The Best Candidate No Longer In The Race

by Paul on January 27, 2008

Senator Chris Dodd was back on the Senate floor this week, fighting the good fight he promised to lead months ago, once again opposing a FISA bill that would contain immunity to telecom companies for participating in warrantless eavesdropping. I’m actually glad that his presidential bid has ended, because we need him right where he is.

It’s too bad those other two sitting Senators who spent the week sniping at each other couldn’t have set South Carolina aside for a few hours to fly back to DC and stand by Dodd’s side. Maybe, if Hillary spent more energy on preserving the Fourth Amendment and the rule of law than on gaming the DNC primary rules, I’d be more willing to vote for her.

While the cable news channels were falling over themselves to tell me what Hill or Bill or Obama or their surrogates or what some pollster said, none of them told me anyting about Chris Dodd standing on the Senate floor saying this:

But almost every time telecom immunity comes up, there’s an inevitable question:

What’s the big deal? Why are so many people spending so much energy all to keep a few lawsuits going forward?

Because this is about far more than the telecoms. This is about the choice that will define America: the rule of law, or the rule of men.

It’s about this government’s practice of waterboarding, a technique invented by the Spanish Inquisition, perfected by the Khmer Rouge, and in between, banned—originally banned for excessive cruelty—by the Gestapo!

It’s about the Military Commissions Act, a bill that gave President Bush the power to designate any individual he wants an “unlawful enemy combatant,” hold him indefinitely, and take away his right to habeas corpus—the 900-year-old right to challenge your detention.

It’s about the CIA destroying evidence of harsh interrogation—or, as some would call it, torture.

It’s about Dick Cheney raising secrecy to an art form.

The members of his energy task force? None of your business.

His location? Undisclosed.

The names of his staff? Confidential.

The visitor log for his office? Shredded by the Secret Service.

The list of papers he has declassified? Classified.

It’s about the Justice Department turning our nation’s highest law enforcement offices into patronage plums, and turning the impartial work of indictments and trials into the machinations of politics.

It’s about Alberto Gonzales coming before Congress to give us testimony that was at best wrong and at worst perjury.

It’s about Michael Mukasey coming before the Senate and defending the president’s power to openly break the law.

It’s about extraordinary renditions and secret prisons.

It’s about Maher Arar—the Canadian computer programmer who was arrested by American agents, flown to Syria, held for some 300 days in a cell three feet wide—this wide [gesture]—and then cleared of all wrongdoing.

It is about all of that, Mr. President. All of that. We are deceiving ourselves when we talk about the torture issue, or the habeas issue, or the U.S. attorneys issue, or the extraordinary rendition issue, or the secrecy issue.

As if each one were an isolated case! As if each one were an accident! We’ve let outrage upon outrage upon outrage slide with nothing more than a promise to stop the next one.

There is only one issue here. Only one. The law issue. Attack the president’s contempt for the law at any point, and it will be wounded at all points.
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That’s why I’m here today. I am speaking for the American people’s right to know what the president and the telecoms did to them. But more than that, I am speaking against the president’s conviction that he is the law. Strike it at any point, with courage, and it will wither.

That’s the big deal. That is why immunity matters—dangerous in itself, but even worse in all it represents. No more. No more. This far, Mr. President—but no further.

There’s a lot more where that came from. I’d love to see the video of the speech; if I can turn up a link I’ll post it later.

PS. For ongoing analysis on the FISA debate, look to Glenn Greenwald at Salon and for activism, the gang at Firedoglake.

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