What Is the Alternative to Censure?

Arlen Specter came up withfor the Warren Commission. Now he is the single bullet left in democracy's arsenal.
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We are told that censuring the president for breaking the FISA law is a political maneuver. If that is true, then I have a serious question: How do we get the president to act within the law in a non-political way?

It seems to me that Senator Feingold moved for a censure resolution because he believed he had no alternative. I believe he is right. The Intelligence Committee absolutely refuses to investigate this matter any further. It looked like the Judiciary Committee had deadlocked and was not going anywhere -- so what alternative did a conscientious senator have but to push for some sort of action to get the president to obey the law?

Maybe I'm missing something. I would love to get filled on what maneuver Senator Feingold should have done when the Republican Guard circled the wagons and refused to investigate a president who claimed to be above the law. Is there a magic non-political wand you can wave to make that happen?

By the way, one of my favorite arguments in politics is when one side accuses the other side of playing politics. You don't say? They don't call them politicians for nothin'. Of course, every maneuver can be described as political somehow. Is there anything more brazenly political than the way President Bush has used 9/11 as a bludgeoning stick against his political opponents?

By the way, I love the irony of that -- I don't know if anyone noticed this, but the president didn't stop 9/11. Taking credit for that is a little more than bizarre. Could you imagine if FDR went around thumping his chest saying proudly, "Pearl Harbor happened on my watch!"?

The president hides behind the troops every time someone criticizes his policies. He shamelessly equates being against his incoherent and incompetent decisions with being against the troops. Then he has the nerve to turn around and say that his opponents are playing politics. If hypocrisy were a girl, I'd tell the president to stop teasing her. They've been together for so long, any decent man would have proposed already.

Now, after Senator Feingold brought the NSA warrantless spying issue back in the spotlight, Senator Specter claims he was working on a solution all along. He says he's going to make the president clear his searches with the FISA court. I'd love to see him try.

I'm being literal. The president says he will not be constrained by Congress or the courts because of his mysterious, vague inherent authority in the constitution. So, I would love to see how Specter is going to try to make him listen to Congress. If he has an effective way of carrying this out, I would whole-heartedly support him.

I think the president ought to be impeached for wantonly breaking a federal law. One of the former judges on the secret surveillance court said in the Senate today that "the president ignores [the law] at the president's peril." But I am willing to get past all of this -- including censure -- if we could just get the man to follow the law from here on out. But he refuses to do even that much.

So, to all of the critics of Senator Feingold, I have a simple question: What's your smart idea?

The law that the so-called moderate Republican Senators on the Intelligence Committee are proposing is a travesty. It would make the president's illegal actions legal in retrospect, water down the FISA law even more and ultimately make getting a warrant optional. Other than being an outrageous political stunt to cover for the president, it is also thoroughly unconstitutional. You can't just write a law saying the president doesn't have to follow the Fourth Amendment anymore.

DeWine, Snowe and Hagel are embarrassments. Mainly, they're embarrassing themselves by covering for this president in such a cravenly manner while pretending to be tough on him. They might be able to mislead a few voters here and there, but they're smart people -- they know they're not fooling anyone with half a wit to them. And mainly, they're not fooling themselves. I always wonder how smart politicians live with themselves.

It's easy for the George Bushes of the world. The poor soul can hardly tie his own shoelaces, let alone understand the complexities of the US constitution. But Hagel and Snowe know better -- and they do it anyway. There's something particularly disturbing about that.

So, I suppose Arlen Specter is our last hope. He sold out on Alito to protect his precious chairmanship on the Judiciary Committee. He knew Alito would pro-life and would unduly expand the powers of the president. Specter voted against his so-called principles there. I still remember Specter flip-flopping on Anita Hill when he sensed the public was swaying in the other direction. The senator has been the consummate politician his whole life. But what was it all for?

All those compromises. Were they just to retain his own silly, meaningless power and stature? Or did he have some grand goal he wanted to work toward? He is now near the end of his career. There is an out of control president. The minority party is powerless to stop him. There needs to be one man who stands up for principle and constrains the president's un-American power grab.

Standing up to the president now would certainly go a long way in making up for how Specter stared his career. He is the man who came up with the single bullet theory for the Warren Commission. Now he is the single bullet left in democracy's arsenal.

If he doesn't pull the trigger and conduct a real hearing into the president's actions, then no one can make the argument that Senator Feingold's censure resolution is political. There would be no alternative way of trying to get the president to stop breaking the law.

There are no options left. It's either Senator Specter or an attempt at censure.

People of principle don't act when it's convenient; they act when it is inconvenient. That's what gives them character. Now it's time to see the true character of Senator Specter. This might be the single moment that ultimately defines his career. Let's hope this time he's a straight-shooter.

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