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Feingold Day Two: The Dems Fold | The Nation

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Feingold Day Two: The Dems Fold

Last night I raised some strategic questions about Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold's move to formally censure President Bush. On the conclusion of Day Two of this drama, I have more questions.As one might expect, Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist immediately took up Feingold's challenge and was ready to call a vote. At a time when the President is losing on every issue around him, he would have easily won this up-down partisan vote.The Democrats, of course, dodged the whole matter. You know it's kind of hard to see the 800lb, polka-dotted elephant in the room when you have the limited vision of a jackass.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters he would not comment on the issue while the Democratic leadership mulls the issue. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said, "Feingold has a point that he wants to make by introducing that resolution." And then she added nothing else/

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the resolution "raises some very important issues," but she refused to discuss what they were. Hmmm.

Senate Minority Leader Reid said he was going to do some research and see if he could find any support for Feingold's resolution.

The Wisconsin Senator, meanwhile, seemed to be fuming. Feingold told the media Tuesday afternoon:

"I'm amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president's numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide. … Too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004. In the face of this, they'll say we'd better just focus on domestic issues. … [Democrats shouldn't] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question the administration, you're helping the terrorists…"

True enough. But to come back to the point I raised yesterday, why does Feingold say he is amazed? I'm not. And I am sure you, dear reader, are unequally caught by surprise. Unless, that is, Feingold was given some sort of promise by other Democrats that they would join him but then decided to let him twist. I don't think so. The Democrats are merely in their predictable default position.

So, if you will, an in-progress balance sheet of the move to censure now follows. On the plus side: some bad publicity for Bush that reminds people he broke the FISA law; some good publicity for Russ Feingold as one of those rare Senators with principles and cojones. On the negative side: a distraction from the horrific news coming from Iraq; a distraction from the Republican's internal wars over immigration and Presidential succession; a temporary uniting of Senate Republicans in defense of Bush; a nationwide demonstration of the dysfunction of the Democratic Party (though that last point might be just as well put in the plus column).

My question: are the pro-Feingold forces strategically better off today than 48 hours ago? Is this the way Feingold wanted his move to play out? What's next? I wish I had more answers and fewer questions.

P.S. Some reports suggest that even some liberal Dems feel they were blindsided by Feingold suddenly announcing this move on a talk show last Sunday without first lining up his ducks. Other reports say some liberal Democrats are angry because this motion could short-circuit future Congressional hearings during which Republicans like Lindsay Graham and Arlen Specter would have been forced to publicly chastise Bush. I don't know the veracity of these reports. It might be CYA by some embarrassed Dems. Or it might indicate a strategic fumble by Feingold.

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