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March 19, 2006

Feingold For Feingold

By Ezra

Shakes writes:

At whom was Feingold’s message really directed? The resolution itself was clearly directed at Bush, and more generally at the GOP who facilitate his dirty deeds.

I don't know, I think the resolution was pretty clearly directed at the liberal base, who received Russ's message loud and clear. As it is, a censure, despite its intrinsic appeal as a Fuck You to George W. Bush, is not a serious act. It's a scolding, not a time out; a warning, not an ejection. And since Democrats don't control either house of Congress, it's not even going to pass. So you have a non-actionable punishment with no prospects for manifestation. I don't really see any serious way to evaluate it, then, save for the politics. And unless you think the message that'll rally Americans in 2006 is that the Democrats will officially recognize a slip of paper rebuking George W. Bush, it's not clear why Feingold would find this so urgent that he couldn't risk spoiling the secret by speaking to his caucus.

March 19, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

It is about time that someone democrat or republican made a for the record statement that will go down in history as a request for censor. If if was not for the news media playing defense for the current administration the lot of them would have been impeached by this time. The right wing's house built on sand is crumbling at its foundation because it deserves to.

Posted by: elephty | Mar 19, 2006 3:08:19 AM

Whoa. Sounding like Beltway Dems are really upset about this. Not you Ezra, but I am seeing a lot of stuff around. Yeah, this is history, like the impeachment, win lose or draw a vote goes on the books. Clinton didn't get removed, so no big deal? Senators are weird dudes, I think this is more serious than you think. How many times has a censure resolution been voted on the floor? I don't remember many.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 19, 2006 3:21:37 AM

While Feingold wants the support of the base, the Censure measure is directed at Bush. Bob McManus is right that this is more serious than you think... the Bush people and the GOP _care_ about appearances. They make great effort to keep protestors away from his events. They've made great effort to keep the Washington Press Corps talking about how even the most idiotic Bush proposals are reasonable (the President has the inherent right to search without warrants?). To actually call for censure on the record in the Senate makes them think if one thread gets pulled, the whole sweater unravels.
Remember the quote about how "we are an empire and make our own reality?" (not verbatim, obviously) Well, to make your own reality that way, NO ONE IMPORTANT MAY DISAGREE ABOUT WHAT REALITY IS. Censure is an Official counter-example to their hypothesis that Bush is a Great President.

Posted by: Redbeard | Mar 19, 2006 4:07:39 AM

Look, Republicans were setting themselves up to run away from Bush this fall. Feingold's move has the possibility of having them run toward him, defending him. It is directed to more than one audience, but in terms of Republicans, if they do not oppose censure, they will be asked why. If the oppose censure, they will have to carry water for the Incompetent in Chief.

Posted by: Some Guy | Mar 19, 2006 8:06:41 AM

To actually call for censure on the record in the Senate makes them think if one thread gets pulled, the whole sweater unravels.


"Bill Frist said
on this show two days ago, he guarantees it will come to the floor, and there will be a vote and a debate on it."

Be careful what you wish for.....

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 19, 2006 9:24:21 AM

It's interesting that the more people know about the NSA issue and the President's unlimited claims of executive power, the more they are on Feingold's side and the less they assume that he is doing this for his campaign.

Very little that the Democrats propose right now has a chance of passing. Does that mean it's all posturing, all politics? In a sense, yes, it does. It's about influencing press coverage and political opinion.

But there's more than one way to try to influence press coverage and political opinion. You can do it to draw as much attention as possible to an ISSUE, as well as for your own benefit.

Do you remember how Feingold's been about the PATRIOT Act for years? Do you even understand how much more of a threat to the Constitution the unlimited-executive-power theory is than the PATRIOT Act? You realize that they're justifying the NSA program on precisely the same legal argument that John Yoo used to assert that the anti-torture statute was unconstitutional?

And it worked, it got the scandal back in the news. Which the most serious Democratic bills in the world do not manage. Unfortunately the press is too f*cking stupid to ever consider the merits of anything, yourself apparently now included. But it is back in the news, and there is a much larger group of democratic activists paying attention. And it MAY WELL have a substantive effect on legislation. Do you know about the

Posted by: Katherine | Mar 19, 2006 9:29:21 AM

oops, got cut off. Are you familiar with the DeWine bill? Do you realize how harmful it would be? Do you think having half the Democratic party much more up-in-arms about these issues than they were a week ago, and already mad about the censure thing, might increase Democrats' willingness to vote down or filibuster that bill?

Probably not enough of course. It'll probably pass.

God, it's SO soon after you got to D.C. I'm really starting to think there is something in the water.

Posted by: Katherine | Mar 19, 2006 9:33:15 AM

(for a full explanation of the giant chip on my shoulder here and here, btw.)

Posted by: Katherine | Mar 19, 2006 10:05:33 AM

Ohhh! You're that Katherine! *bows*

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Mar 19, 2006 10:27:17 AM

"..I think the resolution was pretty clearly directed at the liberal base, who received Russ's message loud and clear."

I think the resolution was pretty clearly an expression of Feingold's frustration with the fact that the president is openly defying the law and publicly stating that he can do anything he damn well pleases. The Republican response, after an initial burst of outrage is to legalize everything he's done and scuttle even a token investigation. The democratic response is ... scuttling the DPW contract.

Feingold has a solid record of standing on his principles. He comes from a swing state where he might have an excuse to throw the right a bone now and then, but instead, he was a lonely voice for the constitution and rule of law back when everyone else was chanting "9/11 changed everything". His was considered a losing strategy in 2002, 2003 even 2004, but he stuck with it when Hillary, Kerry and the rest were jumping on the bandwagon.

And Katherine is correct. The Dewine bill is atrocious. Where is the Democratic response. You may think censure isn't a serious response, but it would be the first open rebuke of the president's actions in the NSA case and it would put him on notice that the Democrats, at least, are willing to fight him on it. Unfortunately, it looks obvious that they're not.

Posted by: Mike | Mar 19, 2006 10:37:02 AM

Since all seem agreed that the Feingold censure resolution is far more political than substantative.

I agree also with those who say getting something in the record - even if it is voted down - is important in the sense that it indicates that claims for nearly unlimited executive powers should be and were challenged.

The important point is that often politics is about symbols, and occasionally about principles.

If the Republicans want to go into the elections saying they fully endorse Bush's rebuffs to the constitution, and vote that way by defeating the censure motion, then so be it.

The Democratic party has trouble on agreeing upon its main unifying themes. Surely, all Democrats should be willing to say: Bush broke the law, intends to break it in the future, and claims the constitutional requirement that he 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed' does not apply to him or any 'wartime' President, is wrong and must not be approved.

Call it symbol, call it principle, call it politics, or call it patriotism. All these apply to this resolution.

Only about half the country (depending on the poll) now agree with this censure motion, TODAY. 20% of the Republicans agreee with this motion. 47% of Independents think that censure isn't enough, and think impeachment is in order.

Bush is falling, not rising. I have no fear that voting to approve a censure resolution will hurt Dems and help Repubs. The wind is blowing hard against Bush.

It is time for the Dems to stand together and just say no.


Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Mar 19, 2006 12:36:28 PM

That's great Ezra - more meaningless analysis of Feigold's motives.

How about considering what the OTHER Dem Senators should do, which is what actually matters POITICALLY here.

This site is really obsessed with the tangential here.

Posted by: Armando | Mar 19, 2006 12:37:16 PM

"It's interesting that the more people know about the NSA issue and the President's unlimited claims of executive power, the more they are on Feingold's side and the less they assume that he is doing this for his campaign."

Interesting statement. Do you have any way of verifying it? Is Ezra, Neil & others' suspicion that this action was taken for reasons a bit more self serving than Feingold apologists would like to believe, evidence that they don't understand the NSA issue?

"But there's more than one way to try to influence press coverage and political opinion. You can do it to draw as much attention as possible to an ISSUE, as well as for your own benefit."

Yes, and if he'd caucased with his colleagues, & got them to support the measure i advance, the only subject discussed would BE censure, rather than Feingold.

"Do you remember how Feingold's been about the PATRIOT Act for years? Do you even understand how much more of a threat to the Constitution the unlimited-executive-power theory is than the PATRIOT Act? You realize that they're justifying the NSA program on precisely the same legal argument that John Yoo used to assert that the anti-torture statute was unconstitutional?"

Uhh, yeah?

"And it worked, it got the scandal back in the news."

It also got his name in the news, and in the blogosphere.

"Unfortunately the press is too f*cking stupid to ever consider the merits of anything, yourself apparently now included...God, it's SO soon after you got to D.C. I'm really starting to think there is something in the water."

Ezra is far too classy a guy to justufy your remarks with a negative response, but I'll be so bold as to speak on his behalf. F&*% you too.

Posted by: Dustin R. Ridgeway | Mar 19, 2006 12:45:25 PM

Let us not become what we despise: intolerant of different viewpoints, rabid, venomous...

Posted by: TPD | Mar 19, 2006 1:11:02 PM

Let us not become what we despise: intolerant of different viewpoints, rabid, venomous...

Are you on drugs?
Try taking the harangues that are directed to anyone who doesn't tow the liberal/socialist/commie lines of thought on heathcare, and, of course, the GET BUSH theme....

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 19, 2006 1:46:33 PM

I think you're misreading the status of the NSA program at this point. The Republicans had--with some Democratic assistance--found a way to punt on this issue. Hold meaningless hearings on the program, where Abu Gonzales can dance around without taking an oath. Introduce meaningless (or worse, in that they take review away from the courts and put it in the partisan senate) oversight gestures. Then there's DeWine's bill, which effectively admits the program was illegal but then makes it unillegal like magic.

All of those are, as you would call it, "not serious acts." They're all kabuki theater. Well, if you're a junior senator whose ranking members in the judiciary and intelligence committees have just sold you out, accepted kabuki as if it were something meangingful, what do you do?

You go after it with more kabuki.

Yes, censure is just a show-punishment. But it makes all those who have embraced show-oversight go on the record, either for or against the program. It undercuts all the efforts to let show-oversight suffice, so no one has to take a stand for or against.

Rather brilliant, if you ask me.

Posted by: emptywheel | Mar 19, 2006 2:32:36 PM

Win or lose, a censure resolution is a good wedge issue.

An impeachment resolution would be easy to dismiss as a partisan attack, and the GOP will vote en bloc against it regardless of personal feelings.

A censure resolution will force the few remaining Real Conservatives, as well as blue-and-purple-state Republican congresspeeps, to think long and hard. Every vulnerable Republican will have to weigh whether it's more important to hold the party line, or to avoid being tied to the anvil of an increasingly unpopular president in an election year. Passing a censure resolution would be great, but it's more important that we divide the GOP.

It's also much easier to defend censure, using the Clinton card.

Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft | Mar 19, 2006 3:12:36 PM

"That's great Ezra - more meaningless analysis of Feigold's motives.

How about considering what the OTHER Dem Senators should do, which is what actually matters POITICALLY here.

This site is really obsessed with the tangential here."

Armando, I don't think we've ever been in greater agreement.

Posted by: Jedmunds | Mar 19, 2006 5:27:20 PM

Wow. This is really one of the most tone-deaf posts I've read here.

Of course censure isn't going to pass in a Republican-dominated Congress. You know what else won't? Any kind of substantive health care reform. Guess we should stop talking about it, huh? I mean, any Democrat who introduced a universal health care bill in the Senate now would clearly only be doing it for their own self-aggrandizement. Similarly, why should Democrats bother promoting lobbying reform? It's not going to pass; anything that makes it through the Senate or the House will be a limp and ineffectual GOP version designed to get the issue out of the press while keeping the channel from K Street flooded with cash. So let's concede that one, too. Might as well shut up about actual port security - the one that requires searching more than five percent of containers and using radiation detectors - because Republicans aren't interested. Where does that leave us? I guess we can always hop on board the next gay marriage amendment.

When you're in an opposition party, sometimes you have to actually act like an opposition party - and that means calling attention to your agenda. Sometimes that means floating something you know is going to fail just to get the issue some traction. GOP-dominated Congressional hearings aren't going to hold Bush responsible for breaking the law any more than white papers on health care reform are going to stop the press from writing all those "Democrats have no ideas" pieces. Feingold's censure move was a smart way to remind people that yes, George Bush has asserted the right to violate the law of the land with impunity, and that's now how America works. We can gripe about how he didn't run it by Harry Reid - and we have - but now that it's out there, the right thing to do, morally and politically, is to put up a solid front on this and get 45 votes sending the message that Democrats still believe our country is a democracy. To run from this at this point isn't just cowardly, it's stupid.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Mar 19, 2006 7:15:44 PM

Gee, now I feel all bad because I've been commenting in the most tangential topic of any blog EVAR.

Of course, since most of us are completely disconnected from the levers of power, anything we talk about here is tangential and unimportant. But the hashing out of the Feingold issue is important for us little people. I'm starting to see some minds get changed, some people start to agree with one another. One by one, us peons are getting informed and are helping each other to better understand the political process in this country. And then those of us who spend our time on petty matters like this will go and talk to our families, friends and coworkers, helping others to become better informed and to make better political decisions. But, of course, it's really all tangential, so it doesn't matter.

Or it could be a way to build a movement.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 19, 2006 7:58:43 PM

P.S. - at least there's no damned open threads here.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 19, 2006 7:59:18 PM

It's a silly life at times. I got a Chinese fortune cookie tonight and wished GWB had it ( he might choke ! )
"Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power".

Posted by: opit | Mar 19, 2006 11:48:32 PM

None other than Smilin' Billy Kristol pointed out that by introducing and promulgating the notion of censure, Feingold can make it an accepted part of political discourse. He's an oily, opportunistic son of a bitch, but I'll take Kristol's political instincts over those of any ten Democratic "tacticians".

Wasn't so long ago that Beltway Dems were twittering about "framing". You'd think that since Dems have been repeatedly bitchslapped by the no-apologies aggressiveness of Republicans, they'd leap at a chance to do some REAL framing. Naw... Let's talk about prescription drug benefits. That's a sure-fire winner.

Once again, the Dems forfeit an opportunity to stand for *something*. They simply have no right to expect any confidence or loyalty.

Posted by: sglover | Mar 20, 2006 10:42:50 AM

Ezra seems to be saying that words don't matter. Strange comment from a writer.

When the House or Senate formally says that the President has acted shamefully, that matters -- in part because it's almost never done. And when a sizable group of Representatives or Senators argues forcefully for such a declaration, that, too, matters.

Censure is not impeachment, but it's not nothing.

Posted by: tom | Mar 20, 2006 12:16:42 PM

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Posted by: peterwei | Oct 22, 2007 6:49:56 AM

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