Sunday, July 22, 2007

At best, censure gives republicans an easy out

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Notwithstanding my diary from January titled In defense of censure, the political and actual climate (not just on a global warming level) have changed substantially. Back then, I argued that censure would be a good first step to shift the Overton Window on impeachment and get the public used to hearing the term being used in a more “mainstream” kind of way.

Well, guess what? That has already happened without a call for censure or a censure resolution. Impeachment talk, whether it is about Bush, Cheney or Gonzales (who I am the most in favor of impeaching rightfuckingnow for a myriad of reasons), has been in public discourse for months. And not just among the “crazylibrulleftwingradicaltroophatingterroristlovingbabykillers” either.

But I don’t want to talk about whether we should or should not impeach or who we should or should not impeach. That has already been discussed ad nauseum here (and you can hear me actually talk about it with digby, Big Tent Democrat and thereisnospoon here). What I want to talk about, and what I fail to see is how censure, in and of itself, will accomplish much at this juncture – other than to give cover to republicans in Congress.

And yes, censure would force republican Senators to go on record as supporting Bush, Cheney or whomever else for whatever is contained in the censure resolution. And with over 20 republican Senators up for reelection (including some juicy targets) next year, it would force some of them to stand behind the bordering on egregiously illegal acts committed by this administration.

But it would also accomplish something else – something that has even more consequences. Even if it passes, it will not hold any water here in the US in terms of (1) convincing any more people that this administration is rotten to the core and (2) truly holding this administration accountable (as the esteemed Senator from Wisconsin feels) in any meaningful way. Hell, Bush, Cheney and their cohorts are willfully flaunting their egregiously illegal acts and defiance of any call for accountability. Not only that, it also would accomplish a third and more important thing from a political perspective - it will give republicans an opportunity to take cover and distance themselves from Bush, Cheney or Gonzales without actually doing a damn thing.

This is no different from the republican WINOs in Congress on Iraq (Waverer in Name Only) – letting them talk tough but not actually put anything of substance behind those words.

For starters, I would assume (and if I am wrong then I think this would still apply anyway, just on a lesser level) that a censure resolution would need 60 votes for cloture just to come to a floor vote. This way, McConnell can LET Collins, Snowe, Sununu and a few other republicans vote for cloture and still have the motion fall short for an actual “upperdown” vote. This would obviously be the worst of both worlds – having some republicans say “well, I DID ‘ demand accountability' and distanced myself from the actions of the Bush administration”, while not even letting a motion that wouldn’t even result in any meaningful action come to a vote.

To be quite honest, I also think that this may be enough for some Democrats to say that they too distanced themselves from Bush, Cheney, etc. without having to really do something bold. If this is step A (or B) in a multi-step plan that ends with impeachment, or also involves impeachment, then great. Go ahead, Russ – I’m all for it.

I guess.

It can’t hurt in further shifting the debate towards Congressional action against this administration. But to me, the debate has shifted already without censure even being something that most Americans even know exists. But it is, as I mention in the Senator’s diary, a double edged sword. At this point, it doesn’t do anything positive in and of itself other than keep the Overton Window shifting. But it can also backfire in a serious way.

As I also said in the Senator’s diary, regardless of whether a censure motion passes or even makes it through cloture, we need to be ready (“we” ESPECIALLY being our elected representatives) to counter any spin from the right wing – as spin and framing are really the only things that can come out of a censure motion in terms of “reigning in” or “demanding accountability” from this administration.

And we know how good the Democrats are at getting their message or framing across...

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