Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) today announced his support for a sweeping intelligence surveillance law that has been heavily denounced by the liberal activists who have fueled the financial engines of his presidential campaign.
In his most substantive break with the Democratic Party's base since becoming the presumptive nominee, Obama declared he will support the bill when it comes to a Senate vote, likely next week, despite misgivings about legal provisions for telecommunications corporations that cooperated with the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program of suspected terrorists.
In so doing, Obama sought to walk the fine political line between GOP accusations that he is weak on foreign policy -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called passing the legislation a "vital national security matter" -- and alienating his base.
"Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as president, I will carefully monitor the program," Obama said in a statement hours after the House approved the legislation 293-129.
This marks something of a reversal of Obama's position from an earlier version of the bill, which was approved by the Senate Feb. 12, when Obama was locked in a fight for the Democratic nomination with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
Now, the reality of this is, there will be raw feelings and all that, but there will be a sense of being stabbed in the back that comes from this, too.
Does that mean you go and vote for McCain? No, because McCain couldn't tell you from one day to the next where he stands. But I guarantee you one thing--if there's a Democrat in the White House on January 21, 2009, this legislation will come up again. This is not the end of it, not by a longshot.
No Republican is ever going to sit idly by and let a Democratic President have this kind of power. We will see every possible limitation on Presidential power reintroduced into our lexicon should that happen.
Obama is betting there will be a terrorist attack on the United States, apparently, and that's sad. So what if there is? No amount of warrantless wiretapping would stop it. No amount of invading the privacy of Americans would make a difference. This legislation doesn't protect anyone--it just robs them of their privacy so that politicians can appear to be doing what amounts to busywork in the face of a crisis. We have to find a way to not lose our minds if a terrorist hits our country. We must survive it, close ranks, and do what is necessary to protect Americans any way we can, even though we know there's virtually nothing we can do to stop the next attack. We must never allow a terrorist to think they can stampede us into abandoning our principles for the false promise of a little security.