BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
A JOURNALIST'S FIRST RESPONSIBILITY:
TO PROTECT HIS FAVORED CANDIDATE, OR THE PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO KNOW?
As anyone who has regularly read my column is fully aware, I've been one of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters since hours after he first declared his intention to seek the presidency, and I continue to support that effort. But I was bitterly disappointed with the position he's taken on the FISA bill now before the U.S. Senate, and I've been quite vociferous in making that disappointment known to all who would listen.
On June 20th Senator Barack Obama announced that he was supporting the current FISA bill before the senate. That bill gives retroactive immunity to all telecommunications companies against all private law suits for cooperating with the Bush administration's program of spying on the American people without a court order, as currently required by current law.
If that bill is passed, it will preclude private law suits that would reveal when they started spying on the American people, who they spied on, their justification for spying on them (in cases where it was unjustified), and who in the administration the information went to.
Bush claims that it wouldn't prevent criminal charges from being brought against administration officials for abuse, but if the administration remains true to form, once the bill is passed, Bush will simply give a blanket pardon to all those involved.
Obama's position on this issue is a complete departure from the position he took during the primaries while running against Hillary Clinton. While he "missed" the vote on a similar bill by the senate on February 12, he issued a statement indicating, "I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty."
I've been roundly criticized by fellow Obama supporters for bringing this issue out. They say that "I'm hurting our candidate", and "I'm not seeing the big picture." But in response I suggest, when truth becomes a hindrance to a candidate's viability, it's not truth that's the problem–it's the candidate. And when the "greater good" involves journalists keeping the people in the dark, it becomes the nation's problem. Thus, it's not up to journalists to keep Obama's candidacy viable--it's up to Obama.
While I desperately want to see Obama become our next president, we simply cannot allow him to take our vote for granted. We must support ideals, not individuals. What is the sense of voting for a class of people who feel safe in ignoring us once they've secured our vote. I understand that Obama is going to have to make some compromises, but we're talking about modifying the United States Constitution here! If he'll compromise on something as important as that, what else might he compromise?
I'd like to ask my fellow Obama supporters a question: Would you think your arguments regarding remaining mute in order to get Obama elected still be valid if he compromised on an assault on the Voter's Rights Act, or a Woman's Right to Choose? Would you still be as adamant about keeping it on the down-low? Well, his position with respect to FISA is every bit as serious, and as a journalist, I have an obligation to inform the people of that fact. We simply cannot pick and choose what rights are important, and which ones we can do without.
When a journalist start saying to himself, I can't tell the people that, because it may hurt my candidate, it's time for that journalist to stop writing, because then he's no longer a journalist--he's a political hack. And if I did it, I'd be buying into the very same philosophy that too many journalists have embraced over the past seven years with regard to Bush.
My first allegiance is to the people and the American ideal that keeps them secure within their person, and only then, to a particular political candidate. I can't allow myself the luxury of getting so caught up in a personality cult that it obscures my objectivity. Thus, I'm not at war with Obama due to one isolated decision--I'm at war with a political class who feels free to ignore the will, and the best interest of the people. Therefore, I'm not moving away from Obama, he's moving away from me.
We've already gone much too far down the road of compromise. As I mentioned in an earlier article, they started chipping away at the constitution when Ford pardoned Nixon. Then they went a little further when Reagan was not impeached after Iran/contra, and when he flooded the Black community with drugs to finance his illegal war in contravention of the Boland Amendment. Now congress is refusing to address the lie that Bush told to take us into Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and allowing Bush cronies to ravish the treasury, and take away our right to due process.
Now, in spite of the fact that Bush's job approval is at 28%, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich spent over five hours listing 35 articles of impeachment against the Bush/Cheney administration, they've been buried by this Democratic congress because Democratic Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is insisting, "impeachment is off the table."
We were angered by these betrayals, but we held back to put our faith in Obama, a brother who is talking about change. But now that he's secured our support, he not only supports blocking an opportunity to investigate Bush's spying on millions of Americans, but giving retroactive immunity to both the administration officials, and the communication companies involved, precluding any law suits by private citizens to bring out the facts regarding this abuse of the American people. So exactly what do they have to do before I have permission to speak out?
So to Sen. Obama: I urge you to reconsider your position on this bill. Your current position is not only a gross assault on the rights of the people, but it's greatly undermining your credibility among many of your most ardent supporters. The entire thrust of your campaign has been about change. So I have but one question begging to be asked--when?
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.