The weeks have blurred together lately, for obvious reasons. I don't stop by for awhile, then I read I'm AWOL. And I don't do a Comment blasting Obama, and I read somebody wrote something over-the-top about my lack of principles.
I think it was last Thursday or Friday - dates and quotes aren't going to be exact here and you can forgive that or not - that we had John Dean on, to try to explain Senator Obama's rationalization of voting for the telecom civil immunity in the FISA bill.
Simply put, what John said quelled any anger simmering beneath my surface. Because John Dean is the smartest person I've ever met.
Mind you, this is speaking generally. When it comes to the law, or reading laws, well, I refer you to any of his 21st Century books (each of them, miles ahead of our worst nightmares, and equally in front of any of our conceptions of how the three card monte players would get themselves expelled from the temple).
Failing that, remember the story of the day in front of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 when Nixon's lawyer Charles Alan Wright began the afternoon session by asking him a long, layered question, designed solely to trip him up. Several minutes into this intricate riddle, the chairman (I presume Congressman Rodino) suddenly interrupted Wright. A woman was just walking into the room - the committee stenographer. He'd have to repeat his question; they had inadvertently resumed the hearing with no one taking it down for the record.
A crestfallen Wright mumbled something about "but I can't repeat it" and a few seconds of hesitation followed as the committee groped for a solution. Whereupon Dean said, "Uh, Mr. Chairman, it's not a problem. I can repeat it." As one of the Democratic attorneys said later, there were 40 attorneys in the room and they immediately all realized that as Dean spoke, he was not paraphrasing - he promptly rolled it back, virtually word-for-word, to Wright's complete satisfaction.
And then he answered it.
If neither of those metrics is sufficient, there's an exchange I had with John some time ago. He joked about "muffing that question the way Zeke Bonura used to muff ground balls." I was shocked; John had never before evinced the slightest interest in baseball. "Oh, I don't have any interest in baseball. But my father was a huge fan, and I can remember him telling me the names of all the first basemen in the National League in 1939. Let's see: it was Bonura with the Giants, Elbie Fletcher in Boston and then Pittsburgh, Dolph Camilli with the Dodgers..."
With that preamble out of the way, here goes. John said his reading of the revised FISA statute suggested it was so poorly constructed (or maybe so sublimely constructed) that it clearly did not preclude future criminal prosecution of the telecoms - it only stopped civil suits.
I have repeated his observation each night since. Maybe I didn't sell my conviction of its conclusiveness. I think John Dean is worth 25 Glenn Greenwalds (maybe 26 Keith Olbermanns).
Thus, as I phrased it on the air tonight, obviously Obama kicked the left in the teeth by supporting the bill. But anybody who got as hot about this as I did would prefer to see a President Obama prosecuting the telecoms criminally, instead of seeing a Senator Obama engender more "soft on terror" crap by casting a token vote in favor of civil litigation that isn't going to pass since so many other Democrats caved anyway.
When Markos was on (Monday? Again, blurs) he made the simple but essential point that if this is Obama's rationale for this, maybe he should explain it. I think it can be argued that if he's caught the same hole in the bill that Dean has, his best course is actually to shut up and take the criticism and hope the Republicans don't see the loophole.
Seriously, there is little in the polls to suggest McCain has anything to run with other than terror (ask Charlie Black or that idiot who suggested that Black's comments owed to distraction by a reporter's cleavage - not knowing that the Fortune editor to whom Black gave it up was a guy). So why hand them a brick to hit him with - Obama Voted Against FISA - if voting Aye enhances his chances of getting himself his own Attorney General to prosecute FISA?
I don't know much about Mr. Greenwald and I didn't read his full piece, but I do know that the snippet he's taken out of the transcript of my conversation with Jon Alter last night makes it sound like I was saying defying the left was a good thing. I was actually contrasting it to not cowering to the Republicans, simply as a different thing. Same point, in essence, tonight with John Harwood. It certainly does underscore the degree to which the presumptive nominee trusts his own mind. Did Mr. Greenwald note that I asked if we shouldn't worry that this Obamaian certainty could turn into something like President "My Way Or The Highway" Bush, or did he leave that out?
I do think Mr. Greenwald's suggestion of some kind of betrayal on my part is simplistic and childish. I'll take the Dean interpretation of this. If it isn't the Senator's game plan, he'll catch hell from me about it later.
On a personal level, a thanks to all who expressed sympathies on our two great losses. I will confess, as suggested in another diary, to continuing surprise that there was even a little callousness expressed at Tim Russert's passing. I think the political hats were taken off briefly in respect of the loss of a good man, even on the Right (except for the disgusting New York Post). I was startled to see so many here unable to hold their fire until at least after he was interred.