Yesterday, I got a pathetic, pleading email from Barbara Boxer about the need to get a 60-seat Democratic majority in the Senate in 2008, so that finally, the Democrats in the Senate will be able to get a backbone and stand up to the Republicans… eight years too late.
Senator Boxer gives the tired old argument that the reason Democrats in Congress have been acting like Republicans is that they don’t have a filibuster-proof majority. The suggestion is that, if only the Democrats could get more than 60 Senate seats, then the Democratic Senators would actually start representing the progressive values of the Democratic rank and file.
A vote that took place yesterday in the Senate shows how tragically bogus Boxer’s argument really is. The vote was on an attempt by Democratic Senator Russ Feingold to amend the FISA Amendments Act to prohibit electronic surveillance against American citizens through an underhanded technique called reverse targeting.
Here’s how reverse targeting works: American government spies want to start spying on an American citizen wiretapping their phones, reading their mail, etc., without even asking for a search warrant to do it. That’s blatantly against the Constitution, but never mind that. The Bush White House claims the right to spy on any foreigner, and on anybody who has ever spoken to a foreign suspect, and on anybody who has every spoken to anybody who has ever spoken to a foreign suspect, and on and on… and so, functionally, the Bush White House claims the right to spy against any American citizen.
So, with reverse targeting, the American government intends from the start to use the massive electronic spying powers it’s gotten through the Protect America Act, to be made permanent through the innocuous-sounding FISA Amendments Act, against an American citizen. But, in order to justify that blatantly unconstitutional spying, it puts on the facade of saying that it’s just spying against some foreigner who knows some American, who knows another American, who knows the person that the government has been intending to spy against from the start. Reverse targeting is the act of intentionally following the social network of an American target of spying backwards to some foreigner it claims the right to spy against.
Reverse targeting makes every American a potential target of electronic surveillance by the government – done without any search warrant to prove probable cause to suspect the American of connection to any crime. That’s the kind of government abuse that the Democratic Party is supposed to stand against.
The good news is that Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold and several other good Democrats and independent Bernard Sanders did stand against reverse targeting – through the Feingold amendment, which would have made reverse targeting clearly illegal. Every Republican who was present in the Senate voted against the Feingold amendment, and so it was defeated.
However, the Feingold amendment was not defeated because of those Republicans. It was defeated because seven Democratic senators voted to kill it. Those Democratic senators actually voted in favor of reverse targeting of Americans by US government spies! These Democratic traitors were
Dianne Feinstein of California
Daniel Inouye of Hawaii
Tim Johnson of South Dakota
Mary Landrieu of Louisiana
Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas
Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia
Ken Salazar of Colorado
These Democrats’ betrayal of their constituents’ constitutional rights was made even worse by Democratic senators who were pathetically absent. The following Democratic senators didn’t even bother to show up for the vote:
Byron Dorgan of North Dakota
Ben Nelson of Nebraska
Barack Obama of Illinois
Hillary Clinton of New York
Yes, that’s Obama and Clinton, falling down on the job. I’m a progressive, and I hate to put down the Democratic candidates for President, but do you know what I hate even more than that? I hate it when Democratic leaders like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fail to stand up to the Republicans and defend our American freedoms.
That’s a total of eleven Democrats who voted against the simple progressive idea that the Bill of Rights means something, and the government shouldn’t have the ability to conduct searches and seizures against us without a search warrant. So, let’s do the math. In order to overcome the damage done by these Republican-leaning or Republican-enabling Democratic senators, we’d need to have yet another eleven genuine progressive Democratic senators.
So, at a minimum, in order to have a Democratic majority in the Senate that actually did the work that Democratic voters want it to do, we would need to have 71 Democrats in the Senate.
That’s pathetic. Senator Boxer, I respect the work that you do in the Senate, but please don’t ask me to give money to the Democratic cause in the Senate when the Democratic majority in the Senate is so thoroughly infiltrated by Democratic politicians who are either too apathetic to show up to vote or little more than Republicans in donkey’s clothing.