Was Obama’s FISA vote “calculated”?

If Barack Obama's vote for FISA amendments was truly a political "calculation," he needs to check his math.

Topics: Democratic Party, FISA, War Room,

The fallout from Barack Obama’s vote Wednesday for a FISA reauthorization continues to rain down on his campaign from vast swaths of the blogosphere and the MSM, and from within his own supporter base. The words “betrayal” and “sellout” occur very often, along with threats to take retaliatory actions ranging from the withholding of financial support to the withholding of votes in November.

Moreover, Obama’s vote for the Dodd amendment to strike the retroactive telecomm immunity provisions of the bill isn’t helping him much with unhappy progressives, who often cite his earlier pledge to support a filibuster of the bill if telecomm immunity was retained. And to top it all off, the vote against final passage of the FISA bill by Hillary Clinton — supposedly the triangulating centrist of the Democratic primary field — has left Obama without a lot of cover.

Assumed in a lot of this angry talk is the premise that Obama’s FISA vote is part of a broad strategy to “move to the center” or even “the right,” reflecting a theory of how to win general elections that is in itself deeply unpopular on the left.

But was Obama’s position on FISA really a matter of political calculation? If so, he needs to check his math.

By almost any measure, political passions on this issue are heavily concentrated among the FISA bill’s opponents. There was no real voter pressure on Obama to support the bill. Public opinion polls have consistently shown the bill generally and telecomm community in particular aren’t very popular (see this Glenn Greenwald summary of early polling about FISA and an ACLU poll taken in January of this year).

The general net-roots indictment of Democrats in Congress supporting FISA often cites lust for telecomm cash and pundit approval as motivating factors for “sellouts.” But Barack Obama hardly needs telecomm campaign contributions, and if there’s been any windfall of talking-heads approval of his position, I’ve certainly missed it. I forced myself to watch Fox News last night to see how the conservative noise machine was reacting to Obama’s vote. Given the incessant attention being paid to Fox’s own manufactured “controversy” involving Jesse Jackson (including a hilarious poll of Fox viewers showing they think, by a 2-1 margin, that Obama indeed “talks down to black people”), there wasn’t much talk about FISA, but it followed the McCain line in citing Obama’s vote as just another flip-flop.

As for the theory that Obama needed to vote for the FISA bill to protect his flanks on national security, there is a vast array of more visible and popular ways for him to do that.

(Net-roots proponents of the “sellout” theory do need to stare at the roll call votes and notice some of the Democrats who not only voted for final passage but parted ways with Obama by voting against the Dodd amendment on telecomm immunity: Jim Webb, long a net-roots favorite, and not noted for political cowardice; Kent Conrad, a reliable progressive on most issues; and Barbara Mikulski, who hasn’t had a serious electoral challenge in recent memory.)

So what gives? I honestly don’t know. I tend to agree with Gail Collins’ New York Times column today, which bluntly argues that progressives who accuse Obama of a “move to the center” weren’t paying sufficient attention to, or didn’t take seriously, his long-standing rhetoric about compromise and transpartisan politics. Perhaps Obama sincerely believed the FISA “compromise” (I put that in quotes deliberately) qualified as a measure that would help overcome the stale left-right debates of the past. But if so, it appears he picked the wrong moment, and the wrong issue, to show he could rise above ideology and embrace compromise.

Ed Kilgore is the managing editor of The Democratic Strategist, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, and an online columnist for The New Republic.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>