Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Constitution Subcommittee, opened a hearing today entitled "Restoring the Rule of Law" by blasting the long-term damage George W. Bush has done to the Constituion, saying both the new Congress and the next president will need counsel on "... tackling the wreckage that this President will leave."
"Tomorrow, September 17, is the 221st anniversary of the day in 1787 when 39 members of the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in Philadelphia," said Feingold in opening the hearings this morning. "It is a sad fact as we approach that anniversary that for the past seven and a half years, and especially since 9/11, the Bush Administration has treated the Constitution and the rule of law with a disrespect never before seen in the history of this country."
Calling the Bush-Cheney shredding of our national creed "a shameful legacy that will haunt our country for years to come," Feingold addressed the difficulty that a new Congress will have in rectifying this administration's actions as the public and even Washington become numb to what Bush has made standard practice since September 11.
"By now, the public can be excused for being almost numb to new revelations of government wrongdoing and overreaching," said the Wisconsin Senator. "The catalogue is breathtaking, even when immensely complicated and far reaching programs and events are reduced to simple catch phrases: torture, Guantanamo, ignoring the Geneva Conventions, warrantless wiretapping, data mining, destruction of emails, U.S. Attorney firings, stonewalling of congressional oversight, abuse of the state secrets doctrine and executive privilege, secret abrogation of executive orders, signing statements."
The Constitution Subcommittee will hear testimony from legal and historical experts, including John Podesta, President Clinton's former Chief of Staff, on what steps must be taken starting in January to reestablishing appropriate checks and balances in areas including warrantless wiretapping, interrogation standards, detention policy, abuse of executive privilege, excessive government secrecy, violations of privacy and misleading Congress.
"That, of course, is much easier said than done," said Feingold today. "It's not simply a matter of a new President saying, 'Ok, I won't do that anymore.' This President's transgressions are so deep and the damage to our system of government so extensive that a concerted effort from the executive and legislative branches will be needed. And that means the new President will, in some respects, have to go against his institutional interests."
This is an important hearing and, in a Senate that has in many ways been far too weak in truly challenging this White House's lawlessness and giving a metaphorical middle finger to Congress -- and thus, the American people -- Feingold is to once again be commended for showing real leadership in not letting the issue die.
You can read the full text of Senator Feingold's opening statement here and view the video below.
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