Opinion: Nomination in hand, Obama stiffs the Dem left on FISA vote

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That Barack Obama jog toward the political center now that he’s won the Democratic nomination appears to have turned into a full-fledged dash today. And there’s a lot of folks on the left side of his party that are unhappy.

But, to be Chicago kind of candid, whatcha gonna do about it?

Today, the freshman senator from Illinois voted in favor of the FISA bill that provides retroactive legal protection to cooperating telecom companies that helped the feds eavesdrop on overseas calls. Up until a few weeks ago -- let’s see, that would be shortly after the last primaries settled the Democratic nomination and terminated what’s-her-name’s once frontrunning campaign -- Obama adamantly opposed the bill. ‘Unequivocally’ was the word his people used.


‘Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies,’ Obama spokesman Bill Burton said last fall. In December, as ABC’s Jake Tapper notes, Obama’s office said: “Sen. Obama unequivocally opposes giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies and has cosponsored Sen. Dodd’s efforts to remove that provision from the FISA bill.’

In February, Obama voted for an amendment to carve the retroactive immunity out of the measure. And he said: ‘I am proud to stand with Sen. Dodd, Sen. Feingold and a grass-roots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty. There is no reason why telephone companies should be given blanket immunity to cover violations of the rights of the American people.’

Let’s see, those statements were all made during that endless Democratic primary season.

After June 4, Obama said: ‘It is a close call for me, but I think the current legislation with exclusivity provision that says that a president -- whether George Bush, myself or John McCain -- can’t make up rationales for getting around FISA court, can’t suggest that somehow that there is some law that stands above the laws passed by Congress in engaging in warrantless wiretaps.’

Never mind that it’s confusing. It’s supposed to be. Yes, he’s usually a real good talker. But he wanted to avoid providing a clear-cut quote for future use against himself. Bottom line, today Obama voted for the measure he has so long opposed. So he was against the bill before he was for the bill.

And guess what? His primary primary opponent, Hillary Clinton from the Empire State, the one who got ditched by much of the Democratic left in favor of this new guy from Illinois who had no visible warts, she voted against the bill. Talk about retroactive regret by some.

‘It’s ironic so far, I suppose,’ one commentor wrote on OpenLeft today, ‘that Clinton is of late a more reliable ally than Obama.’ Over at Wake up America they provided a detailed accounting of the excoriating of Obama by alleged supporters on the candidate’s own website.

With his vote unnecessary for victory, Sen. McCain spent the day in Ohio, of all places, which just happens to be the state that Republicans do not win the White House without. If you get our drift.

-- Andrew Malcolm