Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Finally, A Definite Answer

According to Talking Points Memo, Senator Barack Obama's campaign office has released a definite position regarding telecomm industry immunity in the new FISA bill:

It's official: Obama will back a filibuster of any Senate FISA legislation containing telecom immunity, his campaign has just told Election Central. The Obama campaign has just sent over the following statement from spokesman Bill Burton:

"To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."

As we reported here yesterday, MoveOn and a dozen top liberal bloggers were preparing to wage an aggressive campaign today to pressure Obama and Hillary to say that they'll support Chris Dodd's vow to filibuster any Senate FISA bill containing telecom immunity. And late yesterday both Obama and Hillary put out statements saying that they'd back Dodd's threatened filibuster of the current legislation that's just come out of the Senate intel committee.

Obama Camp Says It: He'll Support Filibuster Of Any Bill Containing Telecom Immunity

[emphasis from original]

Previously, Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton seemed to be engaged in a contest of who could release more vague statements on their positions. Here's Sen. Clinton's statement, courtesy TPM:

Q: Can you discuss your position on the reauthorization of the FISA bill?

HRC: I am troubled by the concerns that have been raised by the recent legislation reported out of the Intelligence Committee. I haven't seen it so I can't express an opinion about it. But I don't trust the Bush Administration with our civil rights and liberties. So I'm going to study it very hard. As matters stand now, I could not support it and I would support a filibuster absent additional information coming forward that would convince me differently.

Hillary Says She Would Support Filibuster Of Intel Committee's Telecom Immunity Bill

I'll just add parenthetically that I don't trust any government with my civil rights and liberties. Governments are supposed to serve their people, not the other way round. That's as true for a Clinton Administration as it is for a Bush Administration. Everyone who has been in politics for a while has enemies and antagonists. You'd think all these bozos who assume that they can trust President Bush would think about that for a moment. Of course, if you're foolish enough to trust Bush, thinking probably isn't your strong suit.

Obama's earlier statement on the matter was almost as vague:

"Senator Obama has serious concerns about many provisions in this bill, especially the provision on giving retroactive immunity to the telephone companies. He is hopeful that this bill can be improved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But if the bill comes to the Senate floor in its current form, he would support a filibuster of it."

Obama: I Would Support Dodd's Filibuster

Even though he mentioned retroactive immunity and other "serious concerns", you are left wondering if they just removed a dangling participle or two Obama would change heart.

Still, I think Hillary Clinton was way ahead in vagueness, even before Obama's camp clarified. As Scarecrow observes:

Neither of these statements is as definitive as it should be, nor as clear on the important principles at stake. And both statements leave wiggle room — in Clinton’s case far too much. What does she stand for? What will she risk to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution? I honestly can’t tell. It’s agonizing to ponder how Clinton and her aides must have agonized over the wording of that statement.

Dodd Leads; Obama and Clinton Follow, Sort Of

Today's statement by Obama is much more definite, and a worthy companion to Senator Biden's simple answer.

At this point, it looks like two things need to be done:

1. Write or call Obama's campaign to thank him for his support, and to remind him that "blanket" or "umbrella" warrants are just as much of a danger as immunity for the telecomms.

2. Write or call Clinton's campaign to demand a definite answer to the question of whether she'll support Senator Dodd, with a statement of the principles that are important enough for her to filibuster over.

Obama's unqualified statement, though late, is still a good sign. It means that citizen input still means something in this country, at least occasionally.

And all you politicians out there? See what happens when you do the right thing? You get your picture in a blog post where you're not looking like a putz. See how much better that feels?

UPDATE: Corrected the URL for Clinton's campaign site. It originally pointed to her Senate contact form. For the Senate contact form for Senators Clinton and Obama, go to my previous article on FISA.

UPDATE 2: A lot happened while I was away. First off, New Mexico Governor and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson had this to say, as reported by Firedoglake:

Bill Richardson put out this statement today:

There can be no compromise on personal rights and privacy. I urge my Democratic primary opponents, and every Senator, to stand up and state loudly and clearly — without any equivocation — that he or she will not pass any bill that grants retroactive immunity to companies that willingly aided the Bush administration in violating the law and spying on our own people.

Biden, Obama, Dodd all standing up for the rule of law…who’s missing?

FISA: Richardson’s In

Who, indeed? Nice to see other candidates weighing in on this.

Meanwhile, Senator Dodd is keeping an electronic whip count of Senate Judiciary Committee members' positions on telecomm immunity. He's hoping to keep that provision from making it out of committee. If you live in states represented by these Senators, please call them to ask what their positions are. At the moment (Oct. 24, 10PM PDT), there are only two Senators known to be opposed, and most have not stated a position. Lots of work to do, in other words.

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