Love him or hate him, Russ Feingold has the balls to stand for his convictions. When the Patriot Act came up for a vote many Senators worried about expanding federal powers of search and seizure but Feingold was the only Senator to vote no.
For Senators who still think their chamber serves a useful purpose the growing NSA wiretapping scandal provides another such gut check. The Administration has not even bothered to claim that they acted within the law as written, rather they claim either that Congress has given them the power to circumvent the law (the AUMF argument, which is bogus) or else that the President has the inherent authority to set aside any law which he finds inconvenient (the Yoo doctrine). You could hardly drop a fatter gift in the lap of an opposition-party Senator. The president has basically declared that he’s above the law and then unapologetically acted on it. What do you do?
If you’re most Senate Democrats the answer is nothing. Obviously the junior Senator from Wisconsin either didn’t get the memo or he ate one of those special-edition Lance Armstrong boxes of Wheaties, because on Sunday Russ Feingold declared that he plans in introduce a formal measure to censure the President (PDF of the resolution).
“I think what the president did was wrong,” Mr. Levin said. “But even though I think he was wrong, I would rather wait until the investigation is completed, which has now been started by the Intelligence Committee, before I go beyond that.”
No, Senator Levin, the Intelligence Committee did not start an investigation. They sent the question to a secret subcomittee dominated by reliable bootlickers. Last Tuesday’s vote was the last you’ll hear from the Intelligence Committee on the FISA scandal.
This sort of spineless dissembling doesn’t have to be. Do you think that the president has a right to pick and choose which laws he considers binding? If you think that he does not then you owe it to yourself to phone your Senator via the Senate switchboard operator [(202) 225-3121] and find out whether he or she supports Feingold’s motion. Pressure makes a difference.