Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Integrity and Courage

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.


FranIAm said...

Hi John- what a great post. Your writing is excellent and you clearly have done your research.

Thanks for coming by my blog and sharing your thoughts. I love interchange, exchange and discussion, so our agreeing is not a prerequisite in my opinion.

PS- loved learning about the FISA telecom thing here; I would have come across it all but you elucidated things very clearly. thanks.

John J. said...

Thanks for the compliments, but I can't take all the credit. On this post I did ask for help from my wife to make it more coherent - I lose that a bit when it's something I'm pretty passionate about like this.

Mauigirl said...

Great post - found you through your comment on Fran's blog. Thanks for setting the record straight on Obama.

Batocchio said...

I'd heard about the present votes and Obama's great record on reproductive freedom, but the detail and links are useful.

And yup, the FISA vote is a heartbreaker. It's really astounding that honoring the Constitution is seen as so damn radical.

BAC said...

The ONLY organization that has a CONSISTENT record of supporting women's reprodutive rights is the National Organization for Women. If THEY say he is weak on reproductive rights I BELIEVE THEM.

I have seen in my own state the local PP and NARAL organizations sell out women when they didn't need to. We have been fighting with them over this for years. So a 100% rating from either of these groups simply does not carry the same weight as an endorsment from NOW. And NOW did not endorse Obama on a state level, or for the presidency.

You and delude yourself all you like John, but facts are a stubborn thing ... and in this case the facts behind Obama's "present" votes simply don't add up to "support" for women's reproductive rights.


BAC said...

One more thing, John ... about the Iran vote? Where was Obama? He didn't have the courage to show up for that important vote.

The guy is an empty suit.


John J. said...

BAC, I welcome opposing views here, but I will not put up with personal attacks on me.

Just because these organizations have said good things about Obama does not make them, as you are trying to imply in your comment, against or weak on women's rights. I do not have links to the legislation in question (if anyone does, please link), but it is my understanding that the legislation in question had some questionable language (usually legally questionable language - he was a constitutional law professor), but it was not enough to have him vote against the bill. NOW wanted his blind allegiance and he did not give it; for that I applaud him.

I agree that Obama should have voted on the Iran bill. He did, however, immediately introduce a bill limiting any action Bush could take. However, civil liberties are much more important to me, especially free speech and privacy rights.

BAC said...

Obama did not need to vote "present" on the bills in question. He represented a liberal district, and would not have suffered at all for fully supporting women's reproductive rights.

I am sharing with you front line stories in the battle to protect women's reproductive justice, and you dismiss it as nothing. Well all the poor and young women left out when PP and NARAL CAVE IN are NOT insignificant.

I have seen this for myself. I am NOT sharing second hand stories.

Obama can not claim to be "pro-choice" if he is not going to stand up for ALL women.

And one more thing. I've been a member of NOW for 20 years. I worked in the national NOW action center for 7 years, and have attended every NOW conference since joining -- including the one held in Chicago in the early 1990's (I believe it was in 1992) -- and I have never seen the Chicago NOW president you site in your story.

According to the CURRENT state NOW president, she was a member and chapter leader for a short time ... but NOT during the time period when Obama was voting "present" on the abortion bills.

Again, I choose to believe the woman I've had dinner with on many occassions over a woman I have never seen at a NOW event.

If privacy rights are important to you, then Obama is not your candidate.


John J. said...

No, Obama did not need to vote present, he could have blindly followed NOW's demands and voted yes. However, (and this is conjecture from the information given) he voted present because he did not feel language in the bill would hold legal or constitutional muster. This shows a level integrity to me greater than just taking the easy vote. It is nice that you want blind allegiance; that is the opposite of what I want in a representative or a president. I want a representative and president that stands up for what is right and legal, even when it isn't popular. That is the definition of moral courage.

As far as dismissing your statements about PP and NARAL as nothing, you gave me nothing other than vague "they didn't support us" statements. There is nothing to do with something empty like that except dismiss it. If you have article links, please share and I will make my judgment then.

I already addressed your lies about Lorna Brett Howard in my post, but to make it clear. She was president of the Chicago chapter of NOW - this was indirectly confirmed in your response. She was president of that chapter from 1995 to 1999 and worked directly with Obama on a number of womens rights issues. Neither she, nor I, have claimed that she worked with him during the present votes.

"If privacy rights are important to you, then Obama is not your candidate." WTF? Do you have anything to back up this outlandish statement? He has fought for net neutrality, fought against this FISA debacle, and one of his primary technology campaign policies is "Protect personal privacy through new regulations on surveillance and data collection."

Jaelithe said...

Senator Obama has clearly stated in public on numerous occasions that he not only supports a woman's right to choose but considers it fundamental to women's equality.

adoptee said...

It's been repeated that:

"Senator Obama has clearly stated in public on numerous occasions that he not only supports a woman's right to choose but considers it fundamental to women's equality."

Putting that another way, Obama supports a woman's right to kill an unborn child. Moreover, he believes her right to kill her unborn child is evidence of equality.

This point of view is simply insane. Meanwhile, no president has the power to end abortion. Even if Roe v Wade were overturned -- which won't happen -- each state is empowered to permit it. Thus, even if the Supreme Court reverses its opinion, almost every state would continue to permit abortion. Hence, it's time for women and Democrats to find a real issue on which to hang their political hats.

John J. said...

Adoptee, the question of women's reproductive rights is not as simple and black and white as you would make it. First, and most simple is, whose body is it? When a woman becomes pregnant is it her body, or the child's?

If Roe vs. Wade were overturned, it would give states the right to say that a man who raped a woman has the right to force her to have a child, and have regular interaction with the victim for years to come.

If it were overturned, states could say (and have been trying even under RvW) that a woman has to risk her life because the child's life is more important.

No one that I know of thinks that women should use abortion as a first resort. Most pro-choice supporters I know would rather not have an abortion, but they do recognize the rights issues and that in some cases it is the only option.

adoptee said...

john j, when it comes to abortion you ask whose body is it? Well, I think it's rather obvious the body in danger of suffering death at the hands of its mother is the fetus within her.

Your argument about rapists forcing women to bear unwanted children is hardly compelling. First, rape is a crime subjecting perpetrators to long sentences in jail. If a rapist intends to force a woman to bear a child, he must acknowledge his crime. That means he's heading for jail.

It also means he's financially responsible for the child. Thus, if we are really discussing something approaching marital rape, it means the male is going to forfeit his assets to the mother.

Furthermore, technology has neutralized your argument. The "morning after" birth control now exists. Thus, it is possible to prevent conception even in the extreme case you have attempted to construct.

It also matters little that no one you know uses abortion as a first choice. Of course you have no way of knowing this. Lying about abortion and birth control is a popular sport.

But we do know there are over a million abortions performed each year while there are about four million births. In other words, a lot of mistakes were made. Birth control -- if used as directed -- is almost 100% effective. In other words, it takes true carelessness for an unplanned pregnancy to occur.