Adam Howard is the former Assistant Web Editor of The Nation and currently the News Editor of The Grio.
I admit to great ambivalence over Senator Russ Feingold's flagging effort to officially censure President Bush. The same sort of ambivalence I felt when he voted – a few years back--to confirm John Ashcroft for Attorney General because, Feingold argued, a President should have the cabinet he wants.
Feingold is a senator of singular courage and solid principle (note that he was also the only senator to vote against the same Ashcroft's Patriot Act). His call to censure is a bold and admirable moral stand. But effective politics are rarely about morality – unfortunately. Censure, like impeachment (and for that matter like Western Civilization)to paraphrase Gandhi, "would be a good idea."
Censure or impeachment is neither about the law nor really very much about the Constitution. They are, instead, strictly and wholly political acts. So we have to ask ourselves, is Feingold's move actually good politics? Any somnolent Grand Jury could probably indict just about any sitting president on some or another high crime or misdemeanor. But so what? There must be a political consensus to move ahead with such acts --- either untenable revulsion even by one's own party as was the case with Nixon (who jumped before getting pushed). Or of a solid partisan opposition majority, as was the case with Bill Clinton.
Republican insiders always knew it would be a major mistake to pin their hopes for unseating Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a supposedly vulnerable Democrat, on one of the most bizarre players in American politics.
Now, they're being reminded that they should have trusted their instincts.
U.S. Representative Katharine Harris, the former Florida Secretary of State who used her position to undermine the 2000 recount process and prepare the way for the Supreme Court to hand the state's electoral votes and the presidency to George Bush, elbowed her way into the Senate contest last year. Harris was never the party's first choice but, over time, as other serious contenders dropped back, she emerged as the likely GOP nominee. By January, Presidential Brother-in-Chief Jeb Bush was proclaiming his "strong support" for Harris.
On Monday, March 6, when Anne Braden died, the South lost one of its most dedicated, courageous and feisty fighters for racial justice, civil liberties and economic rights.
I met Anne Braden in the early 1980s when I worked for ABC's "Closeup" unit, one of the last serious documentary divisions at a news network. Our crew spent a week in Louisville, Kentucky, interviewing Anne--and those who had supported, shunned and persecuted her in the 1950s--for The American Inquisition, an hour-long documentary about the impact of the McCarthy era on our nation's politics and society. (It aired in 1983.)
I remember trying to get Anne Braden to tell us about how she came to her radical politics. Some of it was her father, she said. He had been, in Anne's telling--a "committed racist" in a segregationist family. But much of it, as her unusually revealing memoirs The Wall Between explained, came from her work as a newspaper reporter, covering the Birmingham courthouse. That, she told us, "made a radical out of me." As her biographer, Catherine Fosl remembers, Anne explained that seeing "two different systems of justice," where violence against blacks was ignored and violence by blacks was harshly punished, moved her to live a life of radicalism and agitation.
When five Vermont towns voted for resolutions urging Congress to impeach President Bush, there were many in the media who dismissed the move as purely symbolic. But the local daily newspaper in southeastern Vermont, the 130-year-old Brattleboro Reformer, takes a different view.
"In a place where elections can't be stolen and the spinmeisters have no effect, people in five Vermont towns stood up and said, "Enough!" the Reformer editorialized, adding that, "This nation can't take another three years of failed policies, reckless wars and a pervasive culture of corruption and cronyism. Vermont has led the way in the past. We can do it again. We hope Tuesday marks the beginning of a nationwide debate over the continued legitimacy of the Bush presidency."
Here's the entire editorial:
Ann Tyson reports in the Washington Post yesterday that the Pentagon wants $500 million to convert 24 Trident missiles currently armed with nuclear warheads into rockets carrying conventional warheads.
But there is a serious problem with this plan. Defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, "acknowledge a major risk is that other nations could conceivably misinterpret a conventional missile attack as a nuclear strike."
Nuclear experts concur that "the possibility for confusion would be high because U.S. submarines capable of launching the missiles could be armed with conventional and nuclear varieties."
Let's extend the discussion we're having here on immigration reform another round or so. Below this post you can read of my colleague Sam Graham-Felsen's hopes for the much-needed DREAM act to come to fruition.
Frankly,just as the Senate starts marking up its immigration reform bill before a March 27 deadline, the lights on the whole border enhcilada are alarmingly dimming out. Dreams are more likely to end as nightmares. Yes, the Republican restrictionists on Capitol Hill are doing a fine job of sandtrapping more moderate reformers.
But let's stop for a moment and ponder what a piss-poor job the Democrats are also doing.
Well, maybe you can mess with Texas. Scandal-plagued former House Minority Leader Tom DeLay, whose career in Congress imploded after he was indicted for scheming to warp homestate political maps and campaigns, won a clear victory in his Republican primary Tuesday night.
DeLay took 62 percent of the vote to 30 percent for his most credible challenger, Tom Campbell, a lawyer who served as general counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the George H.W. Bush administration. Lawyer Mike Fjetland, a frequent candidate, took 5 percent, while Pat Baig, a retired credit manager, got 3 percent.
Those numbers look good on paper for DeLay. But, on the ground in Texas, the refrain is: "Tom's in trouble."
Two weeks after I wrote about the North Carolina Republican Party's dubious effort to collect church membership directories, the IRS issued a report revealing that 37 of 47 churches investigated nationwide during the 2004 campaign were found to have participated in prohibited political activities.
According to the New York Times, "The infractions included distributing materials that encouraged people to vote for particular candidates and giving cash to campaigns."
And it's not just Republicans who were attempting to blur these constitutional lines. The Baltimore Sun reports that Del. Emmet Burns Jr., a democrat from Baltimore County, has received approximately $16,000 from churches since 2000. In all, over 100 churches in Maryland donated money to 40 candidates since 2000.
For the first time in two decades, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday begins debate on the way overdue issue of comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate Judiciary Committee now has until March 27 to come up with a definitive proposal.
Unfortunately, the debate is mired in a growing Republican civil war that could sink the whole process. On the one side are conservatives like John McCain in the Senate and Jeff Flake in the House who have joined with Democrats to support both a guest worker program and legalization for the 11 million "illegals" estimated to be living in the U.S. They've come together around the so-called McCain-Kennedy proposal which is also supported by immigrant advocate groups and organized labor.
On the other side are the so-called "restrictionists" who want to continue with our current head-in-the-sand policy and merely build bigger and higher walls and fences. While the latter sentiment already manifested itself ina bill passed last December in the House, there had been some optimism that the Senate would do a more reasonable job.
When South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signed legislation that effectively bans abortion in his state, the director of the militantly anti-choice Christian Defense Coalition announced that the legal and political foundations that underpin the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision are crumbling. "Roe is slowly, but surely, being chipped away at," declared the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney.
That's not a precisely accurate picture.
In fact, there is nothing slow about the current assault on reproductive rights.