Lemme Tell Ya Bout Bad Votes
By: Mark W Adams

It was early July of an election year when a bona fide liberal, a staunch defender of the progressive cause was facing a contentious election against an entrenched conservative Senator who would pull out all the stops; painting his less experienced challenger as weak on the tough-guy stuff of national security, a pussy when it came to fighting and killing the evil-doing muslamonazi terror.

Despite being nearly incomprehensible on the stump and surrounded by corrupt and incompetent cronies, the Conservative Senator knew he could count on his legion of lobbyists to fund his campaign of fear and lies. The insurgent challenger correctly judged the temperament of an electorate that was sick to death of GOP rule, but leery as always of something unfamiliar. But he also knew that the only hope for his cause was to beat the Conservative. That was job one.

And politics being what it is, the liberal challenger was put in a box with few good options. He was in the House of Representatives at the time and the day came when the abomination known as the Military Commissions Act came up for a vote, complete with the despicable abolition of habeas corpus clauses and hideous codification of torture. A law so egregiously contrary to what this nation stands for, not even a Supreme Court more to the right than the day it selected Bush as the 43rd Resident could find a way to make it Constitutional, and has knocked it down at every turn.

Sherrod Brown (D-OH) turned his back on his principles and voted for the MCA, a decision he lived to regret but pledged to make up for that mistake. His vote against FISA is one step in that direction.

Barack Obama made just as profound a mistake by not doing all in his power to stop the legislative pardon just handed to the telecom giants and the criminal cover-up by the White House for committing over 30 consecutive felonies by reauthorizing their illegal surveillance. Obama was in a similar box, with bigger stakes and fewer options than Brown in July of 2006.

There were only four sides to the box
1. Don't show like McCain.

2. Vote for FISA like he did, reluctantly while on record endorsing the defeated amendments that would have stripped the bill of the telecom immunity clauses.

Or . . . Fight the bill which leaves two possible results.

3. This junior Senator cashes in his political capital before even accepting the nomination of his party for President, leading his slim majority from the back bench and convincing enough Republican Senators to honor his filibuster, thus handing the Presumptive Democratic Party Nominee the legislative coup of the millennium, confirming that he is indeed the second coming.

4. Obama leads a doomed filibuster attempt, a futile gesture that confirms the next month's Fox News talking points that the Democrats are in disarray, will not support Obama, and that he is a feckless and naive politician who has a lot to learn about leadership and the realities of Washington D.C.

He picked number 2. It was clearly the best of bad choices from his perspective. Your mileage may vary, and your Quixotic instincts are noble indeed if you believe he should have gone for 3 or 4. Would that it were true that following through on all good intentions were rewarded or even possible in Versailles on the Potomac.

It would have been the right move, but not a winning move, and America rewards winners, not philosophers. Ask George McGovern, John Kerry and Al Gore, or even Ted Kennedy about how hard it is running for President when you're a liberal, despite knowing in your heart of hearts that you are on the right side of history and have a vision of what this nation can truly become if it listens to its better angels.

Sherrod Brown has to live with stories like this, as he washes the blood from his hands:
. . . Huzaifa Parhat, a member of China's Uighur ethnic group, a Muslim people who are subject to continued oppression by the Chinese government. Parhat had fled China to Afghanistan, which he in turn left when his refugee camps was bombed by the Americans, fleeing this time to Pakistan, where he was turned over to U.S. forces for a bounty payment.

He has been held as an enemy combatant for over six years without charges. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has now ruled that absent some proof of his enemy combatant status he must be released. Interestingly, the government while continuing to press his enemy combatant status, has evidently cleared him for release -- unfortunately there is no country to which to return him. Such is the state of justice in this country seven years into the term of a president who has shamed us in so many ways that they are hard to enumerate.

I don't relish the thought of being an Obama apologist. He has more than enough of those, and chief amongst those should be the Senator himself -- with an act of atonement by President Obama, fixing this miserable FISA law and punishing those who abused their powers these last seven years again and again and again under cover of executive fiat.

However, at least Obama doesn't have detainees like Huzaifa Parhat on his conscience, or record. In fact, his extraordinary speech against the MCA was probably the highlight of his first year in the Senate.

When you are sitting in the Oval Office, or don't have to face reelection for another six years in the Senate, you can afford to be a statesman. When the election day is quickly arriving, however, it's all about politics, not principle. That's just the way it is, and Barack Obama always knew that.

One of the reasons I believe the FISA bill got rammed through now is because Obama and Harry Reid didn't want this to hang over the election like the MCA did in September of '06, when the Senate finally got around to approving what the House had done in July. He didn't want to make another speech like this, 9/28/06:
"I may have only been in this body for a short while, but I am not naive to the political considerations that go along with many of the decisions we make here.

I realize that soon, we will adjourn for the fall, and the campaigning will begin in earnest. And there will be 30-second attack ads and negative mail pieces, and we will be criticized as caring more about the rights of terrorists than the protection of Americans. And I know that the vote before us was specifically designed and timed to add more fuel to that fire.


Politics Won Today

But politics won today. Politics won. The Administration got its vote, and now it will have its victory lap, and now they will be able to go out on the campaign trail and tell the American people that they were the ones who were tough on the terrorists.

And yet, we have a bill that gives the terrorist mastermind of 9/11 his day in court, but not the innocent people we may have accidentally rounded up and mistaken for terrorists - people who may stay in prison for the rest of their lives.
So folks, all I have left to say is that you better put on your big boy or girl panties and suck it up. This ain't bean-ball we're playing and we've got people dying out there from war and poverty and sickness, people that will keep dying if the GOP can keep a hold of the White house and keep a strangle-hold on Congress. We've got innocent folks being tortured, kid being blown up for no damn reason on the streets of who knows where, and a corporate kleptocracy raping our resources and stealing our future -- and you're all pissy about Bush bugging your phone.

Get over it. The conservatives have been fighting us liberals as if we were the real enemy in a real war. It's about time to wake up and realize we're in a war and fight back, which included tactical retreats like we witnessed this week. We got bigger fish to fry right now. We can fix FISA the same day we close down Gitmo and indict Cheney and Rove.