One component of the Republican spin machine nowadays is to conflate the words "censure" and "impeach", as in: "Russ Feingold wants to censure the President. Do you really want to elect Democrats in November who think it's a good idea to impeach the President in wartime?" Ramesh Ponnuru tried the same tactic in a debate with Glenn Greenwald a few days ago. The media, too, is focusing on impeachment when censure should be the issue of the day. And, unfortunately, many Senate Democrats are buying the Republican line, afraid to support censure for fear that voters will think it's too harsh.
Let's be clear: Russ Feingold has not proposed to impeach the President. He has proposed to censure him. Impeachment would require action by both Houses of Congress; censure can be done by the Senate alone. Impeachment would be a long, drawn-out, procedurally massive process: a trial in the Senate presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Censure is merely a vote on a resolution; if it's approved, a piece of paper is sent to the President scolding him. That's it.
Most importantly, impeachment is the strongest action the Congress can take against a wayward President; censure is the mildest action it can take. Impeachment would topple a sitting President and could be seen as a Democratic attempt to seize by legal means what they could not win in the popular vote; censure leaves the President in place and merely tells him to respect the rights of the citizens who elected him; it gains the Democrats nothing tangible.
This President should be impeached, but neither the Congress nor the American people is ready for that -- and since Bush never was anything other than a figurehead for the powerful, calculating, subterrannean forces that arranged his election and run his administration, toppling him wouldn't do any real good, anyway. Censure, on the other hand, would attack, not the man, but the policies.
Censure isn't impeachment. We need to keep that clear. And even those Democratic senators who don't support impeachment have no excuse for voting no on censure, which, after all, subjects Bush to nothing but well-deserved opprobrium and costs Democrats nothing but political capital -- and not much of that.
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