Sen. Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush for warrantless eavesdropping on suspected terrorists is drawing major attention -- even if its political chances are roughly zero. The front page of the Washington Post blows the hot air of publicity on Feingold's leftist crusade, but the headline is "A Senate Maverick Acts to Force an Issue." Why are the "mavericks" always to the left of the party mainstream?
Reporter Shailagh Murray does a better job of defining Feingold in paragraph number 12: "a Democratic outsider and iconoclast and a darling of progressives." Although it should be said that a pile of people who don't like this censure stunt are "progressives." This would be better described as an act of an ultraliberal, on the radical left, throwing a bone to the MoveOn crowd and the Daily Kosmonauts. Then she really makes Feingold sound like a weird combination plate:
"As he contemplates a presidential bid, he is emerging as an anti-establishment maverick, a blend of Howard Dean, John McCain and the late Wisconsin progressive Senator William Proxmire." Somehow, I don't often see MoveOn and McCain on the same side of the War on Terror. Murray does note in paragraph 17 that "The left wing of the party has greeted Feingold's censure call ecstatically," and notes he was the front-runner in a Jan. 31 poll of the "liberal blog Daily Kos." Just "liberal"? Murray does the same thing earlier in the article, noting that "MoveOn.org and other liberal groups" called for a censure of Bush in 2004.
A political reporter worth his or her salt would also do a little more to note that these merely "liberal" groups opposed every move in the war on terror, from the war in Afghanistan to the Patriot Act. If they were in power, there would be no war on terror.
Murray does accurately capture Democratic nervousness over this proposal, worrying it could hand Republicans an issue. But the Republican real estate in Murray's piece was tiny, with Bill Frist saying Feingold "should be ashamed of this political ploy," with Murray then noting Frist "also has presidential ambitions."
Dana Milbank's "Washington Sketch" column on A-2 also publicizes the Feingold censure move, capturing a string of Democrats trying to distance themselves from the issue or just plain hide. Milbank draws a verbal picture of Hillary Clinton trying to hide behind "4-foot-11" Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Milbank reported Democrats "know liberal Democratic activists are eager to see Bush censured, or worse. But they also know Feingold's maneuver could cost them seats in GOP states." Milbank also noted Republicans consider the Feingold move a "gift."
Don't let the Washington Post ever argue they don't cover legislative proposals that don't stand a snowball's chance in Hell. And what is this censure resolution if not a Wisconsin snowball aimed at President Bush's head? But it certainly can be argued that this is a move designed to define the Democrats. If they want to be seen as one bit plausible as hawks, they will shun Feingold. If they want to be seen instead as putting the civil liberties of terrorist plotters at the top of their pyramid of political values, they should pick up a snowball and let it fly.