I can't tell you how many times in the last few weeks I've heard from another liberal about something Barack Obama supposedly said that was apparently outrageous or scary or somehow out of character. Liberals are often absolutely hysterical over many of their perceptions of Obama's positions on issues, and their screeching can be heard all over the blogosphere.
But then a funny thing happens. I actually look up what Obama actually said, and I think to myself, "Is that all?" Basically, what I'm finding is that a lot of people are hysterical about information that isn't actually true. For example:
- Barack Obama isn't in favor of expanding faith-based initiatives because he just loves combining government and religion. He's not planning to send tax money to churches for their basic operations. In other words, he's saying it's possible to assist churches in helping the poor and the sick, without violating the separation between church and state.
- Barack Obama hasn't reneged on his promise to extract us from the Iraq occupation, just because he says he will continually re-evaluate, based on what military experts tell him. Keep in mind, Bush SAYS he's listening to generals on the ground, but he's not; he only listens to those generals whose opinions he agrees with. He's fired every military expert that said anything he didn't like, remember? Basically, Obama's talking about responsibility. We broke the country of Iraq, and we owe it to the people there to pull out, but to pull out in a responsible way, that results in the least loss of life possible.
- Barack Obama has not abandoned his desire for campaign finance reform. The problem is, there's a large contingent of people who think the only way to reform the campaign finance system is by public financing, and the fact that he decided not to finance his campaign using tax money is seen by many as tantamount to treason. It completely disregards the reality that many of us feel that the public IS financing Obama's campaign, and he's actually demonstrating a campaign financing structure that works and is strangely not controlled by incumbent politicians, which would be the case in a public financing scheme.
See, here's the problem...
Too many people read second hand (news sites) or third hand (blogs) accounts of what a candidate actually said, and base their position on that. The problem with that is, we're depending on an increasingly lazy and slothful press, and you accept what you read at your own peril. Never before has the press been so useless; ironically, the same people who constantly complain about the uselessness of the current journalistic crop are those who bluster the loudest when they read an account of what Obama (or even McCain) said, without checking a few first-hand accounts for themselves.
Why just today, someone sent me "proof" that the FISA bill that Obama has indicated he might vote for is a bad one, and actually might serve to increase spying on US citizens. What was his "proof"? A New York Times editorial, in which the unnamed author stated:
Lawmakers are already justifying their votes for making major changes to that proven regime by saying that the bill is a reasonable compromise that updates FISA technologically and will make it somewhat harder to spy on Americans abroad. But none of that mitigates the bill’s much larger damage. It would make it much easier to spy on Americans at home, reduce the courts’ powers and grant immunity to the companies that turned over Americans’ private communications without a warrant.
It would allow the government to bypass the FISA court and collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without a warrant simply by declaring that it is doing so for reasons of national security. It cuts the vital “foreign power” provision from FISA, never mentions counterterrorism and defines national security so broadly that experts think the term could mean almost anything a president wants it to mean.
The problem is, all of the above is true with the current law, and actually LESS TRUE with the new law now under consideration. Know how I know that? I'm a hopeless dork, and I read the bill, and the CRS Report to Congress. There are a lot of things to not like in this bill, specifically the provision that allows the government to continue surveillance while appealing a "no" decision from the FISC (the FISA Court). Even more troubling, on the surface, is the provision in the law which allows courts to use evidence gathered, even if FISC says no.
But that's on the surface. In the last thirty years, FISC has denied about 6-12 requests for warrants in the first place, so the likelihood of this coming up in the next six months to a year is slim to none. Of course, if Barack Obama loses in November, in part because he voted against "a bill to track terrorists in this country," or some other such nonsense, we won't have a chance to revisit this issue next year, when President Obama takes over.
In other words, I'm not entirely happy with the bill, I think the entire system should be revamped to make it so that government can't spy on any American without oversight, period. But to reduce the chance of having a President Obama and a filibuster-proof Senate over such a shitty law is largely unthinkable to me. Politics requires a few trade-offs, and this is one of them...