The charges made by Russ Feingold against the president –that President Bush committed criminal acts and violated the constitutional rights of Americans by ordering the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance of Al Qaeda abroad contacing itts operatives in the U.S.– are as serious as any that can be laid against any president. Even though Feingold’s slander is absurd, it is still so serious as to require a public repudiation by Feingold’s colleagues. Feingold is embracing the Wisconsin tradition of baseless charges and smears, but his Senate colleagues should not acquiesce in his neoMcCarthyism.
Such charges should not to be left dangling in the air, as the fever swamp recycles such garbage endlessly. Instead, as Majority Leader Frist has indicated will occur, the resolution in which those charges are contained should immediately be brought to the floor for a debate and vote.
Democrats want no part of having to either defend or deny Feingold’s folly, or to even comment on it as the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank’s morning piece makes clear:
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.
Yesterday Arizona’s Jon Kyl told my audience that while the Feingold smear ought to have been voted down immediately, that Democratic obstructionism might make the delay to get to such a vote too long to put up with given the press of business.
I hope he and the GOP leadership reconsider. Part of the job of a party is not just to debate and legislate, it is also to conduct the politics of the United States so that elections are fought over important issues, and the increasing lurch of the Democrats to the hard left far reaches of American politics needs to be understood by the public, far more than a vote on asbestos litigation reform needs to be held.
And the Wall Street Journal has an editorial on the subject that underscores the stakes involved in Feingold’s Folly:
Mr. Feingold is hardly some Internet crank. He’s a third-term Senator from a swing state who has all but announced his intention to run for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008. He was the first major Democrat to call for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, and half his party was soon demanding the same….
The editorial spells out the political implications of the moment:
[T]he Wisconsin Senator knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows that anti-Bush pathology runs so deep among many Democrats that they really do think they’re living in some new dictatorship. Liberal journals solemnly debate impeachment, and political-action groups have formed to promote it. One of our leading left-wing newspapers recently compared Mr. Bush to J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon, as if there were even a speck of evidence that this White House is wiretapping its political enemies….
[Feingold’s] doing voters a favor by telling them before November’s election just how Democrats intend to treat a wartime President if they take power.
Not only do they want to block his policies, they also plan to rebuke and embarrass him in front of the world and America’s enemies. And they want to do so not because there is a smidgen of evidence that he’s abused his office or lied under oath, but because they think he’s been too energetic in using his powers to defend America. By all means, let’s have this impeachment debate before the election, so voters can know what’s really at stake.
The Senate GOP cannot shrink from this debate.