Like the idea, hate the idea, there's no question that Senator Feingold's introduction of a resolution to censure President Bush is about the most significant thing done by a Democratic officeholder in some time. Senator Feingold decided it was finally time for a Democrat to stand up and speak, consequences be damned; for that alone, a great big HURRAH! for him. Isn't that what we've all been telling the Democrats to do?
Republicans are salivating over the wedge it has driven through the party, and even among Kossacks there seems to be profound disagreement about whether Feingold is to blame or the leadership is to blame. I'm blaming the leadership, and here are a few reasons why...
- He's a man of principle - Does anyone - ANYONE - question that Senator Feingold introduced this resolution primarily because he was tired of watching the President break the law with impunity, not because he personally dislikes the President, or because he's tired of seeing Democrats lose elections, or because he wants to be President in 2009, or because the President is getting more sex than the entire Congress? Russ Feingold has got to be the most principled person on Capitol Hill, and the most disgusting part of this entire debacle has been that other Democrats have allowed Feingold to be smeared by the GOP as a partisan, political operative. For defending the Constitution when no one else would. That is shameful.
- This was no surprise, my friend - Many have said that Senator Feingold sprung this resolution on his colleagues, that if he was going to introduce it, the least he could have done would be to coordinate with other Democrats. Nonsense. I don't know what discussions went on between the Democrats behind closed doors (do the Dems even talk to each other behind closed doors anymore?!), but this resolution was broadcast for weeks before it was actually introduced. How many times did Senator Feingold practically scream that the President broke the law and needed to be held to account?! What did other Dems think he was going to do, buy the President a sundae? The public even knew specifically about the resolution days in advance of it being filed. I suppose the kind of notice the other Dems were looking for was a call from Russ saying, "You know, I'm thinking of filing this resolution, but if you need some time to figure out your position on it, I'll be happy to hold off until you decide it's a good time...like after Bush has left office."
- You don't like it? Fine. Keep your mouth shut! - No Democrat has to go on record as either for or against this resolution. Why do the Democrats not understand this?! There is no penalty for stonewalling the press when they hound you. There is no penalty for never actually answering the question you've been asked (as demonstrated by every Republican appearing on talks shows every Sunday morning). There are a million ways to say what a standup guy Russ Feingold is and what an abject failure President Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress are without ever saying you are for or against this resolution. Nancy Pelosi, you are not an oracle; you're a politician. Obfuscate! And try to make the Democratic Party look good instead of foolish while you're at it!
- Last but not least, impeachment - It's January 2007. The new Democratic majority is being sworn into the House of Representatives. Finally, after twelve years, the Democrats get the middle seat in the hearing rooms again. Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers's first action of the new Congress is to begin impeachment procedings based upon, among other things, the President's illegal wiretapping of innocent Americans. Guess what? The Democratics are now voting for it after they voted against it! How can someone be against censure but for impeachment?! Maybe John Kerry can help them out of that one...
Senator Feingold has gone out on a limb with this censure motion, and there's no way it's ever going to pass. And yes, it will put a lot of Democrats in a difficult position. But that didn't stop any of us from feeling that the Democrats should have voted against the Iraq War, and they should have. Politicians get paid to get out of difficult positions. If they required coddling, then no one would ever take that bold first step that looked at the time like falling on one's sword, but eventually laid the groundwork and moved the public towards a complete remaking of our government. Leaders take those lonely first steps; Russ Feingold is leading, with little help from his own party.
Plus, it's just the damn right thing to do, and everyone knows it. I'm with Russ.