Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why Impeachment Works for Me

I believe Senator Russ Feingold is absolutely right to push to censure President Bush for his warrantless NSA domestic spying program.

But, the more information that comes out about the way the administration lied about the intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq, the stronger the argument for impeachment becomes.

Now, comes word, in this article, about the extensive cover-up that took place during 2004 to prevent the extent of the intelligence manipulation from coming to the attention of the press and the public.

For well over a year, polls have shown that a majority of Americans believe that President Bush should be impeached if it could be shown that he lied about the basis for going to war against Iraq.

With evidence of the cover-up growing, the proof of the lies (including the various memos and stories emerging from Britain) is evident. All we need now is for members of the House Judiciary Committee to demonstrate the political courage to live up to their oaths of office: to protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

The failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to provide any Constitutionally-mandated oversight of the actions of the Bush administration is grounds for the election of a Democratic majority in at least the House of Representatives.
This rubber-stamp, hold no-one accountable Republican Congress must go!

Russ Feingold's Principled Stance Frightens Both Parties

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold reiterated his call for his congressional colleagues to stand on constitutional principle and political courage on Thursday with a piece that ran in The Nation's

Senator Feingold send (too) many Senate Democrats scurrying for cover when he introduced his resolution to censure President Bush for violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by authorizing the National Security Agency to troll the communications of large numbers of American citizens without obtaining the approval of the FISA court that the FISA Act mandates.

On Thursday, Feingold invoked the record of Congressional Republicans who stood up to the lawlessness of President Richard Nixon during the early 1970s (some of the abuses Nixon faced impeachment for resulted in passage of the FISA Act) to challenge the current crop of Republicans to stand up for their country and their party against the abuses of Bush:
During the Watergate hearings, then-Senator Howard Baker, a Republican, showed tremendous courage, and a deep sense of Congress's duty to hold President Nixon accountable, when he asked that now-famous question: "What did the President know and when did he know it?" Baker was one of a handful of Republicans during the scandal who stood up to their party, and to the President. Today, as the President admits, even flaunts, his program to wiretap Americans on American soil without the warrants required by law, we need more courageous Republicans to stand up and check the President's power grab.
Feingold's reasoning is a mini-course in American Constitutional law, as it lays out in stark terms the dire challenge to America's constitutional order that the NSA spying represents:
Yet, as we face a President who thinks he is above the law, most Republicans are willing to cede enormous power to the executive branch. Their actions are not just short-sighted, they are a departure from one of the Republican Party's defining goals: limiting government power.

Some Republicans are defending the President's conduct as appropriate and arguing he should have free rein to continue his program, regardless of whether it is legal. Others seek to grant him expanded statutory powers so as to make his illegal conduct legal. But current law already allows a wiretap to be turned on immediately as long as the government goes to the court within 72 hours. The President has claimed an inherent authority to wiretap Americans on American soil without a warrant that he thinks allows him to break this law. So why would anyone think the President will comply with any new proposal? The constitutional system of separation of powers demands that we check a President who recklessly grabs for power and ignores the rule of law, not reward him – particularly when the law he breaks is designed to protect innocent Americans from intrusive government powers.

As many Republicans focus on defending the President, they are losing sight of what ceding these powers to the President now will mean for their own party down the road. Those expansive powers will rest with whoever sits in the Oval Office. Republicans who argue today that the President has the power to ignore a law passed by Congress are relinquishing authority not just to this Republican President, but to future presidents of any party. They are helping to render future members of their own party powerless to check an executive who claims expansive powers under the Constitution or a future Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution.
The fact that so many of the poll-watching, damp fingers in the wind, congressional Democrats have avoided Feingold and his resolution like the plague is proof positive that Feingold's censure motion is based on principle and not on politics. Nothing scares unprincipled politicians so much as a person who actually has principles and acts on them.

This is no stunt; Feingold is playing for keeps and everyone in Washington knows it. That's why so many people are so scared of him. And, why his words on the President and the implication of the Republican Party's lock-step defense of his power grab are so powerful:
The Republican effort to defend the President works against the party in the long run, and it also goes against the party's longstanding rhetoric about checking government power and strengthening individual freedoms. It's hardly in keeping with those values to allow Americans' communications to be monitored without a warrant, or to concentrate power in one branch of government. One of the best ways to limit government power is to ensure that each branch provides a check on the other two, but most Republicans in Congress today aren't checking the President's power or defending the judicial branch's right to do so – they are giving him a blank check to ignore the rule of law.

A party that prides itself on limiting government, and supporting individual freedom and the rule of law, should think twice before it allows any President to ignore the laws that Congress passes. By supporting the President now, Republicans are making it tougher for members of their own party to challenge the power of future presidents and departing from their own values in the process. That's a short-sighted strategy that won't serve either party, or the nation, in the long run. What would serve the nation, and support the rule of law, is for a few courageous Republicans to follow the example set during the Watergate scandal by standing up to a President of their own party, asking tough questions, and holding the President accountable for his abuse of power.
So, Senator Feingold's call for censure has majorities in both parties scared out of their wits. That's got to be a sign that he's right.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Feingold challenges fellow Democrats to 'Stand for something, or fall for anything'

Democratic Senator Russell Feingold's motion for Congress to censure President Bush for his illegal authorization of the National Security Agency to intercept communications of American citizens has sparked a heated debate in Washington, not least so among members of his own party!

The Washington Post has one story on the turmoil Feingold's proposal has caused among Democrats who are, apparently, can't quite grasp the notion of a member of their party in the Senate actually taking a stand based on principle.

Here's a bit of background on the Wisconsin Senator, from the Washington Post:
While other Democrats speak more colorfully, or show up more often on television, Feingold has carved a niche as one of the least-predictable senators. As he contemplates a presidential bid, Feingold is emerging as an anti-establishment maverick, a blend of Howard Dean, John McCain and the late Wisconsin progressive senator William Proxmire.

The Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law School graduate was elected at age 29 to the Wisconsin legislature, defeating an incumbent by a handful of votes. He turned back two better-known Democratic challengers in the 1992 Senate primary by ignoring their mudslinging and running humorous ads, including one in which he conducted a tour of his Madison area home, noting the closet space and saying, "Look, no skeletons."

Feingold has shown little of that humor in the Senate. He rarely engages in small talk with colleagues and is so unpredictable that fellow Democrats rarely seek his help in legislative battles or include him in public events. He irritated many colleagues in his long crusade for campaign finance reform, which Democrats feared would put them at a fundraising disadvantage; by his opposition to dropping all charges against President Bill Clinton during impeachment proceedings; and with his support for the confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

But it is Feingold's national security views that have stirred the most controversy, vaulting him into the national spotlight. Before the censure bid, he was the first Senate Democrat to call for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, and he waged a solo filibuster against the renewal of the USA Patriot Act.
Feingold was the only member of the Senate to vote against passage of the original Patriot Act. Unlike his colleagues, he probably read the bill.

Democrats in the Senate are responding with typical courage.

A party not willing or able to defend, protect and uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States is not capable of leading this country. That applies to Republicans as well as Democrats.

UPDATE: Actually, William Greider, writing in The Nation, makes this case much better than I do.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

'A Conscience With a Lens' and a Government in Search of a Conscience

The Washington Post has an appreciation of photographer/writer/movie director Gordon Parks, who died earlier this week at age 93.

The article tells the story of an assignment Parks got from LIFE magazine in 1968:
For its March 8, 1968, issue, Life gave Parks both pen and camera. He went to Chicago and stood on a street corner, checking the light. He held nothing back.

"Look at me and know that to destroy me is to destroy yourself," the photographer wrote in introducing his photo spread. "You are weary of the long hot summers. I am tired of the long hungered winters. We are not so far apart as it might seem. There is something about both of us that goes deeper than blood or black and white. . . . My children's needs are the same as your children's."
Think about those words as you read about what's being said about the ongoing community argument about whether to name a major street after Dr. Martin Luther King.

I am not saying that this issue has been handled in the most effective way by Lafayette Parish Council members Chris Williams and Louis Benjamin. But, politics and government are not just about personalities. Elected officials, by default, represent something larger than themselves. They represent the people of their districts. People who don't live in their district may or may not like them, but they are the elected representatives of those people.

Likewise, people cannot punish the elected representatives of citizens without punishing the citizens themselves.

Clearly, part of the dynamic of this discussion has been a decision by the white members of the Council and the Parish President to refuse to name a street after Dr. King as a means of punishing Williams and Benjamin for what those other leaders deem to be the personal failings of the two African American representatives on the council.

It sounds suspiciously like the white elected officials are saying that the real offense of Williams and Benjamin is that they "don't know their place" or some other relic of the Jim Crow era.

Regardless of whatever anyone thinks of Council members Williams and Benjamin it would be good to keep in mind that they are not just individuals, but the elected representatives of their districts.

Whatever cost the white elected leaders of this parish believe they are making Williams and Benjamin pay will be borne not just by those representatives and not just by their constituents. The cost of this intransigence and petty racism masquerading as a debate over council procedure will be to undermine whatever veneer of progressivism locals try to attach to the community through things like investments in technology.

Parks wrote: "Look at me and know that to destroy me is to destroy yourself." The other seven members of the Lafayette Parish Council and the Parish President should keep that thought in mind when this issue comes up again on March 21.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Delay Wins Tex. GOP Primary - How?

DeLay Wins Tex. GOP Primary
Former House Majority Leader Easily Beats Three Challengers
By Alicia A. CaldwellAssociated PressWednesday, March 8, 2006; A04
SUGAR LAND, Tex., March 7 -- Rep. Tom DeLay won the Republican nomination in his House reelection bid Tuesday, beating three challengers in his first election since he was indicted and forced to step aside as majority leader.
With 14 percent of the precincts reporting, DeLay had 10,005 votes, or 64 percent. His closest challenger, environmental lawyer Tom Campbell, had 4,049 votes, or 26 percent.
"I have always placed my faith in the voters, and today's vote shows they have placed their full faith in me," DeLay said in a statement. "Not only did they reject the politics of personal destruction, but they strongly rejected the candidates who used those Democrat tactics as their platform."
Associated Press writer Kelley Shannon in Austin contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company