Consider Feingold- Call Your Legislators to Their Duty
* Today Senator Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa has signed on as a co-sponsor since this was posted this AM
I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide. … Too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004.-- Senator Russ FeingoldWilliam Greider has this to say about Senator Feingold:
Senator Russ Feingold is an embarrassment to the US Senate, which makes him an authentic hero of the Republic. The Wisconsin senator gets up and says out loud what half of the country is thinking and talks about every day. This President broke the law and lied about it; he trashed the Constitution and hides himself in the flag. Feingold asks: Shouldn't the Senate say something about this, at least express our disapproval? He introduces a resolution of censure and calls for debate.
Well, that tore it in the august chamber of lawmakers. Democrats scurried away like scared rats. And Republicans chortled at the thought. You want to censure our warrior President, the guy who defends us every day against terrorist attacks? Let's have a vote right now, the Republican leader demanded. Yuk, yuk.
The joke is obvious to everyone in the Washington club--politics trumps principle, especially when it is about something as esoteric as the Constitution. It's a nonstory, the club agrees, not a constitutional crisis.
Politics trumps principle. Says it all, I suppose. I've re-read what senator Feingold had to say about censure a few times. I ask you, doesn't it ring true?
March 13, 2006
Mr. President, when the President of the United States breaks the law, he must be held accountable. That is why today I am introducing a resolution to censure President George W. Bush.
The President authorized an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil, and then misled Congress and the public about the existence and legality of that program. It is up to this body to reaffirm the rule of law by condemning the President’s actions.
All of us in this body took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the same. Fulfilling that oath requires us to speak clearly and forcefully when the President violates the law. This resolution allows us to send a clear message that the President’s conduct was wrong.
And we must do that. The President’s actions demand a formal judgment from Congress.
Impotent Elite Lickspittle Lackies dominate the Democratic party.
But they have shown us that, repeatedly, haven't they? Gore's roll-over during the first tainted Bush election. He's speaking out a bit now about the danger our democracy faces. Kerry's ... Christ Almighty, just considering what a nutless wonder he was as a candidate sickens me, breaks my heart. "Anybody But Bush"- remember that?
Like me you might have had hope against hope that there would be some spine, some grit shown by these people that are supposed to be against Mr Bush and his neoconservatively driven administration and policies. Craven politics as usual. Excuse the reference again but NUTLESS. Self serving.
The failure of the Democrats to call the President to task is shameful.
I know that all politicians in the two Houses of Congress are beholden to money, to lobbyists, that they are concerned with the costly process of getting re-elected. The key to the Legislative value system. Money. And money and career trump values and duty every time, nowadays. Mr Feingold is correct: our paid legislative representives have forgotten their oath to uphold the Constitution.
This concept of "Unitary Presidency" used to be called dictatorship.
What the "don't rock the boat" folks of both parties want you to believe is that this call to uphold the Constitution is political grandstanding. They want you to ignore the fact that Mr Bush is breaking the law. They want you to forget that they (both arms of the Uniparty) have given the constitutionally mandated power to declare war to the President. The want you to forget how they voted on the Patriot act.
At moments in our history like this, we are reminded why the founders balanced the powers of the different branches of government so carefully in the Constitution. At the very heart of our system of government lies the recognition that some leaders will do wrong, and that others in the government will then bear the responsibility to do right.
This President has done wrong. This body can do right by condemning his conduct and showing the people of this nation that his actions will not be allowed to stand unchallenged.
To date, members of Congress have responded in very different ways to the President’s conduct. Some are responding by defending his conduct, ceding him the power he claims, and even seeking to grant him expanded statutory authorization powers to make his conduct legal. While we know he is breaking the law, we do not know the details of what the President has authorized or whether there is any need to change the law to allow it, yet some want to give him carte blanche to continue his illegal conduct. To approve the President’s actions now, without demanding a full inquiry into this program, a detailed explanation for why the President authorized it, and accountability for his illegal actions, would be irresponsible. It would be to abandon the duty of the legislative branch under our constitutional system of separation of powers while the President recklessly grabs for power and ignores the rule of law.
They want you to forgot this inconvenient piece of reality, brought to you by Tom Daschle:
On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, the White House proposed that Congress authorize the use of military force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." Believing the scope of this language was too broad and ill defined, Congress chose instead, on Sept. 14, to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11. With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.
Read the full Washington Post article. Lies, misdirection- think about it. Stands their argument for domestic "war authority" on it's head, quite clearly. Mr Feingold is highlighting one aspect of a multifaceted grab for power, as he is sworn to do. Upholding the Constitution.
On the left I've heard said that Feingold is leading the party to take the easy way out, Mr Bush deserves impeachment. Mr Conyers in the House is pushing for impeachment and getting some support, read the 273 page .pdf document The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception,Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War for an accurate and inclusive primer on how American policy and actions have been malformed by the current Bush administration. Yup, 273 pages .pdf- educate yourself, you're a citizen.
I'll be printing it out.
Feingold doesn't see censure as trumping impeachment, but acknowledges the action as a necessary one that could, after investigation lead to impeachment.
As we move forward, Congress will need to consider a range of possible actions, including investigations, independent commissions, legislation, or even impeachment. But, at a minimum, Congress should censure a president who has so plainly broken the law.
Our founders anticipated that these kinds of abuses would occur. Federalist Number 51 speaks of the Constitution’s system of checks and balances:
“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
Mr. President, we are faced with an executive branch that places itself above the law. The founders understood that the branches must check each other to control abuses of government power. The president’s actions are such an abuse, Mr. President. His actions must be checked, and he should be censured.
This President exploited the climate of anxiety after September 11, 2001, both to push for overly intrusive powers in the Patriot Act, and to take us into a war in Iraq that has been a tragic diversion from the critical fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates. In both of those instances, however, Congress gave its approval to the President’s actions, however mistaken that approval may have been.
That was not the case with the illegal domestic wiretapping program authorized by the President shortly after September 11th. The President violated the law, ignored the Constitution and the other two branches of government, and disregarded the rights and freedoms upon which our country was founded. No one questions whether the government should wiretap suspected terrorists. Of course we should, and we can under current law.
The Legislators are using smoke and mirrors to deflect their rolling belly up to the triumph of politics as usual, both partisan poltics and politics of self gain, to yet again abdicate their responsibility to uphold the Constitution.
Weigh the evidence. Think for yourself. Call them on it.
Senator Feingold is a"Senate Maverick" a man calling us to stand on principle. Many Democratic Party pols are not speaking out, are hiding from the press, claiming ignorance- waiting for poll numbers?
As Greider goes on to say in his excellent Nation article:
The real story--naturally overlooked by cynical editors--is that an honest truth-teller is loose in the fun house and disturbing the clowns. Man bites dog, senator defends Constitution. Links added after posting
Feingold has a reputation for such quaint deviations--a naïf who voted against the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act. On principle! How naïve is that? He talks like he might run for President, yet he seems tone-deaf to the artful resonances of power politics--the cutesy games insiders play and the press cherishes. Hey, what is this Constitution thing anyway?
The senator is peculiar in this era of decaying democracy. There was a time, believe it or not, when his type was a familiar presence in the Senate. I think of Sam Ervin of North Carolina, a conservative Democrat on most matters but always a lion on the Constitution. Ervin is remembered for his heroic role in the investigation of Watergate. Old-timers remember that before Watergate, Senator Sam led courageous hearings on the illegal spying on civilians by the Army and FBI (Democratic scandals predating Nixon).
When liberalism was in flower, the Senate always included a good mix of such maverick voices. They were party loyalists but departed on principle in ways that sometimes kept the majority honest. Voted against the President's war in Vietnam and never let up. Ernest Gruening of Alaska, Wayne Morse of Oregon, Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee. Phil Hart of Michigan was his own one-man reform party. George McGovern of South Dakota was another.
We might ask why the Republican Party has not produced a similar collection of independent thinkers. We might mourn the fact that pursuing a career in the Senate no longer seems compatible with stubborn self-directed character. The media, instead of kissing off Feingold as a dumb politician, might do a little honest reporting on the substance of what he is saying.
For the moment, however, let us celebrate the man. The club will try to shove him in a closet and forget his little unpleasantness ever happened. I hope they fail and other Dems are properly embarrassed. Amid scandals in high places, Senator Feingold is fresh air. The country should rise up and sing.