The FISA extension with immunity for telecoms that assist in terrorism surveillance passed overwhelmingly Wednesday. After promising to vote against and even fillibuster the bill if it included the immunity provision, Obama voted in favor of the bill. The netroots are going nuts, even on Obama’s own website. When the spell of messianic perfection is broken, it is really shattered, I suppose. The New York Times fumed:
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.
But aside from that, let’s review what Obama did. He and his Democratic colleagues opposed, objected and delayed passage of a FISA extension for months. This left a void, a gap, in intelligence collection. Whatever communications we didn’t catch are lost and whatever data we could have used to protect Americans is gone. The terrorists aren’t going to be calling back to recap their communications over the last few months.
So it wasn’t just that Obama took a position which appealed to the Left in the primary, and then reversed course in the general election. It was that he did so at the expense of the national security of the country. As Sen. Kit Bond said today:
Last year Congress passed the Protect America Act, which closed a dangerous intelligence gap that allowed terrorists to use technology to stay a step ahead of terror-fighters. Since the expiration of that bill, our intelligence community has been forced to operate under a temporary system that could impede their ability to track new terrorist threats.
And Hillary Clinton makes clear: there was no meaningful change in the bill which could have been passed earlier in the year. You can imagine the steam is coming out of her ears as she recalls all of his appeals to the Left during the primary to fillibuster a bill which included immunity. (And perhaps her vote was a parting shot at her rival who ran left to beat her and now runs right.)
So Obama’s greatest sin was not in playing politics and deceiving his base of supporters — who have every right to scream bloody murder. It was in putting politics above his country. That, much more than lying to his well-meaning base which foolishly trusted his words, is what voters should remember. Sometimes a flip-flop has real world consequences. And this is one.