Feingold Stands Alone
Perhaps it is best to start by thinking about what the Republicans would have done if one of their members had thrown a Feingold-type bomb. The answer is obvious. Sen. Bombthrower (Republican, Kansas) would have been lionized on right-wing radio, become a star on the Republican fund-raising circuit, and given more responsibility in the leadership the way that Tom DeLay was promoted in the House. Given that Sen. Bombthrower's proposals were vetted by the Hoover Institution and American Enterprise Institute in advance, there was no surprise that scholars from these think-tanks came out in support of the general principles behind Bombthrower's ideas. Shelby Steele of Hoover, Newt Gingrich of AEI, and Frank Gaffney (defense intellectual for hire) were all on television defending Bombthrower's proposals.
The legislation in question may have been sidelined, but the Republican leadership and other Republican senators would have made sure that Sen. Bombthrower's proposal was accompanied by a variety of other rhetorical handgrenades against the conduct of the Democratic leadership and some M-16 rounds about how liberals in general were ruining the country. In other words, if a Feingold-type bomb were thrown from the Republican side, the bombthrower's initiative would have been promoted through the conservative media, received support from conservative think tanks, and viewed as promoting the "conservative movement" even if it failed. In fact, many of the lions of conservativism have been spectacular failures, G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Robert Bork, and John Bolton to name a few.
What are the Democrats doing with Feingold. Are his ideas being promoted in the popular left-wing media? Are Democratic icons using Feingold's initiative to roast Bush about lying about WMD, the torture memos, mismanaging the war in Iraq, Katrina, and other fiascos? No! Are Feingold's ideas being used to rally the liberal/left troops and keep them agitated in opposition to the Bush administration? No! Has any fundraising been done by the national Democrats under the "Support Feingold" banner? No! Has Feingold gotten any play by the "liberal media" or liberal intellectuals? It certainly doesn't look like it.
Far from taking the opportunity to pile on Bush, the "liberal media" refuses to consider the merits of Feingold's proposal while "Democratic consultants and strategists" accuse Feingold of selfishly pursuing his own Presidential operations. Harry Reid himself may have backed off the idea of denouncing Feingold, but he still doesn't have enough tactical sense to use Feingold's bomb as an opportunity to throw a few of his own. Why not offer a blistering critique of the conduct of the war? What not emphasize that the Bush administration seems more effective in breaking American law than they are in stopping the insurgency or reacting to natural disasters?
So, Feingold pretty much stands alone in public even though there's a lot of popular sentiment on the Democratic side for impeachment. True, the Democratic leadership in Congress avoid another six hours of daily pounding from the right-wing media, but they still don't get anywhere themselves. At the same time, the Democratic consultants collect enormous contingencies while counting people like Bob Novak as their best friends. What the Democrats in Congress need is the courage to support the bomb-throwers among them, the brains to cleverly toss a few hand grenades themselves, and the ability to help keep their own constituents mobilized.
They also need consultants who are best friends with people other than Bob Novak.