American Culture

FISA Fight: Senate passes telecom immunity and flips the bird to America

Earlier today, Sam asked a very important question: When it comes to convincing the public that it’s somehow justifiable to give a pass to corporations that illegally spied on Americans without a warrant, how stupid do you think we are?

Well, the answer is that the so-called “Democratic” Congress doesn’t give a damn what we think, as they’ve voted down virtually all amendments to the FISA reauthorization bill that would have granted oversight and accountability–including blocking immunity for telecoms. As Glenn Greenwald eloquently notes, this day we’ve seen a so-called “bipartisan” Congress justify lawbreaking and illegality on a level that even the previous Republican majority couldn’t pull off.

As Glenn notes:

A total of 18 Democrats joined all Republicans in voting for immunity: Bayh, Inouye, Johnson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Feinstein, Kohl, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Carper, Mikulski, Conrad, Webb, and Lincoln. Obama voted against immunity, and Hillary Clinton was the only Senator not voting. Thus, the breakdown on the vote was similar to what it always is:

Democrats — 31-18

Republicans — 0-49

As always, when it comes to the most radical Bush policies, the GOP lines up lock-step behind them, and the Democrats split, always with more than enough to join the Republicans to ensure passage. That’s the process that is called “bipartisanship” in the Beltway.

If you want one distinct difference between Obama and Clinton, this will serve as well as any. On the day of primaries right in the Capitol, she didn’t even show up for the vote. I could’ve respected her more for voting “Yes,” because that would have been an accountable stand, at least. But she wasn’t there at all, ensuring she can have it both ways when the time comes to demand justice.

And what about that people-powered netroots hero, Jim Webb? The kind of guy that Kos wrote about so lovingly:

Webb exists as our country’s newest political phenomenon in large part because of us. He represents (along with Jon Tester) who we are. The kind of leader we crave. The sort of person who represents the future of our party and country. (Emphasis added.)

Well, not so much:

Mr. Webb is a great representative for Virginia, but Americans need an administration that will roll back the encroachment on our civil liberties rather than support them. If we are to have a progressive (dare I say liberal) President we need to insist on a progressive VP, Secretary of State, Attorney General, etc. We cannot compromise on our principles because someone would help us get elected in the south or help us among “National Security Voters.” As much as I respect Jim Webb I hope he stays in the United States Senate for a long long time.

Actually, given how Webb and other netroots-supported Dems like Claire McCaskill and (to a lesser extent) Jon Tester have folded on this issue and the Iraq war several times, I’d be happy to see them return to private life. As a friend pointed out to me, Webb was very hot to take Bush down for ignoring the law not long ago, but as he said, “some laws are more ignorable than others.” With friends like these, I’d rather have enemies.

On the other hand, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Webb and Tester teamed up with Feingold on several different amendments designed to strengthen oversight and emphasize the surveillance limits, and Tester, at least, voted the right way this time. I’m still sorely disappointed in Webb, however.

So what happens now? Well, the Senate Intelligence bill (complete with immunity) will move to the House, and the battle will start up again. I have no odds on how the issues will play out this time, but I have progressively (so to speak) less confidence in the ability of the current crop of Democrats to stand firm on anything that matters to their constituencies, the public, or the laws they claim to uphold. We lost a big one today, folks, and the momentum is no longer on our side.

More than that, the Constitution and the rule of law lost a great deal as well, and I don’t know that we’ll get it back any time soon.

11 replies »

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  2. I don’t think it makes a spit of difference that Obama showed up to vote. If he did, it was purely to shore up his credentials with progressives, which he needs to do, because he’s winning by getting Pubs and independents to cross lines in primaries.
    And how is he doing that? By promising exactly the kind of bipartisanship we are seeing here. An Obama America IS an America where the Pubs continue to vote as a block and the Dems continue to fracture, with ever fewer Dems straying from the Republican Golden Path.

    I mean, this Fisa bill is a sick, sick joke to begin with. A ‘basket warrant’ is the kind of Orwellian talk we’ve gotten used to. A basket warrant isn’t a warrant at all. It’s the sort of generalized authority the Constitution was written to prevent. But questioning that basic premise, the basket warrant, seems to be off the table completely.

  3. The point that particularly needs to be made about both Obama and Clinton here is that neither have shown any useful leadership on this issue and it’s folly to think that they will in the White House, when they don’t on the way to it.