When I went online to read the New York Times yesterday (I’m an ink-stained wretch but I didn’t have the $1.50, sorry), I saw two stories on Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, that caught my eye.
One of them was a story about how he’s decided to opt out of public financing for his general election campaign and the other was about his willingness to go along with the Democratic compromise with President George W. Bush on the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) bill.
One out of two ain’t bad, but the one he whiffed on is about to earn him a trip to my woodshed.
First of all, unlike most of my friends on the left, I had no problem at all with his refusing to take federal matching funds for the campaign. If anything, it showed me that he picked up some street smarts as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago.
Why? Because anyone who’s spent any time on the streets knows that you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.
Obama may not have spent much time on the senate floor, but the man ain’t dumb. He knows that as a Black Man trying to get into the White House someone in Republican 527 land is trying to make a very special set of attack ads for him; the kind of attack ads that will make us all long for the “Willie Horton ad” days.
(For those of you who don’t remember the Willie Horton ads, hit the Google and type in “Willie Horton+Michael Dukakis”. It’ll all make sense to you.)
While $84 million, the amount that Obama would have gotten in public financing, sounds like a lot of money, it’s the equivalent of a knife when you’re getting hit by 527 ad guns coming at you from organizations with deeper than average pockets.
So I, for one, am glad that he’s got the good sense to go out and get him a gun. Neither Sen. John Kerry or Vice President Al Gore did, so when Bush whipped out an AK-47 he blew their asses away.
But while I applaud Obama’s good sense for not taking public financing for the general election, I’m pissed off at him because he’s doing the same thing that made me decide that Sen. Hillary Clinton wasn’t fit to be president: compromising with the Bush Administration regarding our civil liberties.
As a constitutional law professor, I would think that you’d know better Senator.
To those of you who don’t know what the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is and why it’s important, here’s a little primer. FISA was passed in 1978 because we had a president named Richard Millhous Nixon who liked to spy on those who opposed him, like say, Democrats. (Again, for those of you not old enough to remember this, hit the Google again and punch in the word “Watergate”.)
The way that it’s supposed to work is, federal agencies wanting to spy on suspect foreigners in this country would come to the FISA court, state their case, and get permission to wiretap. If they wanted to spy on Americans who they though might be working with these suspect foreigners, agencies had to come in to the FISA court and ask for permission within 72 hours of the time they wanted to look at ’em.
It was a law that was rarely talked about and no one really paid attention to it until after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened.
Then Bush started the process of dismantling it. You see, he thinks that he should be able to spy on anyone, foreign or domestic. He thinks that the phone companies should give him the records for any phone he asks about. He thinks that if he has to go through the FISA court, it’ll take too long and he won’t be able to protect us from the things that go bump in the night.
You wanna know how many times the FISA court has refused a request from the federal government to wiretap a suspect foreigner? Three. And that’s in 30 years.
Anyway, someone found out that the phone companies were giving Bush’s cronies copies of people’s phone records.
Folks got mad.
They started suing phone companies.
Congress wanted to talk to the phone company people, but Bush wouldn’t let ’em because it would violate “national security” for Congress to ask them “Why are you helping this clown spy on Americans?”
The suits got thrown out, but they could be refiled.
So what does Congress do? They put together this “compromise” bill that would renew FISA Bush’s way, complete with amnesty for phone companies from civil litigation.
Obama says he’ll vote for it.
Bad move, dude.
Phone companies should be made to pay out the ass for helping this administration violate civil liberties. For that matter, Bush should be made to pay for yet another instance of his wiping his ass with the Constitution.
Now I understand that you’ve gotta play nice with the other kiddies because you want them to campaign for you in the fall, Sen. Obama.
But you’re also the de-facto leader of the Democratic Party now. It’s time that you started putting your foot up the behinds of folks like Sen. Harry Reid and Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and letting them know that stuff like this isn’t cool.
Because if you don’t, people are going to start questioning this whole “change we can believe in” thing. I know I will. And I may just get in your face about it during the Unity 2008 convention in Chicago next month.
But for right now, you need to go right into the woodshed, because the American people are about to give you a whuppin’.
Make it your last one.
(In case you’re wondering who the band members are in back of Sen. Obama in this picture, these are members the Florida A&M University Marching 100. They’re possibly the best collegiate marching band in the country.)