- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2006

Sen. Russell D. Feingold yesterday defended his comparison of the administration’s terrorist domestic-surveillance program to the Watergate scandal and, despite a lack of support from top Democrats, repeated his call to censure President Bush.

“Our greatest priority in this country is fighting the terrorist elements that attacked us on September 11, but when the president breaks the law and doesn’t admit that he’s broken the law, and then advances theories about being able to override the law on torture, and having a pre-emptive doctrine of war, what he’s trying to do is change the nature of our government,” the Wisconsin Democrat said.

“He’s trying to turn our presidency into an imperial presidency. So this is one of the greatest challenges in our history, to Congress, to stand up and make sure we still have the rule of law and checks and balances. That’s actually why it’s more significant than the very serious events that occurred at Watergate.”

His statements during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” were challenged by host Chris Wallace, who asked if Mr. Bush has “created an enemies list” used by the federal government to punish political opponents or authorized break-ins of his political enemies.

Mr. Feingold said his criticism is not that criminal laws were being broken, or the “day-to-day problems faced by President Nixon,” but he said Mr. Bush is treating the presidency as a monarchy.

Mr. Feingold held a hearing Friday on the National Security Agency’s wiretapping surveillance program of overseas phone calls involving suspected terrorists.

John Dean, Watergate felon and author of the soon-to-be-released book “Conservatives Without a Conscience: Bush, Cheney, and the Radical Republicans Who Are Destroying the Nation’s Democratic Values,” testified at the hearing that censure would be “appropriate.”

The movement to censure Mr. Bush has little support among Democrats, and notably absent from the Judiciary Committee hearing were fellow Democratic members Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Dianne Feinstein of California, Charles E. Schumer of New York, and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois.

Mr. Feingold accused Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, of scheduling the hearing on a Friday to discourage attendance.

“You know very well that people often don’t show up for hearings, even during the week, and a lot of them took off because the votes were over. Senator Specter knew exactly what he was doing when he scheduled on a Friday,” Mr. Feingold said.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and the committee’s ranking member, did attend the hearing and says he backs Mr. Feingold’s censure efforts.

Now that the hearing is over, Mr. Feingold said, he will insist on a censure vote.

“Of course I want a vote. The president has broken the law,” he said.


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