Feingold and the NSA

FEINGOLD AND THE NSA….Matt Yglesias was pleased to hear Cokie Roberts this morning citing a Newsweek poll suggesting that support for censuring President Bush was actually fairly robust, even among Republicans. Unfortunately, he wasn’t so pleased with the rest of the magazine:

Look at what else I found on the Newsweek web site. Here’s a column by Eleanor Clift about how Feingold is terrible and ruining everything. And here’s a column by Jonathan Alter about how Rahm Emanuel is awesome but Feingold may ruin everything. Honestly, I find the idea that this gambit will influence the midterms significantly one way or the other to be a bit daft ? it’s just not that big a deal. So how about a column by someone ? anyone ? trying to explain why the president does not, in fact, deserve to be censured for his lawbreaking ways?

I agree with Matt that Feingold’s censure motion probably isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but his post also highlights my biggest problem with the whole affair: it’s not increasing public awareness of the NSA’s domestic spying program. All it’s doing is increasing awareness of Russ Feingold’s censure motion.

I’m sure someone can point to an exception somewhere, but so far every single column or news story I’ve read on the subject has been about (a) Feingold the maverick and whether this helps his presidential chances, (b) the disarray his motion has caused in the Democratic party, (c) whether the censure motion was politically smart, or (d) Republican glee that Feingold has shifted attention away from all the things that were hurting them.

Is this really helping convince the public that Bush deliberately and repeatedly violated the law when he approved the NSA program? I’m not seeing it. Political theater is only useful if it actually shines the spotlight into the dark corner where we want it shined, and Feingold’s censure motion doesn’t really seem to have done that. Instead of pinning our hopes on yet another bright and shiny silver bullet, maybe there’s a place for all those boring hearings and investigations after all.