Sunday, March 19, 2006

Durbin Gets Democrats Back on Track

Dick Durbin has responded to Russ Feingold’s call for censure, calling it too soon:

“I can’t rule anything out until the investigation is complete. I don’t want to prejudge it,” said Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. “But if this president or any president violates the law, he has to be held accountable.”

“It’s valuable that Senator Feingold is moving us forward to finally be a catalyst to have the kind of hearings and the kind of deliberations as to what lies behind this warrantless wiretap situation,” said Durbin, calling the overall inquiries so far by the Republican-controlled Senate inadequate.

“We have a responsibility to ask the hard questions, to find out what the nature of the program is and whether the president violated the law,” Durbin said.

Feingold did create a dilemma for Democrats when he blind sided Democratic leaders with his proposal. On the one hand, we certainly don’t want to be on the side against censure of Bush. On the other hand, calling for censure only helps fire up the GOP base–which is not something we need right now. One advantage we have had so far this year is that Democrats are far more fired up than Republicans.

A call for censure or impeachment, however justified, will bring many Republicans to the polls who otherwise might sit at home due to disillusionment with the Republican record. Calling for censure will also turn off many moderates. While one poll showed a majority supporting censure, two other polls subsequently came out with the opposite result.

Calling for investigations and holding Bush accountable is a reasonable position which Democrats can run on,without overly acting to bring out the far right as campaigning based upon impeachment or censure would. There are many who will see the value in restoring the Constitutional checks and balances, but may see calls for censure as too extreme. After the appropriate investigations are conducted and the evidence is out would be a far better time to call for censure or impeachment.

After all, censure is basically a token measure which has no legal meaning. There is no reason to campaign based upon this, especially when it is likely to fail this year, when calling for investigations and holding Bush accountable will accomplish what needs to be done.

ADDENDUM: The censure debate is yet another example where the left blogosphere concentrates on style over substance, and ignores the concerns of the average voter. It’s the same mindset which causes many on the left to continue to dwell on the IWR vote and confuse it with support for the war.

When framed as a question of tolerating wire taps without warrants, a majority were in agreement with us. Once it got reframed as a question of censure, polls started to shift back in Bush’s direction (although many liberal blogs are only commenting on the polls which support their position and ignore the rest). We must concentrate on what is most effective in changing the underlying policy, not what feels good at the moment. Durbin did an excellent job of attempting to bridge our desire for censure or impeachment with the need for an investigation which a majority of the voters would support.

Some commenting on this elsewhere have mischaracterized this as as an urging a move towards the center–confusing the underlying issue with political strategy. I advocate no compromise in opposing warrantless wiretaps. As Feingold’s statement has hindered the fight against this, increasing public support for Bush’s policies and possibly helping the Republicans in the 2006 elections, the proposal creates the dilemma I noted above. I both support censure or impeachment but cringe at poorly executed political moves which ultimately make this less likely.


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