Feingold Censure Motion Rallying Cry to Bush’s Base

David Kirkpatrick reports that Russ Feingold’s motion to censure President Bush has breathed new life into Republican fundraising efforts.

Republicans, worried that their conservative base lacks motivation to turn out for the fall elections, have found a new rallying cry in the dreams of liberals about censuring or impeaching President Bush. The proposal this week by Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, to censure Mr. Bush over his domestic eavesdropping program cheered the left. But it also dovetailed with conservatives’ plans to harness such attacks to their own ends.

With the Republican base demoralized by continued growth in government spending, undiminished violence in Iraq and intramural disputes over immigration, some conservative leaders had already begun rallying their supporters with speculation about a Democratic rebuke to the president even before Mr. Feingold made his proposal. “Impeachment, coming your way if there are changes in who controls the House eight months from now,” Paul Weyrich, a veteran conservative organizer, declared last month in an e-mail newsletter.The threat of impeachment, Mr. Weyrich suggested, was one of the only factors that could inspire the Republican Party’s demoralized base to go to the polls. With “impeachment on the horizon,” he wrote, “maybe, just maybe, conservatives would not stay at home after all.”

For weeks, Republicans have taken to conservative Web sites and talk radio shows to inveigh against the possibility, however remote, that Democrats could impeach Mr. Bush if they gained control of Congress. Mr. Feingold’s censure proposal fell far short of a demand for impeachment. Most Democrats in the Senate distanced themselves from it, concerned that they would be tagged by Republicans as soft on terrorism. But the censure proposal provided Republicans an opening. “This is such a gift,” the conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh told listeners on his syndicated radio program on Monday, saying the Democrats were fulfilling his predictions. “They have to go back to this impeachment thing,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, a conservative standard-bearer, echoed the thought. “We’d like to congratulate the Wisconsin Democrat on his candor,” its editors wrote Wednesday in a column headlined “The Impeachment Agenda.” The Republican National Committee sent the editorial out to its e-mail list of 15 million supporters.

The Feingold move will likely not matter much come November; it’s not the kind of thing ordinary voters much care about. Still, despite the fact that the Republicans are trying their best to hand the election to them, Democratic leaders continue to overplay their hand and give credence to charges that they are untrustworthy.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jack Ehrlich says:

    What Feingold does probably not matter in November, but the Democrats are not going to drop the issue of impeachment, particularly those with a more leftward bent. They actually are stupid enough to think they can “get even” for the impeacment of Clinton. Unlike the Republicans who balked at the thought of algore as President, the Dems think Dick Cheney would do things differently than Bush. I am sure Cheney would punish the Democrats like no other.

  2. anjin-san says:

    At the rate Bush is going, you could have that rally for his base in a high school gym.