Friday, April 07, 2006

Peter Beinart in TNR a few weeks ago:
Was Bush’s surveillance program illegal? Absolutely. (As George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley notes, “It’s not a close question. Federal law is clear.”) Did Bush lie about it? You betcha. (“When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so,” Bush declared on April 20, 2004, while doing exactly the opposite.)

....The Republican Congress tried to impeach Bill Clinton for lying in a civil suit about sex, Democrats can’t censure George W. Bush for lying—and breaking the law—on an issue of national security. It’s a little like telling someone who has just been punched in the face that they can’t hit back because that would perpetuate the cycle of violence. Or, put another way, if Republicans really still think they were right to impeach Clinton—if they’d do it again—then there’s no reason for Democrats to abandon censure in the name of civility. After all, if you don’t punch back, and the other side keeps hitting you, your efforts to stop the cycle of violence have failed.

....I don’t know of a single major Republican politician or conservative pundit who has admitted the obvious: that impeaching Clinton was a farce and a disgrace, the likes of which we should pray never to see again. The Republican strategy on Feingold’s censure effort is to keep calling it absurd without engaging it on the merits. But, on the merits, Feingold’s case is much stronger. As former Reagan-era Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein has put it, Bush’s actions are “more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath, because it [Bush’s claim of nearly unlimited executive authority] jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages.” If Republicans want to keep suggesting that censure (let alone impeachment) is a singularly extreme act to be taken only when our constitutional system is in peril, then they need to apologize for what happened in 1999.

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