Monday, June 23, 2008

Change is Only a Word

Barack Obama, responding to a charge by Hillary Clinton that it takes more than words to make real change, cited speeches by some of the great leaders of the past to make that point that sometimes words are indeed powerful and capable of producing change. His entire campaign has been based on bringing change to the political system and to the insider culture of Washington. He now has a chance to demonstrate what kind of change he intends to bring to the White House.

A vote in the senate on the "compromise" FISA bill is scheduled for sometime this week and it is the first opportunities for presumptive nominee Barack Obama to demonstrate that his words are actually more than just empty promises. Since he is now the de facto leader of the Democratic party, his voice carries a lot more weight on this matter than any other elected Democratic official. Nancy Pelosi has already stated her approval of the bill, and as I have said in previous posts, the current Democratic leadership does not seem to have the backbone to stand up to the Bush administration. In trying to appear tough on terrorism, they have capitulated to the demands of an administration that apparently holds the Constitution in contempt. While I don't believe that there are enough votes in the Senate to defeat the bill, Barack Obama, by taking a stand against the systematic destruction of the Bill of Rights, can make a powerful statement to the American people. Senators Dodd and Feingold have said that they will filibuster the bill if it contains language that protects the telecoms from prosecution.

I don't believe that the filibuster over the telecoms goes far enough. This bill on it's face, which allows the government to spy on whomever it pleases as long as the President deems it necessary, is clearly, at least to me, unconstitutional. Where is the voice in the senate arguing for that? Who, if anyone, is going to have the nerve to stand up for the American people? Who is going to be willing to explain to the American people that being against this bill doesn't mean that you are soft on terrorism, it means that you are simply committed to protecting the Constitution. I personally don't think that the people of this country are too dense to understand the difference (well, the LIV's probably are), but apparently it will take a leader with extraordinary strength to stand up and do what's right.

I am hoping that Barack Obama is that kind of leader, but he certainly hasn't given any signals that he is willing to take that kind of stand. He is currently trying to play both ends of the scale. He is for the FISA legislation (to show that he's tough on terrorism), but he's against telecom immunity (to show that he's not a lapdog of the Bush administration). I find this to be a purely political argument. The FISA legislation, as currently written, encroaches on rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution. It really is as simple as that. It doesn't require a technicality (like telecom immunity) to be against the bill. I don't understand the reticence of politicians to stand up for the rights of the American people. I still hope that Barack Obama will be that kind of leader and this one vote will not change my choice in November. However it is disappointing to realize that promising change and actually delivering it are two separate things. Dreams die hard though.

1 comment:

Sandy Jimenez said...

True. Although I'd been hard on Obama and Clinton for using the word "hope", in lieu of actually talking specifics... FISA is hard to get around, and it's frankly a bigger issue that goes right to the heart of our republic's future. Ignoring FISA is supporting it, and what it stands for. What it stands for is government and corporations that are not answerable to the law or the people.
Barack Obama has to step up and vote his conscience. He has to be tough enough to stand up and tell the people of this country what his opposition to abuses like FISA really means. He has the oratory power and presence to do it and for the time being... America is listening closely to what this man is saying.