Sunday, February 24, 2008

Barack Blair Obama

By Cernig

I've been waxing vocal about Hillary's dirty tricks campaign this past couple of days, with the thesis that it actually hurts her more than it hurts Obama with voters who are pig-sick of such nonsense. So I really should note that the Obama campaign's recent grade-A nonsense about Hillary's mandate system for universal insurance meaning "they'll be coming after your wages". Criticisms of this attack on the grounds that it is simply regurgitating Republican talking points seem fair to me.

I've news for the Obama campaign - news that explains why every other Western nation has true universal healthcare and a universal mandate to contribute to that service via taxes or some other contribution format that amounts to the same thing. A truly universal healthcare system starts from the ethical premise that "from each according to their means, to each according to their needs". It's a basic plank of liberal thinking and I would say a basic plank of civilisation, a demand that those who wish membership in society put into it what they are able as well as get from it from they need to remain a functioning contributor. If you don't want to contribute to the general social wellbeing to the limits of your ability as determined by that society, don't bother calling 911 or sending the military to do your ideological grunt-work. You have another option which is perfectly acceptable - opt out. Build a compound somewhere in the backwoods and don't come running to the rest of us if things don't work out in your libertarian utopia. If not, then of course they'll be coming after your wages! Just pick the method you prefer - and remember that a tax may well mean you end up paying less for more than you already do by the insurance premiums that you already pay.

This kind of fancy footwork on such basic issues from the Obama campaign is why I've described him as the American Tony Blair - an astute political machinator carefully re-framing as "bi-partisan" whatever stance he thinks will win him most votes, whether or not it agrees with what should be the core beliefs of his policymaking. He's trying to be all things to as many of the people as possible all of the time. It's a successful strategy for a politician who wants to win a national election but it gives no confidence that once in office he will have any ethical touchstones whatsoever. As we Brits discovered too late with Blair, he just wanted power.

But if the Clinton campaign want to attack Obama, they have to do so on specifics - as in the case with their defense of his attack on her healthcare plan. The Clinton's already have a reputation for dirty campaigning and to avoid being dragged down by that repuation Clinton will have to be cleaner than the rest - some thing she has failed to do so far.

I'll help with another case in point.

Yesterday diarist Helenann at Daily Kos responded to general smears about Obama's alleged lack of legislative experience by listing the 570 bills Obama had sponsored or co-sponsored, of which 15 had become law.

Fair enough as far as it goes but she didn't give any details on what kinds of policy prescriptions were contained in those bills. So I picked one I thought might be informative - a bill signed into law to amend the Patriot Act - and looked. I found that S. 2167 was a bill to "amend the USA PATRIOT ACT to extend the sunset of certain provisions of that Act and the lone wolf provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to July 1, 2006." It was sponsored by Sen. John Sununu [R-NH] and had 31 co-sponsors including Obama. The summary of the bill says:
Amends the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001 to extend from December 31, 2005, to February 3, 2006, provisions of that Act and the "lone wolf" provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. (The lone wolf provision redefined "agent of a foreign power" to permit issuance of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) orders targeting terrorists without a showing that they are members of a terrorist group or agents of such a group or of any other foreign power.)
Now, if I'm reading that "Lone Wolf" provision correctly it says that the administration doesn't have to prove someone is a terrorist, it just says they are and everyone agrees to believe them. Which makes a mockery of probable cause when asking for FISA warrants since warrants to tap terrorists' phones are always going to be granted but the administration doesn't have to prove the person named is a terrorist if he might be a "lone wolf".

One wonders why Obama and a whole slew of Dem Senators including Dodd fell over themselves to co-sponsor a bill to extend such a provision for even a measly three months, given their later stance on the importance of FISA warrants and the rule of law. Clinton was also a co-sponsor of the bill but she could argue that her position is internally consistent over time and legislation - even if it isn't all that liberal. Obama's clearly is not.

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