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The Ghost of Andrew Jackson

In today's New York Times, H.W. Brands offers a cautionary history lesson for Democrats eager to censure President Bush. Brands recounts the censure of President Andrew Jackson in March 1834 which passed the Senate 26 to 20 behind the efforts of Henry Clay:

Clay thought he had won a great triumph. But the 1834 midterm elections returned control of the Senate to the Democrats, as the Jacksonians were called by then. And the Democrats refused to let the censure issue rest. Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, who had once shot Jackson in a street brawl (the president still carried bullet fragments in his shoulder) but eventually became the president's most devoted partisan, campaigned incessantly against the censure and all who had voted for it. His efforts helped make the retiring Jackson the focus of the 1836 presidential election, bringing voters out in force for Van Buren, Jackson's uncharismatic protégé...

...Clay continued to pay for his temerity: in 1844, even as Jackson declined toward death, Clay lost his third (and final) race for the presidency to another Jackson protégé, James K. Polk.

Russ Feingold is no Henry Clay, at least not yet. And if he hopes to discredit Mr. Bush, as he doubtless does, I'd suggest he find means other than censure. The last thing today's Democrats want to do is to make George W. Bush look like Old Hickory.

Indeed, the one thing Democrats have going for themselves at the moment is that Republicans are fractured and depressed over the administration's leadership on spending, immigration, the Dubai ports deal, scandals, and frustration over the pace of progress in Iraq. Charlie Cook examines the GOP's depression problem in detail today, adding, "Of course, the more Democrats talk about censuring or even impeaching President Bush, it's a pretty good bet that the intensity level of Republicans could rise, negating that Democratic advantage."

Speaking of the ghost of Andrew Jackson and things that would excite the Republican base, the press continues to generate easy column inches with speculation about an Al Gore comeback. This time it's Scott Shepard in the Atlanta Journal Constitution ruminating on the odds of Gore becoming only the third president in history to win the White House after previously losing the electoral college while winning the popular vote (Andrew Jackson accomplished the feat in 1828 and Grover Cleveland in 1892). Most of the evidence Shepard collects argues against a Gore run, but he finishes with this quote from Chris Lehane:

"In the Internet age, there is the potential for someone with his [Gore's] profile to mount a non-conventional campaign. Someone with a high name identification, someone who could raise money online, someone with prime time experience and someone who could potentially attract support from the angry left."

The thought of a Moveon.org-backed Al Gore run for the presidency in '08 would have Republicans manning the battlestations faster than you could say "no controlling legal authority." In the meantime, however, the GOP has to find something else to get excited about this November.