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Positional Vertigo


The Senate voted, by a 3 to 1 margin, last week to give the president a belated birthday gift, and pass his FISA reform bill with the retroactive immunity clause in tact. A provision by Senators Dodd, Feingold, and Leahy which would nullify telecom immunity was struck down by a 2 to 1 margin. While more Democrats voted against the bill than for it, 27 to 21, the fact that Sen. Obama was among those willing to go along with retroactive immunity disappoints even the most obdurate among us.

Those cynical among us might suggest Obama isn't the only one suffering from positional vertigo; the Democratic party is, too. Trying to appear strong on "homeland security" is clearly one strategy to defeat the "national security" credentials of a defense-heavy McCain candidacy. But, there is a deep fault line in any party platform that works in the interest of expediency, not authenticity, and one can think of few things less authentic than the image of Dukakis mounting a tank, or John Kerry shining one of his medals. To think of Barack Obama massaging the Patriot Act to win the hearts of the faux moderate Republicans, and midwest ranchers, is, at the very least, unsettling.

Presidential candidates, Democrat or Republican, are answerable to their party's platform, as well as to their party's leaders, and all politicians are answerable to the voters. .

We will take Sen. Obama up on his invitation to hold him accountable after we elect him president, and we will, knowing that, in the end, there's more at stake here than who hangs his hat in the Oval Office. There's lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade and, given the alternative, having a general in presidential drag running the White House.

Follow Jayne Lyn Stahl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaynelynstahl