The results were so thoroughly precooked that there was no surprise in the Senate’s 69-to-28 vote today to gut a law that has protected Americans from spying by their own government for 30 years.
Senator Christopher S. Bond, the Missouri Republican who is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there was nothing to fear in the bill “unless you have Al Qaeda on your speed dial.”
Intelligence is a relative term, isn't it?
Proponents of the bill, and much of news coverage, are portraying the vote as a battle between liberals (in the 2008 edition of the Bush GOP Dictionary that means “lily-livered appeasers of terrorism”) and conservatives (patriots who understand the threat to America and have “nothing to hide and therefore nothing to fear”).
Can't get outflanked on the right during an election; expressing civil liberties is such a difficult thing.
First, there is no position more conservative than fighting to protect the rights and liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and nothing more radical than trying to undermine them.
Second, anyone with an elementary-school understanding of American history can recite cases in which the government spied on, harassed and even imprisoned people who did nothing more than exercise their constitutional right to express their political beliefs.
This bill was not a compromise, as the spinners would have it. It was a bad bill. Period. Democrats who voted for it did so primarily because they were afraid to vote against a “national security bill” in an election year.Senator Barack Obama, who had once promised to filibuster against immunity for the telecommunications companies, executed a deeply distressing pivot in recent weeks, hewing to the “best we could do” line that was adopted by many Democrats. Today, he voted to cut off debate on the bill, and then voted for its final passage.
Fortunately, Mr. Obama seemed to have no influence over Democrats who opposed the bill. None of them joined him in changing their positions.Obama gets political cover by voting Yea, one of 20 Democrats to vote so; all Republicans did so, too. Here is the roll call.