Tuesday, March 14, 2006


From the AP Wisconsin News:

Sen. Russell Feingold's effort to censure President Bush is headed for the Senate Judiciary Committee, advancing a contentious debate over whether the president deserves a formal rebuke for his secret wiretapping program.

"I look forward to a full hearing, debate and vote in committee on this important matter," Feingold, D-Wis., said in a statement. "If the committee fails to consider the resolution expeditiously, I will ask that there be a vote in the full Senate." ***

Feingold's introduction of the five-page censure resolution set off maneuvering among his fellow Democrats to prevent a vote that could alienate swing voters.

Republicans savored the Democrats' discomfort. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., pushed for an immediate floor vote; Democrats protested, saying they hadn't yet read the resolution. Several Democrats offered empathy for Feingold's frustration but no overt support for his resolution.

From Raw Story:

While mainstream media outlets have pounced on the fact that Democrats blocked an effort by one of their own to censure President Bush over his warrantless wiretapping program, RAW STORY has found that Senate Democratic offices are fuming. The proposal to censure the President was introduced on a Sunday talk show by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI).

Though all say they believe the program warrants "more investigation," several Senate aides rebuked Feingold for proposing censure. They say that his move had the potential to derail Democratic efforts to strengthen the party's image on homeland security issues, noting that a large part of the country believes the eavesdropping program should continue. Bush has defended the program, calling it a "terrorist surveillance" program, and has used aides to defend its legality.

Strikingly, some of the criticism came from liberal Senate offices.

One longtime Senate aide was particularly scathing.

“Feingold’s grandstanding screwed the pooch and played into Bill Frist’s hands," the aide said. "Thank God Dems punted this down the field. Frist was going to force Democrats to vote on a resolution Feingold had kept a big secret and he would’ve split the caucus on an issue that needed time to get the whole caucus to support. Russ Feingold had only one persons’ interests in mind with his Sunday bombshell, and those were his own. He practically handed a victory to a Bush White House that desperately needs a win.”

Feingold, defending his censure plan today on Fox News, said: “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. In the face of this, they’ll say we’d better just focus on domestic issues…[Democrats shouldn’t] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question administration, you’re helping the terrorists.” ***

Some aides were more supportive. One staffer said that the climate for censure was unclear, and that despite others' griping about the timing and approach, Democrats were still open to the idea.

“I don’t think people are unwilling" to support it, one Democratic Senate aide said. "I don’t think people are 100 percent yes. If you look at the comments of Senator Reid and other senators' comments, you can see that other people want further investigations. Nobody’s said no on censure except Joe Lieberman as far as I know.”

One aide said that some senators felt the move went "too far."

“I just think you know there’s was a concern among a number members of the caucus that this was going a little too far," the staffer remarked. "The majority of the American people agree with what the president’s doing. A lot of people outside the beltway see this as a tool that’s keeping Americans safe."

The aide added that some members have concerns that backing censure would hurt Democrats’ image on national security.

Let's step back and recap briefly:

1. That unnamed Senate staffer who said "The majority of the American people agree with what the president’s doing" is a dangerous, incompetent, unaware ignoramus. The majority of the American people DON'T agree with warrantless wiretaps and think the President should be impeached if he authorized them. All the Democrats need to do to get overwhelming public support is frame the issue correctly: we're not against wiretapping potential terrorists, we just want it done within the bounds of the law. The People agree with that, and the Republicans don't. Easy win.

2. Feingold's not calling for impeachment, just censure. That should be a no-brainer.

3. There WILL BE NO HEARINGS IN THE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE. The Republicans squelched that. Any Senator or Senate staffer who doesn't understand that should be thrown on his ear.

The good news is, this buys us time to lobby our senators and get them behind the resolution. It also keeps it on the media burner for a longer time. And it lets us get back to the Roots Project effort to lobby key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to do the right thing. We can work with this, and we will. Stay tuned.

UPDATE, 2:25 PM PT: A gem from Glenn Greenwald: "if Democrats want to be perceived as strong, and if they want to lose the albatross of being pereceived as weak, what they have to do is extremely simple and clear -- stop being weak and be strong."


Feingold, Russell (D-WI)
Telephone numbers:
Senate switchboard, toll-free: 888-355-3588
Feingold D.C. office direct line: (202) 224-5323
Middleton office telephone: (608) 828-1200
Milwaukee office telephone: (414) 276-7282
La Crosse office telephone: (608) 782-5585
Wausau office telephone: (715) 848-5660
Green Bay office telephone: (920) 465-7508
Tone Devices for the Deaf (TDD):
D.C. office TDD (202) 224-1280
Middleton office TDD (608) 828-1215
Fax numbers:
D.C. Fax (202) 224-2725
Middleton fax: (608) 828-1203
Milwaukee fax: (414) 276-7284



Jack O'Roses said...

If the Dem leaders would just get their butts on message and make this about separation of powers and not national security, we'd have an unqualified winner. This is about MESSAGE DISCIPLINE.

If it's about national security, then Rove's probably right - we lose. But if it's about the separation of powers, we attract a substantial number of traditionalists and centrists who are very concerned about civil liberties - such as Bob Barr, Bruce Fein, and even media figures like Jonathan Turley. The overwhelming majority of the legal community has condemned the program. Are we just going to ignore that?

The argument that "centrists" will be alienated only holds validity if the Dems fail to use message discipline. What have all these discussions about "framing" been about? Not wasted energy I would hope.

It is simply not about national security for the simple reason that the warrantless domestic spying program is both illegal and UNNECESSARY. The case is a full-on winner if only we make it.

Kathleen Callon said...

There are Republicrats and there is Russ Feingold. Russ is better than the rest combined.

Anonymous said...

Jack: Word. One reason I'm unhappy with Harry Reid is that he doesn't even ask for discipline on key votes; he just watches the cats run around and pretends he's their leader.

Kathleen: Yep.

Charlie said...

Ol' Russ did sceew the pooch. What an idiot. We were making progress...this is a step back.

Anonymous said...

Ol' Russ did sceew the pooch. What an idiot. We were making progress...this is a step back.

Why do you say that? We had just lost the Intelligence Committee vote and the Rs were beginning to rig Judiciary when Russ suddenly shot it back onto the front pages.

Charlie said...

Why would he blind side and embarrass his party leadership like that? Poor Hillary couldn't get up out of her chair and out the door fast enough. Edwards was right behind her. (Kerry was asleep).

Harry Reid has been a good minority leader and he was made to look like a bad one.

Anonymous said...

he just watches the cats run around and pretends he's their leader

Well, if you have ever had cats...

...maybe not the best analogy

Anonymous said...

Charlie: I think shaking up the leadership was part of the plan. There are a ton of "establishment" dems in power right now who only want to look like they're rocking the boat. I think Feingold got much angrier than we know when he was the lone voice filibustering the Patriot Act -- an action he informed the leadership about, to no avail -- so he decided to just rock them back on their heels and make them deal with the issue. Not unlike the way Reid shook up Frist by calling for that closed session on Iraq intelligence failures.

And I like Reid less and less the more I watch him. He's assigned himself the "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!" moniker but I don't see him earning it. He didn't call for party discipline on Alito, he never followed up on his Iraq Intel maneuver... what has he done that's bold?

I see your point, I just suspect that what you're blaming Feingold for doing wrong is what I credit him for doing right!

Anonymous said...

if you have ever had cats...

I had a cat who'd follow me on walks. Of course, that just says I had a crazy cat, not that I'm a great leader, but it's nevertheless the image I'd like to see more of from Reid...

Charlie said...

Okay....I'm a bit more in your camp now. However I do think Reid (while CERTAINLY no 'give me hell Harry') has done a good job in some instances of listening to the various factions (cats?) in the party. On the Alito vote he took a quick count and KNEW there were some Dems (mainly from the South) that were not going to vote against the nomination and then face the folks back home. So Harry basically punted rather than make it look like the party was split and dysfunctional.

YOu had a cat that followed you ANYWHERE? Hell mine won't even follow me to the food dish.

sukabi said...

At this point in time it's quite clear that the "leadership" in the Dem party has either sold out to big money, is being blackmailed, or is incapable of actually listening to their constituents and "common Americans" or anyone outside of their cozy bubble in DC. They need to quit pandering to big money and the nutz on the right.

They clearly aren't leading. And it's becoming clear that they aren't capable of leading.

Hurray for Russ. A leader in the midst of many pretenders.

BTW, My cats follow me all around -- to the point it gets annoying at times.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if Charlie spent less time spying on others, his cat would follow him.

CTPatriot said...


As far as I'm concerned, Russ Feingold stood up and did the right thing. If that led to an embarassing situation for other Democrats in the Senate, it's because THEY chose to embarass themselves by not having the courage to stand up with Russ and defend our constitution from a president who is trampling all over it.

I believe that your response has been conditioned by 5 years of cowardice by the Democrats as they duck and cover from one election to the next, hoping that if they just hide out long enough, the voters will get so sick of Bush that they'll all still like the Dems enough to vote them back into the majority.

Now, I don't know about you, but personally, I am nearly as sick of the Democrats as I am of the Republicans. One is corrupt and the other is its enabler.

Feingold's action simply highlighted once again what we already know to be true. The Dems are a bunch of fvcking cowards.

I think a little more outrage at them is a positive. Perhaps a few more will grow a spine. And perhaps the people will be even more motivated to replace those who won't - like the soon to be retired Joe LIEberman (You can learn about his replacement at www.nedlamont.com).

Charlie said...

I suspect that the mainstream Dems (Hillary, Edwards, Kerry, Bayh, and yes Reid) saw the Pew Institute poll out last week and the CNN poll out the week before that.

64% - 66% of the American people are perfectly happy that the NSA is continuing to eavesdrop on conversations involving suspected terrorists. I've been a loyal Democrat for the past 47 years and yes, I too have no problem with the actions of the NSA.

You can scream I'm stupid and/or irrelevant....but y'all need folks like me in November or the House of Reps remains red. Be careful.

Anonymous said...

I've been a loyal Democrat for the past 47 years and yes, I too have no problem with the actions of the NSA.

Charlie, all that those polls show is that people want terrorism suspects to be spied on. They don't seriously address the question of whether people want the NSA to obtain a warrant before it does so. And it's the warrants, stupid. (Not that you're stupid!)

Anyway, the latest poll on this shows that 48% favor censuring Bush if he did wiretaps without warrants, and only 46% are opposed. And that's without the Democrats framing it properly, as I've recommended.

As to having no concern about what the NSA is up to -- warrantless surveillance of Americans -- what's your take on the Only Criminals Need Be Afraid Act of 2006?

Anonymous said...

P.S. I'm going to make a prediction: if a substantial majority of Dems don't support Feingold's motion, then we will reclaim neither the House nor the Senate in 2006 notwithstanding Bush's weak poll numbers. The public doesn't like wishy-washy pols, especially in wartime. And, frankly, if the current lot in Washington can't support censure, then I don't really want them in office anyway, making us look bad. Better to let the collapse occur on the Republicans' watch.

But if a majority of Ds vote for censure, then we'll be perceived (by me, too) as stronger than expected, and it will bode well for us in November.

Charlie said...

"As to having no concern about what the NSA is up to -- warrantless surveillance of Americans -- what's your take on the Only Criminals Need Be Afraid Act of 2006?"

IF I recieve a call from outside the country from a suspected terrorist or even a terrorist sympathizer...I have NO problem having the call eavesdropped on by the NSA's computers, and having the call flagged if certain key phrases are detected. No problem at all. If the FBI shows up at my door to discuss the call I'll offer them coffee and explain the call.

My damn cat might be a bit testy though.

Anonymous said...

IF I recieve a call from outside the country from a suspected terrorist or even a terrorist sympathizer...

Ah, I see the problem. There's no reason to believe that that is what the NSA program consists of. There is evidence to believe it's more intrusive. For example, Internet architecture is such that it's impossible to separate, with any certainty, emails originating inside and outside the country -- which means that purely domestic emails are being scanned. In another case, the government inadvertantly provided classified documents to a Portland law firm representing an Oregon-based Islamic charity -- and those documents revealed that the NSA was eavesdropping on calls between lawyer and client. And, of course, the government has made innumerable misidentifications of who is or isn't a terrorist; there's even a man in Guantanamo whom the government has declared NOT to be a terrorist but still refuses to release.

I'll dig up more details on this, but the administration's claim that it only is eavesdropping on conversations initiated by or made to a real terrorism suspect is about as reliable as its claim that Iraq had WMDs.

And even if those calls were to/from real terrorism suspects, they're still illegal under FISA. Luckily, FISA provides a very simple mechanism for getting warrants -- granted 99.97% of the time -- but the administration chose not to comply with it.

Finally, you have to understand that the NSA program is not necessary to keep us safe from terrorists. When asked whether FISA needed to be amended to help it fight terrorism better, the government specifically asked that it NOT be amended. And FBI agents say that the flood of info from the NSA program consisted almost entirely of bad leads that took them away from more fruitful intelligence-gathering activities.

Does that help?

Anonymous said...

Saturday's NY Times.....multiple Iraqi Generals under ol' Saddam said they did indeed have WMD....and it's now in Syria.

If the NSA provides a millionleads and just one stops a terrorist act, then the entire program is worthwhile.

I know....the 40 million people like me are a real pain in the azz....but humor us.

Anonymous said...

If the NSA provides a millionleads and just one stops a terrorist act, then the entire program is worthwhile.

Did you even read the posts above? If the NSA provides a million leads that keep the FBI running around on wild goose chases and they can't stop a terrorist act, then the program has killed Americans.

And the real point is, the God damned program could be done within the law, with warrants. What legitimate reason can you give for the NSA not obtaining warrants under FISA? I'm really asking, because I've never - ever - heard a valid response to that question.

Charlie said...

Hmmmmmm....I suspect FISA wasn't used cuz 'W' wasn't in the mood to deal with the paper work.

It's ok....less than three years of a lame duck to go.