The SanityPrompt

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Feingold Draws Little Support for Censure - Yahoo! News

Profiles In Courage

Feingold Draws Little Support for Censure - Yahoo! News

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Democrats distanced themselves Monday from Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold's effort to censure President Bush over domestic spying, maneuvering to prevent a vote that could alienate swing voters. Republicans dared Democrats to vote for the proposal.

"Some Democrats in Congress have decided the president is the enemy," Vice President Dick Cheney' told a Republican audience in Feingold's home state.

Feingold, a potential presidential candidate, said on the Senate floor, "The president has violated the law and Congress must respond."

"A formal censure by Congress is an appropriate and responsible first step to assure the public that when the president thinks he can violate the law without consequences, Congress has the will to hold him accountable," Feingold said.

Even as he spoke, Democratic leaders held off the immediate vote that Majority Leader Bill Frist requested. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he didn't know if there ever would be one.

Throughout the day, Feingold's fellow Democrats said they understood his frustration but they held back overt support for the resolution.
Several said they wanted first to see the Senate Intelligence Committee finish an investigation of the warrantless wiretapping program that Bush authorized as part of his war on terrorism.

Asked at a news conference whether he would vote for the censure resolution, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada declined to endorse it and said he hadn't read it.

Sen. Joe Lieberman', D-Conn., said he had not read it either and wasn't inclined simply to scold the president.

"I'd prefer to see us solve the problem," Lieberman told reporters.

Across the Capitol, reaction was similar. Feingold's censure resolution drew empathy but no outright support from Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi "understands Sen. Feingold's frustration that the facts about the NSA domestic surveillance program have not been disclosed appropriately to Congress," her office said in a statement. "Both the House and the Senate must fully investigate the program and assign responsibility for any laws that may have been broken."

Hello! Yo Pelosi - it's not that they didn't tell Congress. It's that they broke the law and eavesdropped without a warrant. In defiance of established law.


I continue to be shocked and dismayed at the weakness of the leadership of the Democratic Party. The Harry Reids, Nancy Pelosis, Hillary Clintons, and Joe Liebermans of the world apparently believe that the mid-term elections are the Democrats' big chance and if they don't do anything too controversial, they can, well that's what is not entirely clear. The strategy of jumping on the latest and most visible political blunder by the White House (and there is one every week), regardless of the substance of the position it requires one to take, and then just long enough to get a headline before moving on to the next thing would be a great strategy for a party that already controlled one or more branches of the government. For a party that controls none, it is a recipe for another six years in the wilderness. It was the same strategy that helped send John Kerry down to defeat in 2004, namely that a series of somewhat disconnected criticisms of the incumbent, combined with a rise in his overall unpopularity, would magically result in votes.

Electoral politics in America don't work that way now, if they ever did. The last guy to win with anything near that strategy was Jimmy Carter. But Bush hasn't resigned in disgrace (and won't) and America has not yet been defeated in Iraq (and will withdraw before it can be said that it was).

This means that to stand a chance to really make some headway against the ruthlessly efficient Republican electoral machine, the Democrats have to offer the people something they can't get from Republicans, like principles. Russ Feingold actually has some of those, and Reid and Pelosi don't seem to understand that whenever Dick Cheney attacks one of their party as nastily as Cheney attacked Feingold, it means (1) the person attacked is almost certainly correct, and (2) you have to fight back. If the other 43 Democratic senators (and maybe Jim Jeffords, too) stood on the steps of the Capitol behind Feingold and said "The President broke the law, and continues to break the law," perhaps Americans might pay attention. But you can't pin your hopes on some Congressional investigation (which, as Feingold points out, isn't really happening anyway) to make that point for you. Plus, Cheney has never been more unpopular, and every time he opens his mouth, every Democratic senator and representative should call a press conference and say "So long as Dick Cheney thinks we're wrong, I can sleep well knowing that we are right."

There is no question that the party continues to be hampered by the lack of a charismatic leader, but those come along only every generation or so. Paul Wellstone might have become one, but he's gone. People seem to act as though Hillary is one, but they are confusing her rock star status and immense fundraising capacity with charismatic leadership abilities. Her husband had it coming out his ears. When you strip away the celebrity veneer, Hillary is a middling politician with excellent campaign discipline, but no real leadership qualities. Edwards may yet prove to be such a leader, but a one-term former senator and failed VP candidate doesn't exactly have a bully pulpit.

What the Democrats need is their Moses, who will lead them to the promised land but who will never make it across the River Jordan. Newt Gingrich played that role for the Republicans beautifully in the early 90s. Feingold has the ability to do that now. He may never be president. But if at least a few of his colleagues would stop playing as though this election were theirs to lose and stand with Feingold in defense of our most fundamental principles, the chances of Democratic victory in 2006 and 2008 would greatly increase.

By Blogger ckallaher, at 9:29 AM  

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