As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Future Of FISA - And Leadership

The news on the FISA bill is not good. Glenn Greenwald laid out the goods yesterday. Basically the Republicans know they have the Democrats in a vice grip. The Protect America Act band-aid expires next Thursday. The White House wants the exact same civil liberties-crushing bill, along with amnesty for the telecom companies for breaking the law. Mitch McConnell has denied even a 30-day extension to amp up the pressure. Their goal is to frighten the Democrats into caving in. It's a sound strategy.

They're well on their way to forcing the Congress -- again -- into the most obscenely absurd posture imaginable, where they pass a major new surveillance and domestic spying bill, this time along with telecom immunity, because Republicans tell the country that unless Democrats do this, and quick, we're going to be Slaughtered by The Terrorists.

As always, conventional media wisdom is that Democrats will be harmed politically if they don't capitulate to the Big, Strong, Tough Republicans on all matters relating to national security (even though the efficacy of that fear-mongering tactic was empirically disproven in 2006). But isn't it painfully evident that a far greater liability for Democrats at this point than being "soft on terrorism" is their refusal and failure to demonstrate that they will take a stand -- any stand -- against this extremely weakened President and his discredited political party, and therefore prove they stand for something?

It ought to be evident. And especially among the three candidates running to be the leader of this party and the free world. They have studiously avoided this issue on the campaign trail and in the debates. They would rather stump for votes than show leadership. Unfortunately the only candidate who ever bucked this trend was Senator Dodd. He'll be back at it again this week, but he needs help from the leading Presidential candidates, as clearly that will be the only way to drive media attention. Jane Hamsher sounds the call to Sen. Edwards.

It will be increasingly difficult to listen to Edwards, Obama and Clinton tout their supreme leadership attributes and their commitment to "changing the way Washington works" if they choose to sit by, more or less mute, and allow such a blatant and corrupt evisceration of the rule of law -- and such a vast and permanent expansion of the limitless surveillance state -- to occur without a fight. Any one of them, or all three, has a unique opportunity to actually demonstrate with actions, rather than pretty speeches, their commitment to the principles they claim to espouse.

John Edwards is the perfect person to lead with this message. Such an action would illustrate his genuine commitment to change and fighting vested interests in Washington, and hopefully it will channel that intense anti-immunity passion toward his campaign. He won't be able to participate in the filibuster himself, but by offering to leave the campaign trail and go back to DC with Clinton and Obama he'll be able to show leadership in challenging all Democrats to put thoughts of personal gain aside and join together in the fight to save the constitution.

Without the help of the presidential candidates, we are doomed to lose this fight. And all their calls for change will ring hollow if they allow George Bush to railroad this bill through a supine Democratic-controlled Senate because of their absence.

If Clinton, Obama and Edwards would rather not lead, I don't see how it matters which one of them is the nominee. Obama's grand theory is that the public can make change by holding leaders accountable and organizing from the bottom up. Well, we can see how receptive he is to that theory. Let's organize and demand him to lead, along with Clinton and Edwards.

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