Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Go for the Feingold

There were two moments of weakness in what was otherwise a well-executed declaration by Russ Feingold on This Week that he's introducing a resolution to censure the president for authorizing illegal wiretapping (Glenn Greenwald must be kvelling, by the way).

The first was his hedging when Stephanopoulos asked him if he was "pulling his punch" by introducing a censure resolution rather than going for impeachment gold (a good question).

We have to consider, is it best for the country to start impeachment proceedings? Is it best for the country to consider removing the President? We’re not mandated to impeach a president who has broken the law, but I think we are required to do our job, to live up to our oath of office, and say, wait a minute, there has to be — at least as a first step — some accountability. Proper accountability is a censuring of the President, to say, “Mr. President, acknowledge you broke the law, return to the law, return to our system of government.” That’s what I think we should do.
He should have just answered "Senators can't file articles of impeachment." Full stop.

Unfortunately, "we have to consider what's best for the country" is the exact same talking point of the Republicans and Dems who argue for ignoring this blatant violation of the law. Feingold did a pretty good job of emphasizing that the President has flouted the rule of law, but he could have even more strongly hammered home that maintaining rule of law is what's best for the country (rather than blind allegiance to an executive who has no checks on his power).

George Will gave us a taste of the Republican response when he said later in the show that Feingold is hanging this "not on substace but on process questions, which are pretty thin." That's incredibly telling that Will thinks adherence to the rules of our system of government is "thin," but it (along with Frist's "he's just playing politics" line) will probably in some variation be the partisan response. Keep them talking about rule of law rather than "what's best for the country" (which is so vague as to be meaningless and triggers an emotional association with the "war on terror"). They lose on rule of law questions. Bigtime (as Cheney might say).

The second weak part came at the end of the interview, when he completely dropped the ball when George asked, "You previously said the chances of your running for president are better than 100-to-one, so what are the chances now?" Feingold prevaricated with "I'm too busy making sure we fight the war on terror correctly to think about that." Bullshit. Up until then he had been having a perfect McCain moment of believable straight talk, then he suddenly sounded as insincere as Hillary. But presumably he just wanted us to be discussing the censure resolution, not his presidential ambitions.

Aside from these errors, though, he was positively invigorating, coming across as sincerely committed to what he recognized was probably a futile gesture (I liked when he smirkily cracked that "we've increased opposition to the Patriot Act tenfold, to ten whole votes") because it's the right thing to do. And it helps that Feingold emphasized that he was one of the only Dems to vote for investigating Clinton's impeachable offenses, which gives him a lot of credibility as someone committed to principles rather than partisanship.

I loved "this conduct is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors," and, especially, "martial law was not declared on Sept. 11th."

I don't think America is going to vote for an urban Jewish intellectual who talks about complicated things in a clear way, but I sure as hell am.

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  • At 1:01 PM, Blogger Brian Varitek said…

    We can only hope, for the best of this country, that this censure has legs.

  • At 1:06 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Yeah, I mean, I don't think anybody thinks the Republican Congress will actually vote to censure the President, but at least now the members of congress are forced to take a stand and, hopefully, vote.

    Plus it gives the media a way to keep talking about the warrantless wiretapping. And, maybe, even about checks and balances and the limits of executive authority.

  • At 2:48 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Chris Bowers makes a pretty strong argument that talking about "electability" can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • At 2:54 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Hm, that link doesn't work.

  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    But yeah, our most recent reward for prioritizing electability was Kerry.

    When I wrote that I doubt America would vote for Feingold, I don't mean I'm not going to support him. I need to look at his whole record more, though.

  • At 3:09 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Oops, try this.

    He's not just arguing that we shouldn't make a priority of "electability," but that we should stop talking about it at all.

  • At 3:40 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I actually thought Feingold handled the impeachment question pretty well. If he says "Senators can't file articles of impeachment," it sounds like, "You bet I would, George, only I can't." And "we have to consider what's best for the country" is not at all the talking point of Republicans (it is almost entirely Republicans, by the way) who want to ignore that the president broke the law, because it does imply that the president broke the law. They tend to argue either a) the president has the authority to do whatever he wants when it comes to anything having to do with national security, or b) we just need to bring this program under the nominal supervision of Congress (the wussy, "moderate" Republican vision). What they don't say is, as Feingold did, "we could impeach the president, since this is right in the strike zone of high crimes and misdemeanors, but that wouldn't be best for the country." And it wouldn't. It would give us President Dick Cheney.

    You're right that he totally flunked the second question, but that one was kind of pro forma.


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