Russ Feingold's Censure Hearing Folly

Russ Feingold invited John Dean, the infamous Watergate figure who brought down Richard Nixon, to the censure hearings to turn his efforts toward President Bush:

John Dean, the former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon, on Friday appeared before a Senate committee for the first time in more than 30 years and accused President George W. Bush of an aggressive assertion of presidential power.

Mr Dean last appeared before a Senate committee when he accused Mr Nixon of a cover-up during Watergate, helping to lead to his impeachment. The judiciary committee hearings on Friday were held to examine a resolution from Senator Russell Feingold, a Democrat, to censure Mr Bush for authorising warrantless wiretapping.

John Dean’s performance was an embarrassment. During his testimony, Dean took the hearings as an opportunity to sell his new book:

John Cornyn, a Republican senator from Texas and a Bush loyalist, denounced censure as “completely without merit”, and said he was ambivalent about the hearings. He criticised the committee for inviting Mr Dean, who is “selling a book and is a convicted felon. It strikes me as odd that the committee is giving time to… [him] as part of their marketing effort.”

Mr Dean defended his presence, noting that it was important that the committee “sometimes hears from the dark side”.

“I probably have more experience first hand than anyone might want about how a president can get on the wrong side of the law. I’m not here to sell a book today… the [new] book won’t be out until the summer,” he said.

And Lindsay Graham effectively destroyed Dean’s argument that Bush’s approval of the warrantless wiretapping of terrorist suspects was the same as Nixon’s Watergate cover up.

Senator Lindsey O. Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Bush endorsed a debatable legal theory when he authorized the secret wiretaps. But Nixon and Dean, Graham said, were involved in patently illegal acts for which there were no legal justifications.

”Nobody read the Constitution to say that Richard Nixon and you could break into somebody’s private offices,” Graham told Dean. ”Isn’t there a big difference between knowingly breaking the law — burglarizing somebody’s office — and having a real debate about where authority begins and ends?”

Dean: ”Nixon didn’t authorize the break-in.”

Graham: ”Did he cover up a crime that he knew to be a crime?”

Dean shot back: ”He covered it up for national security reasons.”

”Give me a break,” Graham snapped. ”He covered it up to save his hide.”

The hearings were such a waste of time that even Democrats skipped them:

WASHINGTON — Senator Russell Feingold was a lonely man yesterday.

Of his seven Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee, only two showed up for the committee’s hearing on Feingold’s call for a censure of President Bush. One of them — Feingold’s fellow Wisconsin Democrat, Herb Kohl — ducked out early without uttering a word.

So Feingold sat amid a sea of empty chairs in the hearing room, withstanding a withering Republican barrage. GOP lawmakers took turns branding Feingold’s resolution ”irresponsible,” ”inappropriate,” ”excessive,” ”perverse,” ”false,” ”surreal,” ”beyond the pale,” and ”destructive.”

I hope Feingold continues with his censure/impeachment strategy. It will only help the Republicans.

Related:

Censure? Impeachment?

Jill Carroll Speaks Freely from Ramstein Air Base
Heaven forfend we should actually listen to the experts

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