Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Senate Dems To Republicans: Please Don't Put Our Words In Action

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), who is trying to position himself as the challenger to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race for president offered a resolution to censure the President for the NSA wiretap program which is designed to track and interdict terrorists operating in our nation. And this is typical below-the-fold stuff that happens nowadays in Washington with Democrats.

But following the lead of the House Republican Leadership who forced an embarrassing vote on Rep. Jack Murtha's (D-PA) pro-terror pull-out plan which only three House members supported, the Senate Republicans called the Dems' bluff and scheduled the resolution for a vote. Because that's what the resolution called for, right? Actually, wrong, if you ask the Dems.

The Democrats blocked a vote on the proposal. So what does that mean? Does it mean that they don't believe in censuring the president whom they pathologically hate with a passion that makes a pack of klansmen seem like a group of Peace Corps workers dutifully laboring in Africa? Or does it mean that they fear going on record in front of the American people with their hysteria and demagoguery?

But Feingold wants hearings. In other words, he believes the President is bad, but a vote on it isn't enough. And "hearings" will keep this in the news cycle to harm the President and to advance Feingold's own political fortunes.

But when his proposal could attract no co-sponsors and his own party blocked a vote, Feingold stepped his rhetoric up a notch. He accused the Democrats of cowering. Again, beautiful. It's rare that a sitting Senator will go out of his way to advertise his extremism and save his opponents the trouble.

But the biggest problem is the fact that the Democrats blocked a vote on their own party's proposal. We know that they fear voters, but it's two sets of them that they fear: the American people and the freakshow to whom they cater in order to get their party's nomination.

There really is no right answer for the Dems on a censure resolution. Fail to support it and primary support from their leftist base will be hurt. Support it, and the general public will brand them an extremist in a much more costly general election defeat. However, I think that this explanation is just a little too simplistic. Certainly it creates a problem for those Senators looking forward to a near-term presidential bid. But not nearly so much for those who plan to return to their states for reelection this year. Many of them are fairly safe. But how about if 25 to 35 of them vote for it on impulse? That might create problems for Democrats in somewhat unsafe states if the voters begin to take a more national outlook on the issues. And a more national outlook--with emphasis on national security--is exactly what a real vote on Feingold's resolution would create.

Bush would immediately go on the offensive, defending the eavesdropping program and describing the kinds of threats it has uncovered and stopped. And then Democrats are left to tragically argue that a program that keeps us safe from a devastating terror attack is still somehow a bad thing because it doesn't keep to the letter of their ACLU vision of the law (which was somehow ok when Bill Clinton did it).

But perhaps Feingold's effort to bring this to a set of hearings may just be what the doctor ordered for Bush. Because if the true nature of the program makes its way to the public as a result of the hearings, and the people see the risk of danger to them from terror outweighing the risk that conversations about dinnertime plans might be overheard, the Dems will again be caught on the wrong side of the national security issue just in time for an election. And if it costs them more seats, Feingold will get a good deal of the credit for putting the spotlight on his party's woeful national security record. And I wonder just how generous his fellow Democrats will be with him when he calls for their support in 2008. They may find that it is more agreeable to for themselves and their checkbooks to "cower" in the shadows of Bill and Hillary Clinton, rather than championing the cause of a Howard Dean acolyte in the bitter cold of Des Moines.

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