Typical Politician

(Point of reference; this is not to be taken as objective analysis, this is personal opinion from the standpoint of an Obama supporter)

Much has been made of Obama’s recent political positionting. From the Supreme Court rulings on gun control and capital punishment, telecom immunity and FISA, and, of course, public financing. Some of it fair, some it not so fair, but it seems as though it’s dawning on a few people that Obama is, shock of shocks, a politician.

Now for starters, we’re going to cast aside the SCOTUS rulings (there’s no way to characterize the Heller response as anything but sloppy, and it turns out some support for extending the death penalty, right or wrong, isn’t new), leaving us with FISA and public financing. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about public financing, if for no other reason than I’m not a big backer of public financing. It’s a noble idea in theory that doesn’t really work in practice, at best. The bottom line is that it costs a lot of money to run for President, and trying to get people to agree to caps on spending isn’t going to change that, or be particularly persuassive in getting people into the system. Think of it this way; if you thought a working class family was spending too much of its income on cost of living items how would you respond? By trying to get them to agree to spend less money on food, gas, insurance, etc., or by trying to make these cost of living items cheaper? Obviously you’d go for the latter, because the former is infeasible. You have to eat, and if the cost of food goes up you have to devote more money to buying food, which means you have to get more money to keep your standard of living. The same thing goes for political campaigns. Ad time costs money, as do staffers, volunteer organizers, pollsters, and everything else you need to run a successful campaign. Trying to reduce the amount of money spent without addressing, or acknowledging, that necessary aspects of the political industry cost a lot of money is patently naive and inefficient. It’s also true that Obama’s fundraising machine is clearly within the spirit of the concept, especially considering McCain tried to game the system and is presently breaking his own law, but that’s rather immaterial to me. If you come up with something that lowers the need for money, we’ll talk. Until then, there’s about as much relevance to the question as asking me what I would do if the sun came up in the West next Tuesday.

Which brings me to what I’m really interested in at the moment; FISA. Now I should say that I understand the left’s response to the FISA bill. They wanted telecom immunity quashed, much talk was put into the issue, and then Democrats welched. It leaves a mark I know, but at the end of the day, liberals, would you really be willing to sacrifice the White House over immunity from civil lawsuits to telecom companies? And that, apparently, is a pretty important point, as the law does not exempt the telecoms from criminal investigation or prosecution, nor would it, presumably, exempt any Bush administration officials from such charges. Leaving the overall bill in limbo does, however provide an opening for the inevitable attack from Republicans that Democrats, especially the brown guy with the Middle Eastern sounding name that includes “Hussein” and rhymes with “Osama”, are soft on terrorists and simply won’t protect you from the hypotehtical terrorists who are out there somewhere ready to kill you while you eat a hot dog at a baseball game.

I guess what it boils down to is this; I’m voting for Barack Obama over John McCain, so I already implictly trust Obama to excercise the most responsible use of executive power. Considering that criminal prosecution is still open, and that, presumably, an Obama run Justice Department could investigate the past acts of any previous administration whenever it wanted to (they do keep records you know), when asked to weigh the risk-reward value of holding up a bill that, fundamentally, everyone agrees is a necessary defense measure to exclude a civil immunity measure just isn’t worth the potential political liability that it comes with. If he feels the left needs to be placated, Obama should make a hard pledge to vigorously investigate every order, directive, and action of the Bush administration, and to pursue legal action against members of the administration where appropriate. But, electorally, the simple fact of the matter is that the only way John McCain, or any Republican, can beat Barack Obama right now is to make him a scary figure to the American public at large, or to cement an idea that he won’t protect you and your kids from existential terroist threats. Obama doesn’t need to help them achieve that, so his stand on FISA, as it is, is probably the wisest one. Truth be told, I don’t want a President who reflexively goes to personal biases and ideological positions, without respect to the cost of that choice. If that’s the kind of President you want, one who makes his mind up before the facts are in, who doesn’t consider the consequences of a decision and what sort of adverse effects it can have, and who stubbornly holds onto that, just cut to the chase and write in George W. Bush in November.

And the left should take notice; if the right were to succeed in demonizing Obama as soft on security to the point that it took hold in the American psyche and John McCain won the election, there’d be a hell of a lot more, bigger, worries on the table than telecom immunity.