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UPDATE:  The invaluable Crooks and Liars has the clip of Sen. Feingold giving Glenn his due.  (Thanks, John — you’re a peach!)  Good on Glenn for making a splash — and good on Feingold for recognizing quality blogging when he reads it.

Both Sen. Russ Feingold and Sen. Pat Leahy stood up for the Constitution today and performed their patriotic duty.  Both of their opening statements were powerful and heart-felt, and their questions were insightful and probing on issues that are vital to the continuation of our republic. 

If you have not done so, please take some time and thank both Senators for their efforts at this hearing today.  They both deserve major kudos for doing the heavy lifting for all of us — and I could not be more proud of both of them.

Patrick J. Leahy – Vermont – Fax (202) 224-3479

Russell D. Feingold – Wisconsin – Fax (202) 224-2725

Senator Feingold gave a plug to Glenn Greenwald’s post from today at one point — yay, Glenn! — discussing with witness John Dean the similarities to the Mitchell statements from the 1970s and today’s statements from the Administration.  And Feingold used the word "cover-up" in the discussion.  Truly, the interactions between Feingold and the two witnesses he requested — Bruce Fein and John Dean — were insightful and instructive, especially the answers given by Bruce Fein.

UPDATE:  Apparently, Sen. Herb Kohl also made an appearance at the hearing today, entering the hearing room after proceedings began and then having to leave the room prior to being given an opportunity to do an opening statement or ask any questions.  But he at least did show up for some period of time and listened to witness testimony.  FWIW, it’s only fair to point out that he was present for part of the hearing (which is more than I can say for others). 

The Senators who stayed to ask questions of the witnesses and to engage in a dialogue about the nature of our Constitution and the system of checks and balances which forms the foundation of our government deserve at least some level of commendation, even though I disagree strongly with their conclusions. (But not Orrin Hatch, because his sole purpose was to shill the Administration position, repeatedly, and refuse to allow for any give and take on the issues from any witness with whom he interacted.  Shameful and intellectually dishonest.) 

That said, I think both Sens. Graham and Specter are giving this Administration a pass when both of them clearly believe that the actions taken in this NSA program are troubling — or they wouldn’t be proposing amendment legislation for FISA.  And that is just shameful — putting party power interests before the "nation of laws" that Lindsey Graham especially is so fond of touting.

The rest of the Senators who were present only to make opening statements and ask no questions were there simply to grandstand.  Sen. Cornyn, especially, took gratuitous potshots and then slunk out of the room never to reappear.  Pathetic and cowardly.

But you know what is most pathetic?  Not showing up at all.  Where were the rest of the members of the Judiciary Committee?  Are the Constitution and our institutions of government held so cheaply that these Senators could not be bothered with this hearing today?  I’m waiting for some answers, because I’m simply infuriated right now at the lack of respect our viewpoint was given by these shirkers.

I thought of all the witnesses, Bruce Fein was fantastic.  His mental agility never ceases to amaze me, even as I tend to disagree with his ultra-conservative viewpoints most of the time.  The most odd testimony came from Prof. Turner, whose rambling references to the Vietnam War were odd, to say the least, if not perfectly in line with the arguments that Vice President Cheney has made in terms of asserting Presidential power prerogatives.

The AP (via the NYTimes) covers the hearings in the Constitutional concerns versus political grandstanding framework that the media has been using on this issue.

I’m just feeling a bit disgusted at the lack of participation by Senators on both sides of the aisle on this, who have decided to put short-term political considerations above concerns for the long-term welfare of our Constitutional Republic.  And I can’t help but sit here and hum that "We the People…" song about the Preamble to the Constitution from those old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons I used to watch as a kid.  And wonder how anyone in a position such as this, who has taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, can then sit back and not do so in this very situation.

As I said, I’m waiting to hear the excuses.  But at the moment, I’m all about the simmering disgust.