Fiengold hears the chirping of Democratic crickets Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, March 15, 2006
I'm not sure what he expected, quite honestly. Most politicians, regardless of party, hate surprises. A bunch of Democrats appeared surprised when they heard about Russ Feingold's call for a presidential censure. Dana Milbank fills us in:
"I haven't read it," demurred Barack Obama (Ill.).
"I just don't have enough information," protested Ben Nelson (Neb.).
"I really can't right now," John Kerry (Mass.) said as he hurried past a knot of reporters — an excuse that fell apart when Kerry was forced into an awkward wait as Capitol Police stopped an aide at the magnetometer.
Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) brushed past the press pack, shaking her head and waving her hand over her shoulder. When an errant food cart blocked her entrance to the meeting room, she tried to hide from reporters behind the 4-foot-11 Barbara Mikulski (Md.).
So nonplused were Democrats that even Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), known for his near-daily news conferences, made history by declaring, "I'm not going to comment." Would he have a comment later? "I dunno," the suddenly shy senator said.
Sometimes, for Republicans, the Democrats are just the gift that keeps on giving. The best, in terms of support for Feingold's resolution, was to be found in the mutterings of a little known Senator from MI, Debbie Stabenow:
"He brings up some very important issues," Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) ventured.
Does he? So where are the co-sponsors to his resolution then? Important issues should, one would think, bring out scads of co-sponsors. According to Milbank, the number stands at 0 for the moment.
Stabenow also answered a follow up question:
Henry was unsatisfied. "So do you support censure, or not?
Stabenow took another stab. "It needs to have hearings," she said.
Which brings us to the real question: what needs to have hearings?
"Most of us feel at best it's premature," announced Sen. Christopher Dodd (Conn.). "I don't think anyone can say with any certainty at this juncture that what happened is illegal."
That is what needs hearings. Did the President, or did he not break the law? To this point that is simply not clear although good arguments have been made on both sides of the issue. But in my estimation, a convincing argument has yet to be made by either. That, of course, doesn't stop members from having strong opinions one way or the other.
Dodd must not have checked with Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa). "The president broke the law and he needs to be held accountable," he said. "Talk about high crimes and misdemeanors!" Harkin said he'll vote for the Feingold resolution — if it comes up.
What this censure movement by Feingold is about is the refusal of Republicans to authorize an investigation into the NSA wiretap question. It is an attempt to keep the measure in the public eye. It is also an attempt to force the Republicans to reconsider an investigation (probably not possible until after Nov. 2006, if then).
But obviously Republicans aren't the only inept pols who don't know how to communicate. Feingold seems to have found a way to completely blindside his collegues. And, as Milbank points out, has, as a result, a grand total of 1 who would vote for the resolution if it came up but who can't find it in himself to co-sponsor it.
Interesting political theater. And a move Feingold hopes will strengthen his credentials with the extreme left (who he hopes will support him in 2008). But it is a stunt. And it's such a bad stunt that even Harry Reid can't bring himself to participate:
Reporters, as instructed, asked Reid where he stood. "It's a question that's been asked 33 times in the last few hours," he said. "And so, for the 34th time, I'm going to say the same thing: I'm going to wait . . .''
"I'm amazed at Democrats ... cowering with this president's numbers so low," said Feingold, D-Wis. "The administration ... just has to raise the specter of the War on Terror, and Democrats run and hide."
No politics involved in this stunt. Now, move along, nothing to see here, move along please.
That is what needs hearings. Did the President, or did he not break the law? To this point that is simply not clear although good arguments have been made on both sides of the issue. But in my estimation, a convincing argument has yet to be made by either.
What is Bush’s argument? That he didn’t violate FISA? That he did, but he has the authority to? That FISA is unconstitutional to begin with?
Tell me - where is this "good argument" is and who made it. And then, if you could explain why it is a good argument, that would help too. How do you distinguish the Steel Seizure case, for instance? What is your opinion of Jackson’s concurrence in the case? Is the case bad law? Why?
And isn’t that why we have trials? To see whether the defendant broke the law? So when are the Repubs scheduling the impeachment trial? When are they drawing up the articles? Seems to me that if you concede that those who argue Bush broke the law have a "good" argument, you would be most upset over the fact that we aren’t holding any hearings or trials - or even beginning an investigation - to see whether that happened.
Personally I don’t care if Clinton got a hummer from an intern or not. I don’t even mind too much his lying about it. Or the pay-offs to Lewinsky. Or our country then becoming the laughingstock of the entire world.
However, if anyone else in the USA in a similar situation would probably have had to resign and also be breaking lots of "code of conduct" rules. I guess Clinton was punished by being disbarred for a couple of years.
Meanwhile, Bush IN A TIME OF WAR wiretaps our enemies, and the Dems want to impeach him. Good luck. Perhaps we can posthumously (sp?) impeach FDR, etc.?
and yes, if it is "illegal" it doesn’t matter if it is a time of war, but so far, what I have read seems to say that it’s hard to tell if it’s illegal (especially when we don’t know exactly what they were doing) and that Bush did give some other folks briefing on it.
So, if it is 09/12 and we have something that your legal team says is probably legal (can’t be sure until the trial I guess) and it’s a useful weapon in the war, I say go for it.
and to be sure, the Dems would look bad if they want to play Thursday morning quarterback on this.
So the Senate Democrats need to study the Censure resolution in more depth and hold hearings before the agree with Fiengold. Why don’t they just look up Censure in the dictionary before they speak to the press?
cen•sured, cen•sur•ing, cen•sures 1. To criticize severely; blame. See Synonyms at criticize. 2. To express official disapproval of: “whether the Senate will censure one of its members for conflict of interest” (Washington Post).
Isn’t this what they do in the press and during their campaign stump speaches.
It seems the Dems have been neutered. Where is the leadership? Where is the oposition party? The Dems need new blood and strong/forceful leaders. If they don’t wake up and quit playing it safe, they will steal defeat from the jaws of victory come election day.
Well at least there is a strong candidate running for Congres in Michigan’s 11th District. Tony Trupiano is not afraid to speak his mind. In fact he began his campaign blog with a post "Impeachment, Be Unafraid..." Now if only the so called leadership showed half as much courage...
And isn’t that why we have trials? To see whether the defendant broke the law? So when are the Repubs scheduling the impeachment trial? When are they drawing up the articles?
A trial proceeds when there is cause to believe that someone has broken the law. At this point, there is only (wild, hysterical, partisan) suspicion that the president MIGHT have broken the law. It seems to me that the fact that members of Congress who’ve been briefed on the program(*) have NOT called for its termination is de facto evidence that it isn’t illegal. Calling for impeachment at this point is very premature, rather like starting a trial before the police and prosecutor have completed their investigations and determined that a crime has actually been committed.
Something I haven’t heard much about is a proposal from the Congress to review the FISA statute and other intelligence collection laws to see how they might be modified / improved to help combat the threat of extra-national terrorism. There have been such proposals, but they’ve been drowned out by the hue and cry over impeachment, high crimes and misdemeanors, censure, and the like. Frankly, I don’t have much confidence in Congress’ ability to undertake such a task without it degenerating into a partisan fight with all the details (including classified information) being leaked to the NYT and the WaPo on a regular basis. However, this is their constitutional task, and the sooner they get started, the better.
(*) And admit that they actually understand it, that is. I was appalled when Senator Rockefeller and Rep. Harman, ranking members of the Senate and House Intelligence committees, admitted that they had been briefed on the NSA program but essentially admitted that they are too stupid and ignorant to understand what was said to them. Seems our congresscritters can’t even tie their shoes without the aid of a bevy of staffers.
When I first learned of the program July 17, 2003, I understood very well that the administration was entering into uncharted areas where new technologies could support our growing counterterrorism efforts. I understood that this program could be of significant value, but I also recognized that it raised considerable legal and constitutional issues. And it was obvious to me that the limited briefings being provided to eight members of Congress were woefully insufficient. I wrote the vice president that very day to say that without the ability to consult with staff or counsel I could not possibly evaluate, much less endorse, the program.[emphasis mine]
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, The Hill, March 1 2006 http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/News/Frontpage/030106/ss_rockefeller.html
HUME: You’re now saying, however, that those briefings were insufficient. Why did you not, if you didn’t, say so at the time and...
HUME: ... take the matter to the president or whatever?
HARMAN: Fair question. And my answer, in hindsight, is that I came into an ongoing process. I believed that the legal framework was set, and the briefings were about the detail of the ongoing program. Remember, I support the program.
And perhaps I should have had more information at the time. But now that I have been able to discuss this program with legal scholars — not the details of the program, but the existence of the program — since it was disclosed by the president [emphasis mine], I now believe that under the National Security Act of 1947 the full committee should have been briefed. And that’s what I’m asking for.
And I believe that that is what the law requires. I also believe that members of Congress should exercise oversight over programs like this. And there are questions about whether this program complies with the domestic laws we have. And if it doesn’t, either it should be changed or they should be changed.
HUME: Well, why didn’t you ask it two years ago when you started getting briefed about this?
HARMAN: Well, perhaps I should have, Brit. But again, I could not discuss this with anybody two years ago[emphasis mine]. And I did not discuss it with anybody until the president disclosed the existence of the program, at which point the considerable resources that Congress has in terms of, you know, constitutional expertise and so forth, could be brought to bear.
Interview of Rep. Jane Harman by Brit Hume, Fox News Channel, January 9 2006 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,181012,00.html
The Republicans brought forth impeachment to a popular president over a hummer,
And here we have an unpopular Republican president that may have ACTUALLY broken a law and the Dem’s can’t even muster a censure.
That’s exactly the difference, Pogue. There was no question, Democrat of Republican, that Clinton’s act was a violation of law. (though, the nature of the violation was in some dispute and he was not ultimately charged in court with perjury)
Misleading testimony is a far more minor crime that is currently alleged against Bush. But then, Clinton was also accused of more major crimes that were never brought up for censure. In those cases, as now, there was disagreement over the facts and legality of the issue under debate.
It’s not a matter of courage or comparison — fact is, Democrats and Republicans disagree about the conclusion that Feingold reached. In fact, and though I think the surveillance is illegal, I think Feingold’s censure measure is inappropriate. The censure — or impeachment — would be appropriate only after the surveillance is found to be illegal. Feingold put the cart before the horse. There needs to be a dispassionate, legal investigation first.