The Happy Leftie

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Republicans welcome move to censure? I don't think so!

They're running scared! Keep them on the densive, Senator!

Senator Russ Feingold Holds a News Conference
On His Resolution To Censure President Bush

FEINGOLD: Good morning.

I want to follow upon the events of this week concerning my
proposal to censure the president with regard to this illegal
wiretapping program through the NSA.

First thing I want to point out is why I chose this timing. I am
a member of both the Intelligence and the Judiciary Committee.

I began thinking in December already about how, if in fact this
was illegal, we would be able to have some accountability for the
possibility that the president may have broken the law. But I thought
it was important to wait until the process unfolded, and that's
exactly what I did.

I attended the Judiciary Committee meetings and asked the
questions that I could of Mr. Gonzales and others, I attended the
Intelligence Committee meetings -- hoping, of course, in both cases to
learn a lot more about the program than we were told. But, in each
case, I was carefully listening for whether there was any reasonable
legal argument to justify this program.

Last week, with the lack of prospect of senior administration
officials from the Justice Department coming before the Judiciary
Committee -- those who actually had questioned the program -- and with
the essential evisceration of the Intelligence Committee so that the
majority of the committee won't ever be allowed, apparently, to even
know the merits of the program, in my view not only had the process
been stopped, but there was no conversation anymore about one of the
fundamental aspects of this, and that is that the president broke the
law.

Instead, we have people saying, "Well, if this is illegal, we
better make it legal." Well, to me that's an important conversation,
but it begs the question, what about the fact that the president broke
the law.

So that's why I chose this time.

And let me just read a quote from a few years ago from one of the
House managers of the impeachment trial of President Clinton, when
they came over to try that case. It's from Congressman James
Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, saying that "the rule of law should apply
to everyone. And if the president does not suffer the legal and
constitutional consequences of his actions, the impact of allowing the
president to stand above the law will be felt for generations to
come."

Well, obviously, I'm not proposing impeachment, and I
specifically chose to propose a censure. But it is in that spirit,
the spirit that the consequences of this will be felt for generations
to come if we don't deal with it.

And let me remind everyone that this, of course, has to do
primarily with the violation of the law, but it's also in the context
of how the president has handled this. On at least three different
occasions, he publicly stated -- in Buffalo, New York; in Fond du Lac,
Wisconsin; I believe, Columbus, Ohio -- that every time they've got a
warrant, every time they want to do wiretapping, they got a warrant.
So he was misleading the American people.

And then when the program was revealed, instead of saying, "Well,
wait a minute, I better check and see if this was legal," he came out
aggressively and asserted a doctrine of executive power that is so
extreme that it essentially has no end.

At the Judiciary Committee hearing that I attended, with seven
constitutional scholars, I asked those who believed in this inherent
power whether this inherent power would extend to assassinating
American citizens, and none of them could give me a colorable or
credible answer that it would not.

That's a dangerous doctrine. And that is the context
that makes me think that censure is an appropriate -- in fact,
measured -- response to this kind of an attempt at executive power.

Finally, all you have to do is look at the news today -- not just
this area. The president is releasing today another national security
plan. I have not had a chance to read it, but I'm pretty confident
and I'm told that it includes an expanded vision, again, of the
ability to attack pre-emptively outside of what many people such as
Senator Kennedy and Senator Byrd have argued is outside of the
Constitution.

What we are seeing here is part of a pattern -- an administration
that is grabbing for all the executive power it can at a time when
this nation is certainly under stress and at war.

Those are the moments when the Congress has to assert the rule of
law. That is the moment when you have to do something more dramatic,
such as a censure resolution.

It is time for the president to return to the law. That is what
I am trying to accomplish here.

And so as this week has unfolded -- although obviously I am
sincere in wanting to pass this resolution -- my objective has already
been achieved. And that is: I wanted the conversation to include,
again, the belief of most people, most experts and even some
Republican senators and congressman, that the president did, in fact,
violate the law and there has to be something other than talk about
passing a law to make it legal.

Finally, we will be going home after the vote-o-rama for recess.
I would urge my colleagues to go back and listen to the people on
this. There's an assumption here in Washington that everybody thinks
that maybe this isn't something people are interested in, that somehow
this has to do with political gamesmanship for either party.

The fact is there's enormous concern about this. The reaction
I've gotten from my own state, the massive response on the Internet,
indicates that people do want some accountability on this issue and
believe it's the right thing.

And I think, as members hear that from their constituents, that
they may see that this is not a radical step, but a step that is
actually measured and appropriate in light of what's happened.