In a move today bound to make anyone think Congress has a touch of positional vertigo, the Senate voted, by a 3 to 1 margin, to give the president a belated birthday gift, and pass his FISA reform bill with the retroactive immunity clause intact. Notably, Sen. McCain was missing in action because he is "campaigning." In fact, the concept of immunity in Washington is so popular now that it will soon replace the I-pod.
A provision by Senators Dodd, Feingold, and Leahy which would nullify telecom immunity was struck down by a 2 to 1 margin. While more Democrats voted against the bill than for it, 27 to 21, the fact that Sen. Obama was among those willing to go along with retroactive immunity disappoints even the most obdurate among us.
Cynics might suggest Obama isn't the only one suffering from positional vertigo; the Democratic party is, too. Trying to appear strong on "homeland security" is clearly a strategy to defeat the "national security" credentials of a defense-heavy McCain candidacy. But, there is a deep fault line in any party platform that works in the interest of expediency, not authenticity, and one can think of few things less authentic than the image of Dukakis mounting a tank, or John Kerry shining one of his medals.
To think of Barack Obama massaging the Patriot Act to win the hearts of faux moderate Republicans, and midwest ranchers, is, at the very least, unsettling. Presidential candidates, Democrat or Republican, are answerable to their party's platform, as well as to their party's leaders, and all politicians must answer to the voters.
Yes, after today, we know that Sen. Obama is telling the truth when he says he is not perfect, and history will know it, too. We will take candidate Obama up on his invitation to hold him accountable after we elect him president, and hold him accountable we will, knowing that, in the end, there's more at stake here than who hangs his hat in the Oval Office like, for instance, the prospect of making lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and then, of course, there's the alternative--the prospect of having a wannabe general posing as president of the United States