Obama Flip-Flops on FISA

Standing with his party’s hard-left wing through the primary season, Barack Obama consistently opposed granting immunity to telecoms who cooperated with the federal government’s foreign terrorist surveillance program in the years after September 11. Obama went even farther by vowing to oppose any cloture motion on the FISA reform bill as long as it included telecom immunity. Jake Tapper has assembled the quotes, including this one from Obama’s Senate office in December:

Senator Obama unequivocally opposes giving retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies and has cosponsored Senator Dodd’s efforts to remove that provision from the FISA bill. Granting such immunity undermines the constitutional protections Americans trust the Congress to protect. Senator Obama supports a filibuster of this bill, and strongly urges others to do the same….Senator Obama will not be among those voting to end the filibuster.

Like everything Barack Obama says, that pledge was operative only as long as it was in Obama’s political interest. Last month, he announced a change in position. He still favored the Dodd amendment to strip telecom immunity from the act, but said he would now vote in favor of cloture and in favor of final passage of the FISA reform bill.

Today, the FISA bill came up for a series of votes in the Senate. Consistent with the new position he announced last month, Obama voted for the Dodd amendment, to delete telecom immunity from the act. The Dodd amendment failed, 66-32. Later came the cloture vote, the one on which Obama had pledged to vote “No.” Obama voted “Yes.” He then voted with the 69-28 majority in favor of the act.

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over Obama’s flip-flop on the Left. The Associated Press wailed and gnashed its teeth a bit over the bill’s passage, as well. This is how the AP began its story on the Senate vote:

Bowing to President Bush’s demands, the Senate sent the White House a bill Wednesday overhauling bitterly disputed rules on secret government eavesdropping and shielding telecommunications companies from lawsuits complaining they helped the U.S. spy on Americans.

The Senate “bowed to President Bush’s demands” in a 69-28 vote? In a parallel universe, the AP might have begun its story, “The Senate voted today, enthusiastically and overwhelmingly, to continue President Bush’s program of keeping Americans safe by spying on terrorists overseas.” But that’s not a world any of us are likely to live long enough to see.

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