Friday, March 25, 2005

Feingold talks Iraq, Afghanistan...and Alabama

There's a great new interview with Senator Feingold up at You can read the whole thing here. In it Senator Feingold discusses his recent trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, his thoughts on some of President Bush's recent appointments, and, of course, his upcoming return to Alabama.

When talking about his trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Senator again emphasized the differences between the current situations in the two nations, and some of the reasons behind them.

Bump: Why do you think there is more instability in Iraq?

Feingold: We had many, many conversations about this, and the sense you got in Afghanistan and what we were told was people of Afghanistan were not only outraged by the Taliban and the presence of al-Qaeda in their country, but that they were just exhausted from the wars they'd been through. They'd not only had the war against Russia, they'd had years of militias fighting for every inch with each other in Kabul; then the Taliban took over and established a brutal regime. They were just plain exhausted and were grateful and welcomed not just the United States but also the whole international community. In other words, they wanted us there.

It's much more complicated in Iraq, where there are certainly people who wanted us there but there are others who are outraged that we are there, who see it as an inappropriate, unilateral American occupation. That doesn't mean it can't succeed, but it makes it much more difficult and you have really two very different enemies. They may or may not be cooperating, but they're two completely dangerous enemies in Iraq. One is this very potent group of these former Ba'athists, the former Saddam Hussein people. They lost their jobs; they lost their power. They're not the suicide bombers typically; they're the ones that just don't like the fact that the Americans came in and put the Shiites in the driver's seat over the Sunnis.

The other group that is more deadly - arguably - the ones that actually do the horrendous suicide bombings are these foreign terrorists, basically allies of al-Qaeda and al-Zarkawi, who have come in there in pretty significant numbers and are using Iraq as the number one training ground for terrorism in the world. It used to be Afghanistan; now it's Iraq. So I think our military people and our policy people are a little confused about who they're really fighting, and I think that's causing problems as well. Sometimes I think they have to end up fighting people who they think are terrorists but they're actually just people who are mad we're there. So it's really quite messy and complicated.

The Senator also reiterated his support for a timetable for US withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Bump: What needs to happen before the occupation can end in Iraq, and what is your best guess for when it will end?

Feingold: Well, I happen to be one that believes we'd all be better off, the Iraqis and the Americans, if we had a timetable established when we say we're going to try to end the occupation. That doesn't have to be absolute; it can have conditions or (be) based on a timeframe when we believe Iraqi troops and police will be properly trained, electricity will be properly restored, oil production (restored). But I think we're making a big mistake by not laying out a vision of when we might leave. That is not only upsetting to American families and makes it difficult to recruit our military here in the United States, but I also think it makes it easier for those who hate us and are against us in Iraq to say, "Hey look, this is an American occupation; they don't have any intention of leaving." It would be very easy for a political candidate to make that his or her theme -- I'll get the Americans out of here -- and I'm worried the elections could be dominated by such a person.

One of the British military leaders admitted to me there -- off the record -- that it would take the winds out of the sails of the insurgents if we had a vision out there for a time we'd get out. And, again, it should be done carefully, it should be done with conditions, it should be done with flexibility. But what I like to say is we set up a timetable to transfer sovereignty, we did it a day early and that worked well. We set up a timetable for elections at the end of January, and we did that. Those things were positive steps. Why wouldn't a vision of when we'd get out of there, along with a proper benchmark for progress, why wouldn't that help? I think it would help, and it would certainly be welcomed by many American people, especially moms and dads of the troops.

I strongly agree with Senator Feingold here, and I think he makes a good case for his position. I think presenting withdrawal timetable that includes conditions and flexibility is the most reasonable option given the current situation in Iraq. Demanding that all the troops are withdrawn NOW without regard to what the current situation is in Iraq is impractical, while not putting forward any timeline for withdrawal is not fair towards the troops, their families, or the Iraqi people.

Unfortunately, as the Senator admits in the interview, ultimately it is the administration that gets to make the policy in this area. Hopefully, they'll take Senator Feingold's advice. But I'm not holding my breath.

Finally, Senator Feingold questions the President's appointments of John Bolton as UN Ambassador and Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank President.

Bump: And what is your reaction to Paul Wolfowitz's nomination for World Bank president?

Feingold: I think it seems like a bizarre choice for the World Bank, just as I am kind of shocked at picking John Bolton (as ambassador to) the United Nations. Why are we picking the people who are perceived as the most hostile and the most aggressive toward other nations to top positions when it's a time, as the Secretary of State (Condoleezza Rice) indicated, that we need to reach out and use diplomacy? These people are odd fits, and there are many other good Americans that do their jobs. I realize that Bolton and Wolfowitz have a lot of ability and talent, but I think both their talents would be better used in situations that involve less diplomacy because they're not very diplomatic. In fact, I've been very surprised at their lack of diplomacy

Oh yeah: there are also some questions about the Alabama trip, but I'm trying not to write any more about that until it actually happens. So, you'll have to read those for yourself!


Monday, March 21, 2005

Feingold in the News(papers)

No really big news, but items of interest from two different newspapers.

First, the Birmingham News reports on Senator Feingold's return to Alabama. He'll be taking a three day trip down there during Congress' spring break, starting March 28.

The whole article is here, here's a couple of key paragraphs:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Russell Feingold's fence-mending trip to Butler County has turned into a three-day, multi-city jaunt through Alabama by a potential Democratic candidate for president.

Feingold, a third-term senator from Wisconsin, will be in Greenville on March 28 as the guest of the mayor, who wants to acquaint the senator with the town's finer parts. Mayor Dexter McLendon believes Feingold missed those parts on his last golf outing, at least judging by an article he later wrote that offended people in the city.

While he's in the state, Feingold also has tacked on a couple of days to visit Montgomery and Birmingham, meet with residents and learn about the state's history.

It's an excursion by a high-profile Democrat, known nationally for his work on campaign finance reform, into a region where Democrats admit they've lost ground.

"He is looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about the people of Alabama and to hear what they have to say about how people like him can do a better job reaching out to places like Alabama," said George Aldrich, who managed Feingold's last Senate campaign and is coordinating the Alabama trip. Congress is on spring break.
So far there are sessions scheduled with community activists, local Democrats, business groups, religious leaders, elected officials and even a session at UAB dedicated to health care. There will be a news conference, a trolley tour of historic Montgomery, and a meeting with leaders at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The format will be similar to "listening sessions" Feingold has in each of Wisconsin's 72 counties every year, and there will be no fund-raising, Aldrich said.

Wait a a potential presidential candidate allowed to have a trip where there's no fundraising? That seems wrong to me...

But seriously, it seems like the Senator has some good events scheduled and I hope this trip is beneficial for Senator Feingold, the Democratic Party, and the people of Alabama. I'll write more about it after it's actually happened.

The other item is from a newspaper from well north of Alabama, the Chicago Tribune had a commentary by Sanford D. Horwitt promoting the presidential chances of Senator Feingold. I'll link to a MyDD diary that posts the whole story, as the Tribune requires registration to see it on their site.
Here's the beginning of the piece:

Edwards? Clinton? Nah, 2008 could be Russ Feingold's year
Sanford D. Horwitt
Published March 20, 2005

The race for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination is already being handicapped and, according to one offshore gaming Web site, the front-runners are former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards at 3-2 and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton at 5-2.

But if I were a betting man, I'd consider putting some dough on a 16-1 shot, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold.

Largely overlooked by national political pundits in the aftermath of the November election was the impressive re-election victory by the John McCain of the Democratic Party. As usual, Feingold campaigned as a straight-talking, risk-taking reformer, and his convincing victory should make him highly appealing to Democrats longing for somebody who not only has a winning track record, but who unabashedly stands for progressive Democratic Party values. This is no wimpy liberal who trims his message to fit supposedly conservative times.

In Wisconsin, while John Kerry barely eked out a win in one of the most hotly contested battleground states, voters were giving Feingold a near-landslide victory, electing him to a third term with 55 percent of the vote. Unlike Kerry, who tried to play it safe from start to finish, Feingold won big after voting against the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts, and having cast the lone vote in the Senate against the Patriot Act.

Feingold carried a mix of rural and small-town counties in the northern deer-hunting country, old Mississippi River communities on the western border and the urban centers of Milwaukee and Madison.

Exit polls also showed Feingold scoring heavily among voters who believed that the most important quality of a candidate was the ability to bring about change.

What Feingold is proving in the politically critical heartland is that there is a market for the old-fashioned politics of reform.

I think this is a really good column for getting Senator Feingold's name out there more, and I think it's good that it's in such a major paper as the Tribune. Later on in the column it quotes Senator Feingold speaking at some of his listening sessions in small towns in Wisconsin, which I think does a good job of refuting two of the commonly accepted stereotypes about politicians which could be used as arguments against Feingold in the primaries: the first being that Senators can't communicate with people well, and the second that only Republicans or Southern Democrats can communicate with small town and rural voters.

Senator Feingold is very good at communicating his message to the voters, including small town and rural voters, and the more we can get that information out about him, the less vulnerable the Senator will be to those typical concerns about nominating a northern senator.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Feingold Campaign Registers Domain Names

As you may have heard, Senator Feingold's Senate campaign has registered a couple of 2008 campaign domain names. The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

With rampant speculation on whether U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., will run for president in 2008, his Senate campaign made a few notable recent moves. It registered the domain name for the Web site as well as the .org and .net versions. And, no, he's not facing re-election to the Senate that year.

"We saw so many sites being snapped up out there that we reserved a few sites," says George Aldrich, Feingold's past campaign manager. He notes that many sites, such as, seeking to draft Feingold, are already taken and some already have content. Others are parked by supporters in case Feingold decides to run.

One question Aldrich can't answer is why the campaign let lapse earlier this year. Perhaps an oversight.

Daniel S. at The Kentucky Democrat notes that Feingold's campaign also registered

This is definitely yet another sign that the Senator is seriously thinking about a presidential run. But we shouldn't get too excited yet: for starters, many politicians register domain names just to keep their options open and to make sure they aren't taken up by their opponents for attack purposes.

And even if Senator Feingold forms an exploratory committee or officially announces as a candidate that doesn't mean our work is done-it's just beginning! Some candidates have formed exploratory committees and then decided not to run (Paul Wellstone in 2000) and some have gotten in the race and then dropped out before the first votes are cast because of lack of money/supporters (Elizabeth Dole and Bob Graham, to name two.)

So, here's some things to do (if you haven't already) to encourage the Senator to run and make sure his campaign is successful:

1. Make a contribution to his Progressive Patriots Fund. Unfortunately, money is still considered the most important sign of support in politics (until the voting, anyway).

2. Write the Senator a letter encouraging him to run. You could kill two birds with one stone by sending a letter with a check to the Progressive Patriots Fund! Regardless, make sure to include all your contact information and let him know that you'd be willing to do volunteer work for his campaign.

3. Get in touch with other Feingold supporters by joining the Yahoo group, and the forums at and Together we'll be even more effective and able to come up with even more ways to encourage and support the Senator.

For example, if I'd run this by some other folks, I'm sure I'd have more than three suggestions right now! But that's enough for now...I still haven't done the first two myself!

But, getting back to the initial topic of the post, I have one other contribution I can make to Senator Feingold: If his campaign wants the website, I'll gladly turn it over to them. With one condition...if Senator Feingold is elected President, he'll make me Secretary of Labor.

Come on, it's the same deal President Clinton made with Robert Reich! Look it up!


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Feingold Blogs!

No, not a story about blogs that support Senator Feingold-though wouldn't that be a great idea for a story?-but something even more exciting: a blog post written by Senator Feingold. It was originally posted at MyDD.

In the post Senator Feingold responds to fears that a recent court ruling stating that the FEC needed to establish rules regarding campaign activity on the Internet could lead to a "crackdown" on blogging and that posting a link to a campaign site could be considered a campaign contribution.

Here is Senator Feingold's post in its entirety (with some parts highlighted in bold by me), my comments follow at the end. On a side note I apologize for not posting about this sooner-I started a new job this week and so my life was rather exhausting.

Blogs Don't Need Big Government
by Senator Russ Feingold

My kids often tease me about the time I pre-heated a toaster before putting some bread in to toast it. I deny it. I still maintain to this day that I DO know how to use a toaster, but I also admit to some not-so-brilliant moments with technology, if you can consider a toaster technology. But, today, even my kids would have to pause to give me a pat on the back for this first ever "Russ Feingold Blog Post."

I am enjoying reading many blogs, and am fascinated by their immediate reporting that is covering the important issues of the day. Many of the positive comments I have been lucky enough to read about my work relate to the fact that I was the only member of the U.S. Senate to oppose the USA PATRIOT Act. That experience taught me a lot, but one thing I learned for certain is that millions of ordinary citizens support efforts to make sure the government doesn't try to take more power than it needs. Resisting overreaching by the federal government is appropriate and, yes, even patriotic. I feel very strongly about this, and have made constitutional issues in general, and First Amendment issues in particular, one of the central focuses of my work in the U.S. Senate.

While the days of campus protests are not the same today as when I was in college, many people don't realize that campus protests are going on every day, all over the country, when thinking people, from all different states, generations, and ethnicities are drawn more and more to participate and exercise their First Amendment rights in an exciting venue: the Internet in general and blogs in particular.

As one of the main authors of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, also known as BCRA, it is particularly difficult to hear the mistaken belief that the law was somehow an attack on our cherished First Amendment rights. It is not. The law was found to be constitutional and it accomplished what we wanted it to do without infringing on First Amendment rights: stopping Members of Congress from soliciting enormous campaign contributions from monied interests; and reducing the corrupting influence of big money donations. Despite the naysayers, and despite shamefully poor and often deliberately harmful interpretations of this law by the agency charged with enforcing campaign finance law, the Federal Election Commission, McCain-Feingold worked in the 2004 election.

McCain-Feingold and the blogs both had a positive impact on the 2004 election and many people don't realize how similar their impact truly was. Both the blogs and BCRA empowered average citizens. By channeling the power of average citizens to speak out on the Internet, the blogs revitalized the political process last year. In the same way, the power of small contributions was greatly increased by BCRA, and someone who could only send $5 or $50 to a political party has become a sought-after donor. Many parts of BCRA were handled irresponsibly by the FEC, and bloggers are understandably concerned that some members of the FEC may again try to cause trouble by overreaching in the area of free speech on the Internet.

So while I generally agree with the recent decision from Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly requiring the FEC to redo its rules relating to political communication on the Internet, I am also concerned that the FEC will again create unnecessary concern and confusion. Judge Kollar-Kotelly's decision was not a result of problems with BCRA. It was a result of poorly drafted FEC regulations that were challenged in court.

The FEC must tread carefully in the area of political communications on the Internet. Political news and commentary on the Internet are important, even vital, to our democracy, and becoming more so. For starters, the FEC should provide adequate protection for legitimate online journalists. Online journalists should be treated the same as other legitimate broadcast media, newspapers, etc. and, at this point, I don't see any reason why the FEC shouldn't include legitimate online journalists and bloggers in the "media exemption" rule.

The definitions and rules relating to "coordinated activity" should be clarified, so legitimate bloggers and journalists alike don't have to worry about vague rules for legitimate activity. Certainly linking to campaign websites, quoting from or republishing campaign materials and even providing a link for donations to a candidate, if done without compensation, should not cause a blogger to be deemed to have made a contribution to a campaign or trigger reporting requirements.

Also, the FEC should generally exempt independent, unpaid political activity by bloggers on the Internet. We must let this town square, which has added a significant dimension to our political process, continue to flourish. When the FEC issues a proposal on this issue later this month, rest assured that I will be reviewing it carefully and offering detailed comments.

At a time in the country when we need free and open discourse, when the Senate is rubber stamping a bankruptcy bill which hurts those who have no power, when the country is involved in a war with no timetable for an exit strategy, we must be able to speak our minds without fear of recrimination from the government.

I applaud Senator Feingold for going on to the blogs to get his opinion out on this, and I think his position is a sound one. The FEC should establish clear rules regarding the ways official campaigns use the Internet, and if bloggers are paid for promoting a candidate this should be disclosed-but otherwise there is no reason the FEC should regulate the activities of blogs. Certainly the idea of considering quoting campaign materials or providing a link to be an in-kind contribution is ridiculous.

Almost as important as the Senator's position on FEC regulation of the Internet, is his understanding of how campaign finance reform and the blogs ultimately promote the same goal: the increased involvement of average citizens in politics. A lot of politicians still don't see the Internet as anything more than another way to raise money; they want to copy the Internet success of the Dean campaign but don't realize that it's success was as much about empowering people and getting them politically involved in other ways as in getting them to give money. I think that this post by Senator Feingold is proof that he understands that the Internet can be about getting people involved in politics in a way that goes beyond giving money. And that bodes well for a possible presidential campaign.

On a less serious note: so, the Senator enjoys reading many blogs? Do you think this is one of them? I doubt it, though I'd bet someone from his office checked it out after the John Nichols column.

But hey, this blog has gotten over 800 hits in the past two and a half weeks, I know some of them aren't just me.


Monday, March 07, 2005

Remembering Sylvia Feingold

The Janesville Gazette, the Senator's hometown paper, ran a nice article remembering the Senator's mother, Sylvia Feingold.

Here's the beginning of it, you can read the rest here

Every time David Feingold ate a piece of pie that wasn't baked by his mother, he apologized to her.

"How dare you,'' she lovingly scolded him.

Sylvia Feingold was loved and respected by her family and friends for many of her admirable traits.

She spoke four languages in addition to English-French, German, Italian and Spanish-enjoyed word games and cooking, the arts, learning, traveling and politics.

Sylvia, 86, died Wednesday of cancer at her Janesville home where she had lived since 1948.

"My mother was a wonderful woman who imparted a deep love for life to everyone she knew,'' Sen. Russ Feingold said in a prepared statement. He was traveling Thursday and not available to talk to a reporter.

"Everybody would go crazy for her pies,'' David said, explaining that cooking gave Sylvia great joy.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Sad News

Some sad news from the Madison Capital Times: Sylvia Feingold, Senator Feingold's mother, passed away on Wednesday.

Here's the whole article:

Sylvia Feingold, the mother of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, died Wednesday at age 86.

Mrs. Feingold died at the family's home in Janesville after a brief illness, according to friends of the family.

In a prepared statement, Feingold said his mother "was a wonderful woman who imparted a deep love for life to everyone she knew."

Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that contributions be sent in her memory to two charities.

A scholarship named in Mrs. Feingold's honor helps students who are learning foreign languages. Contributions to the Sylvia Feingold Scholarship Fund may be sent in care of David Feingold, Feingold and Associates, 20 E. Milwaukee St., Janesville, WI 53545.

The family also asked that donations be sent to Beth Hillel Temple, 6050 8th Ave., Kenosha, WI 53143.

I offer my deepest condolences to Senator Feingold, the rest of the Feingold family, and everyone else who knew and loved Sylvia Feingold. They'll all be in my thoughts.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Feingold and the Death Penalty

The death penalty is likely to be a subject of conversation across the country this week as a result of the Supreme Court's decision to outlaw the death penalty for juvenile offenders. While not a subject directly related to the possibility of Russ Feingold running for President in 2008, I think it is worth mentioning here because of Senator Feingold's record as one of the most adamant death penalty foes in Congress

Here is the Senator's statement on the Court's decision:
I applaud the Supreme Court's ruling that juvenile executions are unconstitutional. In the past few years, we have taken important strides toward fairness and justice in the administration of the death penalty, and this decision is another step in the right direction. The continued use of the death penalty in any case, however, stands in stark contrast to the principles of justice, liberty, and equality on which our nation was founded. This nation's system of justice should be held to the highest standard, and it is far past time for Congress to reexamine the continued use of the death penalty.

I agree with the Senator and I believe that his unequivocal opposition to the death penalty is yet another example of his courage. Ultimately, I believe opposition to the death penalty is a moral issue. When it comes down to it, the main reason for the death penalty is revenge, and I do not believe the government should be in the revenge business. The government should represent the best, not the worst, instincts of the American people.

That said, the death penalty is not one of the top issues I vote on; fair trade, universal health care, the environment, education, and corporate accountability are all more important priorities. And I think that's the way it is for most people on both sides of the issue. I don't think that the Democrats will lose if they nominate an anti-death penalty candidate as long as they put forward a solid, consistent message on other issues. I also believe voters would respect a candidate who is straight-forward about being totally opposed to the death penalty rather then one who tries to equivocate (i.e. "I was opposed to it, but then I realized that it must be used against the really, really bad guys.")

I think Senator Feingold can win the presidency without yielding in his opposition to the death penalty, and I know he won't yield.

For more on the Senator's views on this issue, check out this page from his Senate website.

Who links to me?