This is serious. I’ve been saying for quite a while that Obama has not yet earned my vote and I am quite happy voting for Nader to help strengthen efforts toward a multi-party system. However, I voted for Obama in the primary here in Texas and was excited to vote for the first viable African-American candidate in the U.S.
Also, this is the most important election in years, if for no other reason than the necessity to populate the Supreme Court with judges who will protect civil liberties unlike those Bush has appointed or McCain would appoint.
While I have continuously lambasted the lack of character Hillary Clinton and her husband have shown during the primary season, I would not say I have been sipping “Obama Kool-Aid.” I understand that his “Change We Can Believe In” slogan is only as effective as his ability – to put it simply – to get things done. And politicians have to work together to accomplish progress. (Unless you’re President Bush, in which case you use the 9/11 attacks and existence of terrorism to scare Americans and politicians alike into marching behind your efforts to make the U.S. more of an authoritarian regime than ever before. Ugh, the thought makes it difficult to keep my coffee and chocolate granola cereal down.)
Obama is a politician first. With a degree in Government, I never lose sight of this. While Democrats fall in love (and Republicans fall in line) we must not forget that politicians must operate within the existing confines of the Washington Dance. This will inevitably lead to widespread disapointment with Obama, when he’s president, because he simply cannot please everyone and will have to compromise in order to accomplish certain goals. A president must make decisions when no option is the right one. It’s a hard gig – the hardest one in the world; I thoroughly recognize this.
However, much of my free time this week has been spent trolling the internet for a reasonable justification for Obama’s approval of the new FISA Act of 2008. Of course, I already have my fair share of underlying bitterness because the Democrats have performed disgracefully since taking control of the Congress. They are inexplicably banner ankle-grabbers again and again despite Bush’s record disapproval ratings. Yes, they do not want to seem weak on national security, but they are greatly underestimating the American people’s desire to have their civil liberties protected in this era of heightened danger.
Congressional members have far more concern with the length of their federal careers than casting the appropriate vote – rendering them impotent in the areas of war profiteering (Diane Feinstein’s husband is a defense contractor and why she still enjoys support in California, I have no idea. BTW, she vote AYE on FISA as well), criminal activity at the executive level (erasing emails, Karl Rove and Harriet Miers refusing to testify, Valerie Plame, fixing EPA reports and much, much more), reforming health care and national energy policy, policing unfair lending practices and allowing the establishment of a credit industry that works against the American people, not for them. It inexplicable that Congress has utterly failed to inhibit Bush’s harmful activities when the majority of Americans do not favor his policies in the slightest. It is frustrating and goddamned ridiculous.
So, Obama is Change personified, right?
Apparently, not so. Yes, I have read his blog on The Huffington Post regarding his FISA vote, which proffered no substantial logic for his approval of the bill. A few gems from the piece are:
Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention — once I’m sworn in as president — to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.
Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That’s ok. But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have.
The problem with our agreement on the vast majority of issues is that his vote on the FISA bill illustrates his inherent weakness and willingness to compromise when no comprise is needed simply to prove (which he fails to do with this vote) that he is strong on national security. This “aye” was unnecessary, dangerous, wrong, hurtful and potentially, yes, a deal breaker. Especially when assessing the guts of the bill, along with those who voted against it. On The Huffpo website, David Bromwich provides a very concise, yet in-depth look at the governmental powers granted with this legislation. I strongly recommend reading the blog and the readers’ comments below.
Among the senators who opposed the vote are Biden, Boxer, Dodd, Clinton, Byrd, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Kerry, Leahy, Reid and Levin.
The bottom line is that political agreements with a candidate are moot if the candidate does not have the political strength or fortitude to operate in accordance with that agreement.
Of course, Obama’s folding on FISA was a political calculation – that’s practically consensus. And I wish he could offer an honest defense of his vote; but, alas, this theater of election season would lead any such candor to damage the candidate.
Obama will be elected president barring any unforeseen, intensely damaging and highly unlikely circumstances. Though the media portrays the presidential race as close – it is a facade. McCain’s chances of succeeding in November, in my opinion, are around 1 in 5. Incumbent parties do not win when the economy is in the tank – mentally or not (and it’s not mental, Phil, when milk, bread, cereal, gas and all other necessities are more and more expensive and the dollar is weaker and weaker). McCain is not galvanizing and voter trust of most election issues points toward Obama. I wish Obama the best and will be hopeful as he takes his oath of office.
Furthermore, I applaud Obama’s willingness to work across the aisle and understand there will be areas in which he will break with Liberals. Support of faith-based community initiatives, for one (and this coming from an agnostic).
The FISA Act, however, is so detrimental to democracy itself, my respect for not just Obama himself, but the very idea of Obama has been irreparably damaged. I would encourage hardcore Obama supporters to keep this particular vote of his in mind when daydreaming of the days to come as he takes on the heavy mantle of President of the United States of America. Perfection at this level does not exist and any romance with a candidate will certainly abate over time.
I would never cast a vote for McFlip-Flop, nor would I ever stay home and waste a voting opportunity. Also, I am a thorough, complete supporter of a multi-party system. While I wanted to vote for Obama – and was excited to vote for him – my decision was not cast in stone. It still is not cemented. However, the odds I would pull the lever in support of him this November are greatly diminished. Truthfully, I am ever more looking in Nader’s direction.
If Obama’s political contributions continue to decline, I encourage him to address his FISA ’08 support with increased seriousness. This is no small issue for those of us who follow politics and government activity.
This weekend, I plan on purchasing Obama’s two books and will begin reading them with a large grain of salt. Perhaps this will allow me some insight behind this recent mind-boggling decision of his.
As of this point, Obama is not Hope and he is not Change We Can Believe In. He is merely Better Than Bush, but isn’t everybody else?