The Note: Touching a Nerve

"The real debate in Democratic circles," writes the Journal, "would be whether to pass articles of impeachment. Whether such an inevitable attempt succeeds would depend on Mr. Bush's approval rating, and especially on whether Democrats could use their subpoena power as committee chairs to conjure up something they could flog to a receptive media as an 'impeachable' offense. But everyone should understand that censure and impeachment are important -- and so far the only -- parts of the left's agenda for the next Congress."

One Democrat who built a national reputation by vilifying "Washington Democrats" for trying to have it "both ways" is Howard Dean.

Not long ago, during an interview with ABC News' Charlie Gibson, Dean intimated that he didn't think the President's surveillance program complied with the law.

". . . What we don't approve of is breaking the law in order to spy on Americans," Dean told "Good Morning America" on Feb. 9. "The present law is very adequate, and the White House itself said so four years ago. All we ask is that this not turn, we not turn into a country like Iran, where the president of Iran can do anything they want at anytime. The reason the Constitution of this country has lasted as long as it has and this country has lasted as long as it has as a real democracy is because there is a check on presidential power. . ."

But when ABC News caught up with Dean at the Mayflower Hotel on Tuesday, the DNC chairman was in no mood to discuss the man (Feingold) whom Newsweek's Jon Meacham has dubbed "a sane Howard Dean." LINK

"We're not going to get into that," Dean told ABC News with a dismissive wave of the hand when asked if he supports Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-WI) resolution to censure the President.

Dean is not alone in shying away from the Wisconsin Senator on this issue.

With several pollsters and Democratic strategists saying that surveillance issues are not President Bush's most vulnerable spot in the minds of the public, most Democrats are trying to avoid discussing Sen. Feingold's measure even though many of them (as well as several Republicans) have questioned the legality of the Bush Administration's circumvention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

ABC News' Liz Marlantes reports that when Sen. Schumer was asked about Sen. Feingold's measure on Tuesday, he said, "the leadership is discussing this. I'm not going to comment." At which point, a reporter said, "that's a first," to which Sen. Schumer shot back "it is not."

In a must-read, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank Sketches the silence which has greeted the Feingold measure from such Democratic luminaries as Sen. Obama (who says he hasn't read it), Sen. Clinton (who "tried to hide from reporters behind the 4-foot-11 Barbara Miklulski"), and Sen. Kerry (who said "I really can't right now"). LINK

Milbank: "At a time when Democrats had Bush on the ropes over Iraq, the budget and port security, Feingold single-handedly turned the debate back to an issue where Bush has the advantage -- and drove another wedge through his party."

More Milbank: "The one Democrat happy to talk was Feingold, who, in a pre-lunch chat with reporters, seemed to enjoy his colleagues' squirms. 'I'm concerned about the approach the Democrats are taking, which is too often cowering,' he said."

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