I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to those of you who oppose my decision to support the FISA compromise.
This was not an easy call for me. I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration's program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That's why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate.
But I also believe that the compromise bill is far better than the Protect America Act that I voted against last year. The exclusivity provision makes it clear to any President or telecommunications company that no law supersedes the authority of the FISA court. In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people. But in a free society, that authority cannot be unlimited. As I've said many times, an independent monitor must watch the watchers to prevent abuses and to protect the civil liberties of the American people. This compromise law assures that the FISA court has that responsibility
The Inspectors General report also provides a real mechanism for accountability and should not be discounted. It will allow a close look at past misconduct without hurdles that would exist in federal court because of classification issues. The recent investigation uncovering the illegal politicization of Justice Department hiring sets a strong example of the accountability that can come from a tough and thorough IG report.
The ability to monitor and track individuals who want to attack the United States is a vital counter-terrorism tool, and I'm persuaded that it is necessary to keep the American people safe -- particularly since certain electronic surveillance orders will begin to expire later this summer. Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I've chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention -- once I’m sworn in as President -- to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.
Now, I understand why some of you feel differently about the current bill, and I'm happy to take my lumps on this side and elsewhere. For the truth is that your organizing, your activism and your passion is an important reason why this bill is better than previous versions. No tool has been more important in focusing peoples' attention on the abuses of executive power in this Administration than the active and sustained engagement of American citizens. That holds true -- not just on wiretapping, but on a range of issues where Washington has let the American people down.
I learned long ago, when working as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, that when citizens join their voices together, they can hold their leaders accountable. I'm not exempt from that. I'm certainly not perfect, and expect to be held accountable too. I cannot promise to agree with you on every issue. But I do promise to listen to your concerns, take them seriously, and seek to earn your ongoing support to change the country. That is why we have built the largest grassroots campaign in the history of presidential politics, and that is the kind of White House that I intend to run as President of the United States -- a White House that takes the Constitution seriously, conducts the peoples' business out in the open, welcomes and listens to dissenting views, and asks you to play your part in shaping our country’s destiny.
Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That's ok. But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have. After all, the choice in this election could not be clearer. Whether it is the economy, foreign policy, or the Supreme Court, my opponent has embraced the failed course of the last eight years, while I want to take this country in a new direction. Make no mistake: if John McCain is elected, the fundamental direction of this country that we love will not change. But if we come together, we have an historic opportunity to chart a new course, a better course.
So I appreciate the feedback through my.barackobama.com, and I look forward to continuing the conversation in the months and years to come. Together, we have a lot of work to do.
Reactions on his blog are varied, some die hard Obama supporters are showing some understanding and others are downright peeved, to put it politely.
There are, at this moment, 1601 reactions. He had staff there responding for the first 90 minutes.
Sample of peeved comments:
By citizens of the globe for obama 6 minutes ago
In a Charlie Rose interview from 2004, Obama said that Democrats should stand their ground and take their hits, instead of caving and whining about it later.
Obama was referring to Hilary's 2002 Iraq vote.
With this vote Obama has become like Hilary - just another seedy Washington politician.
By mwiley1138 6 minutes ago
We are tired of compromises. We are tired of 'nuanced' positions. We are tired of accommodation. We want clear lines drawn in the sand against the erosion of our civil rights, the destruction of our economy, and the corrosion of our democracy and our standing in the world.
The reason Hillary Clinton lost the primaries is that Democratic voters saw that she is a master of compromise, an artisan of accommodation, and an expert at triangulation.
We do not want the same from you. We expect more from you. We expect integrity from you.
Heed what we say: if you do not draw bright lines on civil rights, the constitution, democracy, the economy, and the war, you will not succeed in this election.
The Democratic Grassroots
By Gregory from Palo Alto, CA 6 minutes ago
Hello Barack Obama,
I say that figuratively, of course. I seriously doubt whether you have had any real input on this latest attempt by your advisors to paint lipstick on a pig, or that you will ever see any of these comments. Nonetheless, even having a site where ordinary people can leave comments is something. I guess. Glenn Greenwald, America's insufficiently recognized National Treasure (he deserves at least half a dozen Medals of Freedom) has delivered a proper smackdown of this latest nonsense from your handlers here:
I suggest your spin doctors read that. I also like the way they have you flip off all your former supporters in your parting shot - nice touch by your handlers. Typical Dems - so obsequious to the right and so contemptuous of your base. I no longer believe that you are constitutionally capable of serious change - you have tied your hands completely by your embrace of the entire spectrum of demands from the right. All you can do now is run on fear-mongering ('We cannot risk that a political mushroom cloud may be in the form of a John McCain on the horizon'). And you threaten us with an even more conservative SCOTUS. But, sorry, it's too late. Thanks to the last eight years of Dem gutlessness, the worst damage is already done. And McCain, although contemptible, will be too constrained by bush's excesses to engage much in those of his own. Which means that this is finally the PERFECT election (and perhaps the first of many) to push for a viable second party alternative to the repub/dem consortium. Thanks to your spin doctors for blessing those who wish to pursue an option in keeping with sanity, principle, and the Constitution. Good luck with your efforts to bring business as usual back to the white house. We Progressives have higher aspirations. We're in it for the long haul. It's not for the meek.
Let me mention that was three in a row, starting at the bottom and working my way up.
By Buzz from Solvang, CA 13 minutes ago
You haven't even read the bill have you?
It's not just the telecom immunity, but the fact that WARRANTLESS surveillance against American citizens is allowed.
The Bill is not imperfect...IT IS PURELY BAD.
FISA already allows for IMMEDIATE surveillance in an emergency so long as the court is given the reason why within 72 hours.
That you have bought into the rightwing BULL, simply shows you are pandering to the rightwing ONCE AGAIN. You've already given us this excuse before.
Sorry but it won't work except for the hardcore Obama fans. Real Americans want this bill STOPPED. Why do you think Bush wants it so bad? Not just because of the telecom immunity, which is important to him and his cronies, but because of the ability it gives the president to order wiretaps against anyone and allows them to stall ever giving the warrant reason to the court.
You're just another frightened poltiican. Frightened of Rush, McCain, Hannity, and their ilk.
What happened to "I don't do cowering"?
You're cowering now.
Terrified of what the rightwingers will say about you instead of what YOU should be saying about them in their nonstop march to destroy the Constitution of this great country. There is NOTHING wrong with the current FISA bill. So why allow this one to pass unless there is an ulterior motive by the Bush administration and you are unaware of it.
That enthusiasm that got so many people to register, vote in the primaries and swear to vote in November...is rapidly fading for some:
By Gaston from Atlanta, GA 16 minutes ago
Count me among those whose respect for Obama has tanked. I'm not voting for McCain, of course, but I suspect I'll return to a lifetime habit of abstaining from voting.
The argument here is just silly. It is clear that Obama has not read the proposed bill or he simply doesn't understand it. Or he's depending on people who don't get it. Or he knows exactly what he's doing by effectively licking the ass of the media to appear, Clintonesque, like he's rebelling against the far left.
No matter how you slice it, the FISA bill eviscerates the Constitution. It is sickening to see Obama rationalize his position, which, bottom line, supports business as usual.
Then we have the quote of the day:
By David 29 minutes ago
So the bottom line is "Thanks for disagreeing, but I have the nomination and your money. I don't need to listen to you any longer."
This is not "Change you can believe in."
Rejecting Public Funding
Limp-wristed Opposition to Telecom Immunity
Support of faith-based funding
"Refinement" of Iraq Policy
This is all just more of the same. Can I take my vote and money back and support Hilary?
I will answer that for Obama.
Dear David: No you cannot have your money, and too late to support Hillary- You bought the lies hook line and sinker, you made your bed, lie in it.
By Amy from Jersey City, NJ 35 minutes ago
No law should supercede the FISA court? Not even the constitution?
Maybe George W. Bush was right when he said, "It's just a goddamn piece of paper."
I want my donation back, between this and your false claims to get us out of Iraq, you are just as fraudulent as he is.
Does anyone know how to file a complaint against someone fraudulently tricking you out of your money?
By Ron from San Francisco, CA 34 minutes ago
This is a deal breaker for me. No, I'm not going to support McSame, but my wallet stays in my pocket, I'm not selling Obama anymore to family and I won't be doing GOTV. Given that Democrats cave any way on ALL THE IMPORTANT ISSUES--I don't care anymore and I really have to think about going Green. If I'm going to loose anyway, might as well loose for what I believe in, rather than corporate sellouts.
I could continue but I think you get the point, there are very few "Yes We Can" comments interspersed there and I just hit the bottom 20 or so. Haven't had time to go through them all.
Then you have those that will vote for Obama as the "lesser of two evils", which says quite a bit about that enthusiasm thing they used to be able to tout...not to mention, holding back on donating to him.
As one commenter put it so succinctly, we don't want a lesser of two evils candidate. We want to be proud to cast our vote for the next president.
I'll give him props for answering his critics directly but he's not making me proud right now. I'm withholding the campaign donation I intended to make from my stimulus check -- which I just received. Looking around the netroots I'm not the only one. I see even Kos is withholding money on the same premise. No one is feeling keen to reward bad behavior.
Then of course there is that whole Iraq thing.....
So much for UNITY.