At last. At long last...a LEADER steps forward
Russ Feingold: Bucking Convention All the Way to the White House?
"Cautious" is not a word that comes to mind when writing about Russ Feingold.
The Wisconsin senator was the first member of his party to propose a timeline for withdrawing American troops from Iraq last fall, and when news broke about the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping campaign, Feingold introduced a resolution to censure the president for violating U.S. law.
Political suicide, says the Democratic political establishment. Phooey, responds Feingold.
"I've heard these pundits, they are people that are paid by Democrats, many of them were in the Clinton administration, these are paid political pundits and paid political consultants who make their living coming up [to] the Capitol and telling the Democratic leadership this is a loser," Feingold says. "It is bad advice. It is advice we got in 2002 and 2004. And we lost because we were perceived as unable to take the tough stands that are needed to change the course in the fight against terrorism."
That's Russ Feingold at his finest. An anti-politician contemplating a run for the highest political office in the country. (Read the full transcript of The Fix's interview with Feingold; watch the interview video podcast.)
For much of the past year, Feingold has traveled the country, stopping in presidential hotspots like Iowa and New Hampshire to lay the groundwork for a presidential bid. Feingold said he has picked up anecdotal evidence along the way that his views on the war and wiretapping reflect the broad sentiment within the Democratic Party's rank and file.
"There is a deep sense, especially in the base of the party, that we don't have firm principles or that if we have firm principles, we're not stating them firmly," said Feingold. "And it is amazing to hear people, almost as if they've had the same script, saying we are tired of Democrats looking weak."
That kind of anti-Washington rhetoric is already drawing comparisons between Feingold and Howard Dean, whose call for a populist uprising within the Democratic Party catapulted him from little-known former Vermont governor to icon during the 2004 presidential campaign. Dean ultimately lost the nomination fight in dramatic fashion, but the energy he created helped him win the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee in early 2005.
While he praises many of Dean's positions on issues -- against the war in Iraq, against the Patriot Act -- Feingold offers an implicit criticism of the way the former governor framed the 2004 debate.
"What people are looking for is a general approach that is not necessarily confrontational but one that shows that we are strong, that we've got bold ideas," said Feingold. "It is saying, 'Look, if we took over Congress or took over the White House we would do a better, more strategic job of fighting terrorism,' for example. So it's not just negative. It's not just raising hell."
Feingold, one could say, is Dean 2.0 -- more substance, less growling....continue reading this post>>