Saturday, April 01, 2006

Censoring Censure

Having watched the Feingold censure hearing, I find myself longing for a modern-day Mark Twain. Someone who can pierce the sanctimonious certainty of fools and knaves as when Twain said, "Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

Only two Democrats cared enough to show up at a hearing that raised the question whether President Bush has ANY constitutional limits on his assertions of power. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Feingold himself. The no-shows were Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Herb Kohl, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, and Dick Durbin. Maybe they all had the flu. In contrast, the Republicans showed up in force and uniformly sputtered in outrage that anyone would challenge the president's illegal actions. Arlen Specter, Orrin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn all spoke.

Perhaps most interesting was the melt-down of Lindsey Graham, the homespun, "aw shucks" attack dog of the Republican Right. Graham, you may recall, was one of the House managers for the Clinton impeachment. Clinton lied in a civil suit that was brought by GOP activists in an effort to damage him politically and Graham thought that was sufficient for impeachment and removal from office. Meanwhile, Bush lies about illegal wiretaps (as part of a broader cover-up of the program), intentionally misleads Congress and claims unlimited powers without oversight by Court or Congress -- and Graham wants to change the laws to make what Bush did retroactively legal. There's also the little item of lying us into an unecessary war.

In an effort to distinguish Nixon's Watergate from Bush's wiretaps, Graham displayed his historical ignorance by claiming that President Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in. When former Nixon White House counsel John Dean corrected him, pointing out that Nixon didn't know about the burglery in advance, Graham kept trying to rewrite history. As Mark Twain said: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

While it was kind of fun to see Graham lose his cool the bottom line was that most Democrats ducked a fight they could have won. Shameful. Twain also said "Be good and you will be lonesome." Feingold is the loneliest man in the Senate right now.

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