"HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS"-- FIENGOLD OPTS FOR THE MODERATE POSITION: CENSURE FOR BUSH
Outside of the Beltway, more and more Americans are seeing impeachment as a viable solution to the country's Bush problem. I'm not so sure it is-- and, as you may have guessed if you've read any of my film reviews, I'm not a fan of Bush-- but I'm not here to argue the pros and cons of impeachment, especially not before the November midterms (when a Democratic tsunami could make the possibility even feasible).
However today on ABC-TV's "This Week," America's best senator, Russ Feingold, announced that he will introduce a resolution tomorrow to censure President Bush for authorizing an illegal warrantless domestic surveillance program. Feingold said President Bush's actions were "right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors." The Center For American Progress has a video of the segment you can watch. Feingold is offering a kind of middle-ground, or a moderate position, that all Americans of good conscience should be able to support wholeheartedly. (That excludes Tennessee's crooked senator, Bill Frist, needless to say.)
Meanwhile, here's the full transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tomorrow in the Senate you'll introduce a resolution to censure George W. Bush. Let me show it to our viewers. It says, "Resolved: that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, President of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans." That is a big step. Why are you taking it now?
FEINGOLD: It's an unusual step. It's a big step, but what the President did by consciously and intentionally violating the constitutional laws of this country with this illegal wiretapping has to be answered. There can be debate about whether the law should be changed. There can be debate about how best to fight terrorism. We all believe that there should be wiretapping in appropriate cases. But the idea that the president can just make up a law in violation of his oath of office has to be answered.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know, the President says he was acting on his inherent authority under the Constitution, and even your resolution acknowledges that no federal court has ruled that a president does not have that authority as commander in chief, so aren't you jumping the gun?
FEINGOLD: Not at all. You know, we've had a chance here for three months to look at whether there's any legal basis for this, and they're using shifting legal justifications. First they try to argue that somehow under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act they can do this. It's pretty clear that they can't. Then there's the argument that somehow the military authorization for Afghanistan allowed this. This has basically been laughed out of the room in the Congress. So the last resort is to somehow say that the president has inherent authority to ignore the law of the United States of America, and that has the consequence that the president could even order the assassination of American citizens if that's the law. So there is no sort of independent inherent authority that allows the president to override the laws passed by the Congress of the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you're so convinced that the president has broken the law why not file an article of impeachment?
FEINGOLD: Well, you know, that's an option we could look at, if somebody thought that was a really good idea. There are other options out there. In fact, this conduct is right in the strike zone — even though the Founding Fathers didn't have strike zones, they didn't have baseball — but it is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors. We have to consider, is it best for the country to start impeachment proceedings? Is it best for the country to consider removing the president? We're not mandated to impeach a president who has broken the law, but I think we are required to do our job, to live up to our oath of office and say, wait a minute, there has to be at least as a first step some accountability. Proper accountability is a censuring of the president say, mr. president, acknowledge you broke the law, return to the law, return to our system of government. That's what I think we should do.
SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: A CALL TO ARMS FROM JANE! LET'S BACK HER AND RUSS FEINGOLD UP!!
Jane and the gang over at FireDogLake think we should all have Russ Feingold's back. And they're right. Here's Jane's post. Please read it and see if you can help out Monday:
I have a request: Russ Feingold really stuck his neck out today, and it would be great if he -- and every other Senator -- knew that we had his back. It's a gutsy move, not without risk in the polarized environment that is Washington these days and with the hatchet squad that Rove and his ilk generally deploy when their actions are questioned, so you have to hand it to Sen. Feingold for having the guts to raise the censure issue -- not just in the privacy of his office or at home, but right there on national television for all the world to hear.
So, what am I asking you to do? Something small by comparison, but if enough of us do this, it could start a little snowball rolling down the hill. By the time it reaches bottom, who knows how big it will have gotten -- but I sure like the sound of the word avalanche, so I say we get it going.
Your action steps: call both your Senators first thing in the morning and ask if they support Russ Feingold's censure proposal. If they don't, ask what their position is on the issue -- and why.
The more people we have calling, the more staffers in the offices start to realize that Feingold struck a political chord with a bunch of us in America. And then the more we continue to call, the more that message starts to sink in...and then some. Plus, it forces Senators to go on the record one way or the other, which is useful information for all of us to have.
We're going to keep track of it here on Firedoglake, so once you've called, please report back to us -- either through e-mail or in the comments -- and we'll put up a tracking list of yes, no and no comment. That's it. It's pretty much pain free and you can help us get an idea of which Senators are dodging and weaving. And, frankly, you can help us nudge them again to do their jobs. Thanks in advance for your assistance!
You can contact the US Senate via the switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and they will connect you with any Senator's office. Or you can find your particular Senator's direct dial here.