More on moral courage

Earlier I quoted Hillary Clinton asking:

So when I hear Senator Obama talk about that, I wonder which fights he wouldn’t fight.? It’s all this kind of abstract, general talk about how we all need to get along. I want to get along, and I have gotten along in the Senate. I will work with Republicans to find common cause whenever I can, but I will also stand my ground, because there are fights worth having.

Obama was in the Senate today, and voted against granting retroactive immunity to telecom companies that broke the law by letting the government listen to private citizens’ phone calls without a warrant. Hillary wasn’t there, and thus couldn’t weigh in on a simple question about the rule of law.

As Bradford Plumer writes:

It’s a shame–the Dems trying to block telecom immunity and add surveillance oversight were badly beaten, and I’m sure Clinton’s 35 years experience and legendary ability to work for change would’ve come in real handy.

Warrantless wiretapping of US residents is wrong. It’s illegal, it’s unconstitutional, and the telecoms knew it. So does Hillary, so does Obama, and so does McCain. McCain voted to bless the criminal activities, Obama voted to hold criminals accountable, and Hillary hid from conflict.

Sometimes that’s wise. But not the day after pledging to stand and fight.


  1. #1 SnarlyOldFart
    February 12, 2008

    Obama voted against coddling criminals? Crikey, a moral act inside the Beltway? Stop the presses!

  2. #2 Josh Rosenau
    February 12, 2008

    Good catch. I should have specified corporate criminals.

  3. #3 Douglas MacPherson
    February 12, 2008

    Technically, Obama voted against cloture on the “ceremonial” filibuster attempt led by Chris Dodd. Obama did not vote against passage of the bill.

  4. #4 Josh Rosenau
    February 12, 2008

    The cloture motion wasn’t ceremonial. If more Dems stood tall with Chris Dodd, key amendments would have passed, making this a much better bill.

    The vote on the final bill is based on a lot of factors, including political wisdom and an assessment of the totality of what it provides. Now it goes to conference, where the immunity-free House bill may prevail. If not, there’s one last chance to fight it on the Senate floor.

  5. #5 Douglas MacPherson
    February 13, 2008

    My “ceremonial” remark was based on my own cynicism of the process. When I first heard that Dodd was going to lead a filibuster, I actually shed a tear or two because I thought that finally someone was going to stand up as a leader and tell the president, “No.” I had high hopes he’d gain some momentum, and perhaps get some support from the presidential candidates, but as the weeks passed, I saw little being done. And, of course, this whole issue was buried by the media. I think most Americans don’t even realize what’s at stake here or even that there was such a bill. Had they been properly informed, I’m sure there would have been some form of public outrage and congress would have been forced to cave on the issue.

    In the end, Obama’s vote against cloture was nothing more than symbolic as it was a forgone conclusion that the filibuster would fail. He could have voted against the bill itself, which would have made me proud. Even so, it would have been only a symbolic gesture, but a more pointed one that really would have let us know where he stands on the issue. Right now, I don’t have a clear idea of where he stands.

  6. #6 William Wallace
    February 13, 2008

    Warrantless wiretapping of US residents is wrong. It’s illegal, it’s unconstitutional, and the telecoms knew it.

    You and I agree on this. But communications companies, even going back to the telegraph companies, have been spying on U.S. citizens. For example James Bamford reports that the three major telegraph companies daily turned over telegrams to the “American Black Chamber” (predecessor to the NSA).Bamford, James 1983The Puzzle Palace: A Report on America’s Most Secret Agency

  7. #7 Josh Rosenau
    February 13, 2008

    I know, and when that was revealed, Congress passed laws forbidding such warrantless wiretapping. People have always done lots of things; that doesn’t make them right.

  8. #8 William Wallace
    February 13, 2008

    I’m just saying…, and I agreed with you.

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