One of the most vexing things about election year politics in the Bush era is that the only defensible stance is that Bush or his ilk must not win; it becomes impossible to criticize the opposition candidate without being accused of fifth columnism. And if that was true in 2000 and 2004, when the Democratic Party was offering up dull lumps like Al Gore1 and John Kerry, it’s likely that things are going to be especially fierce this year, now that the Democratic candidate actually possesses considerable appeal and charisma.
Lawrence Lessig, of all people, provides an example while responding to outrage over the FISA Amendments Act of 2008:
The hysteria that has broken out among we on the left in response to Obama’s voting for the FISA compromise was totally predictable… [P]lease, fellow liberals, or leftists, or progressives, get off your high horse(s)… [T]o start this chant of “principled rejection” of Obama because he is not as pure as we is, in a word, idiotic (read: Naderesque).
Lessig is so intent on shutting down criticism of Obama that he willfully obscures the seriousness of the issue and turns it into a matter of liberal/left infighting. But the audacity of progressives seeking a progressive government is a strawman. What matters is that the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 is a bad law that further empowers a criminal executive branch. This is a law that dilutes the already limited judicial oversight provided by the FISA courts, effectively providing sanction for the Bush administration to continue its heretofore illegal domestic surveillance; telco immunity and Obama’s notional move to the center are secondary issues.
Meanwhile, the law’s being framed by its supporters as a necessary compromise between the two parties, and, as you know, compromise is one of the watchwords in Obama’s new, mature politics. But the only compromise in this case is that the Bush administration gets everything that it wants when it hardly has the clout to make demands, and the Democratic party gets to avoid the usual charges of weakness that it lacks the will to refute — and that is precisely the old politics which we all hope to overcome.
Later, of course, he made a movie. ↩