Yeah, and….

Something I would be shot for if I posted on Dkoes….

I don’t like Obama, I admit it. Why? Because he has become everything to just about everybody which often means he really stands for nothing. Call me a cynic, call me jaded, call me bitter but his ability to sway people by saying basically nothing in his speeches is what concerns me.

I don’t go to rallies because I want to stay objective and I hate being in rooms with people who are so swept up by their emotions that they can be easily twisted for any goal. Is it nice to see that someone on our side has this ability? Sure. Does it mean that I expect him to actually fix anything major, no.

I read his speeches, I really do not like listening to him because as my mom says “It seems like he is beating me over the head and yelling at me.” To me, he sounds like a preacher, which I really don’t like. At any rate, I read his speeches and I am left with “Ok, and??” He takes 1000s of words to wind down to saying something specific, which is still couched and vague so he really commits to nothing. His speeches sound great, but his plans are nothing spectacular. For instance: Obama’ Education plan.

The Problem

No Child Left Behind Left the Money Behind: The goal of the law was the right one, but unfulfilled funding promises, inadequate implementation by the Education Department and shortcomings in the design of the law itself have limited its effectiveness and undercut its support. As a result, the law has failed to provide high-quality teachers in every classroom and failed to adequately support and pay those teachers.

Students Left Behind: Six million middle and high school students read significantly below their grade level. A full third of high school graduates do not immediately go on to college. American 15 year olds rank 28th out of 40 countries in mathematics and 19th out of 40 countries in science. Almost 30 percent of students in their first year of college are forced to take remedial science and math classes because they are not prepared.

High Dropout Rate: America has one of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world. Only 70 percent of U.S. high school students graduate with a diploma. African American and Latino students are significantly less likely to graduate than white students.

Teacher Retention is a Problem: Thirty percent of new teachers leave within their first five years in the profession.

Soaring College Costs: College costs have grown nearly 40 percent in the past five years. The average graduate leaves college with over $19,000 in debt. And between 2001 and 2010, 2 million academically qualified students will not go to college because they cannot afford it. Finally, our complicated maze of tax credits and applications leaves too many students unaware of financial aid available to them.

Barack Obama’s Plan

Early Childhood Education

   * Zero to Five Plan: Obama’s comprehensive “Zero to Five” plan will provide critical support to young children and their parents. Unlike other early childhood education plans, Obama’s plan places key emphasis at early care and education for infants, which is essential for children to be ready to enter kindergarten. Obama will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state “zero to five” efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school.

   * Expand Early Head Start and Head Start: Obama will quadruple Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding and improve quality for both.

   * Affordable, High-Quality Child Care: Obama will also provide affordable and high-quality child care to ease the burden on working families.

     K-12

         o Reform No Child Left Behind: Obama will reform NCLB, which starts by funding the law. Obama believes teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. He will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner. Obama will also improve NCLB’s accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.

         o Make Math and Science Education a National Priority: Obama will recruit math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and will support efforts to help these teachers learn from professionals in the field. He will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.

         o Address the Dropout Crisis: Obama will address the dropout crisis by passing his legislation to provide funding to school districts to invest in intervention strategies in middle school – strategies such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time.

         o Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve one million more children.

         o Expand Summer Learning Opportunities: Obama’s “STEP UP” plan addresses the achievement gap by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children through partnerships between local schools and community organizations.

         o Support College Outreach Programs: Obama supports outreach programs like GEAR UP, TRIO and Upward Bound to encourage more young people from low-income families to consider and prepare for college.

         o Support English Language Learners: Obama supports transitional bilingual education and will help Limited English Proficient students get ahead by holding schools accountable for making sure these students complete school.

     Recruit, Prepare, Retain, and Reward America’s Teachers

         o Recruit Teachers: Obama will create new Teacher Service Scholarships that will cover four years of undergraduate or two years of graduate teacher education, including high-quality alternative programs for mid-career recruits in exchange for teaching for at least four years in a high-need field or location.

         o Prepare Teachers: Obama will require all schools of education to be accredited. He will also create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively. Obama will also create Teacher Residency Programs that will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to high-need schools.

         o Retain Teachers: To support our teachers, Obama’s plan will expand mentoring programs that pair experienced teachers with new recruits. He will also provide incentives to give teachers paid common planning time so they can collaborate to share best practices.

         o Reward Teachers: Obama will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. Districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. Districts can reward teachers who work in underserved places like rural areas and inner cities. And if teachers consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.

     Higher Education

         o Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year’s tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due.

         o Simplify the Application Process for Financial Aid: Obama will streamline the financial aid process by eliminating the current federal financial aid application and enabling families to apply simply by checking a box on their tax form, authorizing their tax information to be used, and eliminating the need for a separate application.

and my pick Edwards:

 

Offer Universal “Great Promise” Preschool to Four-Year-Olds

Edwards will provide resources to states to help them offer universal high-quality preschool programs for four-year-olds. Great Promise programs will:

   * Teach academic skills: Preschool is much more than babysitting; it is a unique opportunity to teach children the skills they will need in school. Great Promise will help develop children’s language abilities and introduce them to early math, reading, and other academic concepts, as well as help develop their social and emotional skills.

   * Start in needy communities: The federal commitment will begin in low-income neighborhoods where schools are struggling and expand to serve more communities over time.

   * Be led by excellent teachers: Research shows that the most effective preschool teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree. Lead teachers in Great Promise will have four-year college degrees and be paid commensurately.

   * Involve parents and their families: Research shows that preschool benefits children the most when their parents are involved. Parental involvement will be essential to Great Promise.

   * Be voluntary and universally affordable: Participation would be fully voluntary for families. Tuition would be charged on a sliding scale based upon family income and waived for children from low-income families.

Create National Smart Start

North Carolina’s innovative Smart Start initiative promotes the healthy development of children under the age of five. It helps local partnerships make child care higher quality and more affordable, provides health services and supports families. Participating children show better cognitive and language skills and fewer behavioral problems. Edwards will help other states duplicate Smart Start programs, prioritizing children who are not served by other pre-K programs. Smart Start will:

   * Offer integrated services for young children: By linking together health care, child care, education, and family support services for children under five, Smart Start addresses all aspects of young children’s development and helps them begin school healthy and ready to succeed.

   * Perform health care outreach: Smart Start makes it easier for young children to get screening for health problems related to hearing, speech, vision, dental, and learning disabilities.

   * Sponsor home visits to new families: Home visits improve prenatal health and the quality of caregiving after birth. Children receiving nurse visits are cognitively more advanced, have fewer behavioral problems, and are less likely to be abused or neglected. The Smart Start program will fund home visits by registered nurses to 50,000 low-income new parents. [AAP, 2004; RJWF, 2006; NFP, 2006]

An Excellent Teacher in Every Classroom

Nothing is more important in a school than the relationship between a teacher and a child. In a single year, a good teacher can raise student achievement by a full grade level more than a less effective teacher. Yet students with the greatest needs are more likely to have less experienced and effective teachers. Poor urban and rural schools in particular struggle to attract and retain excellent teachers. While pay for CEOs and other highly paid workers skyrocketed in recent years, teachers earn a fraction of the salaries paid to other educated professionals.

John Edwards believes we need to invest more in training and paying our teachers to help every child learn at high levels. As president, he will:

Raise Pay by up to $15,000 More for Teachers in High-Poverty Schools

Two-thirds of states do not offer any incentives of any kind for teachers to work in high-poverty schools, and many veteran teachers choose to teach in other schools. Edwards will fundamentally change teachers’ incentives by helping states pay teachers in successful high-poverty schools as much as $15,000 more a year. The $15,000 raise includes:

   * $5,000 for all teachers in successful high-poverty schools: High-poverty schools with high academic performance, good student behavior, and high parent satisfaction could give up to $5,000 in bonuses to each of their teachers, encouraging a schoolwide culture of success. Bonuses will grow over time to reward continuing success and give teachers an incentive to stay. Successful schools will open their doors to share their experiences with other schools.

   * $5,000 for teachers with national certification for excellence in high-poverty schools: The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certifies excellent teachers, but few of these teachers teach in high-need schools. Teachers who have demonstrated high effectiveness in a national process, such as National Board certification, will be eligible for the higher pay.

   * $5,000 for veteran teachers who serve as mentors in high-poverty schools: Giving veteran teachers the opportunity to mentor new teachers creates opportunities for career advancement for longtime successful teachers, while providing much-needed guidance to new teachers.

To address other recruitment hurdles, Edwards will help states and school districts improve working conditions and increase time for teacher collaboration and planning. He will also address barriers for teachers moving between states by encouraging reciprocal credentials and studying ways to make pension plans compatible. [NCTAF, 1996 and 2002; Sanders and Rivers, 1996; Jordan, Mednro, and Weerasinghe, 1997; Peske and Haycock, 2006; Rural School and Community Trust, 2006 and 2007; NY Times, 8/27/2007]

Create a National Teacher University

While there are some successful education schools, many future teachers graduate without the skills and knowledge they need. In one survey, more than 60 percent of graduates said their education school did not prepare them. Because having great teachers is a national priority, Edwards will create a national teachers’ university – a West Point for teachers – to recruit 1,000 top college students a year, train them to be excellent teachers, and encourage them to teach where they are needed most. The school will waive tuition for students who go on to teach in schools and subject areas facing shortages. It will also lead improvements at education schools nationwide by developing and sharing model curriculum and practices and serve as a forum to promote shared certification and licensing requirements across states. [Levine, 2006]

Help Teachers in Their Early Years

A third of all new teachers leave the profession within three years. Students in high-poverty and high-minority schools are twice as likely as other students to be taught by inexperienced teachers. Edwards will help states support teachers during their early years. He will encourage a transition year for rookie teachers with smaller class sizes, reduced teaching loads, and minimal extra duties. Resources will support structured mentoring programs pairing new teachers with successful veterans. Finally, he will support professional development based in actual classroom needs. [Ingersoll, 2003; Ed Trust, 2007; Levine, 2006; NCATF, 2006]

Reduce Class Sizes

Smaller classes help students learn more by allowing them to get more individualized attention from teachers. According to a Tennessee study, young students in small classes are less likely to drop out of school and more likely to graduate on time, complete more advanced math and English courses, and receive honors. Poor and African-American students gain the most from smaller classes. Edwards will dedicate federal resources to reduce class sizes, particularly for young children who are learning below grade levels. [Krueger and Whitmore, 2001, 2002; Smith, Molnar, and Zahorik, 2003; U.S. Department of Education, 2000]

Train More Excellent Principals

Principals can have a large impact on student achievement by setting high expectations and recruiting and supporting teachers, but many districts face principal shortages and the turnover rate for principals in poor urban and rural districts is as high as 20 percent a year. Edwards will help train excellent principals for high-need schools. Programs could be operated by schools of education, school districts, business schools, or other non-profits with a proven track record like New Leaders for New Schools. Establishing programs to train 3,000 principals a year will meet the needs of most of the country’s high-need urban and rural schools. [Education Sector, 2007; Aspen Commission, 2007; Leithwood et al. 2004; Education Week, 9/12/2007]

Use Highly Qualified Teachers for Tutoring

No Child Left Behind requires schools that fail to make adequate progress for three years in a row to set aside up to 20 percent of their Title I funds to pay for “supplemental service” tutoring programs, often offered by private companies with unproven capabilities. Edwards will require that tutors be highly qualified teachers.

Making Every School an Outstanding School

Every child in America should have the chance to attend an outstanding public school that has high expectations for every child. Children need to master both basic skills in reading, writing and math and advanced thinking skills like creativity, analytic thinking and using technology. We cannot tolerate the benign neglect of our schools. No Child Left Behind has lost its way by imposing cheap standardized tests, narrowing the curriculum at the expense of science, history, and the arts and mandating unproven cookie-cutter reforms on schools. As a result, it has lost the support of teachers, principals, and parents, whose support is needed for any reform to succeed.

John Edwards believes that we need to overhaul No Child Left Behind to center our schools around children, not tests, and help struggling schools, not punish them. He will:

Overhaul No Child Left Behind

The law must be radically changed to live up to its goal of helping all children learn at high levels, accurately identifying struggling schools, and improving them. Its sole reliance on standardized, primarily multiple choice reading and math tests has led schools to narrow the curriculum. Its methodology for identifying failing school can be arbitrary and unfair. And it imposes mandatory, cookie-cutter reforms on these schools without any evidence they work. Edwards supports:

   * Better tests:Rather than requiring students to take cheap standardized tests, Edwards believes that we must invest in the development of higher-quality assessments that measure higher-order thinking skills, including open-ended essays, oral examinations, and projects and experiments.

   * Broader measures of school success: Edwards believes that the law should consider additional measures of academic performance. The law should also allow states to track the growth of students over time, rather than only counting the number of students who clear an arbitrary bar, and give more flexibility to small rural schools.

   * More flexibility: Edwards will give states more flexibility by distinguishing between schools where many children are failing and those where a particular group is falling behind. He will also let states implement their own reforms in underperforming schools when there is good reason to believe that they will be at least equally effective.

Launch a “Great Schools” Initiative to Build and Expand 1,000 Successful Schools

Across America, there are public schools that are helping children from all backgrounds succeed, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, small schools, and other models. Edwards will help 250 schools a year expand or start new branches. Federal funds will support new buildings, excellent teachers, and other needs. Among the schools he will support are:

   * Small schools: Small high schools create stronger communities, reducing adolescent anonymity and alienation and encouraging teachers to work together. At 47 new small high schools recently opened in New York City, graduation rates are substantially higher than the citywide average. Communities can establish multiple schools within an existing facility, build new schools, and reopen old facilities. [Aspen Institute, 2001; N.Y. Times, 6/30/2007]

   * Early college high schools: High schools on college campuses let students earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree (or two years of transfer credit) in only five years. In North Carolina, Governor Mike Easley’s Learn and Earn initiative raises rigor and aspirations, reduces tuition costs, and relieves overcrowded college campuses. [American Institutes for Research and SRI International, 2007; Easley, 2007]

   * Economically integrated schools: While income diversity is not a substitute for racial diversity, low-income students perform best when in middle-class schools where they are more likely to have experienced teachers and classmates with high aspirations. States can build magnet schools in low-income communities and create incentives for middle-class schools to enroll more low-income children. [Kahlenberg, 2007; Harris, 2006; NY Times, 7/15/05]

Create a School Success Fund to Turn Around Struggling Schools

Improving our worst schools is going to take more than federal mandates of unproven remedies; it will require a serious commitment of resources. A new School Success Fund will:

   * Let experts design and implement reforms: Based on North Carolina’s successful reform, Edwards will ask teams of experienced educators to spend a year at struggling schools helping start reforms. These educators will tailor comprehensive solutions to each school, rather than adopting silver bullets or one-size-fits-all solutions.

   * Provide resources to implement them: Some schools need more resources to help their children succeed. The School Success Fund will target resources to the neediest schools. Resources will be available to recruit new school leadership and a core of excellent teachers, reduce class sizes, duplicate proven models, strengthen the curriculum, and other reforms.

   * Emphasize extra learning time: Due to our 180-day school year, American children spend much less time in class than their foreign competitors. Many other countries have 25 percent more instructional time, which adds up to more than two years by the end of high school. When combined with making better use of learning time and designed with educators, longer school days and years create new opportunities for children to master the basics and a broader curriculum. [ED in 08, 2007; Zimmerman, 1998; CAP, 2006]

   * Establish stronger academic and career curricula: The rigor of high school classes is the number-one predictor of college success. Even students who do not go to college need strong math and reading skills in the workplace. Edwards believes that all schools xE2x80x93 even those in small, isolated, and high-poverty areas – should have access to challenging Advanced Placement courses. And he will support partnerships between high schools and community colleges to help high school students get the training they need for the good jobs where skilled workers are in short supply today. [US Department of Education, 1997; ACT, 2006; ED in 08, 2007]

More Resources for Poor and Rural Schools

Four out of five urban school districts studied nationally spend more on low-poverty schools than on high-poverty schools. Rural schools enroll 40 percent of American children – including most children in Iowa, New Hampshire, and North Carolina – but receive only 22 percent of federal education funding. Edwards will increase federal Title I funding and dedicate the increases to low-income schools and districts and rewarding states that distribute funding where it is needed most to increase learning. He will also invest in distance education and cutting-edge software to bring the promise of new learning technologies to remote areas. [NASBE, 2003; Rural School and Community Trust, 2007; Digital Promise, 2003]

Meet the Promise of Special Education

More than thirty years ago, Congress committed to fund 40 percent of the excess cost of educating children with disabilities, but it provides less than half that amount. George Bush has proposed a $300 million cut. Edwards opposes the Bush cuts and supports getting on a path toward meeting the federal promise. [Committee for Education Funding, 2007]

Raise Graduation Rates

Almost a third of all students drop out of school before earning a high school diploma, and rates among children of color or from low-income families are higher. At nearly 2,000 high schools nationwide – called “dropout factories” – more than 40 percent of students won’t graduate. Edwards will create multiple paths to graduation such as Second Chance schools for former dropouts and smaller alternative schools for at-risk students. He will focus on identifying at-risk students and support the Striving Readers literacy program and one-on-one tutoring to keep them in school. Edwards will also fund additional guidance counselors in high-poverty schools. [Baron, 2005; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2007; Balfranz and Legters, 2004; NCES, 2004]

Support High School Service Programs

The energy and enthusiasm of high school students who want to make their community and their country a better place to live. One type of service program, service-learning, has been shown to have positive impacts on students’ civic engagement, college enrollment, career development, and personal relationships. Nearly half of school-age children lack the activities and role models that are opportunities to make a difference through helping others. Edwards will create a Community Corps service programs for high school students. It will provide resources to high schools that choose to make community service a graduation requirement, helping them make service opportunities higher in quality and integrate them into the curriculum. [NYLC, 2006; America’s Promise Alliance, undated]

I am posting them in their entirety because I think it is important to see the differences.

Notice Edwards adds a lot more into his plan, more about smaller class sizes, more dollar amounts as to what the teachers could expect, more about rural education, a service corps for kids that will help them meet those extra requirements, more about helping teachers be able to switch between states etc.

When I read Obama’s plans, it’s like reading an outline that touches on the things that really upset people the most so he can make people think he will fix things. Edwards’ is like a finished product. I know Edwards is out of the race but sometimes I don’t understand people. Edwards also has a habit of telling you how he would pay for it. Obama’s plans are good, but he has a habit of making me wonder about how much he will actually fight for them. I can’t get out of my head that as much as he hated this war according to his all important one speech, he kept voting to fund it; which means he funded torture, he funded Blackwater, he funded Gitmo, he funded all the corruption and kickbacks. When this is told to his supporters, they say “Well we are already there, defunding would just hurt the troops.” Then they turn around and blame Edwards for co sponsoring the AUMF and overlook the fact that later Edwards voted to not give Bush a blank check. It really is “Obama can do no wrong.” At least I will admit Edwards was stupid with the AUMF. They won’t with Obama.

I know we are not really supposed to write candidate diaries but I saw the one about Obama in NOLA. Once again he is talking really well, but where has he been since Hurricane Katrina? Did he make it the centerpiece of his campaign? No. Did he go down or take people there to help rebuild? No. Was he out there protesting the treatment of NOLA after the hurricane happened? No. PRoviding any grand speeches or leadership? No. So what really is he offering us that we do not already get from the Dem leadership, pretty speeches, lots of promises but little or no actual results.  

36 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. i have much the same feelings about obama, but a much harder time of putting it into words.  it’s a cult of personality…it reminds me of what a persuasive speaker hitler was (and, no, im not comparing obama to hitler, only suggesting that being sucked in by style and passion can be dangerous)…it gives me the icky ‘who would you rather have a beer with’ feeling of voting for someone you like over a more competent candidate.

    i had decided not to participate in the dem v. dem primary, intending to devote my time, energy, and money to a dem v. republican general election….but im now regretting not giving more support to dodd, and then edwards.  you live, you learn…

    candidate ESSAYS are perfectly ok at docudharma…..candidate WARS are discouraged…

  2. Obama’s plans are good, but he has a habit of making me wonder about how much he will actually fight for them.

    … is something I wonder about as well.  It’s an unknown, I think.

    I was not impressed by his NOLA speech, though many folks I greatly respect were.  I wonder how much he really understands about how it was the incompetence of the Corps of Engineers that caused the damage, not Katrina.  And the 100 year plan, I don’t think that’s enough, nor is it any difference than what Bush gave lip service to.

    As far as rhetoric … I’ve read and heard a bazillion inspiring speeches.  I think I am immune to that kind of inspiration.  And perhaps I am envious of folks who are not, who can feel so swept up by someone.

    I do care about the younger generation, though.  If he does become President, I think the younger folks he’s brought into the process will have a chance they might not otherwise have had — not to help him, per se, but to make their own way as citizens in this country.  So that’s a plus, even as it doesn’t really address my own political concerns.

    • Edger on February 9, 2008 at 7:06 pm

  3. first, this demostrates how a leader is something other than mearly the best thought or the best social policies…..

    for good or ill obama inspires and the tired world is tired ….

    they need someone to offer them camelot again……

    second, maybe no matter what any body says……

    maybe the system is broken and this is as good/bad as it gets….

    maybe facism is the only form of governance that will coalesce out of the horror of the current human psyche at this scale……….

    maybe it will only get worse until it gets smaller……

  4. affected by my involvement in the Dean campaign 4 years ago. Because ever since then, I’m not as interested in what a candidate promises to do as I am in what he can motivate and inspire the people to do.

    I have no idea what Obama might do with the motivation he has inspired in people, that’s the big risk. But I am much more interested in his ideas that speak of that than I am in what kind of power Clinton will wield (especially given who she is surrounding herself with).

    I can appreciate the need to continue to compare Obama to Edwards. I’m still not over thinking about what Dean would have done differently over these past 4 years. But Edwards isn’t in the race anymore. So if I want to have any say in the situation, I have to decide between Obama and Clinton.  

    • Tigana on February 9, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    A friend wrote this, and I mostly agree:

    “I’m sick of Americans falling for Hillary Clinton, Obama and all those phonies. I don’t trust Obama at all and he has no credibility whatsoever as a peace candidate; he panders to AIPAC, is a member of the CFR and has advocated invading Pakistan. Despite this people think he’s going to save them and fall for him because he looks young and he’s black. I hate Hillary Clinton even more, that slimy demagogue.

    It frustrates me to repeat over and over again that American elections are a

    complete sham; despite this they insist on voting Hillary because she has more chances to win than Ron Paul. At least Ron Paul has credentials and a real movement behind him. Those (progressive blog) fly-trap places do nothing but reinforce those phonies and give them a veneer of grassroots support they don’t deserve.”

    Watch Obama on Pakistan

    http://www.truthnews.us/?p=1887

    Obama’s economic advisor is a 1991 Yale Skull and Bones alumnus, Austan Goolsbee.

    His foreign policy advisor/handler is Zbigniew Brezinski, co-founder of the Tri-Lateral Commision and his wife is linked to the Council on Foreign Relations.

    http://www.rense.com/general80

    Obama On The Reauthorization Of The PATRIOT Act

    January 30, 2008

    Senator Obama discusses the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act.

    Podcast Transcript:

    Hello, this is Senator Barack Obama and today is Friday, December 16th, 2005.

    You know four years ago, following 9/11, this body that I serve in, the United States Senate, passed the USA PATRIOT Act in order to give our nation’s law enforcement the tools they needed to track down terrorists – terrorists who possibly right now are looking to exploit weaknesses in our laws and our security and carry out even deadlier attacks than we saw back then.

    All of us agree that we need legislation to make it harder for suspected terrorists to go undetected in this country. All of us agree that we need to make it harder for them to organize and strategize and get flight licenses and sneak across our borders – every single America wants that to happen.

    But soon after the PATRIOT Act passed, I began hearing concerns from people of every background, every political leaning that this law – the very purpose of which was to protect us – was also threatening to violate our rights and our freedoms as Americans. That it didn’t just provide law enforcement the powers it needed to keep us safe, but powers that it didn’t need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion.

    Now, what’s happened in Washington, of course, is that the debate as usual has degenerated into this “either-or” type debate. So, either we’re in favor of protecting our people from terror or we will protect our most cherished civil liberties. That’s a false choice. It asks too little of us, assumes too little about America.

    That’s why as it’s come time to reauthorize this law, there have been a group of senators, including myself, working in a bi-partisan way to show the American people that we can track down terrorists without trampling on our civil rights. We want to show the American people that the federal government will only issue warrants and execute searches because it needs to, not because it wants to. In other words, what we’ve been trying to do is to inject some accountability in this process – to get answers and to see evidence where there is suspicion.

    So, a bi-partisan group of Senators several weeks ago actually came up with a compromise piece of legislation – you had people like Russ Feingold on the left and Larry Craig on the right agree to this bill. We passed it out of the Senate unanimously. It wasn’t perfect but at least it addressed some of the most serious provisions, like the so-called “sneak-and-peek” provisions, that existed in current law.

    Unfortunately, the house members decided they didn’t like this bill. They put some rushed legislation together that fails to address the concerns that people had about the previous PATRIOT ACT. So, just to give you a couple of examples: this legislation puts our own Justice Department above the law. When National Security Letters are issued this legislation that’s been proposed allowed federal agents to conduct any search on any American, no matter how extensive or wide-ranging, without ever going before a judge to prove that the search is necessary. All they needed was sign-off from a local FBI official. That’s it.

    Once a business or a person received notification that they will be searched, they are prohibited from telling anybody about it; they can’t challenge this automatic gag order in court. Despite the fact that judges have already found similar restrictions violate the First Amendment – the bill that is before the Senate disregards this case law and the right to challenge the gag orders.

    If you do decide to consult an attorney for legal advice – you have to tell the FBI that you’ve done so already. This is unheard of – there is no such requirement in any other area of the law, and I don’t see why it’s justified here.

    If somebody wants to know why their own government has decided to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document, through library books they’ve read , phone calls they’ve made, e-mails that they’ve sent – this legislation gives people no rights to appeal the need for such a search in a court of law. No judge will hear their plea, no jury will hear their case.

    And that’s – that’s just plain wrong.

    Now, I’m happy to say that we had our first vote on this issue on the floor of the Senate today. There was a procedure that is called a “cloture vote.” Cloture means that it ends debate, it eliminates the possibility of the filibuster. Those of us who thought this was a bad compromise voted against cloture, and a number of Republicans joined us and in fact cloture, which required 60 votes, did not succeed.

    And so the Republican leadership is scrambling right now to figure out what they’re going to do, and the White House has threatened that they are just going to let the Patriot Act lapse all together and will then blame Democrats if there is a terrorist attack prior to reauthorization of a new Patriot Act. Now that kind of rhetoric makes absolutely no sense, as you might imagine. If in fact the White House and the Republican leadership think that these provisions are absolutely vital, then you’d think that they would accept Democrats’ offer to extend it for three months as we continue to work on this compromise. There’s a lot of political posturing going on around this and I think that needs to end because the issues that we’re dealing with here are too important to play politics with.

    So, I am hopeful that we get an extension on the existing Patriot Act for three months; we can work out a compromise that ensures our civil liberties are protected; that provides for the critical judicial oversight that’s at the core of most of our law enforcement processes; that still gives law enforcement the tools that they need in order to protect our homeland.

    Now, having said all this let me also complain to you. As a consequence of the disorganization here in the Senate and whoever is running the ship, I am supposed to be flying over the Pacific Ocean right now – with my family – about to land in Hawaii for my vacation with my wife and kids. They have gone without me. My wife basically said, “Well, I hope you can make it, buddy” and took off. So, it looks like I’m stuck in Washington this weekend. As you might imagine, I’m not happy about this.

    Despite that fact, I want to mention that I probably won’t be doing a podcast until early January. I’m going to be traveling after my vacation to the Middle East, including Iraq and Israel. If the schedule and logistics allow it I’m going to try to record a podcast while I am in the Middle East. Either way I’ll try to give you guys a full report when I get back.

    So despite the fact that I’m feeling a little gloomy right now, the grinch has sort of stole my Christmas – he looks surprisingly like Bill Frist – nevertheless, I am hoping that all of you guys have a wonderful holiday season, a happy new year, and I look forward to talking to you soon.

    Bye-Bye.

  5. on some recent titles about George McGovern, and he wrote:

    A candidate who claims an identity apart from conventional politics must have a very deft touch once he pivots back to the regulars. Otherwise he just looks like a sellout, erasing the very foundation of the original appeal.

    I wonder how far marketing can take us?

  6. …is that the best, most detailed plan of any presidential candidate, hell, of any president for that matter is subject to drastic change and amendment through the legislative process.  so, even if you could have senator edwards win 90 per cent of the popular vote in 2008, his detailed plans for education, health-care, poverty-reform, and any other plan, would require congressional approval.

    since i can think of no plan that has ever passed congress and signed into law that has not had modifications and compromise before signing, a president edwards would face the same obstacle.

    so, it comes down to deciding which candidate you believe will fight for his or her plan most effectively. it is about judgment and strength and the ability to achieve–i hate to say the word, ‘consensus’–with the congress.

    in other words, the fact that senator edwards fills in every detail of each of his plans is quite admirable; but, on the other hand, the reality of the situation is that the legislation he envisions will change before he get to sign it.

    during the legislative process, the president must fight for his or her plan, and not fall prey to special interests and lobbying efforts of those who wish his or her plan to fail. so, you want a president that you believe is strong enough, and shows a commitment to not pander to special interests.

    • Tigana on February 10, 2008 at 12:11 am

    • pico on February 10, 2008 at 1:26 am

    that you feel you’d be shot for posting something like this at dkos.  I agree with you, but it speaks to the sad state of primary season.  There’s nothing remotely offensive in this diary, but you’re right that you’d be swamped with negative comments.  I don’t think it’s anything specific to Obamaphilia, but a product of the overwhelming majority there: in other words, if you were to post a similar critique of Clinton at a site with huge Clinton support, you’d be ripped in much the same way.

    This is why I’ve found myself coming to Clinton’s defense so much recently.  Of the two I’d probably lean towards Obama in a vote, but the unchecked praise of Obama and criticism of Clinton at dkos means that we don’t get a properly balanced discussion of the two (almost identical) candidates.  I’m sure most of the people there mean well, but it’s so easy to get sucked into the wave and not apply the same critical thought to speeches, platforms, and sound bites (I hear it’s the same at MyDD, but for Clinton).  

    I’m glad that never developed here, and I’m glad you’re comfortable posting it.

  7. Actually, since we’re so mired in the one party, corporate dominated system, I figure he’s more likely to bring young people into the game than HRC or McCain, so he’s a better choice for my vote.  After all, the Gen X, Gen Y, post 18 year olds are going to inherit the gigantic mess we’ve left them, so they should get involved now, rather than let us older folks (I’m a Boomer) continue to destroy everything.  If Obama can inspire them to vote and talk about issues, that’s a step in the right direction and he’s got my vote.  Even if he’s talking generalities.  Even if I don’t have a firm idea of what his plan about education might be.  To me that’s not important.  Why?  Because all of us dirty hippie, SDS, dope smoking, tree huggers need to start to turn over the battle to fresh troops, the new guys.  Hillary won’t get them in the battle.  McCain won’t get them in the battle.  They’ll yawn, turn on their iPods, and stay home.

    Let them be inspired by Obama.  Let them elect Obama.  Support them in doing that.  And then let them try to hold his feet to the fire to bring about a real change in a government that’s owned lock stock and barrel by corporate interests.  I want reinforcements.  I want the young folks to take it over. I’m going to go fishing and sit on the porch.  

  8. outside of the Democratic party, instead of hoping that the same merry-go-round will eventually take them someplace different.

Comments have been disabled.