More On The Politics Of Change
Glenn Greenwald highlights the problem:
On July 8, 2008 -- the day before the U.S. Senate voted for the new FISA bill -- Morton Halperin wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times announcing that the bill "has my personal support" and that "it represents our best chance to protect both our national security and our civil liberties." His Op-Ed was a great surprise to many people -- not only because Halperin was formerly the head of the D.C. office of the ACLU, which vigorously opposed the bill; not only because virtually every other civil liberties group and every other civil libertarian in America also vehemently opposed the bill as a profound assault on the Fourth Amendment; and not only because the organization of which Halperin was (at the time) President -- the Open Society Policy Institute ("OSPI") -- was so opposed to the FISA bill that (as Halperin reveals for the first time in my interview with him) they asked him to step down as President as a result.
In fact, just a month before writing his Op-Ed, Halperin signed a letter opposing the bill. Almost all the specific provisions cited as reasons to oppose the bill remained in its final form. So, what changed?
Manifestly, there was only one meaningful change that occurred between Halperin's June 9 opposition and his July 8 support: namely, it was in that interim -- on June 20 -- that Barack Obama announced that he would support the FISA bill, and many have speculated (and it is just speculation) that Halperin, who has served in numerous administrations over the past four decades (beginning with the Nixon administration) and is eager for a high-level appointment in the Obama administration, offered to give Obama cover by coming out and supporting the FISA bill even though, only weeks earlier, he had vigorously opposed it. Lending even stronger support to that hypothesis is a document I obtained that Halperin wrote and which Obama's office circulated to numerous Democratic Senators, dated June 22 (only two days after Obama announced his support for the bill), in which Halperin heaped praise on the FISA bill and urged Democratic Senators to support it (Halperin's June 22 memo to Senators is here).
This will be a continuing theme. You can see it in the comments pretty much every time Obama sells out on an important issue: either the issue no longer matters, or Obama's problematic stance is now acceptable. Because to a certain type of mindset, it's not the issues that matter, it's the man selling them. Sadly, that type of mindset is now the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Not to mention the shrillosphere.