- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Russ Feingold told party faithful here yesterday that Democrats must shake their “timid” image and could best demonstrate they have a backbone by joining his call to censure President Bush.

If Democrats fail to stand up for what they believe in, it won’t matter if they win back control of Congress, Mr. Feingold said, noting that the party held the majority when the Senate approved the Iraq war and passed the USA Patriot Act.

“It’s not enough to just be in the majority. You have to stand for something,” said the Wisconsin Democrat, who opposed both votes. “You have to do the right thing.”

Mr. Feingold, who is considering running for president in 2008, said though Republican approval ratings are at record lows, Democrats “won’t win by default. We won’t win by just running out the clock.”

“We will only win if we show them we are willing to discuss tough subjects, or else we will be perceived as weak and full of fear.”

Mr. Feingold said he has stood on principle by writing a resolution to censure Mr. Bush for his warrantless surveillance program, which was kept secret from most of Congress for several years. He thinks the president’s wiretapping program is unconstitutional, the three-term senator said, and that Mr. Bush’s actions would be considered “high crimes and misdemeanors” by the Founding Fathers.

“That is a direct attack on our system of government and it ought to be repudiated,” he said.

Mr. Feingold considers the censure resolution a “moderate, modest thing,” but he acknowledged it would not pass a Republican Congress and so far has little support. The measure is pending in committee after receiving a hearing in March.

Three Democratic senators have signed on to the censure resolution: Barbara Boxer of California, Tom Harkin of Iowa and 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Republicans seized on the censure idea as an example of how Democrats would run Congress if they capture the majority in November, though many Democrats said the senator’s proposal hurts the party.

However, many in the crowd yesterday loved the idea. One Democrat praised Mr. Feingold as a “firebrand.”

“I hope he’s the next president,” said Timothy Frazer of Concord. “I really appreciated his idea that we’ve got to quit pussyfooting around and quit being afraid to take some positions that might create some controversy.”

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, also thought to be eyeing the White House in 2008, spoke at the state convention. His speech was less critical of Mr. Bush, but he received loud applause for saying Americans deserve an administration “that doesn’t have an on-and-off switch when it comes to following the law.”

When asked twice if he supports censuring the president, Mr. Warner replied: “I think the best way Democrats can show strength in 2006 is electing a Democratic Congress.”

“That would set the country back in the right direction,” he said.

Mr. Feingold, 53, said he doesn’t know yet if he’s running for president, but he has visited more than a dozen states, including a trip to Maine yesterday for another address.

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