Friday, June 27, 2008

Keith Olbermann Flip-Flopping on FISA... Run, Keith, Run!

Great post from WSJ's James Taranto. I wish Olbermann stayed with ESPN and sports, and not revealed himself to be a ranting idiot with an occasional insight:

Fair-Weather Civil Libertarians
Glenn Greenwald of and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC are in the midst of a bitter feud. They are both wrong, and they are such an unappealing pair that our first thought was, as Kissinger once said about Iran and Iraq: We hope they both lose. But actually, Greenwald has a good point at Olbermann's expense.

At issue is Barack Obama's flip-flop on legislation currently pending that would update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs the wiretapping of international phone calls. The FISA Amendments Act passed the House last week by a bipartisan 293-129 vote, and the Senate is expected to take it up soon.

One provision of the bill would prohibit lawsuits against telecommunications companies that did their patriotic duty and cooperated with the government's Terrorist Surveillance Program. Greenwald and other civil-liberties extremists favor such lawsuits and thus oppose immunity. Obama used to agree with this position, once going so far as to threaten a filibuster against the FISA bill if it included immunity. Now that he is the Democratic nominee, however, he says he supports the bill and will not filibuster, though he still does not care for the immunity provision.

Call us cynical, but that's politics. Yet although Keith Olbermann is not running for office, he has flip-flopped in precisely the same way Obama did, or perhaps a bit more dramatically since he is a more dramatic personality.

In January, Greenwald reports, Olbermann delivered an unhinged rant in which he called the immunity provision a "shameless, breathless, literally textbook example of fascism"--and in case you thought he meant the nongenocidal Italian kind, he also likened proponents of immunity to "the bureaucrats of the Third Reich."

"But that was five whole months ago," Greenwald observes:

Now that Barack Obama supports a law that does the same thing--and now that Obama justifies that support by claiming that this bill is necessary to keep us Safe from the Terrorists--everything has changed. . . .

Last night, Olbermann invited Newsweek's Jonathan Alter onto his show to discuss Obama's support for the FISA and telecom amnesty bill (video of the segment is here). There wasn't a syllable uttered about "immunizing corporate criminals" or "textbook examples of Fascism" or the Third Reich. There wasn't a word of rational criticism of the bill either. Instead, the two media stars jointly hailed Obama's bravery and strength--as evidenced by his "standing up to the left" in order to support this important centrist FISA compromise.

On the merits, we are with Obama, Olbermann and Alter. But we also were with President Bush back in January, when Olbermann was fulminating about fascism. In our view, Greenwald is wrong. But he is consistent.

Olbermann, on the other hand, rails against "fascism," then yields to it in the name of political expediency. Obama does the same thing in a more soothing manner.

The point is this: If you vote for Democrats on the theory that Republicans are a threat to civil liberties, caveat elector. Bill Clinton and his administration incinerated children at Waco, undertook the policy of "extraordinary rendition," used a grand jury investigation to intimidate journalists at The American Spectator, deported Elian Gonzalez to communist Cuba, and signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which restricts the habeas corpus rights of American citizens.

Whatever one may think of these particular measures, they would have generated much more opposition from Democrats had they been instituted by a Republican administration. The Keith Olbermanns of the media world outnumber the Glenn Greenwalds, so when an Obama administration curtails civil liberties (justifiably or not), the outcry will be far more muted than it is now. If civil liberties are your top concern, then, you better vote for John McCain.

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