One of the few good things I’d expected to come of the Bush years was a clear understanding by Democrats that vesting their political trust and faith in a person – instead of a set of principles – was a very unwise thing to do.Â Perhaps this was a bit naive of me.
The pushback against those who are willing to call Obama (and other Democrats) to account for the pending FISA bill is strong, with otherwise sensible Democrats tripping over themselves to provide excuse after excuse for these electeds selling out our basic Constitutional rights.Â And the justification, time after time, is “I trust Obama and I want to win!” (and it is often, but not always, followed with the vaugely aggressive – “What, are you going to vote for McCain?”).Â Glenn Greenwald calls this out for what it is:
The excuse that Obama’s support for this bill is politically shrewd is — even if accurate — neither a defense of what he did nor a reason to refrain from loudly criticizing him for it. Actually, it’s the opposite. It’s precisely because Obama is calculating that he can — without real consequence — trample upon the political values of those who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law that it’s necessary to do what one can to change that calculus. Telling Obama that you’ll cheer for him no matter what he does, that you’ll vest in him Blind Faith that anything he does is done with the purest of motives, ensures that he will continue to ignore you and your political interests.
Beyond that, this attitude that we should uncritically support Obama in everything he does and refrain from criticizing him is unhealthy in the extreme. No political leader merits uncritical devotion — neither when they are running for office nor when they occupy it — and there are few things more dangerous than announcing that you so deeply believe in the Core Goodness of a political leader, or that we face such extreme political crises that you trust and support whatever your Leader does, even when you don’t understand it or think that it’s wrong. That’s precisely the warped authoritarian mindset that defined the Bush Movement and led to the insanity of the post-9/11 Era, and that uncritical reverence is no more attractive or healthy when it’s shifted to a new Leader.
And if Greenwald’s not enough of a thinker for you on that, let’s try some quotes by some guys who had a bit more experience in these matters (quotes suggested by commenters at Salon):
“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” – John Adams .
In 1799, Thomas Jefferson echoed that: “Free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence . . . . Let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitutions.”
I believe strongly in the rule of law, and not man.Â One of the most important things Obama can do as President is restore the rule of law and bring an end to the almost unchecked lawbreaking of the Bush Administration.Â Yet in supporting this FISA bill – the telecom immunity and the Constitution violating expanded surveillance powers – Obama is signaling that when it comes time to stand up for it, the rule of law isn’t really all that important to him.Â The time to put an end to any such idea is now.Â I’ll let Greenwald explain why:
The excuse that we must sit by quietly and allow him to do these things with no opposition so that he can win is itself a corrupted and self-destructive mentality. That mindset has no end. Once he’s elected, it will transform into: “It’s vital that Obama keeps his majority in Congress so you have to keep quiet until after the 2010 midterms,” after which it will be: “It’s vital that Obama is re-elected so you have to keep quiet until after 2012,” at which point the process will repeat itself from the first step. Quite plainly, those are excuses to justify mindless devotion, not genuine political strategies.