"Maverick" Feingold's Censure Motion Earns CNN's "Political Play of the Week"

On Friday afternoon’s The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider touted Senator Russ Feingold’s motion to censure President Bush as his choice for this week’s "political play of the week," heaping this praise upon him: "Spines, backbones, they help you stand up for what you believe. Of course it’s risky, that’s what a play of the week is all about. Senator Feingold did not choose an easy issue to confront the President on, like allowing an Arab government-owned company to operate U.S. ports. He chose wiretapping conversations with suspected terrorists and that’s a tough one." Earlier in his piece, Schneider played a soundbite of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid suggesting Feingold was displaying "principle." That prompted Schneider to recall Ronald Reagan: "Imagine that. Acting on principle need not be political suicide. Ronald Reagan gave Republicans a healthy injection of principle just when they needed it, after Watergate." (Transcript follows.)

Host Wolf Blitzer set up the segment on the "maverick Democrat" from Wisconsin, which aired shortly before 5pm EST:

Blitzer: "A solo charge this week by a maverick Democrat. Is he tilting at windmills? Could he skewer his own party with that lance of his? Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is joining us now live. Bill?"

Schneider used Feingold’s record of being the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act following 9/11 to demonstrate his "maverick" credentials. For Schneider, Feingold’s move to censure the President is more evidence that the senator from Wisconsin "isn’t afraid to take a stand."

Bill Schneider: "Wolf, Senator Russ Feingold’s motion to censure President Bush has been called foolish, bold, reckless, courageous, self-serving and principled. We call it the political play of the week. Senator Russ Feingold isn’t afraid to take a stand. He was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act after 9/11 and the first senator to propose a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Now he’s moved to censure President Bush for authorizing wiretaps without a court warrant."

The rest of the transcript shows Schneider's excitement to be higlighting a Democrat, who with this action has become a "hero to the left," while, Republican critics were "scornful" of Feingold's move.

Senator Russ Feingold, on the Senate floor: "Congress should censure a president who has so plainly broken the law."

Schneider: "Republicans are scornful."

Representative John Boehner, House Majority Leader: "If he’s more interested–interested in the, in the, in the safety and security of the terrorist as opposed to the American people."

Schneider: "Democrats are nervous."

Senator Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader: "I think that people should cool their jets and let the process take its course."

Schneider: "Conventional wisdom says Feingold’s move will backfire and rally Republicans. ‘Russ Feingold, Karl Rove’s secret weapon,’ a conservative blogger writes. Knowing heads say Feingold’s positioning himself for the Democratic nomination. He’s certainly become a hero to the left. A liberal blogger urges readers to, ‘donate your spine to Senate Democrats.’ Here’s another possibility."

Reid: "My personal conviction is that Senator Feingold did this as a matter of principle."

Schneider seemed to accept Reid's belief in Feingold's "principled" move, and equated it to the contributions former President Ronald Reagan made to the Republican party.

Schneider: "Imagine that. Acting on principle need not be political suicide. Ronald Reagan gave Republicans a healthy injection of principle just when they needed it, after Watergate. It did them a world of good. Now people are asking, what do Democrats stand for?"

Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist, on an earlier Situation Room: "Look, at some point the Democratic party and the leadership must grow a backbone."

Schneider seemed to all but applaud Feingold’s choice to attack the President on the wiretapping controversy, rather than going after the "easy" issue of the Dubai ports deal, where the President received a great deal of criticism from fellow Republicans.

Schneider: "Spines, backbones, they help you stand up for what you believe. Of course it’s risky, that’s what a play of the week is all about. Senator Feingold did not choose an easy issue to confront the President on, like allowing an Arab government-owned company to operate U.S. ports. He chose wiretapping conversations with suspected terrorists and that’s a tough one. Wolf."