Leaving Feingold to Hang Out to Dry Is Asinine
Huffington Post/Yahoo News
April 4, 2006
As I posted when Senator Feingold first announced his crusade, I fervently wished that his censure resolution had been a coordinated attack and not a lone commando run.
However, even if Democratic leaders had correctly made the political calculus that illegal wiretapping was not the sharpest arrow in their quiver before Senator Feingold's resolution, now that it's out there that calculus has changed.
Letting Senator Feingold hang out to dry only cements the Republican lie about our spinelessness for the as-yet undecided electorate. Just as John Kerry lost the election by not immediately tearing the Swift Boaters a new one, we might lose again by not seizing this moment. As Josh Marshall wrote then about Kerry, "If you can't defend yourself against this attack how can we trust you to protect the country." The same will be asked about Democrats and Feingold. "If you won't protect one of your own, how can we trust you to protect the rest of us."
Democratic leaders need to embrace the obvious and vote to say, "Mr. President, whether you like it or not you live in a democracy." The president of a democracy is not only not above the law, but he, more than any other citizen in the democracy, needs to uphold the law.
As Peter Daou pointed out, when Democratic leaders rolled out their new security platform the MSM ignored it absolutely. However when they failed to even show up for the censure hearings they were all over the news. C'mon, use your smarts. You go where the cameras are trained to give your message. How hard would it have been to use the censure hearings as a springboard for your attack on the President's incompetence?
The key to any effective attack is to frame the issue in your own terms instead of accepting the narrative spun by the enemy. Karl Rove's story is that the President is a macho, maverick Kiefer Sutherland-styled super agent willing to bend the law because he so cares about keeping us safe.
Only 37% of the electorate still believes that crap. Forget about them. Stop pandering to them. Even if you wrapped yourself in a flag, strangled Osama bin Laden with one hand while beating a gay married couple with a crucifix, they still wouldn't vote for you.
Instead, spin your own story, a true story. This administration is so incompetent that in resorting to illegal wiretaps they knowingly broke the law, trampling the democratic principles so many Americans have shed blood for and are shedding blood for right now in Iraq. Bush dishonors our men and women defending and promoting democracy abroad by discarding those same principles here at home. The Bush Administration was not competent enough to realize that there are ways to save our skin and our democracy at the same time.
The censure debate should be framed not only as "worse than Watergate," as RJ Eskow has so ably pointed out, but also in this larger context of incompetence, a drum which the Democrats are now beginning to beat effectively.
The Bush Administration can't competently prosecute the war on terror so they resort to ineffective techniques like torture that not only destroy our two-century-long international reputation as a beacon of freedom but also critically endanger our own operatives and soldiers when they are captured.
The Bush Administration so incompetently bungled the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and Medicare reform that the rest of us will be trying to untangle their messes for generations.
The message needs to be, "This administration isn't smart enough to govern effectively so they fall back on breaking laws and trampling the very rights that define everything that is good about us."