The big lesson, the deep one, is not the most obvious. Among the detritus left in yesterday's Senate passage (69-28-3) of the bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 are:
- Overt Congressional approval of stripping Americans of freedom and due process in our Constitution and court decisions.
- Support for immunity for telecommunications companies and by interference White House officials who authorized spying on Americans on the secret caprice of the Executive Branch.
- Our citizens being forced down a funnel of decreasing liberties, as narrow as the Red Scare period.
To his disgrace, presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama voted for FISA. Oddly enough, regular supporter of this and similar legislation, Hillary Clinton, voted against it. The obvious is that Obama is cluck-cluck terrified of being called soft on terrorism as he runs for office. I shall be fascinated to see how he spins this one. Giving the Bushies and the telcos a free pass on years of violating our essential rights is repulsive.
My conclusion has for too long been that the capons in business suits in the Congressional coop are chicken, so to write. Even Democratic members of House and Senate live in amoral fear of losing their powerful positions. To please big-money contributors, they vote right wing and parrot such lies as, "I'm trying to keep us safe from terrorism."
What we have seen since 9/11 is a steady dissolution of those liberties we pretend to strive to protect. Why should any nation — Iraq, China, Germany, any nation — believe us when we say, "Support us, emulate us, and do as we do to make the world better!"
They have all seen us spy on our own people as well as many thousands overseas. They have seen us kidnap, torture and kill without process or adherence to our own or international law. They have seen us repress at home and abroad in a perverted and totally dishonest melodrama we call In The Defense of Liberty.
Contingent on 1) the Dems taking the White House in four months and 2) substantial Dem increases in Congress, the real reform can happen. With our brood of professional cowards hiding as Democrats in Congress, new people who are not jaded, who still love liberty, and who do not live in fear of losing their stuff have to shake the old men and women awake.
An Obama administration is not likely to be anywhere near as bold as I'd like. He certainly is not anywhere as progressive as I want even now. If he follows the century-old pattern of other self-identified progressives, he won't accomplish many of the huge goals he outlined early on.
Yet, what progressives from Woodrow Wilson on have done in seminal victories is set the tone at national and state levels. They have given direction and hope those who do care about the underclass, about the protecting and restoring freedom, about justice for all, about equal opportunity, and about being the example for the developing world. It is after such elections that we have seen myriad improvements for the larger society, not just huge gifts to the already powerful and wealthy.
In such an environment, our capons might turn into humans with honor as well as hope. As the interest groups have given them permission of watch as liberties shrink, a major progressive shift could give them permission to stand up for actual American values.
At the optimum, we might be able to build on this in the next several elections. Think of more progressives entering Congress and reinforcing those principles. We have had decades now of anti-liberty Republicans and complicit Democrats. We could use eight or more years of courage and respect instead.
A very different kind of President and a flood of Congressional non-effete reinforcements could, would and should make this a very different nation. Don't think just of Obama. Think of a vastly improved culture.
Tags: massmarrier, FISA, Obama, Bush, Congress, courage