Senator Chris Dodd's Presidential campaign died with a whimper in Iowa. But he still seems to be dictating national security policy to fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill, and unless the Bush Administration is willing to fight, perhaps to the next President too.
We're told that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is saying privately he now won't attempt to update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on the wiretapping of al Qaeda suspects. Instead, he'll merely support another 18-month extension of the six-month-old Protect America Act. Among other problems, the temporary bill includes no retroactive immunity for the telecom companies that cooperated with the feds after 9/11.
Well done, Senator Dodd. This shows, once again, that it does not take many validating voices or actions in order for our campaigns to make a difference in the national discourse, or on Capitol Hill. Dodd took up our call to filibuster retroactive telecom immunity, and now the FISA bill is dead because of it. We saw much the same thing with Bill Richardson and residual forces. Once we worked together with a high-profile Democrat, we were able to change the debate on Iraq in the Democratic primary. Maxine Waters did much of the same thing on the Ned Lamont campaign back in 2006, and Russ Feingold did the same on a timetable for Iraq in 2005. Just one or two high-profile, validating voices can allow a blogosphere charged campaign enough credibility to be taken seriously on a national level.
It is satisfying to read the Wall Street Journal crying over this. It is empowering to see one of our campaigns succeed. It is satisfying to answer all of those emails I received back in August about how the progressive blogosphere supposedly dropped the ball on FISA, and was instead hob-nobbing with high-profile Democrats at Yearly Kos. With clear campaign goals, a couple of validating voices, and excellent staff working as liaisons between the blogosphere and the validating voices, we can really make a difference in American politics. Let me also give a special shout-out to Tim Tagaris and Matt Browner Hamlin who worked on Dodd's Internet team. Without them, a victory like this simply may not have been possible.
Update: The ACLU is fighting for no extension at all. That would be an even bigger victory, if successful. More updates on their campaign when I have them. At the least, this is a victory on telecom immunity.