Warrantless wiretapping, redefining torture, and misleading Congress are just some of the transgressions of the Bush administration, according to Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. Will the next president restore lost civil liberties, and a balance of power with Congress?
Wednesday is Constitution Day , and Feingold, who says the past eight years have seen the Bush administration treat that document and the rule of law with disrespect, hopes to begin a reverse course with a public hearing. Feingold chairs the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds the hearing — “Restoring the Rule of Law” — on Tuesday in Washington. “It is going to have to be a public appeal, that I'm hoping to begin with this hearing, to do the right thing for a system of checks and balances,” says Feingold, who says Feingold says both Barack Obama and John McCain have shown some willingness to address the issues — for example, McCain's condemnation of torture. But Feingold says both men need to say more. “I hope that in the debates, they are forced to answer questions that would nail them down some specific aspects of renouncing some of these extreme claims,” says Feingold. “I think it would be irresponsible not to press them.”
Still, Feingold concedes it will be difficult for the nest president to give up the new presidential powers staked out during the Bush era: “a new president is going to come in, and he's going to have lawyers around him saying 'look, you have these powers, and they've been expanded during the last administration, let's have an even stronger executive.' I think the check and balance here is going to have to be the fact that I believe both of these men have some understanding of the Constitution, and that what has been done in the last eight years really undermines the basic system of government we have.”
Feingold would like the next president, whether McCain or Obama, to take immediate action, by using his inaugural address to renounce the “extreme executive powers assumed” during the Bush years.