. But I have trouble believing that they'd convict anyone of significance. There will be no Majors or Generals or high ranking civilians. So yeah, it would be awesome to convict a bunch of low ranking losers while letting their bosses get off scotch free (again), but it doesn't strike me as very important. Now, if you can explain to me why you think such an administration would successfully go after high ranking people, I'd be interested in hearing about that, especially since I think the media would crucify the Obama administration for doing that.

To simplify: I am making reasonable demands of politicians. You claim to support them. However, all your energy to these issues is devoted to saying that the goals I am working for are "madness," unrealistic, childish, like asking dragons to make toast for me, etc. I resent this & find it offensive and harmful. Either you don't actually share my goals, or you don't actually care, or you're just plain clueless about advocacy, but it doesn't make me think very highly of you. Similarly, if you were trying to pass a health care bill, & I went around telling you & everyone else within earshot that asking politicians to vote for the bill was like asking pigs to fly and geese to lay golden eggs for you, I don't think you'd be very impressed when I said: "but dude, I totally support you on this policy, we just have different evaluations of its feasibility.", and I think you'd have little difficulty understand the meanings of "marginalizing".

I couldn't say--it's rude to speculate--but it is certainly politically harmful.

Huh? How is it harmful? I called my Senators and my Rep. They voted against FISA. In fact, every Rep in my state voted against it. I contacted the Obama campaign and I joined the anti-FISA group and as someone who has donated money to them I think that counts as something (albeit not much).

So how the frack is it politically harmful of me to do all that and then explain on a website that I still don't see why this is as big a deal as you claim?

And you've really wasted more than enough of my time.

"So how the frack is it politically harmful of me to do all that and then explain on a website that I still don't see why this is as big a deal as you claim?"

On net? It's obviously not politically harmful; I just saw the "it's not actually a big deal" part & this is the first I've heard of the rest. Sorry, thanks for calling your reps. The stuff about prosecution & accountability for torture is only ACTIVELY harmful if I or a critical mass of other people listen to your statements, which hopefully no one's doing.

Either you don't actually share my goals,

mindreading

or you don't actually care,

more mindreading

or you're just plain clueless about advocacy,

Well, insulting me is at least different from mindreading, so, points for that I guess. Perhaps you could demonstrate your superior knowledge of how advocacy works by naming the last few times when one Presidential administration convicted people acting on the former Presidents' orders. That could certainly change my mind regarding feasibility.

but it doesn't make me think very highly of you.

Really? That's nice. Remind me again why I should care what you think of me?

Similarly, if you were trying to pass a health care bill, & I went around telling you & everyone else within earshot that asking politicians to vote for the bill was like asking pigs to fly and geese to lay golden eggs for you, I don't think you'd be very impressed when I said: "but dude, I totally support you on this policy, we just have different evaluations of its feasibility.", and I think you'd have little difficulty understand the meanings of "marginalizing".

If you were pushing for an NHS style national health care system, I absolutely would go around saying that it was not politically feasible because it is not. And the point of that isn't that I love crushing dreams for the sake of dream crushing: it is that there are feasible improvements to the healthcare system that can be made, but blowing time and resources on non-feasible plans makes achieving any of those feasible alternatives much less likely.

Note that I still don't think that some random guy writing on the internet under a pseudonym counts as marginalization. If I had actual power, then maybe, but I can't think of anything less powerful than a guy on the internet writing under a pseudonym.

"really? That's nice. Remind me again why I should care what you think of me?"

No reason.

When you characterize political efforts as "blowing time and resources on non-feasible plans" it is disingenuous to claim to support them, and their supporters are going to be hostile to you no matter how often you say, "but I support you, bless your little heart." Getting huffy and offended by their hostility when you're all on the same side is a giant waste of everyone's time. If you don't care what they think of you, don't bother asking why they're getting so mad at you when you're all on the same side.

When you characterize political efforts as "blowing time and resources on non-feasible plans" it is disingenuous to claim to support them

Do you support the immediate detention and trial of the President for war crimes? If so, does that mean that you're going to demand that Obama publicly call for such trials right now and that if he doesn't you'll withdraw all your support for him? Or does your unwillingness to do that prove that your interest in the rule of law was merely "disingenuous"?

Getting huffy and offended by their hostility when you're all on the same side is a giant waste of everyone's time. If you don't care what they think of you, don't bother asking why they're getting so mad at you when you're all on the same side.

I thought part of the whole point of OW was that I should be able to ask why people have the positions that they do without having to listen to a bunch of random abuse about my character. Trying to understand your stance on issues is not actually an invitation for you to lie about me repeatedly and then complain about my character. Why do I need to explain this to a front pager?

'And you, for some reason, leave out the utter gutting of oversight.'

oh noes!

here's the reason: it had nothing at all to do with the point i was trying to make.

If oversight had nothing at all with the point you were trying to make, why did you chastise Jes for "leaving out" warrants in her comment?

I supported impeachment hearings on those issues & wanted presidential candidates to do the same. "Immediate detention & trial" doesn't make sense with the President in charge of the executive branch & the DOJ of course. As far as Obama, as I've said: the president shouldn't be that involved in criminal prosecutions. He should turn over the evidence to an independent prosecutor & tell him to follow it up as far up the chain of command as it goes. I don't know how far that is. And you don't usually charge people before the investigation.

Tell me, what ARE the steps you support taking & consider important enough to bother with putting pressure on a Democratic administration to implement concerning torture & war crimes? As far as I can see: Prosecuting high level people is impossible; people who think otherwise live in fairyland. Prosecuting low level people is unimportant. Neither is worth pressuring a Democratic administration about. Which adds up to impunity for everyone, which you seem totally okay with. Fine--but then you get bizarrely upset with anyone drawing the logical conclusion & failing to acknowledge your "support" for war crimes accountability. Well, sorry, it doesn't look like support to me, and my saying so isn't some kind of a slur. If you don't care what I think of you, it seems logical for us to draw our own conclusions & drop it.

If oversight had nothing at all with the point you were trying to make, why did you chastise Jes for "leaving out" warrants in her comment?

my point was that this legislation (and the whole FISA system, really) is an esoteric topic which most people don't know or care anything about - and for that reason it's unlikely we'll see a big groundswell of people complaining to their reps about it.

Jes then replied with what i thought was a terribly over-simplified and misleading summary of what this legislation does - as a way of showing that it can be simplified and easily explained to people who might not know about it.

i disagreed, and listed a bunch of things that i thought were examples of things you need to know about before you can really get the gist of what this bill is all about. "warrants" was just one thing on the list.

in other words: i wasn't trying to talk about the details themselves, only trying to point out that there are a lot of details you need to consider if you want to know what you're talking about when you call your rep to complain.

And the point of that isn't that I love crushing dreams for the sake of dream crushing: it is that there are feasible improvements to the healthcare system that can be made, but blowing time and resources on non-feasible plans makes achieving any of those feasible alternatives much less likely.

If we want to coach this argument in terms of pragmatism and feasibility, allow me to throw my own cynicism in on Katherine's side. You are arguing that we should choose the best set of goals which could feasibly come to pass. Ignoring the difficulty of actually judging such a standard, what exactly makes you think that advocating and pushing for nothing further than the upper limit of "feasible" goals will mean they'll be implemented? I would suggest that if we push hard for a lower standard, we increase the probability that our fine, principled Democratic leaders will take this as the bounds of conceivable policy... and promptly compromise down from it in the interest of looking or being bipartisan, "post-partisan", civil, or whatever. The lower we set the bar, the lower the spineless centrists that dominate the Democratic party will feel compelled to stretch to "appease" our ilk. Your argument hinges on Democrats meeting our expectations if we lower them, but I've seen nothing to suggest that pushing for less will mean that even then we'd get what we push for.

what exactly makes you think that advocating and pushing for nothing further than the upper limit of "feasible" goals will mean they'll be implemented?

Nom,

You raise a good point: Dems will likely compromise down from whatever position they're getting pressure on from their base. The overton window effect seems real here, and I can see that as a reasonable argument in favor of pushing.

My only (limited) counterargument would be that I distinguish between things that are impossible for structural reasons and things that the Dem leadership just doesn't like. This country has had high ranking government officials foment and aid genocide. It has deposed democratically-elected governments. And yet the people involved have never faced sanction of any kind. I think it might have been very politically valuable for Bush to have ordered a public investigation of what, say, Holbrooke did regarding Indonesia: it would have gotten him support from liberals and beefed up his "freedom and universal dignity" credentials when he was pushing that theme at the start of his second term. But he didn't. No President ever does. Why? If we can't prosecute something like genocide, why the heck should I think it is feasible that any administration will prosecute something like FISA or torture? No offense, but isn't genocide much worse than either of those things? At some point, these questions stop being about individuals and their wants and have to be answered in terms of systems and structures.

To the extent that I demand that Dems do things that are structurally impossible, I'm not moving any overton windows: I'm just convincing them that I'm nutty and have zero credibility. That doesn't seem like a good use of my time, but YMMV.

Now, maybe I'm wrong about the systemic issues here. That's why I keep asking, over and over, for cases where one administration has prosecuted officials from a previous administration for acting on the President's orders. And everyone keeps refusing to name any cases at all. Why? It is not as if there has been a shortage of evil criminal acts committed by officials in the last few decades.

FWIW, I don't think we'll get much justice on issues of surveillance or torture/rendition/Gitmo. I believe that because I don't think we as a people want justice. What I'm hoping for is that we'll get a change in behavior under an Obama administration and lots of leaks and as many investigations as can be squeezed past the press. Like I said in the other thread: the press went batsh*t over the Fitzgerald investigation and he was a perfect storm when it came to impeccability. It only goes downhill from there.

"To the extent that I demand that Dems do things that are structurally impossible, I'm not moving any overton windows: I'm just convincing them that I'm nutty and have zero credibility. That doesn't seem like a good use of my time, but YMMV."

So: prosecution for torture is "structurally impossible." Advocating for it will serve only to convince politicians that supporters are "nutty and have zero credibility." They are wasting their time. But you totally support accountability for torture, and claims to the contrary are a slur.

"Structural reason" is an awfully fancy label for "they would never do that." What is it *in the structure* that prevents them from doing it?

To the extent that I demand that Dems do things that are structurally impossible, I'm not moving any overton windows: I'm just convincing them that I'm nutty and have zero credibility.

Do you believe that none of the things the right wing has demanded as they've moved the Overton window on various issues over the years have been "structurally impossible"?

"That's why I keep asking, over and over, for cases where one administration has prosecuted officials from a previous administration for acting on the President's orders."

Gee, I don't know. H.R. Haldeman? John Ehrlichman? John Mitchell? etc.? I don't know enough about their cases to know if you could technically say they were "acting on the President's orders" but they were certainly high level officials convicted for wrongdoing that implicated the President. Hell, Caspar Weinberger was indicted under Bush the elder, though then pardoned. Obviously there's not going to be anything Obama can do about pardons--no one's claiming otherwise & that's part of why civil liability is a big deal. There's also precedent for "lying to Congress", "obstruction of justice", etc. etc. convictions by high level officials which are also salient.

That's why I keep asking, over and over, for cases where one administration has prosecuted officials from a previous administration for acting on the President's orders. And everyone keeps refusing to name any cases at all. Why? It is not as if there has been a shortage of evil criminal acts committed by officials in the last few decades.

I think it's the "for acting on the president's orders" part that's the holdup. Reagan's people may have invented the phrase "plausible deniability," but they didn't invent the concept of using cutouts, not leaving paper trails, and in other ways making it impossible to prove that bad things were done "on the president's orders." (That was old news for Henry II in the Becket scandal.)

Of course, one reason we know that is because there were actual investigations. So we know that's not "structurally impossible."

Jeeze. I feel like I should throw out a controversial comment here so Katherine and Turb can change their focus to beating me up. I’m used to it from both of you after all. ;)

Turbulence--

You said it yourself. VIolations of privacy are, morally speaking, trivial compared to support for mass murderers. And that's exactly why I think it's more likely that a high-ranking person could be prosecuted for violating someone's privacy. That's what Watergate was partly about.

I'd also like to see members of the Bush Administration tried for war crimes and support Katherine's idea of a prosecutor investigating, say, the torture cases and following the trail wherever it leads, but I suspect the leaders in both political parties would do everything they could to stop such a thing from happening. And I wonder what the "liberal" press would say.

And now for something out of left field. I was browsing some of my usual far left sites and found a link to this--

Link

The political argument appears to be the same one as here--Al Giordano is apparently taking Turbulence's view and Glenn Greenwald is closer to Katherine. What I'm curious about is the factual claim--anyone here have an opinion (or better yet, know anything?) about what Giordano says? For those who want an incentive to click on the link, he claims that Mexican companies can listen in on phone calls from the US to Mexico, and that this info is frequently shared with the US government and that it's not just Mexico that does our government this little favor.

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