Clinton and Obama avoid future weak-on-terror ads

Sens. Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama will avoid a spate of weak-on-terror ads by John McCain or his surrogates, particularly those alleging the senators voted to deny intelligence agencies the power to monitor terrorists’ phone calls or e-mails. That’s because when time came to vote on a new intelligence surveillance law, the presidential candidates didn’t vote.

The Senate passed S. 2248, the FISA Amendments Act, by an overwhelming majority of 68 to 29. Clinton and Obama were two of three senators listed as “not voting.” Republican Lindsey Graham was the third. John McCain, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, voted in favor of the bill.

As I noted earlier today, Clinton didn’t vote on the most controversial amendment to the bill, granting immunity from lawsuits to telecom companies that assisted the government with warantless surveillance activities. That amendment passed and is in the final bill that now heads to the House. (Obama voted against immunity, McCain for it.)

The Clinton campaign told Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic, “Senator Clinton was unable to vote earlier, but she has made her strong opposition to this legislation crystal clear.” The senator was in Texas campaigning.

The FISA Amendments Act was arguably the most important piece of national security legislation taken up by the Senate in the past year. Presumably, the Democratic candidates’ non-votes will shield them from Republican accusations that they voted against the intelligence community. Maybe they saw the RNC Daisy ad. There’s also a decent chance that Obama and Clinton, despite statements to the contrary, actually think the Senate has passed a decent bill, one that a future president would find advantageous.