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Monday, March 13, 2006

Feingold, Censure, and the WTMJ interview

Update II: WTMJ's story, in words and video, is here. Use that link instead of Patrick's. Update: Patrick from Badger Blogger has the video here. Be kind to his bandwidth.

Update III: Don't forget, Owen and I will be on a panel togther at BlogFest 06!

Like Owen, I was invited down to the WTMJ studios to do an interview about blogs and their reactions to Russ Feingold's call for a censure of President Bush. I was expecting more of a hard-hitting, issues-oriented interview, so in the car on my way to the studio, I practiced my answers to all the questions I thought I would get (yes, the warrantless spying program broke the law; no, this was not just the naked ambition of a presidential candidate). I didn't get any of those questions.

The interview was good, though; Charles Benson, who did the thing, asked me about blogs, blogging, and bloggers in general. He did get into my own political perspective, and my thoughts on Feingold and the call for censure. Mostly, he seemed interested in what reactions I saw across the Cheddarsphere and on national blogs to the story.

Benson asked me some more background kind of questions while the cameraman shot some footage of me "blogging" and of my trusty laptop in action. (Maybe I should set up a fund to raise money towards a new MacBook Pro, eh?) In all, it was a positive experience; though Benson didn't seem to know a ton about blogging, he took me seriously and took the idea of blogging seriously, too. On the way out, we had a nice chat about what the freshmen at Marquette University High School are reading these days (ugh, The Odyssey!) and he mentioned that as election season nears, he'll be calling more on bloggers for their perspectives.


But I wanted to make a couple of the points I rehearsed in my head before it gets too late. There is, of course, the criticism that Feingold is facing that this move to censure Bush for his lawbreaking is just the motions of a presidential candidate-to-be, that this is all ambition's ugly mug. It is most certainly not: Consider that when Senator after Senator took to the microphone in 1998 to declare that the president is never above the law, Feingold was among them. To ask that Feingold now abandon the principles he's held for eight years and two presidents--that the executive is not above the law--because some people will see it as "ambition" is disgusting. It's offensive.

There's also the criticism levied against Feingold today by the likes of Dick Cheney and Scott McClellan, that Feingold wants to stop us from spying on al Qaida. This is, of course, a complete lie; no one is asking anyone to stop spying on al Qaida, or at all. All we are asking for is that the surveillance be carried out under the law. Again, I will note, the fact that Republicans are introducing legislation to make the warrantless spying program legal after the fact shows that even they know the law was broken.

Finally, there's the argument advanced by my new sparring partner Rick Esenberg: "What this is," he writes, "is a hard left politician positioning himself to garner the support of the drum circle left." As a cymbal-wielding leader of the drum-circle left, I reject this. The right of late (well, since 2000) has made cheese with the notion that any position that challenges whatever the Republican orthodoxy of the day may be is immediately labeled the "looney left," as are any people who advance those positions. See, for example, the very very moderate Howard Dean who, because he questioned the wisdom of the war in Iraq, was marginalized by the press and Republicans as being off his rocker. They're doing it now to Russ, who is, like Dean, too moderate and too complicated to be pigeon-holed as liberal. More on this later, I'm sure.

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