Throughout the endless Democratic presidential primary, Barack Obama used Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate vote in favor of the Iraq war against her, time and time again.
I thought it an unwise political move for Obama because, as much as his campaign invokes the "change" mantra, he is an old-school Chicago pol and had he been in the Senate at the time, I am certain he would have followed Clinton in the "aye" column.
You can imagine the boatloads of crap I have received from fellow Democrats for this opinion. One person had the gall to tell me that unacknowledged racism was the basis for my "opinion" (her air quotes). Of course, she supports school vouchers, so I didn't sweat her "accusation" (my air quotes).
Well, looking at last week's U.S. Senate passage of an update of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, I feel vindicated. Obama voted with the majority while his presumptive competition McCain didn't bother to show up.
There's a lot involved with this battle that I don't have space to address, but the new law gives greater latitude to the feds to use technology to track terrorism suspects outside U.S. borders. Warrants are required to surveil Americans in this country, but no permission is necessary to follow foreign nationals located abroad, regardless of whether the surveillance uses American-based communications technologies. Tracking Americans abroad will require a warrant. On paper, congressional and judicial oversight is increased, but law-abiding citizens run the risk of threats to their privacy if they become unfairly targeted during investigations.
Under the previous version of FISA, secret wiretapping orders are set to expire in August without Congressional action. President Bush has maintained a veto threat to any new law that did not provide retroactive immunity from prosecution to telephone companies that yielded to White House directives for surveillance.
Obama had publicly opposed giving immunity to phone companies, but last Wednesday, he voted for what he said was "an improved but imperfect bill" after an earlier amendment to strip the immunity failed.
Obama also voted in favor of a cloture motion with Republicans who asserted that U.S. Constitutional questions raised by the Bush-backed legislation did not merit debate.
Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) asserted during debate that ordinary Americans had nothing to fear "unless you have al Qaeda on your speed dial."
I find it highly annoying when lawmakers say garbage like this. It tells me that the speaker likely hasn't read the bill or has an incomplete grasp of the implications.
Obama, heading into next month's convention, doesn't want to look weak on national security to Middle America and is following an established strategy of moving to the center.
His characterization of the law as "improved but imperfect" is not only disingenuous, but also a blithe relegation of Fourth Amendment protections to the dustbin of history.
It's more than a little ironic given that Obama received the Kennedy imprimatur, yet returned the favor with a McCain-style "yea."
Hillary Clinton never disavowed her Iraq war vote and maybe that cost her the nomination.
Last Wednesday, she voted "no" on the new FISA.