[Marxism] Obama Voters Protest His Switch on Telecom Immunity

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 2 08:53:06 MDT 2008

NY Times, July 2, 2008
Obama Voters Protest His Switch on Telecom Immunity

WASHINGTON — Senator Barack Obama’s decision to support legislation 
granting legal immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated 
with the Bush administration’s program of wiretapping without warrants 
has led to an intense backlash among some of his most ardent supporters.

Thousands of them are now using the same grass-roots organizing tools 
previously mastered by the Obama campaign to organize a protest against 
his decision.

In recent days, more than 7,000 Obama supporters have organized on a 
social networking site on Mr. Obama’s own campaign Web site. They are 
calling on Mr. Obama to reverse his decision to endorse legislation 
supported by President Bush to expand the government’s domestic spying 
powers while also providing legal protection to the telecommunication 
companies that worked with the National Security Agency’s domestic 
wiretapping program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

During the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama vowed to fight such 
legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or 
FISA. But he has switched positions, and now supports a compromise 
hammered out between the White House and the Democratic Congressional 
leadership. The bill is expected to come to a vote on the Senate floor 
next Tuesday. That decision, one of a number made by Mr. Obama in recent 
weeks intended to position him toward the political center as the 
general election campaign heats up, has brought him into serious 
conflict for the first time with liberal bloggers and commentators and 
his young supporters.

Many of them have seen the issue of granting immunity to the 
telecommunications companies as a test of principle in their opposition 
to Mr. Bush’s surveillance program.

“I don’t think there has been another instance where, in meaningful 
numbers, his supporters have opposed him like this,” said Glenn 
Greenwald, a Salon.com writer who opposes Mr. Obama’s new position. “For 
him to suddenly turn around and endorse this proposal is really a 
betrayal of what so many of his supporters believed he believed in.”

Jane Hamsher, a liberal blogger who also opposes immunity for the phone 
companies, said she had been flooded with messages from Obama supporters 
frustrated with his new stance.

“The opposition to Obama’s position among his supporters is very 
widespread,” said Ms. Hamsher, founder of the Web site firedoglake.com. 
“His promise to filibuster earlier in the year, and the decision to 
switch on that is seen as a real character problem. I know people who 
are really very big Obama supporters are very disillusioned.”

One supporter, Robert Arellano, expressed his anger on the Obama site.

“I have watched your campaign with genuine enthusiasm,” Mr. Arellano 
wrote, “and I have given you money. For the first time in my life, I 
have sensed the presence of a presidential candidate who might actually 
bring some meaningful change to the corrupt cesspool of national 
politics. But your about-face on the FISA bill genuinely angers and 
alarms me.”

For now, the campaign is trying to put a positive spin on the new FISA 
fight among its supporters.

“The fact that there is an open forum on BarackObama.com where 
supporters can say whether they agree or disagree speaks to a strength 
of our campaign,” said Bill Burton, a campaign spokesman.

Several activists and bloggers predicted that Mr. Obama’s move toward 
the center on some issues could sharply reduce the intensity of support 
he has enjoyed from liberal activists. Such enthusiasm helped power his 
effort to secure the Democratic nomination, and it has been one of his 
campaign’s most important tools for fund-raising and organizing around 
the country.

Markos Moulitsas, a liberal blogger and founder of the Daily Kos Web 
site, said he had decided to cut back on the amount of money he would 
contribute to the Obama campaign because of the FISA reversal.

“I will continue to support him,” Mr. Moulitsas said in an interview. 
“But I was going to write him a check, and I decided I would rather put 
that money with Democrats who will uphold the Constitution.”

Greg Craig, a Washington lawyer who advises the Obama campaign, said 
Tuesday in an interview that Mr. Obama had decided to support the 
compromise FISA legislation only after concluding it was the best deal 

“This was a deliberative process, and not something that was shooting 
from the hip,” Mr. Craig said. “Obviously, there was an element of 
what’s possible here. But he concluded that with FISA expiring, that it 
was better to get a compromise than letting the law expire.”

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