Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hillary Skips Telecom Vote

Per Marc Ambinder, Obama voted against telecom immunity today, McCain voted for it, and Hillary Clinton voted.... absent?

Obama deserves at least some minimal praise for standing by his pledge to fight against telecom immunity (though as Big Tent Democrat correctly points out, his leadership on this issue has been lacking). In choosing to cast a vote on this issue, he leaves himself vulnerable to charges of being un-patriotic by the GOP. In other words, he took a very real risk here. True enough that he didn't have to sacrifice much campaigning time with today's DC-area primaries.

But the relatively small amount of praise that Obama deserves for his vote shows how cowardly Senator Clinton's actions appear in comparison. As Ambinder points out, Clinton was in Texas, for which she left last night or this morning. While conventional wisdom would point out that Hillary is using Texas as a firewall, her actions in going there at this precise moment are more than a little odd and, I think, transparent.

Her campaign headquarters is in Northern Virginia, right in the center of today's primaries. While she is almost certain to lose all three primaries, one would think she would have stayed in the area in the hopes of at least salvaging a couple of delegates. By staying in the area, of course, she would have also left herself the ability to vote on the FISA bill and the telecom immunity provisions.

Since leaving for Texas on this particular date makes very little sense, and since Clinton's opposition to telecom immunity has long been suspect, her actions give the appearance of being a transparent attempt to duck voting on the issue. By flying to Texas today, she is able to use the ready-made excuse that she was on the other side of the country and was thus unable to cast her vote; this is an excuse that she could not have used had she remained in the DC area for last-minute campaigning.

In my mind, this is nothing more than a transparent attempt to duck a vote on an issue of incredible importance to both the Democratic Party base and civil libertarians. Although I doubt civil libertarians were ever going to much support Clinton, it amazes me that any of the Dem base is willing to give her a pass on this issue.

For the record, I'm also pretty damn annoyed with the folks at Reason today, who chose to focus on the silly Che Guevara flag dustup without any regard whatsoever for the FISA votes. This despite David Weigel's call for more libertarian involvement with the issue a few weeks back.

As usual, Glenn Greenwald has the best coverage of this issue, why it's important, and why the vote on immunity is such a depressing failure of American self-government.

More blogger reactions at memeorandum.