by Dave Lindorff
Published on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
In a diary entry on DailyKos, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), one of the most consistently progressive liberals in the Senate, surrendered to the Democratic Party Establishment, with an embarrassing string of lame and tired excuses for not standing for impeachment of the Bush/Cheney regime.
Feingold, who once took the lead in opposing Bush’s and Cheney’s abuses of power and their undermining of the Constitution with a censure motion filed in the Senate, wrote in the DailyKos diary that while he agreed that Bush and Cheney “may well have” committed “impeachable offenses,” he nonetheless did not support impeachment.
His reasons offered for this bizarre turnabout sounded suspiciously like “talking points” from the Democratic Leadership Council, or from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Feingold says he worries about “The great deal of time multiple impeachment trials would take away from the Congress working on the problems of the country.” But he fails to address what problems Congress is actually working on, or what problems it can even try to work on. The list is embarrassingly short. In fact, aside from the tiny and almost meaningless increase in the federal minimum wage that was passed as kind of “blood money” attached to the $120-billion Iraq War funding bill, there is nothing Congress has done in the last six months. And there is nothing they can do, because Bush can veto anything significant that the Democrats manage to pass, and even if he can’t veto a bill, he can kill it with a signing statement, unless Congress impeaches him for his refusal to enact laws.
Feingold says “the time it would take for the House to consider articles of impeachment, and for the Senate to conduct multiple trials would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for Congress to do what it was elected to do - end the war and address some of the other terrible mistakes this Administration has made over the past six and a half years.” Hey Russ! Wasn’t Congress also elected by Americans who wanted to restore respect for the Bill of Rights and the rule of law? Also, remember that the whole Clinton impeachment process took all of four months-not a particularly long time. And again, without impeachment “on the table,” Congress has done nothing to end the war in over six months, and it has not been able to do anything about addressing those “terrible mistakes” of the Bush administration.
Mistakes? We’re talking about crimes here; not mistakes!
Feingold claims to be concerned about the “overuse” of impeachment. That’s rich! Because Republicans clearly misused impeachment to go after President Clinton on a minor issue, Feingold is willing to let Bush and Cheney slip away with crimes that have led to the pointless deaths of almost 4000 Americans and over 600,000 innocent Iraqis? What is this man thinking? He’s comparing Clinton’s lie about a marital infidelity with Bush’s ordering of torture? With his authorizing of kidnappings and secret international gulags? With the elimination of the 700-year-old foundation freedom from illegal incarceration known as habeas corpus? With massive secret illegal spying on Americans?
It’s hard to believe these words are even coming from a man who only a year ago was out front calling for censure of the president by the Senate. If this president and vice president are not prime impeachment bait, Feingold and his colleagues should just vote out a Constitutional Amendment removing the impeachment clause, because it will never be used again.
Feingold tries to duck his leadership responsibility by claiming he has “a specific role to play as a sworn, impartial juror should an impeachment be tried in the Senate.” That, however, is nonsense. In no way does the Constitution state, nor did the Founders ever imagine, that senators in an impeachment trial would be impartial in the way that petit jurors in a criminal trial must be impartial. There is no jury selection process at which biased senators are removed from the trial. All senators, with all their political baggage, are automatically part of the “jury.” And they are understood to be political actors. Some would no doubt be swayed by the arguments made at trial by the House prosecutors at such a trial, if they open their minds, but they are understood to be political animals. Feingold is clearly being disingenuous here.
He has a role to play. As someone who understands the grievous crimes of this administration, Senator Feingold should be pressing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stop blocking impeachment. He should be following the honorable and courageous path being paved by California Senator Barbara Boxer, who told the Speaker that “no one can take impeachment off the table,” and who warned that the U.S. is “closer to dictatorship than it has ever been in history.”
One would have thought Feingold would be making the same charge, but something has turned this once honorable and courageous Senator to moral and intellectual mush.
I remember, when Sen. Paul Wellstone was tragically killed in a plane crash, thinking, “Well, at least we have Russ Feingold.”
That was then. This is now. What would Sen. Wellstone be doing today? Certainly he wouldn’t be ducking his responsibility to stand up in defense of the Constitution as Feingold is doing. He’d probably be traveling the country, giving rousing speeches at impeachment events.
Russ, wake up! You can’t fight Bush and Cheney with bills, and they’ve made it clear you can’t investigate them with committees and subpoenas. These two power-crazed criminals and Constitution wreckers are thumbing their noses at you and all your colleagues on both sides of the aisle. They’re laughing right now at your pathetic cop-out.
There is only one possible avenue of counter-attack against these guys: impeachment.
We who are pushing for impeachment would like to have you on board, fighting for the Constitution with us, as you pledged to do when you took your oath of office, but if you are going to cave and play the cynical and cowardly game of Pelosi and the gang of corrupt leaders of your party, we’ll just have to do it without you.
And you’ll have to face your next election without us.
Dave Lindorff’s most recent book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.