Posted by Brad @ 6:03 pm on June 19th 2008


Nancy Boyda, in 2006, beat longtime representative Jim Ryun in one of the most conservative districts in the country, my old stomping grounds of KS-02 (I remember when Ryun was first elected, and all those “Run With Ryun” signs). At the time, literally beginning the day after, pundits kept saying “well, it’s a landslide year, but those reps that managed a one-off in deep red districts, like Boyda in Kansas, are going to have a tough time holding.” Which is fair enough.

Thus KS-02 has been a top target for the GOP, and 527s have been running ads there since the day she got elected, in particular hammering Nancy Boyda on FISA.

It turns out, she’s not as weak as was thought. Her approval rating is at 68%, which makes her one of the most popular politicians in the state, and in her reelection matchups she’s currently ahead +17. If this weren’t Kansas, one could easily get away with the statement “looks like she’ll cruise through reelection”. And hell, even though it is Kansas, I’ll say that.

Also of note, as the FISA fight continues in the House and Senate, now with a number of Democrats starting to get cold feet, that literally every time FISA has been trotted out as a campaign issue against a Democrat in a blood red district, it has fallen flat.

All this, to me, makes two points:

1. Those that thought 2006 was a one-off tide year, and that said tide would quickly pull out again, seem to be underestimating the strength of the tide, which looks set to blow through at least two cycles (three, if you count 2005 which turned Virginia blue, among other things). And most importantly:

2. Telecom immunity has no constituency. Even hawkish Republicans don’t quite get why they’re being asked to vote for blanket immunity for private companies to break the law if the President asks them to.


  1. Maybe it is just my new awareness, but I have never seen so many bald-faced power plays by congress in such a short period of time. The money is really working overtime.

    And many of them are Democrats going against their own voters!

    The Republicans are completely lost. They are arguing loudly on the wrong (and unpopular) side of issues and they don’t even know it. It is a form of collective suicide.

    I really wonder what they are thinking. It is going be ugly.

    Comment by daveg — 6/20/2008 @ 3:59 am

  2. The FISA bill can be explained as a CYA effort by the Political Class..

    Comment by Kaligula — 6/20/2008 @ 5:43 am

  3. I’ve met Nancy Boyda a couple of times (once when she stopped by the LP booth at the Shawnee County Fair), and she’s more likable than I expected. Maybe more likable than I want to admit.

    Comment by RoTalMomska — 6/20/2008 @ 9:01 am

  4. The FISA bill has passed the House, so I guess that a Senate filibuster is the only way forward.

    As for telecon immunity having no constituency, I don’t think that’s true. I think that finding out who in the administration ordered the illegal wiretaps is a bigger bone for the Congressional Democrats (indeed, Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was interviewed by NPR, that I heard this morning, and he was pretty much not after the telecons but wanted some heat on people in the Whitehouse). I’m not sure that the best time for that isn’t after the next President is in power, though, given that Bush would presumably pardon anyone under threat (in fact, of course, maybe he’ll do that anyhow).

    Comment by Adam — 6/20/2008 @ 9:07 am

  5. I’m of two minds on the immunity. On the one hand, arguments that the telecoms couldn’t have refused are pretty weak, as some did (although clearly the telecoms are dependent on getting along with government, for a variety of reasons). On the other hand, though, the idea of going after the telecons because of something that originated in and was orchestrated from the administration just looks like another in a long line of ‘Give the administration a pass’ (not helped, of course, by the fact that the President has pardon power).

    Certainly the telecoms should have to crawl over broken glass, but that won’t help the few (two, Leahy mentioned) that did obey the law. It would be ideal if there was some reward that could be given to them to ameliorate the moral hazard of the other telecoms escaping at least the most severe of possible sanctions.

    Comment by Adam — 6/20/2008 @ 9:13 am

  6. Obama backs the compromise bill on FISA but is unhappy about the retroactive immunity, saying he’ll work to get it removed from the Bill (he likes the rest). The question is whether he’ll vote against the bill if the removal efforts fail, I imagine.

    Comment by Adam — 6/20/2008 @ 4:17 pm

  7. He knows damn well he won’t succeed in removing the immunity, as does every other observer of the process.

    He is providing himself with the best semblence he can of cover.

    In civil libertarian terms, Obama’s decision on this matter is inexcusable.

    Comment by Rojas — 6/20/2008 @ 9:38 pm

  8. Well, that depends on whether he votes against the Bill, right? In some sense, he’s between a rock and a hard place — vote against the bill, be accused of being soft on security, vote for it and piss off the netroots — but it’s not like there’s a lot of these votes coming up, so although he might be irritated with Hoyer for negotiating this bill, it’s hardly going to be fatal.

    I think he’ll vote against the Bill, incidentally (unlike McCain, I presume). The main reason for keeping the retroactive immunity in is for leverage on the telecoms to get info on the administration, I think — I doubt that most people want the telecoms crucified for being put into a crappy situation by the administration — and maybe there’s another way around that (I honestly don’t know).

    Comment by Adam — 6/20/2008 @ 10:31 pm

  9. I don’t think it does depend on whether he ends up voting against the bill.

    Obama’s statement yesterday was the one and only opportunity to rally opposition to the House legislation. Had he chosen to stand against it, there would at minimum have been an intense fight, and there would have been extraordinary pressure on centrist Democrats to back their candidate on the matter.

    By more or less endorsing the legislation, Obama has guaranteed its passage. He knows this. He also knows that in doing so, he has guaranteed that telecom immunity will become law. He has deliberately chosen to forego his one and only opportunity to stop this train; whether he brings himself to vote against the final legislation at this stage is mere posturing.

    The telecom thing, by the way, is one issue on which I skew rather heavily to Brad’s side in the eternal Brad-Adam tug of war for my political soul. Given that several telecom companies DID in fact refuse to cooperate with the feds, and paid a price for it, I cannot fathom why we would contemplate letting their less principled competitors off the hook.

    Comment by Rojas — 6/21/2008 @ 1:08 am

  10. I think that it’s a recognition of the fact that the administration were the real villains and were exerting significant pressure on the telecoms (and Leahy said, when I heard, that it was two that refused, rather than ‘several’), who were presumably convinced that they were doing the Right Thing as well (and had assurances from the administration that it was legal).

    So, it’s not that people wish to give them a pass but that what they did pales compared to what the administration did and also that it’s considered to be understandable. I think that a lot of people would be happy with immunity to them in return for testimony and future undertakings not to do the same again. In this case, however, the retroactive immunity is not contingent on testimony (although presumably you can’t exert fifth amendment privilege when you’ve been given immunity?).

    Comment by Adam — 6/21/2008 @ 8:55 am

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