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How they voted on FISA telecom immunity

The U.S. Senate today passed a bill amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 so that telecommunications companies which cooperated with the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping will receive retroactive immunity from lawsuits. The final vote came after several amendments seeking to strip out or curtail that immunity were defeated.

And how did the Senators whom Californians presumably find most important cast their votes? Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, R-Ariz., was absent for the vote, out on the campaign trail. And as for Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama:

S.Amdt.5064, introduced by U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., to strike the section of the bill granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program:
Boxer: Yes
Feinstein: No
Clinton: Yes
Obama: Yes
Final tally: 32-66 (defeated)

S.Amdt.5059, introduced by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to limit retroactive immunity for providing assistance to the United States to instances in which a federal court determines the assistance was provided in connection with an intelligence activity that was constitutional:
Boxer: Yes
Feinstein: No
Clinton: Yes
Obama: Yes
Final tally: 37-61 (defeated)

S.Amdt.5066, introduced by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., to delay any claim of retroactive immunity until 90 days after the date the final report of the Inspectors General on the President’s Surveillance Program is submitted to Congress:
Boxer: Yes
Feinstein: Yes
Clinton: Yes
Obama: Yes
Final tally: 42-56 (defeated)

Motion to invoke cloture (ending debate and bringing the bill to a vote) on H.R. 6304, amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978:
Boxer: No
Feinstein: Yes
Clinton: No
Obama: Yes
Final tally: 72-26 (passed)

On passage of H.R.6304, amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978:
Boxer: No
Feinstein: Yes
Clinton: No
Obama: Yes
Final tally: 69-28 (passed)

American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero calls the bill “not only unconstitutional, but absolutely un-American;” the ACLU plans to sue to challenge it as soon as President Bush signs it into law.

UPDATE @ 5:10 P.M. WEDNESDAY: The liberal blogs are abuzz with dissatisfaction…

Glenn Greenwald at Salon: “With their vote today, the Democratic-led Congress has covered-up years of deliberate surveillance crimes by the Bush administration and the telecom industry, and has dramatically advanced a full-scale attack on the rule of law in this country.”

DownWithTyranny: “…enough Democrats were bribed by the telecom companies to hand Bush the victory he lusted for…”

Steve Soto at The Left Coaster: “…gutted the Constitution… trashed the Fourth Amendment…”

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake: “We need to punish those who stood against us.”

So it would seem Dianne Feinstein might have some ‘splainin’ to do to many of her constituents… but apparently not to the California Democratic Party, even though Chairman Art Torres late last year said Feinstein wouldn’t vote this way:

I said I think it’s important that you hear this from me because there’s also concern about the telecom immunity issue which will come before the senate judiciary committee. Don’t believe me, ask my friend Senator Dodd, who will tell you that she led the effort along with him to make sure that that wasn’t in the FISA bill that emerged from the senate judiciary committee. That bill as you know does not include the telecom immunity issue, which was a very important issue for me, and I’m proud that she listened, because she does.

So I contacted the party today to see if Torres would comment on today’s votes. I got a callback from party political advisor Bob Mulholland, who noted Obama voted for immunity today too as a compromise. “Our attitude as a political party is, let’s win the election and we can start cleaning up the constitutional mess Bush gave us,” Mulholland said.

With retroactive immunity, that is.

Posted on Wednesday, July 9th, 2008
Under: Arlen Specter, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Chris Dodd, Civil liberties, Dianne Feinstein, General, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

A journey of a thousand miles…

…begins with a single step, Lao-tzu said.

California will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples at 5 p.m. today. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will officiate his city and county’s first legal same-sex wedding (civil rights leaders Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, together for 55 years) at that hour at San Francisco City Hall, while Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums will preside over Alameda County’s first ceremony at 6 p.m. in Oakland City Hall; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and other elected officials will witness the latter.

But lest we forget, Newsom and Dellums endorsed Hillary Clinton for president this year while Lee endorsed Barack Obama, and neither of those Democratic presidential candidates stood in support of same-sex marriage, only civil unions. This may be the dawning of a new day in California — a very happy, blessed day for many — but the national debate rages on.

The step that so many couples will take to the altar in coming weeks isn’t the first step of their thousand-mile journey — this voyage has been underway for decades — but it’s not the finish line, either, and the road ahead remains long and rocky for those on both sides of this issue.

Posted on Monday, June 16th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Gavin Newsom, Hillary Clinton, Oakland, Ron Dellums | No Comments »

Political Haiku, Vol. 3

Hayashi votes not,
yet her light goes on and off.
Ghost voting’ scares me.

Ted Strickland says no
to vice-presidential nod,
yes to “cornhole tour.

Feinstein hosted meet
for former Dem opponents.
“No blood on couch, please.”

Knowing bad b-ball
doth not a president make.
Hear me, Ralph Nader?

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2008
Under: Assembly, Barack Obama, Dianne Feinstein, haiku, Hillary Clinton, Mary Hayashi, Ralph Nader | No Comments »

Feinstein renews call for Obama-Clinton ticket

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tex., were on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer” today, and Feinstein — who on Thursday night hosted a closed-door, one-on-one meeting between presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his former rival, Hillary Clinton — said she still wants to see Obama pick Clinton as his running mate:

feinstein.jpgI believe he should. I think there are 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling that say, yes, do it. I think Hillary had something that is a bit unusual. She has a very committed woman constituency, female constituency right now. She has proved herself. She has grown in the campaign. She has some constituencies that he needs.

Now that’s not to say he can’t get them with others. He can. And he can get them with himself. But it’s such a natural to put these two together and to move on and then to go into what Kay says, the issues which are out there and they are big and they are major. And as I look at it, America stands at the point of crisis. It’s either more of the same or we change.

Meanwhile, CNN reports its poll released Friday found 60 percent of Clinton supporters said they would vote for Obama, but 17 percent said they would vote for McCain and 22 percent, said they would not vote at all if Clinton were not the nominee; that question’s margin of error was plus or minus 7.5 percentage points. And CNN found 54 percent of Democratic voters would support a Obama-Clinton ticket while 43 percent would oppose it, with a 4.5-percentage-point margin of error.

Hmmm. As an observer, I still don’t see the wisdom of an Obama-Clinton ticket. I don’t think it brings Obama any states he wouldn’t win anyway, as I believe far more Clinton supporters will be actively supporting him by November. And while vice-presidential canddiates are supposed to support but not overshadow the top of the ticket, I just don’t see Hillary (and Bill) Clinton as back-seaters.

Posted on Sunday, June 8th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Dianne Feinstein, Elections, Hillary Clinton | No Comments »

Dianne Feinstein hosted Obama-Clinton sitdown

It looks as if California’s own U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein hosted a momentous, closed-door, one-on-one meeting between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on Thursday night at her home in Washington. From CNN:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday shed some light on the surprise meeting between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that took place at the California Democrat’s Washington home Thursday night.

“I received them. Put them in the living room in two comfortable chairs facing one another and left,” Feinstein told CNN Tuesday morning.

“They talked. I went upstairs and did my work,” Feinstein continued. “They called me when it was over. I came down and said ‘good night everybody, I hope you had a good meeting.’ They were laughing and that was it.”

Among the other details Feinstein divulged:

  • - The meeting took place at 9 p.m. and lasted about an hour.
  • - Clinton called Feinstein Thursday afternoon to see if they could use her house.
  • - Feinstein served them water but nothing else.
  • - No one else was in the room with them. One person from each of the campaigns went to a separate room, a study, in the house. Security waited outside.
  • Asked why Clinton and Obama kept the meeting so quiet, Feinstein said the two formal rivals wanted “wanted an opportunity to meet together alone.”

    This is a deeply personal time too,” Feinstein added. “You’re sorting out your feelings. Hillary’s going to be giving a big speech tomorrow. Barack is trying to put things together for a major presidential campaign. ”

    “There are a lot of decompression, nerve endings, that need to come together,” she continued. “I think the opportunity to sit down, just the two of them, was positive.”

    Posted on Friday, June 6th, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, Dianne Feinstein, Elections, General, Hillary Clinton | No Comments »

    East Bay Clinton supporter ready to move on

    Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman Robin Torello of San Leandro, a Hillary Clinton delegate, said it’s time to move on.

    “I felt both of them gave really great speeches, and overall it appears Barack Obama is our nominee, and we look forward to defeating John McCain in November,” she said. “You don’t want another four years of George Bush and that’s what McCain represents.”

    “All I know is the party will be unified, no matter what. There’s too much at stake.”

    Asked what she thought of the idea of an Obama/Clinton ticket, Torello demurred. “Those people are just much much smarter than I am to figure that out, I’m just a little old person in Alameda County. Whatever is best for the party, that’s what I want to happen.”

    Posted on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Elections, Hillary Clinton, John McCain | No Comments »

    Jerry McNerney endorses Barack Obama

    mcnerneyportrait.jpgI just got off the phone with Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, who said he is now throwing his support as a Democratic National Convention superdelegate to Barack Obama.

    “I had made a commitment to stay out of it until after the primaries, I think that was a good thing to do… but on the other hand it’s now clear Senator Obama is going to be the nominee, and I think he’s going to be a great nominee for the party.”

    Democrats in McNerney’s district in February voted 54.1 percent for Clinton, 39.9 percent for Obama. McNerney in early March told the San Francisco Chronicle he would “make a decision when I have to… I’m going to let the voters decide for themselves.

    “I wanted to wait and let the process play out, but I don’t have any reservations,” he told me tonight. “According to the primary process, Senator Obama won fair and square over Senator Clinton with the number of pledged delgatges, and now I think it’s time for the party to come together behind the candidate.”

    McNerney said he has seen and heard an amazing outpouring of interest in and support for Obama in recent months. “Even in my district I think there’s a watershed change of support for him, so I have no reservations at all.”

    He said he spoke with both candidates as he made up his mind. “I sat down with Senator Clinton I guess about two weeks ago… I really admire what she’s done. She has run a very good campaign and she’s tough and she has good policies… but Senator Obama won fair and square and I can truly say I’m delighted to support him.”

    He said he spoke with Obama as well, reminding the candidate of his own background as a wind-energy consultant, and they agreed to confer on clean energy initiatives. “He basically said he’d be looking forward to working with me and looking for my input.”

    McNerney — a first-term incumbent who unseated House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, in a district with a shrinking Republican registration edge — is unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face former Assemblyman and Board of Equalization member Dean Andal of Stockton in November; the National Repbulican Congressional Committee has rated him among its top targets.

    Oh, and Congressman? Sorry about the haiku.

    Posted on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Elections, Hillary Clinton, Jerry McNerney | No Comments »

    Robert Reich: ‘An amazing ride,’ glad it’s over

    I just spoke with Robert Reich, U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton and now a University of California, Berkeley professor, who endorsed Obama in April. He said he’s glad to see the presidential primary endgame upon us.

    reich.jpg“It’s been an amazing ride — I don’t remember a primary that’s attracted more excitement and attention. People who are enormously cynical about politics have been glued to their televisions. What happens from here? Hopefully Senator Obama will make a victory speech that is extremely gracious toward Hillary Clinton, which compliments her on her campaign, gives her credit for whatever Obama can possibly find to give her credit for, and in general holds out the olive branch to her and to all of her supporters.

    “Hopefully likewise, she makes a concession speech that praises Senator Obama, focuses on what he has done right, celebrates his talents and character, wishes him the best in the general election and asks her supporters to come to support him, saying in no uncertain terms that she will fully support him. Hopefully then there is a photograph, or abundant photos of the two of them together with one arm around each other, the other raised almost as if they are president and vice president. The symbolism is very important, the graciousness is very important, the positive tone will be important.

    “Democrats have fought during many primaries; almost always they come together. The only exceptions were in 1968 when there was so much animosity, and perhaps in 1980 when Ted Kennedy ran against Carter… and both of those concerned real ideological divides. Here there is not much of an ideological divide — both candidates have stood for much the same thing. So despite the bad feelings that some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters may harbor toward Obama right now, I am confident they will disappear.”

    Did the race go on for too long?

    “I thought we were rapidly approaching the tipping point where the benefits of the excitement and enthusiasm and interest were just about to be overwhelmed by the disadvantages of not having a clear nominee this late in the game, when McCain is well into the general election.

    “But I don’t think that there would have been this much party-building had it not been for this competition between Obama and Hillary Clinton. It had an enormously positive effect on politics in terms of getting people interested again. I don’t think that’s going to end now. Obama has a very good chance of being what’s called a ‘transformative candidate,’ someone in the image of John F. Kennedy or Robert Kennedy who is seen to change the way we do politics in America.”

    Posted on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, Berkeley, Democratic Party, Elections, Hillary Clinton | No Comments »

    Political Haiku, Vol. 2

    Perata can’t pick
    between successors, backs both.
    Vote Lonma Chancock!

    DNC decides
    to seat delegates in half.
    Clinton’s goose is cooked.

    Still McNerney waits,
    his superdelegate vote
    so soon safely moot.

    Schwarzenegger comes
    to Oakland to flog budget.
    Dellums begs for cops.

    Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2008
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, California State Senate, Don Perata, Elections, haiku, Hillary Clinton, Jerry McNerney, Loni Hancock, Oakland, Ron Dellums, Wilma Chan | No Comments »

    What’s left for the Democrats

    With the Florida and Michigan delegates seated with half-votes, the new threshhold to clinch the Democratic nomination is 2,118. The Washington Post says Obama has 2,052 (66 short) while Clinton has 1,877 (241 short).

    Puerto Rico votes today, with 55 delegates; Clinton is expected to do well there. Montana and South Dakota vote Tuesday, with 16 and 15 delegates respectively; Obama is expected to do well there.

    And so it’ll go to the superdelegates. Politico says the superdelegate count now stands at 324.5 for Obama, 279.5 for Clinton and 163 undecided. The undecideds include 86 Democratic National Committee members; 48 House members and 15 U.S. Senators. And of the undecideds, 14 are from California:

  • Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego
  • Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel
  • Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego
  • Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton
  • DNC member state Sen. Carole Midgen, D-San Francisco
  • DNC member and state Democratic Party campaign advisor Bob Mulholland
  • DNC member, attorney and author Christine Pelosi of San Francisco
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco
  • DNC member and labor union political director John A. Perez of Los Angeles
  • DNC member and retired chemical worker Robert Rankin of Carson
  • DNC member and state party chairman Art Torres
  • DNC member and state official Keith Umemoto of Sacramento
  • DNC member and attorney Steve Ybarra of Sacramento
  • U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday in San Francisco that he, Pelosi and DNC chairman Howard Dean have agreed to try to end the race by the end of this week by urging the remaining uncommitted superdelegates to weigh in.

    Posted on Sunday, June 1st, 2008
    Under: Barack Obama, California State Senate, Carole Migden, Democratic Party, Elections, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »