Dear Senator Obama

Monday, 14 July 2008 07:45 By Marc Ash, t r u t h o u t | An Open Letter | name.

Dear Senator Obama
(Illustration: Paul Giambarba /
t r u t h o u t)

    Dear Senator Obama,

    I just slogged through a lecture by The New York Times about how it is the "far left" that is most offended by your vote to ratify retroactive immunity for the US telecommunications companies that provided aid and comfort to George W. Bush's illegal program of domestic spying. Further, The Times implied, "mainstream Democrats" take a more mature and pragmatic view. The piece seemed to read like public relations material. But that's silly - it was news, of course.

    In fairness, the political center moves around more than a set of goalposts on the White House lawn. So, the relevancy of the Times's argument has a limited shelf life regardless. The real issue is twofold.

    Trust and the Law

    Let's assume the time has come to limit the scope of your campaign signs to the word "Change." The tag line "... we can believe in" has outlived its credibility. You may indeed change some things, but there won't be much to believe in. It will pretty much be on a case-by-case basis from this point forward. The difference is trust. Before you had it, now you don't.

    The problem is that what was at stake in the FISA legislation vote was more than a political ideal; it was the rule of law. You ratified an unconstitutional and egregious degradation of the Fourth Amendment. That won't go away easily. The United States's Constitution is not merely the security blanket for "civil liberties groups." It is the birthright of all Americans. It is our national treasure.

    The thing that jumps out at me when I review the reader comments posted at the bottom of our article pages is the mounting outrage at what can only be described as lawlessness in our nation's capitol. There is a growing consensus that the consent of the governed is lacking. That may not sound like a big thing, but I assure you it is. The alternative to the rule of law is the law of rule.

    The current commander in chief has established a function of monarchy in the oval office. Would you choose to undo that, or assume it? If the decision to ratify FISA was not your own inspiration, then at whose behest did you do so? And what next will they want? These are deep questions.

    We are a nation today dying of convenience, political convenience, chiefly. In 2000, we were a nation rushing to put hanging chads behind us. Dealing with what really happened in Florida was inconvenient. Seven and a half years later, we are still paying the debt. We are in a bloody and endless quagmire in Iraq, the nation's economy is in ruins and the greatest threat to freedom and democracy comes from our own leaders.

    The New York Times and much of the nation's commercial press make defining the "center" the focal point, the principal instrument of their brand of political activism. The "center" becomes the popular thing, what everyone is thinking, what we should be thinking. But that assumes that you don't have a loved one deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or that you are not facing foreclosure on your home, or trying to get medical treatment your health maintenance organization says you can't have. Then you won't be fooled. Take note, that group is growing everyday.

    All things of political concern to individual citizens in this country taken into consideration, one has to wonder if the commercial press isn't really defining the center as the center point between powerful commercial interests and the interests of individuals.

    A Landslide for Change

    We already had one landslide for change in this country: the 2006 Congressional elections. In fairness, the US occupation of Iraq was the primary impetus for change there, but by no means the only. When you think about it, you really can't get a landslide out of the far left, even if you throw in civil liberties groups. The numbers just aren't there. You have to have the center. So, if the center voted to end the US occupation of Iraq, how would the center vote on retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies, who participated in spying on the center?

    For a leader, principle is terra firma (solid earth). Pragmatism places one foot on a slippery slope. Opportunism is descent. And Machiavelli waits at the bottom.

    Choose wisely, Mr. Obama.

Last modified on Monday, 14 July 2008 13:47