Once upon a time, a Congressman named Jack Murtha, respected inside the Beltway but pretty much unknown outside his district, called for the redeployment of US forces in Iraq. He could not have possibly believed that the Republican-controlled Administration or Congress would be willing to go along with him on the suggestion. He didn't have much support for his plan within his own party. He sprung it in a big news conference, and the Republicans in the House immediately tried to play politics with it, questioning Murtha's patriotism and putting together a sham vote that completely subverted Murtha's plan.
Flash forward six months.
Murtha has become the go-to voice in the Congress on Iraq. More than any Republican. Members of his party and the public are coming around to his way of thinking on Iraq. This STILL won't change the policy, but it puts Democrats in a far stronger position, with a credible voice on the war that reflects increasingly the position of the American people.
I say that to say this:
Russ Feingold already was, but will now certainly be the go-to voice on the NSA program. That's priceless in terms of getting the Democratic message out. He is not likely to get censure, but he adds to the list of credible, principled Democratic voices with something important to say on national security, civil liberties, and the war. In truth Feingold had always been a credible voice, but this bold move has allowed the country to take notice.
And he is absolutely right in saying this:
I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide. … Too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004. In the face of this, they’ll say we’d better just focus on domestic issues. … [Democrats shouldn’t] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question the administration, you’re helping the terrorists.
Planned or not, gambit or not, we have to remember that this is the right thing to do. "Actions have consequences" is something the American people get, loud and clear. This is principle above politics, and it's what Democrats like myself have been begging for the last five years. It cannot be oppoertunism if it's doomed to fail in a Republican Congress. And given the level of "impeach NOW" stuff I get in my inbox, this isn't the preferred option of much of the rank-and-file either, I'd gather.
You have to stand up and state your beliefs, powerfully, succinctly, and credibly. That's what the public expects out of a political party. They don't expect them to run and hide every time the other side blows the "terrorist sympathizer" dog whistle. Feingold couldn't be more right to suggest censure at this time. That it's good politics is almost irrelevant, but what's been the major narrative of the week? Not the President's recycled PR speeches on Iraq, I can tell you that.