The fact that the FISA bill successfully cleared the cloture hurdle in the Senate by a 80-15 margin, is significant. It shows that the Democrats, with an election looming, are finally ready to stop posturing about national security and do something about it.
This is a far cry from what Bush wanted but he had to cave on the bill in order to get reauthorization for the Terrorist Surveillance Program - a vital tool in stopping terrorist attacks here at home.
On a vote of 80 to 15, the Senate officially began debate on a sweeping rewrite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, with an eye toward final passage of the bill as early as today. The large margin demonstrated that the bill's opponents -- the American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy rights organizations -- do not have enough support to derail the measure through a filibuster, which Sens. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) had threatened.
The bill would require that the secret FISA court approve procedures for intercepting foreign nationals' e-mails and telephone calls. Spying on U.S. citizens, including those overseas, would require individual warrants from the same court.
It also would establish the FISA law, and the secret court it created, as the final legal authority on government spying.
None of the candidates for president - including Hillary Clinton - voted on the cloture measure. Obama supports the bill and has said that he would now feel comfortable using the TSP while president - now that it's "legal" he says. No word on what he believed was "illegal" about the program.
As for the left, they have gone ballistic against Obama:
Because Obama refuses to share their fantasies of Bush tearing up the constitution in order to seize dictatorial power and that the TSP is illegal, unconstitutional, and unnecessary, the netrots are screaming bloody murder.
Disappointed over his position on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the online activists feel jilted and betrayed and have taken to questioning his progressive credentials. One prominent blogger, Atrios, has even given him the moniker "Wanker of the Day."
"He broke faith," said Matt Stoller, a political consultant and blogger at OpenLeft.com. "Obama pledged to filibuster, and he is part of that old politics, in this case, that he said he wasn't. It will spur us to challenge him."
The FISA debate marks the presumptive Democratic nominee's first serious break from the liberal Netroots in the general election. He is still their candidate, but the FISA issue has reignited skepticism among major bloggers, who had largely pushed aside doubts about Obama when Edwards, their favored candidate, ended his bid in February.
Obama's post-partisan persona hasn't always meshed so well with the noisy and contentious Netroots, and his rise to prominence has come without their full-throated support. He told reporters in February that he doesn't read blogs and has long been viewed as cool to the Netroots - a notion that the candidate's new media director, Joe Rospars, disputed this week at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York, saying Obama was a favorite of the readers of the major bloggers.
But no need to worry. I'm sure Obama will have their full support if he becomes president and wishes to use the program himself to protect America. And that's what this cloture vote represented; a recognition by the Democrats that playtime was over and it was time to get serious about protecting this country.
When Barack Obama says that national security trumps the issue of telecom immunity, you know that a new wind is blowing in the Democratic party.