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Censuring George W. Bush

What does it say about our country when we'll impeach a President for lying about getting blowjobs from an intern, but we won't even censure a President who illegally wiretaps Americans without a warrant? I think it says: the American people are acting like fools and idiots.

Sen. Russ Feingold's call for Congress to censure George W. Bush can't substitute for the investigation we're never going to get, but it is entirely appropriate. Too bad it'll never happen. Here's Feingold's press release.

Even if you agree that FISA ought to be amended to allow the President to do what he's been doing illegally -- if you agree with Bill Frist that we should "[support] the president of the United States as commander in chief who is out there fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and the people who have sworn — have sworn — to destroy Western civilization and all the families listening to us" -- George W. Bush still deserves to be censured.

People like Bill Frist who argue against censure aren't arguing just that warrantless wiretapping is appropriate. They're also arguing that the war against AlQaeda demands that we support George W. Bush's lawless behavior. That's absurd. In Frist's words, it's a "crazy political move." No President can be allowed to break the law with impunity. If Bush thought wireless wiretapping was essential after 9-11, he could have asked Congress for that authority. Given the restrictions of FISA, he need to ask Congress to change the law. Bush refused, and now we're going to let him get away with it without even a scolding.

Ambivalent Imbroglio's quick survey showing the highest percentage of respondents saying that we need Bush's spy program to make us safer, and Dan Froomkin's collection of reader comments about why so many Americans seem not to worry about the unchecked power Bush is claiming, suggest that Feingold's censure motion won't fly. It's depressing. Have we always been a nation so afraid? So enamored of the strongman at the top?

What if Tom Wolfe is wrong? What if we could go around saying that "the majority of the American people are fools, idiots, bumblers, hicks"? In a healthy democracy, where the citizens weren't fools and idiots, I would think that the people might actually appreciate being upbraided once in a while if they started bumbling. That's part of holding yourself to high standards, isn't it?

Even the best of us are fools every now and then. If our friends respect us, we hope they'll let us know when we are. The American people themselves surely aren't fools and hicks. But that doesn't mean they can't act foolishly, occasionally. Setting George W. Bush above the law is foolish, and we should say so. Feingold's censure motion deserves support from all of us, whether we think warrantless wiretapping is necessary or not.

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