07/07/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

I'll Pass On The Rubber Glove

I remember the movie The Candidate in which Robert Redford played a charming fellow who decided he was going to save the world. He started running for president and he had nothing to lose so he shot from the hip. He told it like it was and the people loved him. The all-knowing political pros gave him a snowball's chance in hell as official odds and he just kept talking up the good stuff.

Then, as the old cliché goes, a funny thing happened on the way to the election. Folks in his party started voting for him. The odds were still long but the spark was ignited; the snowball continued to gain mass and speed as it rolled toward the flames of hell. As the election process labored on the possibility became stronger that the kid might win the nomination.

Then came, and now come, the consultants, those pragmatic platform writers who keep their fingers on the pulse of the American opinion. They tap their little rubber hammers on our knees to check our reflexes, metaphorically speaking, and periodically take our blood pressure so as to be sure they know what kind of shape we're in. Then they tell the candidate what he is supposed to say in order to win the general election.

Then, in the movie as is now in real life, there are many discussions along the lines of, "If you don't actually win the presidency, you are not going to be in a position to change anything." You cannot save the world if you are unable to grasp the reins of power. But, the candidate says, this isn't what I started running for president for.

It is OK for the consultants to work with reflexes and vital signs but when what they want requires them to put on a rubber glove it is time to bring them to a screeching halt. If we wanted a pragmatic, do anything to win, candidate we should have nominated Hillary Clinton and the truth is we almost did. At the end of a long drawn out primary season, however, the majority went for the idealistically progressive kid.

Intellectually I understand Barack Obama's stance on the FISA issue but in my mind I see the men behind him putting on a rubber glove. By giving the telecoms and the government immunity from civil adjudication we are removing the primary mechanism for discovering the whole truth about the current administration's warrantless wiretapping. They say that the compromise bill that is currently moving through congress will keep open the possibility of criminal prosecution but my hunch is that will never happen.

I believe that citizens and organizations should have the right to sue the government over illegal electronic surveillance. Obama's position, on the other hand, is more concerned with implementing a legal security apparatus in which the demonstration of national security toughness is more important than righting past wrongs.

I'm sure he is being properly advised by the team he has in place. But, as for me, I have never cared for the smell of latex.