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The Censure Wars

To play off E.J. Dionne's metaphor this morning, Russ Feingold tossed a grenade into the Senate earlier this week and fragged his fellow Dems. Feingold says his proposal has gotten "a massive response on the Internet" and he can't seem to grasp the reticence among members of his caucus to hold Bush to account. After all - and I suggest you swallow your coffee before continuing - Feingold considers himself a "voice of moderation" within the Democratic party because he only wants to censure the president during a time of war, not impeach him.

Ryan Lizza has to lay out for Feingold the explanation as to why he's being such "an ass:"

At the nadir of Republican disarray, Democrats somehow managed to turn the spotlight back to their divisions. So which side really cares more about holding Bush to account? Feingold and the Bush-hating hordes or the consultant-driven Democratic wimps in the Senate? It's not even a close call.

The nature of the split is obvious.Feingold is thinking about 2008. Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, and other Democrats are thinking about 2006. Feingold cares about wooing the anti-Bush donor base on the web and putting some of his '08 rivals--Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Evan Bayh--in uncomfortable positions. Reid and Schumer care about winning the six seats it will take for Democrats to win control of the Senate. Feingold cares about making a political point with a measure that has no chance of succeeding and which, even if it did, would have no actual consequences. His colleagues want something with a little more bite: subpoena power, control of committees, and the rest of the perks that go along with a Senate majority, which would make Bush's last two years hell.

Lizza points out the uphill battle Democrats face in taking back the Senate and also that Democratic challengers have been faring well in some states thanks to the bad run Bush and Congressional Republicans have been on - until Feingold showed up in the Senate chamber on Monday, stole the spotlight and changed the subject. Lizza concludes:

So the partisans on the left cheering Feingold appear to have both the policy and the politics wrong. Censure is meaningless. Changing the FISA law is the way to address Bush's overreach. And the only way for Democrats to change FISA is for them to take back the Senate. This week, Feingold's censure petition has made that goal just a little bit more difficult to achieve. What an ass.

Feingold and the far left seem to be misinterpreting the President Bush's falling job approval to mean that the NSA surveillance issue has somehow become a winner for them. That's a mistake, and most of the Dems in the Senate know it.

The Madison Capital Times declares in an editorial this morning that "there is no serious debate" about whether Bush violated the law and the Constitution. Wrong. There is serious debate, and by people much more serious than the ones writing editorials at The Capital Times.

And John Nichols, writing in the same paper yesterday, said this:

Really cynical folks might even suggest that the Republicans have an ulterior motive: that of forcing the censure issue back in the closet because it could develop into a serious threat to the White House much like the threat that Karl Rove admitted he feared could have emerged in the 2004 presidential election if, instead of Kerry, Democrats had nominated an aggressively anti-war presidential candidate.

Wrong again. Republicans may be in disarray and they may have a few ship-jumpers in their caucus (Chafee, for one) but there's no way they're going to vote to censure their own president. Dems will have to win the Senate in November for this to become anything more than fantasy, and even then there will be enough red-state Senators interested in keeping their jobs to prevent a censure from becoming reality.

P.S. I'd appreciate someone refreshing my memory about the time Rove admitted fearing a run against an anti-war candidate. As I recall, Rove was salivating over the prospect of running against Howard Dean.