June 30, 2008

Keith Olbermann’s FISA Flip-Flop

Quote of the Day:

“Politicians are like bad horsemen who are so preoccupied with staying in the saddle that they can’t bother about where they’re going.”
— Joseph Schumpeter

Subject: Olbermann, Obama, & FISA 

Part of our strategy for combatting the new FISA bill will involve doing some new things. One of the things we want to do is pressure Barack Obama to step-up and lead the fight against warrantless spying and telecom immunity. The other thing we’re going to do is pressure Keith Olbermann of MSNBC.

It appears that Mr. Olbermann is going to use one of his “Special Comments” tonight (Monday, June 30) to make an argument for why it’s okay for Obama to support the new FISA bill. We want to urge Olbermann to NOT do this. Here are the details…

Five months ago Olbermann was quite critical of George W. Bush for promoting “textbook fascism” designed to “immunize corporate criminals.” The fascism to which he referred was the telecom immunity provision of the FISA Amendments Act. He had similar rough words for the way the bill would eviscerate the Fourth Amendment.

Well, on Friday night Olbermann announced that he was going to do another one of his trademark “Special Comments.” Specifically, he said…

“Speaking of FISA, following up on what he said here last week, John Dean has reviewed the newest version of that bill and again concluded, nothing in it gives the telecoms criminal immunity, only civil immunity. So Monday on Countdown, a brief Special Comment on FISA: How Senator Obama can have his cake and eat it too.”

It isn’t difficult to figure out Olbermann’s plan for the presumptive Democratic nominee to both have and eat his cake. He’s been hinting at it for the past week. Here’s Olbermann in his own words…

“Seriously, there is little in the polls to suggest McCain has anything to run with other than terror… So why hand them a brick to hit him (Obama) with — Obama Voted Against FISA — if voting Aye enhances his chances of getting himself his own Attorney General to prosecute FISA.”

Olbermann’s wording is confusing. But essentially he has flip-flopped on FISA, just like his preferred candidate Obama has. When it was only George W. Bush supporting this bill, Olbermann was against it. Now that Obama supports it too, Olbermann is falling all over himself trying to concoct justifications for it. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald picks up the story from here {link outdated}…

“Olbermann — just as he has done on his show repeatedly ever since Obama announced his support for the bill — also suggested that Obama is harboring a Secret Benevolent Plan that he isn’t telling anyone about whereby he is supporting the FISA bill so that he can prosecute the telecoms criminally once he’s in office.”

Greenwald then quotes Olbermann as saying that anybody who was as upset about this bill as Olbermann once was, “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.”

Is Olbermann correct that the new FISA bill only provides the telecoms immunity from civil suits, but that they could still face criminal prosecution if Obama becomes President? It appears Mr. Olbermann has exaggerated this claim. And John Dean, Olbermann’s supposed source for this claim, has denied that he’s done the research necessary to prove it.

Is Olbermann correct that Obama has some secret plan to vote for this bill and fix the problem after he becomes President? Frankly, we’ve heard that kind of wishful thinking a lot over the years. Let’s just say politicians are much better known for failure to keep promises, and this is a level of faith we cannot afford. If the civil cases are thrown out (and under this bill they will be), valuable legal ground would be lost such as deposition, discovery, and deals. The supposed secret plan to criminally prosecute not only the telecoms, but members of the current administration, would be lost. Moreover, in this instance, Obama isn’t even hinting at such a plan.

Here’s the bottom line — Olbermann is being partisan. He needs to hold Obama to the same standard he has applied to President Bush. Please send Olbermann a message urging him to be consistent. It is important that you personalize this message with some details you’ve learned from this message and/or the accompanying links. You can send that message here {link outdated}.

Thank you for being a part of the growing Downsize DC Army.

Jim Babka
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

A tip of the hat to Glenn Greenwald of Salon who has published most of the original research and analysis about Keith Olbermann’s FISA flip-flop.

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