Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Connecting the Dots

Devastating Greenwald piece Tuesday. He says that the reason why so many Democrats in Congress voted for the FISA bill is because voting against it would have potentially exposed them as hypocrites for having known about the extent of the warrantless eavesdropping program. These included Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller, and Jane Harman, plus others.

This pertained to the use of torture as well. According to Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side, members of the Bush administration were afraid of being prosecuted for the torture of Guantanamo detainees and other "enemy combatants." Many Democratic members of Congress were informed of these interrogation methods from the beginning, and knew that techniques like waterboarding were being used.

Worse than being exposed is the potential for criminal prosecution. Should members of the Bush administration, including Rove, Cheney, Feith, Rumsfeld, Rice, and even Bush himself, be someday investigated and/or prosecuted for the felonies, then one can count on the prosecution of congressmen who knew about it but did nothing. So the Military Commissions Act and the new FISA bill, both of which contained retroactive immunity for offending parties, were strongly supported by the "opposition" party, which should have been leading the charge against these two laws.

Now, Greenwald has been particularly strong in his criticism of Barack Obama's support for the FISA bill. Obama did vote against the Military Commissions Act (which was passed by the Senate by a 2-to-1 margin) and voted for an amendment to the Act which would have sunsetted the law by 2011. His votes on MCA were nearly two years ago, before he declared his candidacy for president, but certainly recent enough for him to have been thinking about its implications should he decide to run. Now that he's the presumptive Democratic nominee, he seems to change direction and vote with congressional leadership, and it's pretty jarring. But now I understand how the cancer of Washington politics at its worst has now infected our dear Senator from Illinois.

Think about it: what if Obama had voted against FISA and stood against Democratic leadership -- Pelosi, Hoyer, and others -- whose support he will definitely need in the general election? By voting against the measure, he could have implied that these leaders were out of step with his vision of how the United States should be led. In old school politics, this would be troubling. And, as much as Obama likes to talk about a new way of thinking in DC, he's not Superman enough to be able to create that paradigm shift alone BEFORE he's elected. He needs these leaders behind him 100%. Voting for FISA now may help him secure the unwavering support of major Democratic leaders -- appearances, fundraising, future support. Even after he's elected, he needs Pelosi to shepherd his agenda through Congress. Given that she's in bed with the Bushies on FISA, she and those who follow her lead are vulnerable should anyone start investigating criminal acts by the Bush administration in 2009. If I'm Obama, I'm feeling pretty hog-tied right about now. The FISA vote was not clean either way. Once I take office, I can't reverse myself on FISA without exposing the leadership who helped get me elected. Plus, if I did, I'd be the president known for bringing down the first woman House Speaker. Probably my best bet is to introduce legislation that weakens FISA and sunsets key provisions that are most troubling.

Friends -- this is why Congress won't impeach Bush/Cheney. They would be impeaching themselves as well.

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