Sunday, March 26, 2006


Notions of Note

Some recent reading that I thought was worth sharing. . .

1) I had very mixed feelings about Russ Feingold's censure proposal before reading Peter Beinart's provocative New Republic column on the subject this past week, which made a compelling case that the censure gambit might actually be good for the Democratic Party, if not the country.

The consensus judgment of the punditocracy, and of many Washington Democrats, has been that Feingold made a boneheaded move by changing the subject at a time when Bush and the Republicans had been taking a sustained pounding over Iraq, the Dubai Ports deal, the Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals, and the Cheney hunting accident. That concern, which I initially shared to some extent, has proven to be misguided -- Bush and his increasingly cranky allies on the Hill are still very much on the defensive.

Instead, as Beinart argues fairly convincingly, the primary effect has been to shift the fulcrum of the debate and make the criticisms of the Democratic leadership seem more mainstream and measured. In that respect, Beinart contends, Feingold has done the party a favor by staking out a new pole on the accountability spectrum and forcing more of a focus on Bush's arrogance of governance (as opposed to his sins of ideology).

Perhaps the best validation of this theory has been the public response -- 42 percent of the American people expressed support for censuring Bush over the illegal NSA wiretapping program at first blush. Should Harry Reid decide to embrace Feingold's proposal, it will be quite fascinating to see where that number will go after a full airing of the case against the President.

2) The American Prospect's current cover story on the resurrection of Al Gore by Ezra Klein is the most interesting and insightful piece on the former VP I have come across in the last couple years.

Avoiding the futile fixation of 2008 speculation, Klein chooses to probe the groundbreaking strategy Gore is following to bypass the keepers of conventional wisdom and communicate directly with the public and challenge the Bush propaganda machine on Iraq, civil liberties, and global warming (among other things).

At times Klein is a little too uncritical of Gore, for example putting too much blame on Gore's disastrous 2000 campaign on outside forces and not enough on the candidate himself. But otherwise he provides an exceedingly fair and thoughtful assessment of Gore as a man ahead of his time, which should help remind folks about why this guy was widely regarded as the best vice president of the 20th Century (if not all time).


Excellent take on the dynamics of the censure resolution.

At first, I was also skeptical of the notion. For months, there have been mutterings about a futile impeachment drive based on the WMD fiasco. That approach would only pick the ideological scabs of the war, and could easily play into the "Democrats are soft" meme.

By contrast, the Feingold resolution is about accountability and the rule of law. It's about standards of conduct, not a clash of ideological opposites. As such, it helps frame the debate as one of openness and accountability versus an administration that is increasingly running amok with its utter disregard for inconvenient legal standards.
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