Friday, December 16, 2005
The Intrepid Russ Feingold
The Bush Era is about the exploitation of fear. Both the body politic and our citizenry are currently regulated by fear, putting our own liberty in far greater jeopardy than our enemies have. When historians review the Bush Era, they will judge the leaders of our time with a harsh lens. I suspect historians will be especially critical of cowardly and unprincipled politicians such as the feckless Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, both advocates for making the most egregious elements of the obscenely named “Patriot Act” permanent. One can understand why the otherwise judicious President John Adams imposed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 . At that time, enemies surrounded us on our own soil and the republic was young.
It is disappointing that our standards have not improved in 207 years – particularly when one considers the lessons learned from the McCarthy Era and Watergate. Indeed, just when I don’t think my disgust for President Bush and his cabal of cynical fear mongers can go any higher, it is today learned that he sanctioned the grotesque rape of our privacy and allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States without the court-approved warrants typically required for domestic surveillance. To his credit, Republican Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter has called for hearings early next year about the matter.
Lately, other politicians have also demonstrated resoluteness – including Republican Senators John Sununu of New Hampshire and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. However, only one politician had the foresight and judicious courage to vote against the Patriot Act four years ago – Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Not even the late progressive champion, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota could summon the courage to oppose the Patriot Act in the aftermath of 9/11. Feingold did and his warnings about granting the government too much power for a false sense of security were prescient.
Senator Feingold is a rare Democrat because he’s a progressive with authenticity and the courage of his convictions. This is not a Senator who requires a focus group or highly paid consultant to inform him what he should believe about Terry Shiavo, war, or who belongs on the Supreme Court. He certainly would never pander the way Hillary Clinton recently has regarding flag burning. To his credit, Senator Feingold also demonstrated backbone by approving new Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Unlike Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, NARAL and other pro-choice special interest groups did not bully Feingold – even though he is a likely contender for the Democratic nomination for President. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee he asked Judge Roberts tough questions and concluded he possessed the right qualifications and temperament to sit on the Supreme Court. I think he made the right call.
It was Senator Feingold who first suggested setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq back in November. Many Democrats rushed to distance themselves from Feingold after his courageous proposal for a flexible withdrawal date of December 31, 2006. Many of those same Democrats are today praising Congressman John Murtha’s position of redeployment after six months. As readers of the Intrepid Liberal Journal already know, I am a supporter of Murtha’s proposal. However, it was Senator Feingold who got the ball rolling. A U.S. Senator in the heartland without a military pedigree is far different than a liberal member from a safe district in the House of Representatives or one with an impeccable military pedigree such as Congressman Murtha. It took far more political courage for Russ Feingold to go against the grain and President Bush’s stifling “don’t cut and run must stay the course” rhetoric.
Finally, Senator Feingold has been a steadfast proponent of reforming the campaign finance system as a co-sponsor of the famous McCain/Feingold legislation. His career illustrates that his convictions are not for sale. I don’t agree with every position Senator Feingold has taken over the years. For example I think he made the wrong call in 1999 when he opposed President Bill Clinton’s military intervention in Kosovo. Nevertheless, this country could do far worse than electing him President in 2008.