Censure and Courage
For the millions of Americans who voted to shake up Congress last year, the new Democratic leadership has been disappointing. Democrats talked a good game on Iraq and an array of other issues. But they haven't delivered much. So it was not surprising that Sen. Russell Feingold's call to censure President Bush attracted scant attention Sunday, even though his premise is sound and his remedy, which would fall well short on impeachment, is far from grandstanding.
But it was disheartening. Even if one opposes censure, as the Senate's Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada says he does, that should not preclude Congress from taking on the Bush administration in other ways.
Sen. Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who is perhaps best known as co-sponsor of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, tried and failed to censure Mr. Bush last year. But that was when Republicans controlled Congress, and any censure movement had zero chance of passage. Now the Democrats have power, if only they would summon the political courage to assert it.
Sen. Feingold believes two censure resolutions are warranted. One would be for leading the country to war in Iraq based on misleading information and for failing to adequately equip our troops. The second would be for the administration's assault on basic liberties, including eavesdropping on telephone calls, e-mails and other correspondence of American citizens without first securing a court warrant, as required by law.
These are not frivolous charges. They are based on documented evidence that the White House used selective intelligence to build the case for war against Iraq, and trampled on basic freedoms in the name of homeland security. They should not be simply waved aside, as Sen. Reid was quick to do Sunday after Sen. Feingold revealed his censure plans in an appearance on NBC Meet the Press.
"The President already has the mark of the American people -- he's the worst president we ever had. I don't think we need a censure resolution in the Senate to prove that," Sen. Reid said.
Perhaps not, but Senate Democrats have to prove that they are leaders. So far, Mr. Reid hasn't. His midnight marathon to force a key vote on Iraq was a dismal failure. He stood by while the Senate passed a horrible amendment that would put mayors and police chiefs in jail for sharing gun tracing data. And one solid achievement -- tough fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, SUVs and light trucks -- could come undone in the House because of the efforts of a fellow Democrat, John Dingell of Michigan.
Democrats had every right to complain last year, when they were in the minority. But now it's their turn to produce. We're waiting.
© 2007 The Times Union