Jim Martin: Principle vs. cowardice

Despite running in a Deep South red state, the Democratic Senate candidate courageously takes some important positions at odds with the House Democratic leadership.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published October 17, 2008 11:02AM (EDT)

Jim Martin is the Democratic candidate for Senate in Georgia, challenging GOP incumbent Saxby Chambliss.  Though universally considered all year to have little chance of winning in this deep Southern red state, virtually all polls now show the race as extremely close if not tied, and Martin clearly has a very good chance to win.  Yesterday, Matt Stoller published an interview he conducted this week with Martin which contained this exchange:

Question: Do you have a position on FISA and government wiretapping?

Jim Martin: The threat of terrorism is real and the government should take all necessary measures to protect us. While I support the overall aims of the recent FISA bill, the inclusion of a provision granting amnesty to telecom providers who permitted the government to listen in on the conversations of Americans without a warrant troubles me. Because I do not believe that the government should craft policy that permits law breaking, I would not have supported the FISA bill that included telecom immunity.

Roughly 50% of Democrats in Congress voted for that bill, along with Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and the entire top level of the House Democratic Congressional leadership.  Yet here is Martin -- running in a bright red state in the South, just a few weeks before a very tight election, knowing that all hard-core Democrats and liberals in that state are already supporting him and that there are only independents and disenchanted Republicans left to target -- and he chooses to respond to a somewhat vague question about FISA and wiretapping (in response to which he could easily have mouthed some unspecific and safe platitudes about balancing security and civil liberties) by instead going out of his way to volunteer that he opposes telecom immunity to such an extent that he would have voted against the FISA bill that the Bush administration, the GOP caucus and many leading Democrats were insisting was Absolutely Vital if we wanted to avoid being slaughtered by the Terrorists (as Stoller said by email: "Apparently the pro-telecom movement is very popular in San Francisco and Maryland but not so strong in Georgia. Who knew?").

And Martin's willingness to voice that position without even really being asked is particularly striking given that the sole notable political accomplishment of the incumbent whom Martin is challenging is this vile, fear-mongering, classic 2002 bin Laden/Hussein ad accusing Max Cleland of lacking the "courage to lead" because he opposed Bush's "homeland security" measures.  [Democratic Senate candidate Rick Noriega -- challenging the wretched GOP incumbent Jon Cornyn in Texas -- was similarly an outspoken opponent of the FISA bill, while Democratic House challenger Darcy Burner, in a split district, has been a leading critic of Congressional Democrats for supporting these FISA measures]. 

It's a good reminder that there are Congressional candidates who do not share the craven and cowardly attributes -- or the pro-surveillance-state and lawlessness-endorsing positions -- of the Democratic Congressional leadership.  Having members of Congress who oppose and criticize the Democratic leadership on these issues -- especially ones from purple and even red states and districts -- is a vital part of phase (2) that I described here the other day.  Martin's website is here and those wanting to donate can also do so here.

Glenn Greenwald

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