Saturday, July 5, 2008

There is no ‘Higher Standard’ in American Politics Anymore

Original Link:

Three from Huffpo today all trying desperately to justify Barack Obama’s turning his back on the Constitution and civil liberties in the FISA bill.

First from Obama himself. If nothing else, this screed shows that Barack is a master of manipulative spin. At least we won’t have to listen to the stuttering, half-drunken, illiterate nonsense from George W. Bush. Now we have a master of oratory and rhetoric to spin a web of bullshit upon us:

This was not an easy call for me.

Actually it was. To explain it, in another HuffPo essay, is Dawn Teo:

The real quandary for Obama is that he has to win the “low-information voters” in November in order to win the election, but he needs the “high-information voters” now in order to field his grassroots operations leading up to November. Low-information voters are never going to understand FISA. It is a subject that takes time and energy to master. Low-information voters look at FISA and only see the ability or inability of the government to investigate potential terrorists. Yet a large number of high-information voters in both the left and right wing of politics understand that this is much more than an issue about national security — it’s an issue of balancing national security and individual rights. At the same time, most low-information voters only understand that FISA relates to national security. In other words, low-information voters are susceptible to fear mongering on this issue.

and to drive the point home (Teo again):

Because Obama needs to win low information voters in November, and many of them will be fooled by scare mongering from the right, many are interpreting the strategy as a short term sacrifice for a long term gain — Obama sacrifices the FISA vote today to save us from a McCain-picked SCOTUS tomorrow that would uphold the FISA vote.

Let’s cut through Teo’s bullshit, OK?

What she’s really saying, in the nicest possible way, is that too many American voters are morons. And Obama, to rule a nation of morons, must win the moron vote.

This begs the question of why anyone would want to either rule or live in a nation of morons? Or, the other question, is, if they are morons that must be deceived into voting for you, how do you educate these same morons once in office? And the morons still will vote and still will be susceptible to moronic appeals from the morons on the right.

No one calls Teo or any of these people on the basic premise of their arguments - the swing electorate of this once great nation are made up of morons.

It’s enough to make any thinking person think of emigrating.

So the decision, for Obama, was not difficult at all. Now that he suckered the progressive base in his own party with crap about ‘change’ and ‘hope,’ to win the national election, he has to massage the idiocy of the moron electorate that he will keep their children safe from big bad terrorists Arabs that lurk beyond the suburban persimmon bushes, waiting to slit their throats.

When you strip away the bullshit rhetoric, this is the basic truth of American politics.

As for McCain, he already has a good chunk of the moron vote locked up including the racist vote, the sexist vote, the militarist vote, the greed vote and the fascist vote. That’s a pretty good core winning coalition in America so don’t dare count him out.

Basically, what Teo is saying is that Obama would have to EXPLAIN the FISA bill to morons who don’t have above a sixth grade comprehension. To get an idea of how his handlers feel that would go, imagine Obama having to explain why the FISA compromise is unconstitutional and fascist to, say, Homer Simpson.

You have 10 seconds.

Homer: BORE-ING!!!

Now this is a surrenderist position, let’s be very clear on that. What we have is the Democratic nominee in waiting and his political advisers basically throwing in the towel on speaking to the rational, educated, electorate. Because there are not enough of them out there to form a winning majority.

Sadly this is nothing new.

Supporter: “Senator all the right thinking people are with you.”

Adlai Stevenson: “Thank you, but I need a majority to win.”

And from this George Will column on Obama from April 15:

When another supporter told Stevenson, “You educated the people through your campaign,” Stevenson replied, “But a lot of people flunked the course.” Michael Barone, in “Our Country: The Shaping of America From Roosevelt to Reagan,” wrote: “It is unthinkable that Roosevelt would ever have said those things or that such thoughts ever would have crossed his mind.” Barone added: “Stevenson was the first leading Democratic politician to become a critic rather than a celebrator of middle-class American culture — the prototype of the liberal Democrat who would judge ordinary Americans by an abstract standard and find them wanting.”

Abstract standard? Meaning, what, precisely - intelligence? Rationality? The ability to employ critical thinking?

“A republic, if you can keep it,” - Benjamin Franklin, a leading intellectual of his day, often revered in American textbooks.

How do we keep this republic, if, like Barone and Will, we celebrate the idiocy of the average American? And not just celebrate it, in Obama’s case (and he’s certainly not the only one), actually cater to it?

I haven’t the foggiest, but it scares the hell out of me.

This is why I changed the title of this post from “Sorry Barack, You Blew It” to what I did. There is simply no longer any higher standard to hold politicians to in this country. Perhaps this is not a profound revelation. It saddens and sickens me, but then again, I am an American misfit. I am one of those people who go around this nation of ours feeling that I must be mad - that I must have been dropped here as some kind of alien baby from another planet. Surely these people can see the madness of their system?

No, most of them do not.

In fact they celebrate it.

I have gone far afield in this post, I know.

Back to Obama:

I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn’t have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush’s abuse of executive power. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That’s why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate.

Guaran-damn-tee you it won’t happen. These are pretty words from a candidate who only scant weeks ago swore up and down he wouldn’t support retroactive immunity.

But I also believe that the compromise bill is far better than the Protect America Act that I voted against last year. The exclusivity provision makes it clear to any president or telecommunications company that no law supersedes the authority of the FISA court. In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people. But in a free society, that authority cannot be unlimited. As I’ve said many times, an independent monitor must watch the watchers to prevent abuses and to protect the civil liberties of the American people. This compromise law assures that the FISA court has that responsibility.

Say Barack, who has oversight of the FISA court and it’s decisions? Did you know that:

It is also rare for FISA warrant requests to be turned down by the court. Through the end of 2004, 18,761 warrants were granted, while just five were rejected (many sources say four). Fewer than 200 requests had to be modified before being accepted, almost all of them in 2003 and 2004.


Because of the sensitive nature of its business, the FISC is a “secret court”: its hearings are closed to the public, and, while records of the proceedings are kept, those records are also not available to the public. (Copies of those records with classified information redacted can and have been made public.) Due to the classified nature of its proceedings, only government attorneys are usually permitted to appear before the FISC. Due to the nature of the matters heard before it, FISC hearings may need to take place at any time of day or night, weekdays or weekends; thus, at least one judge must be “on call” at all times to hear evidence and decide whether or not to issue a warrant.

Pardon me if I don’t feel all warm and fuzzy for a secret court made up of government appointed sympathizers acting like a rubber stamp for the President. This is not oversight.

Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention — once I’m sworn in as president — to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

If you had any pretense to LEADERSHIP Senator Obama, you could have worked to kill or table the bill until you became President and then helped author a new one. This is a cop out and you know it. And I will scrape together any amount of money in a wager that Obama’s AG will indeed conduct a cursory review of all the surveillance programs and do exactly nothing. Obama will then have that power at his disposal.

What follows is four paragraphs of agonizingly patronizing bullshit from Obama. I will translate Obama-ese into understandable English.

Now, I understand why some of you feel differently about the current bill, and I’m happy to take my lumps on this side and elsewhere. For the truth is that your organizing, your activism and your passion is an important reason why this bill is better than previous versions.

Translation: why are you blaming me when you, the activists, are responsible for this ‘better’ bill?

No tool has been more important in focusing peoples’ attention on the abuses of executive power in this administration than the active and sustained engagement of American citizens. That holds true — not just on wiretapping, but on a range of issues where Washington has let the American people down.

Translation: too bad the effective range of all that engagement has been ‘zero.’ But hey, isn’t citizen participation great? Let’s all give it a big hand!

I learned long ago, when working as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, that when citizens join their voices together, they can hold their leaders accountable. I’m not exempt from that. I’m certainly not perfect, and expect to be held accountable too. I cannot promise to agree with you on every issue. But I do promise to listen to your concerns, take them seriously, and seek to earn your ongoing support to change the country.

Translation: remember people that ‘listening’ and actually being made to do what you want are two entirely different things. Hell, I’ll always listen. . . and then probably ignore what I don’t like. By the way, have you noticed how much George W. Bush has been “held accountable?” Especially by the leaders of my party? Wow, ‘accountability’ is a pretty word, isn’t it? Just keep paying your taxes and not burning anything down or fucking up commerce like they do in other countries and we’ll humor you with all the pretty words you want to hear.

Like these:

That is why we have built the largest grassroots campaign in the history of presidential politics, and that is the kind of White House that I intend to run as president of the United States — a White House that takes the Constitution seriously, conducts the peoples’ business out in the open, welcomes and listens to dissenting views, and asks you to play your part in shaping our country’s destiny.

Wow. I’m literally tearing up.

Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That’s ok.

Translation: That’s the nicest ‘fuck you’ you’ll ever get from a candidate. I mean, where I cut my teeth in politics they would simply say, like Mayor Richard Daley: ‘fuck you, I own this city and can do whatever I damn well want with or without your support.’ But, see how we’ve grown and changed since then? We’re kindler and gentler in our approach now. Why, we speak so pretty now, you don’t even realize that you’ve been dissed and dismissed as one might say. That’s statesmanship!

But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have. After all, the choice in this election could not be clearer. Whether it is the economy, foreign policy, or the Supreme Court, my opponent has embraced the failed course of the last eight years, while I want to take this country in a new direction. Make no mistake: if John McCain is elected, the fundamental direction of this country that we love will not change. But if we come together, we have an historic opportunity to chart a new course, a better course.

Translation: who else you gonna vote for, suckers? Ralph Nader? Ha, ha ha.

So I appreciate the feedback through, and I look forward to continuing the conversation in the months and years to come. Together, we have a lot of work to do.

Translation: that’s the last I’m going to comment on this matter to you netroots nutcases. You have your marching orders and nowhere else to turn. Now shut up and do what I tell you to do.

If you want to read more wishful thinking on Barack Obama, you can read Bob Cesca’s plaintive bleating here.

The bottom line for me is that there are a lot of people who are clinging to the hope of Obama like survivors clinging to the hull of a capsized ship. On this 4th of July we make a lot of pretty speeches about the often sanitized history of our country and express all kinds of patriotic platitudes that the best is yet to come.

In that way we live off hope. I remember as a child living off that hope when Jimmy Carter was elected. Now we would sweep away all the nasties of the Nixon years and have good clean government that would really serve the people. And we would never get involved in another Vietnam War ever again.

We may be running out of oil, natural gas, potable groundwater, decent jobs and a stable currency in this country but the one thing we’ve always had an inexhaustible supply of is hope. And would I be profoundly cynical to suggest that Senator Obama played that last great American trait like a well tuned guitar?

We’re like the dog whose sadistic owner keeps holding the doggie treat just out of reach. We keep jumping and jumping while our political (and economic) system drops the bacon just a little bit and we jump again thinking that this time, this time, it’s just low enough to grab it. But it’s jerked away again.

I’m tired of jumping every time some flavor of the election cycle promises me a better America. I don’t believe any of it anymore. At 45, I’ve been lied to my entire life and I’m sick and tired of it. I don’t believe in any of it anymore.

Barack Obama is no savior. There aren’t any more political saviors and you know damn well why. As long as our government and its’ players can be bought by our corporate masters they will be bought and they will work for them, not us. And as long as the majority of the American people are deliberately mis-educated about the history of their own country and it’s economic and political systems, they will get away with it.

My greatest fear is that the vast majority of us are losing our usefulness to the system. We’re almost out of industrial jobs - they’re overseas. Agribusiness doesn’t need or want family farmers any more. We can’t all sell each other insurance and hamburgers without money to buy them. There are only two major industries in this country that are growing and one can make a living in - war and prisons.

Barack Obama doesn’t talk about any of that. He doesn’t speak for the people who used to make things that made this nation - steel, rubber, glass - and now are unable to provide for their families. He doesn’t talk about the people that have been ripped off by the system - he has no real effective plan for the people affected by foreclosures.

Barack Obama is not speaking to what Franklin Roosevelt called “the forgotten man (or woman).” He really isn’t.

But people believe that the man who says such pretty things will somehow, magically, turn into FDR once he raises his right hand and takes the oath.

Now George W. Bush and his flying monkeys are about to shoot the works in the last six months of his administration to fuck up the country so bad no one can undo it. Such as destroying the presumption of innocence in pursuing investigations of terrorism.

So what can one expect of Barack Obama, really?

The next President has a choice - he can either embrace all the powers of an authoritarian system that George W. Bush is seemingly putting the finishing touches to OR he can begin dismantling that system and turn away from dictatorship and empire.

And if we are to judge what a man and a leader will do to get the highest office in the land, I can’t have any hope that Obama will choose the latter path.

Sorry, I’m out of hope.

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