[Marxism] Dems run for cover on Feingold Resolution
jonathan.flanders at verizon.net
Wed Mar 15 06:48:51 MST 2006
The Feingold Resolution and the Sound of Silence
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, March 15, 2006; A02
Democratic senators, filing in for their weekly caucus lunch yesterday,
looked as if they'd seen a ghost.
"I haven't read it," demurred Barack Obama (Ill.).
"I just don't have enough information," protested Ben Nelson (Neb.). "I
really can't right now," John Kerry (Mass.) said as he hurried past a
knot of reporters -- an excuse that fell apart when Kerry was forced
into an awkward wait as Capitol Police stopped an aide at the
Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) brushed past the press pack, shaking her
head and waving her hand over her shoulder. When an errant food cart
blocked her entrance to the meeting room, she tried to hide from
reporters behind the 4-foot-11 Barbara Mikulski (Md.).
"Ask her after lunch," offered Clinton's spokesman, Philippe Reines. But
Clinton, with most of her colleagues, fled the lunch out a back door as
if escaping a fire.
In a sense, they were. The cause of so much evasion was S. Res. 398, the
resolution proposed Monday by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) calling for
the censure of President Bush for his warrantless wiretapping program.
At a time when Democrats had Bush on the ropes over Iraq, the budget and
port security, Feingold single-handedly turned the debate back to an
issue where Bush has the advantage -- and drove another wedge through
So nonplused were Democrats that even Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), known
for his near-daily news conferences, made history by declaring, "I'm not
going to comment." Would he have a comment later? "I dunno," the
suddenly shy senator said.
Republicans were grateful for the gift. The office of Sen. John Cornyn
(Tex.) put a new "daily feature" on its Web site monitoring the censure
resolution: "Democrat co-sponsors of Feingold Resolution: 0."
Many of Feingold's Democratic colleagues agree that Bush abused his
authority with the NSA spying program. And they know liberal Democratic
activists are eager to see Bush censured, or worse. But they also know
Feingold's maneuver could cost them seats in GOP states.
Hence the elaborate efforts to avoid comment. Five Democratic senators
called a news conference yesterday to talk about the Bush budget's
"dangerously irresponsible priorities" -- but three of them fled the
room before allowing questions. The other two were stuck.
"Was it a good idea for Senator Feingold to bring up this resolution?"
came the first question, from CNN's Ed Henry.
"He brings up some very important issues," Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
Henry was unsatisfied. "So do you support censure, or not?
Stabenow took another stab. "It needs to have hearings," she said.
Mary Landrieu (La.) pursed her lips. "Senator Feingold has a point that
he wants to make," she said. "We have a point that we want to make,
talking about the budget."
"Senators," an aide interrupted, "we need to go."
Next in the Senate TV gallery came Schumer. An aide hung up a poster
showing a port. The senator called the ports situation "extremely
troubling." The aide hung up a poster of an Exxon cartoon. "Obscene
profits," decreed Schumer, equally passionately.
CNN's Henry asked the Feingold question. Schumer ended the news
Outside the Democrats' lunch downstairs, the senators were similarly
agile. The number two Democratic leader, Richard Durbin (Ill.), darted
out of an elevator and into lunch when he thought nobody was looking.
"I haven't made any judgment," said Jeff Bingaman (N.M.). Two minutes
later, he reappeared. "I will support an alternative that would call for
an investigation," he amended.
The one Democrat happy to talk was Feingold, who, in a pre-lunch chat
with reporters, seemed to enjoy his colleagues' squirms. "I'm concerned
about the approach Democrats are taking, which is too often cowering,"
Feingold, seeking liberals' support for the 2008 presidential
nomination, said he wasn't motivated by politics. But then he slipped.
"If there's any Democrat out there who can't say . . . the president has
no right to make up his own laws, I don't know if that Democrat really
is the right candidate," he said of his likely primary opponents.
After an hour of closed-door negotiations, Democrats were no closer to
resolving the Feingold rift.
"Most of us feel at best it's premature," announced Sen. Christopher
Dodd (Conn.). "I don't think anyone can say with any certainty at this
juncture that what happened is illegal."
Dodd must not have checked with Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa). "The president
broke the law and he needs to be held accountable," he said. "Talk about
high crimes and misdemeanors!" Harkin said he'll vote for the Feingold
resolution -- if it comes up.
That gives Feingold two solid votes, including his own. The rest:
Schumer, leaving the lunch, still hadn't found his voice. " He's gonna
talk about it," Schumer said, pointing to Senate Democratic leader Harry
Reporters, as instructed, asked Reid where he stood. "It's a question
that's been asked 33 times in the last few hours," he said. "And so, for
the 34th time, I'm going to say the same thing: I'm going to
wait . . .''
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