Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Political Climate Shift

I sensed it when I walked outside the the other day. I stopped in my tracks, looked around, and couldn't quite figure out what it was. Was there a different smell in the air? Had the temperature dipped a few degrees? Did the wind feel a little different? I didn't realize exactly what it was until I began look at the news of the day and read some related articles. Some called it a "shift toward the center" and some called it "standing up to the left", but it became clear to me that the political climate is what had shifted. Not only has John McCain gone through an experience since the year 2000 that the reality show world might dub "Extreme Makeover: Political Edition", but now it seems that Barack Obama is the latest candidate to begin shifting and even reversing his position on some key issues.

In a recent article Chris Hedges refers to Obama as a "courtier" who is agile and eloquent and makes us feel good. Hedges states:

"We cannot differentiate between illusion and reality. We trust courtiers wearing face powder who deceive us in the name of journalism. We trust courtiers in our political parties who promise to fight for our interests and then pass bill after bill to further corporate fraud and abuse. We confuse how we feel about courtiers like Obama and Russert with real information, facts and knowledge. We chant in unison with Obama that we want change, we yell “yes we can,” and then stand dumbly by as he coldly votes away our civil liberties. The Democratic Party, including Obama, continues to fund the war. It refuses to impeach Bush and Cheney. It allows the government to spy on us without warrants or cause. And then it tells us it is our salvation. This is a form of collective domestic abuse. And, as so often happens in the weird pathology of victim and victimizer, we keep coming back for more. "

Hedges' reference to voting away our civil liberties refers to Obama's new found support for the FISA bill which will help to give telecom companies retroactive immunity for spying on Americans. Matthew Rothschild gives further insight into this issue in his recent piece in The Progressive. Rothschild points out that the rhetoric Obama used to defend his reversal in position, is quite similar to President Bush's:

Obama, sounding on Friday a lot like Bush, said: “Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay.”

Here’s what Bush said the same day as Obama: The bill “allows our intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor the plans of terrorists abroad, while protecting the liberties of Americans here at home.”

But it doesn’t protect our liberties, and Obama ought to know that.

Obama's previous position was that he would support the filibuster of any legislation that would give the telecom companies retroactive immunity. His support for this latest FISA bill, is a direct reversal and a shift not necessarily towards the so-called "center", but in allowing the Administration to continue their assault on our civil liberties.

The media coverage on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" of this very issue has been astounding. Glenn Greenwald of pointed out in his most recent blog the amazing shift in discourse on this program that directly aligned with Obama's shift on this issue:

What's much more notable is Olbermann's full-scale reversal on how he talks about these measures now that Obama -- rather than George Bush -- supports them. On an almost nightly basis, Olbermann mocks Congressional Democrats as being weak and complicit for failing to stand up to Bush lawbreaking; now that Obama does it, it's proof that Obama won't "cower." Grave warning on Olbermann's show that telecom amnesty and FISA revisions were hallmarks of Bush Fascism instantaneously transformed into a celebration that Obama, by supporting the same things, was leading a courageous, centrist crusade in defense of our Constitution.

Greenwald goes on to mention the danger in this type of "blind devotion" to a candidate no matter his/her stance on policy issues. Greenwald mentions that it is no different than the blind devotion than many loyalists of President Bush have ascribed to in the last 8 years no matter how harmful his policies on important issues.

Obama's stance on FISA is simply the latest in a series of events where his position on issues seems to run counter to the type of change that some of his supporters have come to expect. Obama's speech in front of AIPAC was meant to assure Israel that the policy of the United States will remain in direct alliance with Israeli interests. He stated that the United States would continue to give military aide ($30 billion) to Israel, believes that Jerusalem should remain undivided, and all options would remain on the table to defend the "sacrosanct" and "non-negotiable" security of Israel.

On Iraq, Obama has not pledged to withdrawal all troops and has not voiced a clear stance on the role of private contracting firms operating with Iraq. In fact, in a recent Wall Street Journal article the Iraqi Foreign Minister mentions that after a phone call with Obama, he believes that Obama will not make any drastic decisions or take any drastic actions to jeopardize Iraq's security gains.

Let us be clear on the meaning of these shifts in Obama's positions. It is continually shown, through the examples I have listed, that Obama's actions and words do not represent a drastic change in policy away from the our current situation. Obama is voting for the FISA bill which will give expanded powers on the government to spy on Americans, has pledged his staunch support for the security of Israel, and has not pledged an end to the war in his lack of support for a full withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Citizens of the U.S. need to begin to look at what is being said on these issues that are so important to our future and if Barack Obama is starting to look less like a "change" and more like the status quo, then perhaps people should look to other candidates that may fully represent the type of change that they wish to see in this country.

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