Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Olbermann Agonistes

I have expended more than a few words criticizing Keith Olbermann for his kid-glove (fawning? sycophant?) treatment of Barack Obama, particularly his coverage of Obama's flip-flop on opposition to the very bad FISA compromise. Last night Olbermann reversed himself (sort of) and expressed some mild criticism of Obama's position on FISA (sort of) in a "Special Comment", so I thought it fair to include it here.

But first, let us recap - A brief outline of the story so far:

Frankly, I found this Olbermann "Special Comment" to be somewhat incoherent, as he apparently feels compelled to wrap superfluous caveats and insert two shots at Republicans for every mild criticism of the Obama flip-flop. That said, he explicitly urges Obama to take a "second chance to make a first impression", do the right thing and either - join the opposition planning to filibuster the bill -or- explicitly state that an Obama administration will pursue a criminal prosecution of the Bush administration and Telco companies for violations of the original FISA law.

Olbermann makes much of the fact that the bill - (both the version that Obama opposes and the version that Obama supports) only provides immunity from civil lawsuits. Greenwald maintains that the possibility of criminal prosecution under this bill to be a fantasy, and remains focused on the bigger issue of stopping the expansion of executive power. In any case, I expect Obama to embrace neither of Olbermann's suggestions. Having already flip-flopped once on the issue, it just would not be politic for him to flop-flip back.

More important, Olbermann's commentary and the Olbermann/Greenwald debate has helped keep a spotlight on this important issue and the impending vote. This has all been made possible because a few Senators like Feingold and Dodd (and unlike Obama) were willing to show real leadership on this issue and keep principle ahead of politics. They succeeded in delaying the FISA vote until after the Independence Day holiday, allowing time for opposition to build. Stopping or modifying the bill still seems unlikely, but this is politics, and... who knows? Our elected representatives might even decide to defend and protect the Constitution. It could happen.

X-posted at Donklephant.

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