A lot of noise has been made in the past year about Barack Obama's "present" votes in the Illinois state Senate. The Illinois chapter of NOW has recently joined the Clinton campaign in implying that Obama's present votes on certain bills while in the Illinois state legislature mean he is weak on women's rights; on the contrary, Barack Obama received a 100% positive rating from Planned Parenthood during his state senate career, and has consistently received 100% positive ratings from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL since being elected to the national Senate. Anyone who knows how the state Senate works in Illinois, however, realizes that Present votes are merely procedural votes, and are usually actually a sign of support for the bill . These assertions that Obama is weak on women's rights were so fallacious that former Chicago NOW president (1995 - 1999) and strong Hillary Clinton supporter, Lorna Brett Howard, publicly changed her affiliation and now supports Obama and is now being slimed by NOW and the Clinton campaign.
These tactics are bad enough on their own, but something that happened today in the Senate slams home the irony. Many of you know I have been supporting Sen. Dodd's fight against retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that assisted the government in illegally wiretapping American citizens. This fight has been delayed time and again through numerous procedural tactics, even though Democratic Majority Leader Reid fought hard to bring it to a vote. A civil rights betrayal succeeded today in the Senate when a version of the FISA bill including immunity provisions passed despite Senator Dodd's objections (fortunately the House did not pass the retroactive immunity clause so the fight does go on). In the vote for cloture (end the debate) only 29 people voted against, among them Sen. Obama. Also voted on at the same time was an amendment proposed by Sen. Dodd to remove the retroactive immunity; this vote failed 67 to 31, again with Sen. Obama voting to remove the immunity.
Sen. Clinton on the other hand didn't even have the political courage to vote "present"; she chose not to be there at all.
It doesn't take much integrity to twist your opponent's votes in such a way as to make him appear weak on women's rights. It takes a complete lack of integrity to launch such attacks when you aren't willing to put your voice on either side of the debate for everyone's rights. Sen. Obama has fought for 26 years, from the beginning of his public career for women's, minority, and everyone else's rights - from his time as a community organizer in Chicago, through his time as a civil rights lawyer to his state and federal Senate positions. It takes true political courage to stand up for what is right when it is not popular.
As a side note, my local Senator, Claire McCaskill (also an Obama supporter), voted to bring cloture and against the anti-immunity amendment, a vote which seriously lessens the likelihood of my voting for her again two years from now. We'll have to see.
The EFF has much more information on what the FISA provisions mean for you; check it out and while you are at it throw them some support.