Democrats run and hide -- literally -- from censure resolution

Russ Feingold wonders what it will take for his colleagues to stand up to the president.

Published March 15, 2006 3:11PM (EST)

It seems that the senator has a point.

With George W. Bush's approval ratings wallowing in the 30s -- he's at 34 percent in new polls from Harris and CBS -- Russ Feingold is wondering how low Bush has to go before Senate Democrats will be willing to stand up to him on national security. As he watched members of his party distance themselves from his censure resolution this week, Feingold told Fox News: "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."

They were strong words, but they don't seem to have shamed anyone into action. So far as we can tell, not a single Democrat in the Senate has offered to support Feingold's resolution, which would censure the president for engaging in a program of warrantless spying and then misleading the country about it. To the contrary, many of Feingold's Democratic colleagues are seeking distance, saying that anything like censure ought to await the outcome of an investigation that's never going to happen.

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank got a close-up look at the bobbing and weaving around Feingold's resolution by watching senators as they arrived for the Democrats' weekly caucus lunch Tuesday. The portrait that he paints isn't one of a party emboldened: Barack Obama said he couldn't comment on Feingold's resolution because he hadn't read it yet. Ben Nelson said he didn't have enough information. John Kerry suggested that he was in too much of a hurry to stop to comment, then stood silently as he waited to get through a security checkpoint.

What about the woman who would be president? Milbank writes: "Hillary Rodham Clinton brushed past the press pack, shaking her head and waving her hand over her shoulder. When an errant food cart blocked her entrance to the meeting room, she tried to hide from reporters behind the 4-foot-11 Barbara Mikulski."

Clinton's press spokesman told reporters to ask the senator about Feingold's resolution after lunch. And they might have, except that Clinton -- and a lot of her colleagues -- slipped out a back door instead.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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