Feingold: Censure Bush, Cheney for 'their repeated assaults on the rule of law'
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is calling on Congress to censure President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and other administration officials for "misconduct relating to the war in Iraq and for their repeated assaults on the rule of law."
"Censure is about holding the administration accountable,Ē Feingold said in a press release sent to RAW STORY. "Congress needs to formally condemn the President and members of the administration for misconduct before and during the Iraq war, and for undermining the rule of law at home. Censure is not a cure for the devastating toll this administrationís actions have taken on this country. But when future generations look back at the terrible misconduct of this administration, they need to see that a co-equal branch of government stood up and held to account those who violated the principles on which this nation was founded."
Feingold announced his intention to censure Bush and Cheney on Sunday's edition of Meet the Press, and in a diary posted at the popular Daily Kos community blog.
"While I still am not convinced that Congress should pursue impeachment, you made some great points about how important it is to hold this administration accountable for its terrible misconduct," Feingold wrote to the Daily Kos community. "That includes tough oversight by Congress, but we should do more than that. The history books should show that Congress formally condemned this President, and others in the administration who have so brazenly misled the American people and undercut the rule of law."
On Meet the Press, Tim Russert asked Feingold, "Do you think the American people will look on this saying, 'Here go the Democrats, just trying to create something sensational by censuring the president rather than trying to solve the problem of Iraq?'"
"Well, there's a lot of sentiment in the country, even the polls show it, for actually impeaching the president and the vice president," Russert said. "I think that they have committed impeachable offenses with regard to this terrorist surveillance program and making up their own program."
Feingold added, "What I am proposing is a moderate course -- not tying up the Senate and the House with an impeachment trial but simply passing resolution that makes sure that the historical record shows the way they have weakened our country, weakened our country militarily and against al Qaeda and weakened our country's fundamental document, the Constitution. I think that's a reasonable course and does not get in the way of our normal work. But the American people are outraged at the way they've been treated. They are outraged at the dishonesty that they have been subjected to. The American people -- we deserve better than the way we've been treated, and somehow this has to be reflected."
Excerpts from Feingold's diary:
So, as I announced a little while ago on Meet the Press, I plan to introduce two censure resolutions in the Senate in the coming weeks. These will be broad resolutions, one of which will address the war in Iraq, including the administration's efforts to mislead the nation into, and during, the war, mismanagement of the war, and its attempts to justify this Iraq mistake by distorting the situation on the ground in Iraq. The other condemns the administration's abuse of the rule of law. Because, of all this administration's outrageous misconduct, those are truly the worst of the worst.
As you know, over a year ago I introduced a resolution to censure the President for his illegal wiretapping program, and for the way he misled Congress and the public before and after the programís disclosure about whether his administration was following the law. I appreciated the strong support I got from all of you for that effort. You really helped galvanize support for that push for accountability, and encouraged people all over the country to recognize how damaging the President's actions were to our basic freedoms.
This time I am taking a broader approach because the list of administration wrongdoing, misleading statements, and out and out lies, just keeps getting longer. Congress should censure the President not only for the illegal wiretapping program, but for the administration's phony reasons for going to war in Iraq, for trashing habeas corpus, for giving the green light to torture, and the list goes on and on. I want Congress to condemn what the administration has done, both for the American people, and for history. We all know what a disaster this administration is, and generations to come should know it too, so they can avoid a repeat of the misconduct we have witnessed over the past six and a half years.
I know some of you may not believe these resolutions are enough, and I understand that. I am as frustrated as you are about this administrationís actions and I hope the proposal I made today is something youíll consider helping me with (in addition to other efforts you may support). Together we will hold this administration accountable for its many abuses. The history books will show we were vocal in condemning the Presidentís abuses of power.
I want you to know how much your honest opinions influenced my thinking on this, and how much I value what all of you have to say. This conversation isn't over by a long shot, in part because these resolutions aren't written yet. I'll be working to put them together, and I welcome your input. So let's keep talking.
The following video is from NBC's Meet the Press broadcast on July 22.
Transcript of Feingold on NBC's Meet the Press:
MR. RUSSERT: And we're back -- Senator Russ Feingold, welcome back to "Meet the Press."
SEN. FEINGOLD: Good morning.
MR. RUSSERT: Democrats took control of both houses of Congress in November of 2006, many of them running, pledging to end the war in Iraq. Is there any sense that Congress will be capable of ending the war?
SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, I think we will. This has been a slow, very painful process. Sometimes I've been very pleased with the progress we've made; sometimes I'm not. But I'll tell you, what happened this week, the majority of the United States Senate including four Republicans, voted for a binding deadline to end the war by the early part of next year. And, you know, this is a proposal that I made a long time ago which, at the time, people thought was sort of extreme. Now it is a mainstream view.
We need to do more of the unity that the Democrats are showing is causing more Republicans to come on board, which I think will lead to our being able to pass something in the not-too-distant future.
MR. RUSSERT: This fall?
SEN. FEINGOLD: I believe so. I'm hoping that can happen either on the Department of Defense authorization bill. I also think we have to look -- as Senator Reid and I have talked about -- at using the power of the purse -- our ability to cut off the funding after the troops are safely redeployed as a way to actually enforce this kind of a binding deadline.
MR. RUSSERT: You use the word "redeployed." John Burns, the bureau chief in Baghdad for The New York Times, who has lived there for some time, offered these words this week, "It seems to me incontrovertible that the most likely outcome of American withdrawal anytime soon would be cataclysmic violence, and I find that to be widely agreed among Iraqis, including Iraqis who strongly oppose the invasion."
Are you concerned that we leave behind violence, catastrophe, genocide?
SEN. FEINGOLD: Let's be clear what we have now -- we now have cataclysmic violence. That's the status quo. It is possible that things would get worse if we left; it is possible that things would get better, but this is what I believe -- right now we're holding the bag in Iraq. The other countries in the region -- Iran, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait -- they have an interest in stability in Iraq. Because if what you say will happen, it will cause great instability, and their country is in danger from that. The only way we get them engaged, the only way they put up the money and the resources to stabilize this situation is if we stop what they consider to be an occupation of Iraq.
So I think the only way to avoid the situation getting worse is for us to orderly redeploy our troops and get these other countries engaged in what is in their own interest, which is a stable Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: So if the country explodes, you think you get the attention of people in the region?
SEN. FEINGOLD: I'm saying it would not necessarily get worse if we took the step of redeploying. I've heard a number of experts on the Foreign Relations Committee come in and say, in fact, it's just the opposite. It is our occupation, as it's perceived, that leads to so much of this free-floating violence throughout the country. Not through any fault of ours, but it creates an environment that leads to more and more violence, more and more possible genocide, more and more tribal tension.
Our getting out in an orderly way, at least gives the opportunity for a new start in Iraq, and that's what it's time for us to do.
MR. RUSSERT: President Bush is determined to continue the war in Iraq. He's made that very, very clear. Is there anything the Democrats can do to get him to pay attention or to hold him accountable in their minds?
SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, I'm shocked by the administration and, in particular, the president's response to the November election. Usually, when presidents are repudiated in an election, they say, "Well, maybe I ought to reassess." Instead, he did just the opposite. He did this surge, which when contrary to the will of the American people. I think we need to do something serious in terms of accountability, and that's why I will be shortly introducing a censure resolution of the president and the administration. One, on their getting us into the war in Iraq, and their failure to adequately prepare our military, and the misleading statements that have continued throughout the war in Iraq. And a second on this administration's outrageous attack on the rule of law all the way from the illegal surveillance program, their attitude about torture, which we heard a little bit about today on this show.
This administration has assaulted the Constitution. We need to have on the historical record some kind of indication that was has happened here is, in the words of Director McConnell, as you just quoted him, "disastrous." Somehow we have to address that, and I think it's a good time to begin that process.
MR. RUSSERT: A censure resolution against the president?
SEN. FEINGOLD: Correct.
MR. RUSSERT: Anybody else?
SEN. FEINGOLD: Potentially, yes. I think when it comes to Iraq, obviously, the vice president, Vice President Cheney, has been one of the worst actors in American history in this situation. There may be others. On the rule of law issue, on the attack on the Constitution, the attorney general has had one of the worst records of not being honest with the judiciary committee, of being intentionally misleading, and of not taking responsibility for everything from the disastrous consequences of the Patriot Act to the U.S. attorney's debacle.
So, yes, potentially others but, of course, the president -- the buck stops with the president. That is the number one.
MR. RUSSERT: Last year you introduced a resolution to censure the president regarding the wiretapping of Americans within the U.S. under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. You got three other Democrats to join with you -- just four Democrats. Isn't this the futile effort that will be described simply as politics?
SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, let's see what actually happened, Tim. What happened was after I introduced the censure resolution there was a lot of talk and it didn't mean anything. But what did the administration do? They stopped this TSP program. They brought it within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and they saw that there was sentiment in this country and almost every legal scholar saying that their idea that they could just make up their own laws was wrong.
They brought it within the program. So I think it had a very positive impact, and it sets the stage for setting the historical record here, which is that this administration has done the greatest assault on our Constitution perhaps in American history.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the American people will look on this saying, "Here go the Democrats, just trying to create something sensational by censuring the president rather than trying to solve the problem of Iraq?"
SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, there's a lot of sentiment in the country, even the polls show it, for actually impeaching the president and the vice president. I think that they have committed impeachable offenses with regard to this terrorist surveillance program and making up their own program.
What I am proposing is a moderate course -- not tying up the Senate and the House with an impeachment trial but simply passing resolution that makes sure that the historical record shows the way they have weakened our country, weakened our country militarily and against al Qaeda and weakened our country's fundamental document, the Constitution. I think that's a reasonable course and does not get in the way of our normal work.
But the American people are outraged at the way they've been treated. They are outraged at the dishonesty that they have been subjected to. The American people -- we deserve better than the way we've been treated, and somehow this has to be reflected.
MR. RUSSERT: Have you talked to the Senate Democratic leadership about this?
SEN. FEINGOLD: I have.
MR. RUSSERT: And will they be supportive?
SEN. FEINGOLD: We haven't drafted it yet. We're going to work cooperatively with whoever wants to work with me. I've talked to the majority leader, I've talked to Senator Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and we will be working together to see what kind of a thing we should come up with but, yes, I have talked to them.
MR. RUSSERT: Will it get any Republican support?
SEN. FEINGOLD: We'll find out. You know, I think this might be an opportunity for some Republicans who may be uncomfortable with taking steps such as impeachment to say, you know, somehow we have to reflect the fact that so much of this has gone wrong.
Take, for example, Gordon Smith, who actually said on the floor of the Senate that this Iraq situation may have criminal elements -- he actually said the word "criminal." This is an opportunity for people to say let's at least reflect on the record the fact that something terrible has happened here. This administration has weakened America in a way that is frightful. One of the most important times when we need to be strong and we, as a Congress, have to reflect this tragedy.
MR. RUSSERT: What is the legal impact or effect of a censure?
SEN. FEINGOLD: It does not have legal impact. It is a resolution that has been done before, both with regard to members of Congress and also the president, and it does not have legal consequences, to my knowledge.
MR. RUSSERT: You'll be introducing this when?
SEN. FEINGOLD: Shortly, in a few days.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, we thank you for coming here and sharing your views.
SEN. FEINGOLD: My pleasure.