The pathetic Democratic capitulation on FISA is depressing to be sure. Sen. Feingold sounded pretty depressed when spoke to us about it yesterday on our show. He echoed the same frustration we have had for months now:
It's the latest chapter of running for cover when the administration tries to intimidate Democrats on national security issues. It's the most embarrassing failure of the Democrats I've seen since 2006, other than the failure to vote to end the Iraq war... It's letting George Bush and Dick Cheney have their way even though they're that unpopular and on their way out. It's really incredible.
That really sums it up. And when I asked him why the Democrats were folding, he gave a frank response. I asked him whether it was because they were being craven, cowardly or complicit. He simply said the first two. You can watch the interview here (transcript included).
I think the Democrats who voted with the Republicans in this case are actually worse than Joe Lieberman. That's a heavy charge. Why? Because at least we know what we're getting with Lieberman. Before Lieberman was not upfront about his positions and we had to educate people on them. But now everyone knows Sen. Lieberman is an avid and enthusiastic neocon. He's almost principled in sticking to those convictions, no matter how much we might disagree with him. Now, that he's largely given up the façade of being a Democrat, I mind him a lot less.
Whereas these other capitulating Democrats have neither courage nor convictions. It's more than a little embarrassing. I almost feel bad for them. Their weakness reeks. You have to avert your eyes to not look at them with some degree of pity and scorn.
Yet, out of the ashes of this disaster I see some hope. Why? Because for so long it was just Feingold who fought the good fight. Then Dodd joined. Somewhere after his 2004 loss, John Kerry got emboldened. He was then met by the old lion, Ted Kennedy. Leahy, Wyden, Boxer and now Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown have picked up the fight from time to time. And they were all on the list of 15 who did the right thing here.
And it grows. From a few they became many.
And now we have The Group of 15. The fifteen senators who this time had the courage to stand up to Bush. Some of the people on this list are new to the fight. There are some who should be on the list but aren't (no, I don't mean Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, they have never fought Bush, so their absence is totally unsurprising; yes, I'm looking at you Sheldon Whitehouse). Of course, Senator Kennedy would be on here if he was healthy. But overall, this is a start. This is fifteen United States Senators we can be proud of today:
Joseph Biden, DE
Barbara Boxer, CA
Sherrod Brown, OH
Maria Cantwell, WA
Chris Dodd, CT
Dick Durbin, IL
Russ Feingold, WI
Tom Harkin, IA
John Kerry, MA
Frank Lautenberg, NJ
Patrick Leahy, VT
Robert Menendez, NJ
Bernie Sanders, VT
Chuck Schumer, NY
Ron Wyden, OR
You might say that this is way too little, way too late. I would be more than tempted to agree with you. I understand this trend has been maddeningly slow to materialize. But we're going to need these fighters. Just because Bush leaves doesn't mean the fight is over. The process of getting Senate Democrats a spine is glacial but essential.
And they should also be on notice. If they get a Democratic president to work with, they will be all out of excuses. No more waiting for the next election. These fifteen have to rally the rest and actually get something done!