Friday, 4 July 2008

Love is not blind

Obama has written a thoughtful and tone-perfect (though also obfuscatory) reply to his many critics—from his own team, mind you—on the FISA legislation that the Democratic ‘opposition’ has tailored to enable Bush to get away with illegal wiretapping and to provide immunity to the complicit telecom companies. The particulars of this debate can be found with Glenn Greenwald here, but despite the ongoing bad news I think the unprecedented open letter from Obama to his supporters is a small victory for our battered Constitution.

I never went along with the idea that Obama was selling out or dumping all his decent ideas and instincts to backtrack his way into the Oval Office. I actually quite like his position on how to incorporate religious groups into social services without breaching the church-state wall, for example. His opposition to conquest in Iraq is persuasive enough, whatever he says should be done about it now.

But although his position on FISA wasn’t a ‘deal-breaker’ to use his phrase, it is plenty disturbing. It goes to the heart of the unitary executive and the creeping dismemberment of the powerless citizen’s legal protections in the face of a paranoid state engaged in a permanent war. Detainees shut away in Guantánamo dungeons, torture, secret spying, prosecutions using illicitly-gained data that can then be hidden from the accused on national security grounds—there is just far too much evidence that we are facing serious danger from our own government, even without a major terrorist attack in seven years.

The domestic spying, in defiance of the FISA law and with no oversight by anyone, has been rejected repeatedly by the courts, which are doing a much better job protecting civil liberties than the lapdog Congress. But instead of being shamed, the legislature is rushing to let Bush off the hook, endorse the cover-up and prevent those harmed from pursuing legal redress. This is the famous ‘end of Scooter Libby justice’ that Obama promises?

The Republican Party of today has abandoned its commitment to the republican form of government, and I have been close enough to real dictatorship to recognize its ideological fellow-travelers. The Rovian gang would give the security state everything it wants and are first cousins to the defunct East German Politburo or the grey functionaries that ran the South American military regimes of the 1970s. They are truly dangerous, and on this issue the alarmed sectors of the populace have a much better intuition than Obama’s operatives.

The fact that O had to write us an apologetic letter suggests that he was surprised by the intensity of the opposition to his buckling on FISA and is finding it suddenly harder to justify the ignominious Democratic cave-in.

Twilight Highlights: I see McCain is dubbing the shake-up in his campaign ‘a natural evolution.’ Wouldn’t that be a ‘more intelligent design’?

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