Blogging as Comedy
I like Chris Bowers but he does produce these gems from time to time that are unintentionally funny - so much so that it dragged me out of hibernation to do a blog post. On Tuesday, citing this New York Times piece titled "Obama Addresses Critics on 'Centrist' Moves", Chris posted this on Open Left:
Obama Self-Identifies as Progressive
Chris quoted Obama indentifying himself as a progressive and as a Democrat and explained why that was "positive for several reasons" (emphasis mine throughout this post):
First, and most obviously, Obama self-identifies as a progressive twice in this speech. While it is not a replacement for standing up for progressive policies, it is still important for a Democratic nominee to publicly identity with an ideological term associated with the American left. This strikes me as quite novel, as least in recent decades.
The comedy started right there with the "while it is not a replacement for standing up for progressive policies". Other than the minor detail of setting the bar rather low, I should point out that there is a group known as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) that has been repeatedly self-identifying as "progressive" for, um, a decade or so. You can find plenty of examples on the DLC website, such as this one from 1999: "The Third Way: Progressive Governance for the 21st Century". The DLC also has its own think-tank that is called, um, Progressive Policy Institute. If anything, when someone adopts more conservative positions (see Doug Kendall and Dahlia Lithwick at Slate, h/t Jeralyn) and frames that as being progressive, Chris needs to think about the impact of that framing on truly progressive positions - which will get re-defined as, um, "far left".
Chris goes on to say:
Second, Obama also self-identifies as a Democrat, rather than his typical post-partisan rhetoric. This is good both because it helps build up the Democratic brand, and because it will actually be new Democrats, not Independents or Republicans, who carry Obama to victory.
Um, ever hear of the Democratic Leadership Council? They are the masters of post-partisan rhetoric but they also very liberally identify themselves as Democrats time and again. They have been doing that for a long time. Heck, Joe Lieberman was pretty insistent on calling himself a Democrat until he got booted from the party by Ned Lamont. So, is that now a good way to "build the Democratic brand"? (Helpful Tip: Words don't particularly build the Democratic brand in the long term, actions do.)
Third, the speech is actually directed at what Obama calls "my friends on the left." I can't remember a Presidential nominee specifically courting left wing voters and activists before. Honestly, I really can't. This is a sign of increased respect and being taken more seriously. The Obama FISA group played an important role in this regard.
A reference to "friends on the left" - as opposed to say, voting or taking positions in line with the activist left - is now a sign that a Presidential nominee is courting left wing voters and activists? Cool! All ye red state Democrats in the House and Senate - I hope you are making notes!
The piece de resistance?
Fourth, Obama says, bluntly, to take him at his word. Since it is now vogue to believe that Obama has secret plans to stand up for left-wing policies that differ from his public statements, it is nice to have confirmation from Obama himself that we should stop believing in such secret plans.
Ha ha ha. Rather funny Chris, rather funny. Luckily for me, I always took him at his word.
Troll Repellant: I am still supporting Sen. Obama in the general election, not Sen. McCain.
P.S. I want to thank Sen. Clinton for standing up to the Constitution in her votes against the FISA Bill yesterday. Her full statement is below:
STATEMENT OF SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON ON THE FISA AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2008
July 9, 2008
One of the great challenges before us as a nation is remaining steadfast in our fight against terrorism while preserving our commitment to the rule of law and individual liberty. As a senator from New York on September 11, I understand the importance of taking any and all necessary steps to protect our nation from those who would do us harm. I believe strongly that we must modernize our surveillance laws in order to provide intelligence professionals the tools needed to fight terrorism and make our country more secure. However, any surveillance program must contain safeguards to protect the rights of Americans against abuse, and to preserve clear lines of oversight and accountability over this administration. I applaud the efforts of my colleagues who negotiated this legislation, and I respect my colleagues who reached a different conclusion on today's vote. I do so because this is a difficult issue. Nonetheless, I could not vote for the legislation in its current form.
The legislation would overhaul the law that governs the administration's surveillance activities. Some of the legislation's provisions place guidelines and restrictions on the operational details of the surveillance activities, others increase judicial and legislative oversight of those activities, and still others relate to immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in the administration's surveillance activities.
While this legislation does strengthen oversight of the administration's surveillance activities over previous drafts, in many respects, the oversight in the bill continues to come up short. For instance, while the bill nominally calls for increased oversight by the FISA Court, its ability to serve as a meaningful check on the President's power is debatable. The clearest example of this is the limited power given to the FISA Court to review the government's targeting and minimization procedures.
But the legislation has other significant shortcomings. The legislation also makes no meaningful change to the immunity provisions. There is little disagreement that the legislation effectively grants retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies. In my judgment, immunity under these circumstances has the practical effect of shutting down a critical avenue for holding the administration accountable for its conduct. It is precisely why I have supported efforts in the Senate to strip the bill of these provisions, both today and during previous debates on this subject. Unfortunately, these efforts have been unsuccessful.
What is more, even as we considered this legislation, the administration refused to allow the overwhelming majority of Senators to examine the warrantless wiretapping program. This made it exceedingly difficult for those Senators who are not on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees to assess the need for the operational details of the legislation, and whether greater protections are necessary. The same can be said for an assessment of the telecom immunity provisions. On an issue of such tremendous importance to our citizens – and in particular to New Yorkers – all Senators should have been entitled to receive briefings that would have enabled them to make an informed decision about the merits of this legislation. I cannot support this legislation when we know neither the nature of the surveillance activities authorized nor the role played by telecommunications companies granted immunity.
Congress must vigorously check and balance the president even in the face of dangerous enemies and at a time of war. That is what sets us apart. And that is what is vital to ensuring that any tool designed to protect us is used – and used within the law – for that purpose and that purpose alone. I believe my responsibility requires that I vote against this compromise, and I will continue to pursue reforms that will improve our ability to collect intelligence in our efforts to combat terror and to oversee that authority in Congress.
I also want to thank Sen. Dodd, Sen. Feingold and the other Democrats in the House and Senate who stood up for the Constitution. You can read more on this topic from Glenn Greenwald.