Saturday, July 5, 2008

Obama's FISA Cave In: A Reverse "Souljah" Moment

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By Leonce Gaiter

As he morphs from St. Obama of the Primaries to Village Barack of the General, Obama is quickly abandoning the liberal savior guise that got him from point A to point B. He went before AIPAC and to out Likud the Likudniks to the point where he had to backtrack from a testament that Jerusalem would be Israel's undivided capital. Echoing his previous support for the execrable Joe Lieberman, he cut a radio ad supporting Georgia's Bush-loving, conservative Democratic Rep. John Barrow against a progressive challenger. He remained silent for a long while, and then issued a weak tea statement on the abominable FISA legislation essentially legalizing Bush's surveillance illegalities.

Obama's moves are tactical and strategic shifts away from the Washington Reformer he was during the Democratic primary and toward the Washington Establishment figure he seems to believe will win him the general.

On the FISA move, blogger Digby stated, "I am tempted to say this is a Sistah Soljah [sic] moment, wherein Barack makes it clear to the Villagers that he is not one of the DFHs [Dirty Fucking Hippies], despite all their ardent support. Nothing is more associated with us than this issue. It may even make sense on some sort of abstract level. He's obviously decided that he has to run to the right pretty hard to counteract that 'most liberal Senator' label."

He's also taken some pretty hard hits on FISA from progressive blogs like Glenn Greenwald's and Talking Points Memo, the latter headlining, "Obama Backs Surveillance Cave." Atrios awarded Obama the coveted "Wanker of the Day" award.

Obama will obviously do what it takes to gain the Presidency, and that is fantastic. Only a hard-assed pol is going to win this thing. But seeming abandonment of progressivism puts him in a bind. He is alienating the base by flouting the principles he had convinced them he held dear--and he hasn't the strong progressive history to winkingly signify that he's only joking.

When Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos admiringly wrote, "Obama, by the way, repudiated [the centrist Democratic Leadership Council] three times," was the praise only for political strategy, or did it include progressive policies as well? On the latter, Obama has traveled a long way on the good faith of one anti-war vote, placed at a time when he had much less to lose.

Since then, however, he has failed to draw a line in the sand. On what progressive issue has he taken a risk and placed his leadership and principles on the line to say, "This is what I believe in and this is what I'm willing to fight for?" Obviously, the Constitution doesn't do it for him, nor does the idea of "more and better Democrats."

When other candidates tack left or right between the primary and election day, it's a form of Kabuki; we all know what they really stand for. They've left legislative paper trails that show us. We knew who George Bush was. No one with a brain bought that Compassionate Conservative horseshit. We know who John McCain is and have a good idea of how he will govern--and it ain't pretty.

Obama has a short paper trail--most of it self-penned in the form of two autobiographies. He has a single anti-war vote, which, yes, took courage to cast, even for a junior senator. But is that enough to tell us that he is more than "not McCain?" Is that enough to grant him the liberty to turn his back on progressive ideas and candidates? Are we comfortable enough to know that when it comes to the big things, he will fall on our side of the fence, as he has not done on FISA, as he has not done when it comes to supporting--or at least not undermining--progressive challengers to conservative Blue Dog Democrats?

Obama's whole strategy seemed based on generating enough progressive enthusiasm to redraw the electoral map--bringing new, young and minority voters into the booths. These groups went wild for St. Obama of the Primaries. They helped him raise unprecedented sums of money.

I wonder if these new voters will be sufficiently energized by Village Barack of the General come election day? If he's hunting for his Sister Souljah moment, he'd better turn around and hunt for its reverse--a reintroduction to his base.

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