Finally, a major Democratic senator has challenged the administration and called for a move that could lead to the impeachment of the president. Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisc. (D) urged Congress to order a censure against the president for his domestic spying program without warrants. Like usual, other prominent Democrats are distancing themselves from someone who has the courage to question the administration’s abuse of power.Sen. Feingold called for a censure on Monday, March 13, because he wants to launch an investigation and see if the president broke the law. In December, the president admitted that the government has been checking e-mails and phone calls of people within the country without warrants. A censure is usually the first step to impeaching a president.
An investigation is not needed to tell that the president broke the law. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed in 1978, states that the president must seek authorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on citizens. The president did not do this.
Sen. Feingold realizes that the president has abused power, and the check and balances of the United States are eroding. The president seems to want to increase executive power and ignore Congress and the courts.
Unfortunately, prominent Democrats are hesitant to back Sen. Feingold. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was quoted on MSNBC.com on Friday, March 17 about the censure. “I have no idea why anybody would censure before they have an investigation,” she said.
She urged Democrats to worry about the mid-term elections of 2006 and ignore the censure. “Why doesn’t everybody channel their energy into winning the election and understand that elections have ramifications?” she asked. It seems as though Rep. Pelosi is trying to push the issue away by delaying the debate until after the elections, but what greater evidence do Democrats need to at least launch an investigation? The president admitted to spying without warrants. The Democrats can also launch investigations about why the country went to war with Iraq, the torture at Abu Ghraib and the administration’s appalling response to Hurricane Katrina. What are the Democrats waiting for?
Though Rep. Pelosi does not want to censure the president right now, cities and towns, especially in California, including the district Rep. Pelosi represents, are taking action to impeach the president.
The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco, which is Rep. Pelosi’s own district, voted to support impeaching President Bush. The local government in Santa Cruz, Calif., has also approved an impeachment motion. In Arcata, Calif., the government also backs impeachment.
If local support grows at the national level, Democrats should take notice and respect the wishes of the voters.
Democrats also have little to lose by favoring Sen. Feingold’s call. Polls show the president’s approval rating at an all-time low. An NBC News/Wall St. Journal poll released in March stated that only 37 percent approve of the president’s job performance, and just 26 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction. The poll was conducted from March 10 through 13, among 1,005 adults, and it has a margin of error plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Democrats may move forward and censure the president if they gain enough seats in the Senate and House in the mid-term elections, but voters will continue to not vote for the Democrats if they believe that the party’s leaders have no message and backbone. Prominent Democrats should not distance themselves from Sen. Feingold. His move represented the courage and conviction that voters want.
Brian Fanelli is a senior majoring in comparative literature with minors in creative writing and journalism.