Calling for censure of President Bush (or for impeachment) is a fools errand that will only do the Democrats who choose to pursue it more political harm, than good.
I admire Senator Feingold. He's a committed progressive, a principled leader, and he's shown he can win in a state that's increasingly unfriendly to Democrats. And while I think a little bit much has been made of his "only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act and Iraq War standing" (remember, there were 37 members of the House of Representatives who did the same), he certainly has a voting record that more often resembles someone "sailing against the wind"
than someone who's chief hobby is sailing with the wind
. But on this count he has sorely miscalculated the public will, the political climate, and the pitfalls of his actions.
In eight months, Americans will go to the polls. Up for election will be every member of the House and many of Feingold's fellow Senators. Despite some stumbles, DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel and DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer have managed to field an impressive slate of candidates that very well could capitalize on the public's desire for change, progress and reform. However, the call for censure does nothing to help their efforts, and may in fact hinder it. Take for example Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). Mr. Nelson's home state gave President Bush 33% more support than Senator Kerry. No one will claim Sen. Nelson is progressive, but he is one vote closer to a Democratic majority. So how does the call for censure affect him? It's probably too early to tell and Nelson has largely inoculated himself from the national party in the past, but still, it's another hurdle to clear. Sen. Nelson is facing a well financed challenger, why jeopardize his success? Why force candidates in Florida, Ohio, Montana, Arizona, and West Virginia, to take about a procedural, Beltway maneuver, when they should be talking about raising the minimum wage, expanding health care coverage, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil? And perhaps more importantly, why feed the conservative noise machine?
Leadership and principle are important. Sen. Feingold has shown both in the past, but in this case he has shown the same type of tone deafness that the Bush administration has exhibited in recent months. The American people don't want their Congress engaged in "blame games" (as the censure is bound to be framed), but they do want them doing something about the budget, the debt, and the growing costs of living and declining quality of life.
Sen. Feingold would do well to remember one of my personal favorites: What do you call a leader with no one following him? A guy taking a walk.UPDATE: Kevin Drum of Political Animal
probably does better at saying what I was getting at in the above post. And for the pro-censure argument, Andy
and Charley at BMG
have that covered in a thoughtful and thorough manner.UPDATE II:
Just one last thing on all this ... the "Senator X voted to censure President Clinton, so he/she should have no problem voting to censure President Bush on an issue of national security"
argument ignores absolutely everything else that was going on in 1997/1998 and now. The censure of Clinton was a (successful) attempt to derail the impeachment crusade that Gingrich, et. al. were leading. Censure now, would be a step up in the intensity, not a dial down as it was then. Apples and oranges friends.