Glenn Greenwald sums up the problem with the immunity in the FISA bill succinctly.
[T]his is exactly what we are now hearing from the likes of Harold Ford, Chuck Schumer, Cass Sunstein, David Broder, Tim Rutten, and on and on and on — criminal prosecutions for government lawbreakers are far too disruptive and politically untenable and unfair. The only fair reaction is just to vote them out of office or wait until they leave on their own accord. All of the Beltway platitudes are trotted out — we can’t look backwards, or “criminalize policy disputes,” or get caught up in unpleasant battles over prosecutions when we have too many other important problems too solve — all in order to argue that, no matter what happens, our glorious political leaders should never be held accountable in a court of law, like everyone else is, when they break the law.Why would we expect political officials to do anything other than break the law if we continuously tell them — as we’ve been doing — that they are exempt from consequences? And how can Bush — or Nixon — be criticized for conceiving of the Presidency as being above the law when that’s how our political establishment, including many Democrats, explicitly conceive of it as well?(emphasis added)
Indeed. And those arguments, absurd and anti-democratic as they are, are being accepted out here far more often than they should be. Too many of us seem willing to hold our noses and allow them to pass even though we’re uncomfortable with the whole idea of an all-powerful president, more like a king than anything a genuine democracy would dream up. Maybe that’s because we’re constantly being told – by Republicans, Democrats, and news commentators at every level and on every medium – that that’s the way it’s supposed to be. David Sirota wrote in this week’s column:
A calculated Jedi mind trick is at work here….When regular folks talk to friends and neighbors, we sure feel like our desire for privacy, disgust with NAFTA and opposition to the Iraq war are mainstream majority positions – and they are. But then comes the barrage.Day after day, smiling anchormen, blow-dried correspondents and silver-tongued congressmen follow the Big Lie theory of indoctrination, taking to our televisions, radios and newspapers insisting that crazy is normal, the majority is the minority and – most importantly – the fringe is the “center.” This is no accident.These voices of the status quo do not want the status quo challenged. They deliberately broadcast messages crafted to get us – the mainstream – to question our mainstream-ness, while convincing politicians that the Establishment’s extremism represents a responsible middle ground.
And, confused, we fall for it. It sounds good – authentic, authoritative. We have little or no ability to read between the lines or hear beyond the words, we’re generally too ignorant to work out the real options in any situation, an ignorance that’s not totally our fault because the opportunistic media doesn’t see fit to tell us much that we need to know convinced as they are that we don’t want to know it. Still, there are a sizable number of people who are seeing through the Republicrat/corporate game to the underlying truth. Here’s Anonymous (his/her email is a cover coming through something called “Gishpuppy”, a site that lets you hide your real email address) on the SenatorObama-PleaseVoteAgainstFISA website answering an Obama defender who thought everyone should vote for Obama because his Supreme Court nominees wouldn’t be as extreme-Right as McCain’s would be:
This single issue is the Bill of Rights. With a politician willing to run roughshod over the Bill or Rights, what’s the point? Who cares who they nominate to the Supreme Court if there’s no Constitutional rights to protect? Without your freedoms from the Bill of Rights, what is it you are defending from terrorists? The Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the foundation upon which everything else in American politics is built. So, yes, when it comes to the Constitution I am a single-issue voter and so should every American.Compromise is not an option.
The sad, sad truth is that it doesn’t. While we sit back arguing over who will make the better SCOTUS nominations (which the GOP will block anyway if they’re Obama’s), both parties – or, as Ralph Nader says, the single party known as the Republicrats – are working their little fannies off gutting the Bill of Rights, which is more than what Anonymous calls “the foundation upon which everything else in American politics is built”, it is the foundation on which all American law is built. Without it we are no different from the dictatorship of Slobovia or the Kingdom of Heineken.
The Republicrats want power. That’s what it’s all about. When DLC Chair Harold Ford spoke at the netroots conference, he basically defended the FISA vote and its destruction of the accountability principle by echoing his hero, George W Bush, “I think that accountability was brought in 2006 when [the GOP] lost in the House and the Senate,” Ford responded said. “And we have only eight more months of George W. Bush…” Or as a Hullaballoo commenter put it, “The Constitution doesn’t poll very well.” Which is the exact same argument the media uses whenever it’s criticized for swallowing the Bush/Cheney manipulations whole and continually parroting the govt line without even bothering to check to see if anything in it is true. Glenn quotes the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer.
[L]et me tell you about a conversation I had with..[NY Sen]..Chuck Schumer. When I asked him why, given his safe seat, and ostensible concern for civil liberties, he didn’t speak out more against the Bush Administration’s detention and interrogation programs, he said in essence that voters don’t care about these issues. So, he said, he wasn’t going to talk about them.(emphasis in the original)
I’ve said this before and I will undoubtedly say it again: if we want to save our democracy from full-bore corporate authoritarianism; if we don’t want to see it become a home for autocratic despots and tinpot dictators like some Central American banana republic, we’re going to have to save it ourselves. If you’re expecting Obama or the Democrats to do it, that’s like expecting a thief to break into your house and leave his money on your dresser – unrealistic.