On FISA, The Media And Poker

Glenn Greenwald catches Time magazine presenting some of its typical bad reporting:

A compromise deal to extend the federal government's domestic spying powers . . . has drawn attacks from both sides of the political spectrum. The right is unhappy at concessions made to protect civil liberties; the left is furious that the Democrats allowed the domestic spying powers to be extended in any form.

It must be a decent and reasonable compromise if both the extremes on the Right and Left are angry about it -- except the whole premise is patently false. The Right isn't attacking the bill at all; they're ecstatic about it.

(Emphasis supplied.) Which brings me to John Cole's odd post equating FISA to a poker hand:

It has been a while since your have had a playable hand, and your supporters are antsy. But now you have a low pocket pair- the six of diamonds and the six of hearts. You push the betting pre-flop, and then it happens- the House flops an AK of diamonds and a K of clubs. You did what you could with your hand, but events beyond your control have left you in a really weak spot right now.

You are now out of position, you donít have many outs, but the crowd is not cutting you any slack. Do you check, and try to limp into the turn to see what the Senate does there and on the river? That would be the smart play- the pot payoff is too low, the stakes are too high, and you need to get to the final table before you are in the money. . . . But who knows, maybe something game changing will happen on the turn (a Feingold filibuster is sustained?).

Or do you, inexplicably, go all in? Just on the principle, and nothing else, because you really have no control over what the other players do and what happens on the turn and the river. That is what the crowd wants. They are catcalling and jeering, telling you to do it.

Choose wisely. Losing the hand will be bad, but knocking yourself out of the game before the final table would be worse, even if the crowd does not understand it.

What in hell is Cole talking about? Obama is at the final table. The stakes for Obama are actually rather low politically. How is he hurt if telecom immunity is NOT stripped from the bill if he fights the best fight he can to stop it? Hell, it's the reverse really. He should fight the best fight he can and if he loses, he gets credit for the fight and no blame from anyone.

But of course this is not a poker game and the "crowd" understands the stakes perfectly. To some of us, the fight is about the issues, not the "team" or the "player." Let's give credit to the Netroots this time. Unlike John Cole, they put their cheerleading megaphones to the side and decided to fight for the issue. Oh BTW, they also know that Obama fighting for the Constitution is likely a good political play, something Cole seems not to understand.

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    This says it all to me. (5.00 / 7) (#2)
    by Fabian on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 12:56:41 PM EST
    even if the crowd does not understand it.

    We should just shut up and sit down and let the Professionals deal with it because we don't understand the game?

    Is this government of the people, by the people and for the people or Father Knows Best?

    FISA capitulation is Obama's position. (5.00 / 3) (#26)
    by ghost2 on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:55:11 PM EST
    I posted this yesterday hoping that BTD reads it, and I don't think he has.  

    This is not only Pelosi's position, but also Obama's position.

    You are naive if you think the compromise happened without the knowledge of Obama, and he is issuing a statement after the fact.  That cannot be.  

    An expolosive, controversial issue like this could hamper the nominee.  Why would Pelosi bring it up now?

    Note carefully.  It's the quiet time.  Reporters mad at Hillary Clinton for prolonging the primary have just now gotten their vacations. It's summer, just before 4th of July.  What better time to throw Campaign Finance, FISA under the bus?

    Superdelegates LOVE the money networks Obama has and are drooling at the prospect of that money. He is even careful and not issuing fundraising emails for anyone, b/c that means some cherished donors will also end up on somebody else's big email list.  That's his ace, and he is not letting go of it.

    Remember, the first thing that came for Obama was MONEY. You'd think that network of bundlers, lobbyists, and corporate bosses with connections didn't expect anything in return?  

    Obama will throw a lot of people under the bus, but he is too smart of a politician to throw his money backers there.  That won't happen.

    FISA and immunity were the first thing delivered by Obama.  You, Glenn and everyone else can ignore that at your peril.

    Sorry for quoting myself.  


    Just found this from Digby: (5.00 / 4) (#30)
    by ghost2 on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:06:52 PM EST
    What Digby said:

    I do know this: they would not have made this "compromise" and then brought this to the floor without his ok, and probably without his direction. He is the leader of the Democratic Party now, in the middle of a hotly contested presidential campaign. If he didn't come to them and say to get this thing done before the fall, then they came to him and asked his permission. That's just a fact. They aren't going to do anything he doesn't want them to do.

    So, it's not really a capitulation. It's a strategy.

    "Why would Pelosi bring it up now?" (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:13:35 PM EST
    I answer downhill. Bundled with domestic spending in a deal with Bush.

    Uhhhh No! (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by talex on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 12:58:32 PM EST
    "To some of us, the fight is about the issues, not the "team" or the "player.""

    I'd venture to say that to most of us it is about BOTH!

    Obviously the issues are paramount. But so is the play of the player himself. And so far he has 'folded' without playing one hand.

    FWIW (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by squeaky on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:02:16 PM EST
    Cliff notes on the FISA debate. I recently posted it in another FISA thread but found it a useful guide to understand what is at stake, besides the telco immunity.

    David Kris at Balkanization

    BTW- I do not get the poker analogy either.

    And so, we extend the Fickled Finger (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by zfran on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:06:39 PM EST
    of Fate award to Sen. Obama for his outstanding showing of taking a stand, not taking a stand, perhaps taking a stand, compromising, not compromising, being clear, not being clear, seeking solutions, awwwwwwww get over it!!! Not supposed to say this at TL, but how do you stop this music, it's so off key???????

    Watching the speeches of the (5.00 / 5) (#8)
    by oculus on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:11:59 PM EST
    Representatives on the House floor reminded me of the speeches before the vote on MI/FL in the RBC.  Done deal.  Wasted words.  Posturing.

    Traditional GOP moderates will stick with McC. (5.00 / 7) (#9)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:23:45 PM EST
    It's the Ron Paul wing who are peelable, but not by playing soft on core Constitutional issues.

    Excellent point (none / 0) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:28:53 PM EST
    More (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:52:02 PM EST
    The leftish 40% of the LP is not wild about Barr as their nominee either. Check out comments at Reason before this week and you'll see a lot of sweentiment along the lines of 'I'm considering Obama, let's see what he does between now and November.' I here similar locally. The entire WI delegation at the LP Convention voted for candidates in all 5 rounds.

    Obama can't do much more to reassure these voters on guns, he's been weaker than expected on drug policy, and now he's blowing one of the 2 strongest arguments for him in this swing vote segment. (Iraq of course is the other.)


    Typo (none / 0) (#35)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:36:41 PM EST
    WI LP voted for Candidates other than Barr in all 5 rounds. (Elimination voting until a majority)

    Interesting point (none / 0) (#12)
    by andgarden on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:29:54 PM EST
    Hmmm . . . (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by nycstray on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:27:56 PM EST
    The stakes for Obama are actually rather low politically. How is he hurt if telecom immunity is NOT stripped from the bill if he fights the best fight he can to stop it? Hell, it's the reverse really. He should fight the best fight he can and if he loses, he gets credit for the fight and no blame from anyone.

    It depends on who he's pandering to, imo. Is he being politically passive on this for Republicans? If he came out and fought the good fight, I agree, I don't see how it would hurt him with Democrats, and it would more than likely help with Hillary's voters to see some fight in the guy.

    Yes (none / 0) (#13)
    by squeaky on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:50:46 PM EST
    He is already on record voting against FISA because of the telecom immunity, and the GOP will use it whichever way he votes this time around. I do not see him having anything to lose here  but much to gain.

    Cole seems to be of opinion (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by BackFromOhio on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:12:12 PM EST
    that what is at stake for Obama is the support of the Super Delegates.

    He may have a point. (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Fabian on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:14:52 PM EST
    Why should Obama be still bowing and scraping to woo SDs?

    Shouldn't he have the nomination sewn up now?  Or is there something that is going on that we don't know about?


    I don't agree with Cole (none / 0) (#21)
    by BackFromOhio on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:22:17 PM EST
    I don't think anything Obama does at this point would change the support of the Super Ds.

    I agree (none / 0) (#40)
    by Valhalla on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 06:13:33 PM EST
    Even if started polling in the low 30s, they's still nominate him.  They've laid their bet on the table and are psychologically invested in him.

    That's why I stopped hoping something would happen to swing them to Clinton before the convention, because anything dramatic (or traumatic) enough to dislodge his SD support would be big enough to harm the entire party and Clinton in the process.

    While I wouldn't mind the party leadership having to suffer the effects of their own mismanagement, I don't want Clinton to be hurt in the fallout.


    I Can't Imagine That The SD's (4.00 / 1) (#41)
    by squeaky on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 06:51:28 PM EST
    Are going to dump Obama over FISA  considering that the House and probably the Senate are voting it in. Seems an absurd idea, imo.

    As I said downthread (none / 0) (#24)
    by flyerhawk on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:43:37 PM EST
    What do you think he should do other than vote against cloture and/or the bill itself?  

    The completely delusional (5.00 / 10) (#14)
    by frankly0 on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:53:45 PM EST
    aspect of John Cole's post is the assumption that, if elected, Obama will suddenly find the courage he has never before showed in his life.

    Go as far back as you want, and every position that Obama has taken is exactly predictable by what serves his political expediency in the particular context he found himself in.

    It was politically expedient for him to sit in the pews of TUCC when his district was Hyde Park in Chicago -- as it was likewise when he gave his "judgment" speech in 2002 against the Iraq war. He went to the US Senate and did every politically expedient thing. He is now doing the politically expedient thing with FISA, NAFTA, and campaign finance.

    The only difference between Obama and other politicians is nothing to do with underlying principles and everything to do with different political contexts driving a different set of decisions.

    Hence one may predict that when he becomes President, he will do the politically expedient thing. There's no reason to believe that this will involve fighting this current FISA bill in any real manner, if he has to take political heat from it.

    I wonder now as I have over the last year and more what it is that Obama partisans find so powerfully appealing about the man. As before, only more compellingly than ever, I see little more than a personality cult.

    He's shown his colors on "unity", on the Constitution, on campaign finance reform, on trade, on opposition to smear tactics. What's left? Truly what's left of him and his movement that could or should command the respect of his followers or anyone else?

    Personality cult (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:17:27 PM EST
    Y'know, I don't even get that part, to tell you the honest truth.

    Me either (5.00 / 4) (#20)
    by frankly0 on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:19:02 PM EST
    but I grant that there is no disputing taste.

    Which doesn't mean I won't.


    Heh! (none / 0) (#22)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:30:37 PM EST
    Question (none / 0) (#16)
    by BackFromOhio on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:11:04 PM EST
    Even if Obama were elected & found the courage to lead on new legislation to undermine what Congress now seems intent on passing, would effort not be voidable anyway as far as telecom immunity goes as ex post facto law?

    While you are correct (2.00 / 0) (#23)
    by flyerhawk on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:41:14 PM EST
    that there is very little at stake currently for Obama you are missing the obvious fact that if Obama were to draw a line in the sand on this issue the stakes would naturally rise.

    You have the entire Dem Congressional leadership saying they won't fight this issue.  So you want Obama to unilaterally fight this and go against the Dem leadership?  And for what?  To make sure that we can still sue the telecoms in civil court for carrying the requests of the Federal government RETROACTIVELY?  

    What would you like him to do?  Start reading War and Peace until everyone accepts the filibuster?  Use the Jedi mind trick to convince Harry Reid to fight this bill, and perhaps damage blue dogs irrevocably?

    Other than voting against cloture and then voting against the bill itself, what would you suggest?

    To some of us, the fight is about the issues, not the "team" or the "player."

    And to some of us the war is more important than the battle.  If Obama wins in November and Senate picks up 7 more seats, the entire discussion changes, we are no longer required to abide by Republican controlled bills.  

    I don't understand why so many activists find it more important to fight and lose than to not fight and win.  FDR, the greatest Democratic President in our history, won because he avoided dumb fights.  

    Right now Obama does not have that much political capital and what he does have he must use to win in November, not fight his own party leadership so that we can sue some companies for events that already happened.  

    How bout we win the White House and then completely rebuild FISA?

    If you do not care about the issue (5.00 / 5) (#27)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 02:57:38 PM EST
    As you clearly do not, then you should urge him to support the capitulation. Hell, I think that is what you are doing.

    I would note that you are calling Obama a liar as he said it was important.

    No problem for me. All pols are liars.

    Just wanted you to realize what you were saying.


    I do care about the issue (2.00 / 0) (#28)
    by flyerhawk on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:05:44 PM EST
    But the bill as currently constructed is not worth engaging in an intra-party fight.  

    You clearly feel that giving retroactive immunity but no proactive immunity is still too bitter a pill.

    We obviously disagree.  

    An interesting twisting of my words to suggest that I think Obama is lying, since I did not once make mention of his beliefs.

    I'll ask again, what would you specifically have him do?  He has no leadership position in Congress.  


    Wrong (5.00 / 3) (#38)
    by scarshapedstar on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 05:46:53 PM EST
    You clearly feel that giving retroactive immunity but no proactive immunity is still too bitter a pill.

    We obviously disagree.

    If I murdered someone, and then Congress intervened to make my particular murder legal - with a stipulation that I have to promise I won't kill anyone ever again - would you consider that justice?

    Bear in mind that we haven't even "officially" seen the evidence yet for their past spying, so the chances of the Bush crime family coughing up any evidence for their current/future crimes is LOL-worthy.


    Better still, they could also make murders like (none / 0) (#43)
    by Calvados on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 11:17:02 PM EST
    your original one legal in the future.

    The immunity issue is important only because without immunity, the telephone companies might have to testify about who asked them to do what.

    The expansion of unwarranted wiretaps is what is really wrong with this bill.      


    You seem to be assuming (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by Alien Abductee on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 05:55:33 PM EST
    he is not now part of the leadership. He's not just another senator any more. He's the head of the Democratic Party. He now has the burden of taking the lead as well as the responsibility when he doesn't take the lead.

    I want him to use his position and visibility to influence the course of events, or at least to be seen to be taking a stand against trampling on our constitutional rights. His tepidness on this so far says he's not really working on it behind the scenes either, and that's very bad. The only "losing" on this issue for him is to go along passively with capitulation.

    When you say "Right now Obama does not have that much political capital and what he does have he must use to win in November" you're assuming people don't mind having their private phone calls and emails indiscriminately invaded by government snooping. What he could do with his persuasive communication skills is make sure the debate on this issue is framed to keep that essential point in the forefront, because the media and the telecom-beholden Dems pushing this sure won't.


    I wonder how the junior Senator's (none / 0) (#1)
    by lilburro on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 12:51:49 PM EST
    fight will go down if Reid already says they "probably won't be able to" stop the bill?  His statement also suggests he won't be bringing the fire and brimstone against it - the statement was far too conciliatory.  

    I think the media won't care, Obama will hardly fight, the junior senator will be given preference in speaking but it will still all look a bit goofy.

    It's not a fight if you're not willing to throw a punch.

    I guess Cole would say (none / 0) (#6)
    by rilkefan on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:09:15 PM EST
    the stake is that if Obama stands up to the party and loses he'll look like a lame duck before he even gets elected.

    Is the press going to beat up Obama on this cave?  Probably not.  Would they give him credit for leadership?  The world may never know.

    At this point (none / 0) (#7)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:11:11 PM EST
    I figure anything the Democrats do other than simply pass the legislation as it stands is Kabuki Theater. They obviously want this as bad as the Republicans do.

    The time to fight was before the passage in the House.

    Repugs will have the last laugh though (none / 0) (#15)
    by Ellie on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:54:50 PM EST
    Really, how many times during the Bush admin have the Dems found their phones, computers and offices bugged and hacked -- even to the point of Rethug / admin hired hands getting jail time for it?

    Does the Dem braintrust think for a minute this isn't being used against them, including RIGHT NOW for potential use in the election?

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Rethuggernaut in the Bush era has all about redoing Watergate "right".

    FISA and the politics of bundling. (none / 0) (#29)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:05:55 PM EST
    FISA coming up now was certainly not Obama's choosing. I don't think Pelosi let it come up specifically to screw with Obama, rather, a conflict of legitimate divergent interests. Most House members top priority is bringing federal money home. In some cases, it's the only interest.

    The Iraq supplemental had hit an impasse. The Speaker imagined that as in Spring 2005, she could leverage  Iraq funding for a chunk of dough for various domestic programs, this time the GI Bill, unemployment extension and flood relief. Bushco drove a wedge, by insisting the telco bailout bge included in the package. Nancy had to go with it, you don't get between a Member and  the takehome in an election year. Obama's stuck with the same dillema.

    The test of my theory: Harkin. (none / 0) (#31)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:11:03 PM EST
    Voted for the '07 War funding, issued a release admitting he'd voted for a bad bill, but that it was the price of bringing home draught relief for farmers and a vet care center in Cedar Rapids.

    Harkin voted to uphold the filibuster of FISA last February. If he flips now, it'll be for the flood relief. See Ron Kind.


    Also see Murtha. (none / 0) (#33)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:15:38 PM EST
    Anyone got research time? What goes into his District for his FISA vote? Or is it just general veterans money?

    Still doesn't work for me (none / 0) (#34)
    by nycstray on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:30:13 PM EST
    we should not be trading this way and the bundle needs to be undone and exposed if that's what's happening. If that's the great "compromise", they all need to be run out of office and Bush hung out to dry.

    Analysis, not an editorial. (none / 0) (#36)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:39:11 PM EST
    The rationalizations of John Cole (none / 0) (#37)
    by myiq2xu on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 04:21:40 PM EST
    to defend his support of Obama are amusing.

    Pathetic, but amusing.

    Poker analogy (none / 0) (#42)
    by Sarah in TX on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 07:00:31 PM EST
    The poker analogy is a bit lame. I wish this was just about poker.  But it is much more seriuous than a game of skill and chance.

    But for now I'll go along with the poker analogy and assert that I always thought Obama was a "donkey" (nothing to do with the democratic party)

    Definition of a donkey in poker:
    "An inexperienced poker player who doesn't actually know how bad he is."

    It's not the immunity. (none / 0) (#44)
    by masslib on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 10:37:02 AM EST
    I agree with riverdaughter on this.  Use the immunity as a bargaining chip.  The danger of this bill is it ratifies what Bush was doing anyway.