Getting It Right

Earlier today, I had to write something that was actually rather painful to write.  I had to admit the failure of the congress led by my own political party.  It’s not easy, but then, that is what I believe a healthy adult relationship should consist of, not mere adoration, but honesty.  When America does good and well, I applaud it, when it does ill, I criticize.  That’s what you do when you have a vested interest in someone or something, you’re honest so that they can become better in the future.


As I said, it was tough and humbling, but necessary.  I also don’t think this is necessarily the ultimate moral death of my party either.  People err, and what you often have in a setting with lots of people fixed on the accomplishment of a single goal, you find yourself in a “group think” situation; a situation where a bunch of people convince themselve that something must be a good idea without critically and objectively looking at the situation.

The point is, for every failure, there is an opportunity to fix mistakes, learn from unwise choices, and move on better and stronger than you were before.  Mistakes can be good, even Bush, had he once truly and honestly recognized any mistake of his and sought to fix it, we might be living in a significantly better America and a better world today.

But he doesn’t, he adamantly refuses to.  Neither does many of the upper echalon of his administration, and we find ourselves posed with several opportunities to get it right.  One of those opportunities would be censure.

Proposed by Maurice Hinchey of the House, and Senator Russ Feingold, they will, upon returning from the recess, seek a resolution to censure the President, the Vice President, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The censure resolutions regarding Iraq, S.Res.302 and H.Res.625, condemn the president and vice president for:

• Misleading the nation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime and about Saddam’s links to al Qaeda and 9/11
• Inadequate planning for military action in Iraq
• Overstraining the military and undermining homeland security
• Misleading the nation about the strength of the insurgency

The censure resolutions regarding the rule of law, S.Res.303 and H.Res.626, condemn the president and attorney general for:

• Authorizing the illegal NSA warrantless wiretapping program
• Pursuing extreme policies concerning torture and the treatment of detainees
• Detaining enemy combatants indefinitely without charges, access to a lawyer, or habeas rights
• Unilaterally authorizing flawed military commissions that were subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court
• Misleading Congress and the public about, and obstructing investigations into, the firings of U.S. Attorneys
• Making misleading statements regarding civil liberties abuses under the Patriot Act
• Undermining acts of Congress with signing statements based on extreme theories of executive power

This is the first step; accountability.  Not long ago I opposed impeachment, or even censure, I felt it would affect the political climate in an adverse way for Democrats.  But I came to the realization that there was a severe flaw in this concept.

It had nothing to do with a healthy American government.

There’s little question regarding the popularity of this president, and there is only slightly less question as to the quality of his tenure in the White House.  Without accomplishing a single good or decent thing, President Bush has spent the last six and a half years cumulating a long laundry list of grievances against America and the world.

He has done this while at the same time expanding the powers of his own office and his branch of government.  When congress shifted back to Democrat control last year, this was primarily to end the war in Iraq, but there was an underlying metaphysical goal that transcended perhaps even the consciousness of the average voter; pull the reins on this president!

For, in truth, the Iraq war and the debacle of post war Iraq has been a direct result of an administration given more power than it should have and operating at levels of incompetence that shouldn’t be legal.

That is the root of all evil in the context of this administration.  Even when it comes to the failure of Congress late last week, the path essentially winds itself back towards this president.

Writing for the Huffington Post, though, Senator Feingold gives light to new hope:

Six years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11, Congress rammed through the USA PATRIOT Act with little consideration of what that bill actually contained. Five years ago, Congress authorized a reckless and ill-advised war in Iraq. One year ago, Congress passed the deeply flawed Military Commissions Act. And late last week, a Democratic Congress passed legislation that dramatically expands the government’s ability to conduct warrantless wiretapping, which could affect innocent Americans. It is clear that many congressional Democrats have not learned from those earlier mistakes, two of which happened when Democrats controlled the Senate. Once again, Congress has buckled to pressure and intimidation by the administration.

It should go without saying, but it’s important to repeat: every member of Congress supports wiretapping terrorists. And no one thinks that the government should have to get a court order to listen to communications between suspected terrorists in foreign countries, even if those communications happen to pass through the U.S. The FISA bill Congress passed late last week was the latest example of the administration exploiting a legitimate problem to make an outrageous power grab – and unfortunately, it was also just the latest example of Congress giving in to the president’s fear-mongering. The very last thing we should be doing is granting this administration — and this Attorney General in particular — more authority to conduct wiretaps without adequate judicial supervision. It is the abuse of power by this administration that is one of the main reasons this president and attorney general should be censured.


After all the wrong-doing by this administration, it was disheartening to see Congress bow to its demands one more time. But there is a silver lining to that dark cloud. The Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate proposed alternative bills that addressed legitimate concerns about foreign-to-foreign communications while also doing a better job of protecting innocent Americans than what the administration was proposing. In particular, Majority Leader Reid, Intelligence Committee Chairman Rockefeller, and Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin responded to specific concerns a number of us raised about a draft Democratic proposal in the Senate. The resulting Senate Democratic bill was far from perfect, but it was vastly better than the administration’s proposal.

I am also encouraged by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for fixing this flawed legislation as soon as Congress reconvenes in September. We should not delay passing a bill that will end Alberto Gonzales’s six-month, oversight-free surveillance holiday. The president will undoubtedly oppose these efforts and the Republicans in the Senate will no doubt filibuster any efforts to reinstate judicial involvement and tighten the controls around the president’s eavesdropping authorities. In the face of that expected opposition, Democrats will need to stick together this time to fix the mess that we just created. And at least some Republicans will have to be convinced to support the Constitution.

Congress isn’t polling well these days, it rarely ever does.  But one thing I feared even the night after they won the majority in both the House and the Senate was that too many people would think that once they won office, everything would turn into this magical paradise.

They’re still human, and they can only do so much.  But there’s still hope, there’s still hope that we can bring this administration back under control and restore the balance to the three branches of government, and there’s still hope that we can start to repair some of the damage, not only from Bush’s ill-advised policies, but our party’s own erring in approving them.

3 Responses to “Getting It Right”

  1. Macswain says:

    I meant to give you props for writing that direct first line to your earlier post … “Congress has failed.”

    True, true.

  2. Let me pile on with the Kudos while we’re at it. Keep up the good work, both of you.

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