Wednesday, April 08, 2009
The Message, Not the Messenger
The messenger is beloved when the message is peace, freedom, equality, rights, and other byproducts of the American and French revolutions.
A lot, but not everything, that President Barack Obama does passes muster with the highwayscribery editorial board.
Take, for example, the Obama Department of Justice brief in Jewel v. National Security Agency.
For nitty gritties we suggest you visit Glenn Greenwald's blog at Salon, where he applies an unrelenting commitment to civil rights with a constitutional lawyer's training.
In broad strokes, the lawsuit represents a legal challenge to the Bush administration's illegal wiretapping policy.
By way of recap, last year Obama and other Democrats joined Republicans in passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This nefarious piece of legislation granted immunity to telecommunications companies that had complied with Bush administration requests to spy on their customers.
This provoked a howl of protest from civil libertarians. Congressional Democrats responded that the government, in spite of the FISA bill, could still be sued for its transgressions upon our rights.
Jewel put that promise to the test.
An unfortunate byproduct of our country's majestic process for transferring power is that new administrations get saddled with their predecessor's sins, and the Obama administration necessarily became the defendant in Jewel.
But rather than fold the government's defense and bless the claims of citizens legitimately asserting their constitutional right to privacy, Attorney General Eric Holder has done just the opposite...if not worse.
In requesting the lawsuit's dismissal, Holder asserts the state's "secret privilege" doctrine and attempts to repress evidence that might add meat to the plaintiff's boney claims.
It is identical to the Bush administration's posture which said: "We can't play ball in this court, because its rules require the exposure of information that threatens our national security...
Holder then argues the doctrine of "sovereign immunity," which leans upon the loathsome Patriot Act and says you can't sue the government on illegal spying unless the pilfered information is made public.
Or, you can't sue the government for spying on you, unless it lets everyone know it has been spying on you.
Worse, it serves the double purpose of letting all Bush administration officials off-the-hook on these crucial constitutional questions.
Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" told Keith Olberman of "Countdown" that the Obama administration was engaged in a political calculus pitting its earliest and core supporters against the "intelligence community" in Washington.
Obama is an "outsider," Fineman explained, who needs the support of the intelligence community in waging the war on terror.
Being commander-in-chief is, apparently, not enough to get them to do their jobs.
highwayscribery does not know much about intelligence types since they sit on the other side of a deep cultural, political, and philosophical divide.
And highwayscribery can say it has about as much use for this particular "community" as it has for highwayscribery's civil rights.
That President Obama would expect anything from them by acquiescing to age-old tropisms evident in our political fabric suggests he may be as naive as some right-wingers insist.
The government could lose. The last administration did not fair well even in a federal judiciary system largely appointed by presidents named Bush, so that losing the case would also mean losing face, with Obama having sold-out his principals for no good reason.
As for the "earliest and core supporters," the scribe can claim initial membership and long-time relations in and with that particular army.
And this qualifies him to observe how people who never gave a hoot about politics came out of their ghettoes, border shacks, and coffee shops to rap, sing, write musical anthems, and put their street cred on the line for the president.
They did not prevail in the administration's formula on this issue, and they can hardly be expected to view this kind of expediency as some new politics fashioned by a unique leader for their own benefit.
Losing their energy and belief would be a real tragedy to the Obama narrative.
Of course, it was always going to be difficult conducting a "new" politics. Obama has been a doctrinaire liberal in many of his first steps and this has pleased the doctrinaire liberals among us, although it is new only to the extent such politics have been out of fashion for so long.
To date his politics have been to the left of President Bill Clinton's, but that is a product of the present political climate.
President Obama has been no more willing than Clinton to engage the right wing in a full-throated battle over a nominee or a law that is important to his supporters, always fearful of losing just one Republican Senate vote he rarely possesses in the first place.
Barack Obama seems a very successful politician, but his triumphs are in the old-style politics.
We see it in his financial plans, which not only leave the old order in place, but reward them with our money for the misery they've inflicted upon us.
We see it in the signing statement he made reserving the right to silence government whistleblowers not explicit in the legislation sent to him.
Of course, when he wins as an orthodox liberal we are glad, but the horse-trading and calculation represent a dark side to his old-school tics and the high price we pay for his doctrinaire leftism.
Perhaps this was inevitable, but the President was hired to do a special job on behalf of wronged, but hopeful, people the world over who look to him in a way they have looked to no other U.S. leader.
And this cannot be what they had in mind.