Friday, September 30, 2005

Russ and Roberts

Hey folks, sorry I wasn't able to post more recently. I've either been busy with law school work or too tired to do anything. But now that I finally have enough free time and energy to do something, I'm back and blogging! You know, I hear some of my fellow law students spend their free time going to bars or parties or something, but not me. I devote all my free time to you, the Feingold fans!

You should be honored, of course.

Okay, seriously now, on to the news.

Last Minute Notice: Senator Feingold is on C-SPAN right now (Friday at 6:30 central) giving a speech at the Rockingham County Democratic Party's Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner.

Oh, to make that more interesting, that would be Rockingham County NEW HAMPSHIRE.

Hopefully, this will be replayed later and posted on C-SPAN's website. I'll try to keep you informed on that.

Now on to the big story...

Russ and Roberts: Yesterday, John Roberts was sworn in as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States. He passed the Senate confirmation vote 78-22. He would have become Chief Justice with or without Russ Feingold's support. It happened to be with Senator Feingold's support.

Am I surprised by this? Somewhat, given the Senator's strong questioning of Roberts in the Judiciary Committee hearings.

Am I disappointed? No. After it became clear that Roberts was going to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist, rather then Sandra Day O'Connor, I didn't consider the Roberts confirmation to be that important of a battle. Yes, he is a conservative partisan Republican. So was his predecessor. I don't think Roberts is incompetent, corrupt, or holds legal views that are ridiculously out of the mainstream. I'm not sure how I would have voted if I was a senator, but I don't think there was a really good reason to keep Roberts off the bench. Senator Feingold's statement before the judiciary committee's vote is here. I think it's worth reading.

Does this vote change my opinion of Senator Feingold as a Senator or a possible presidential candidate? Not by one iota.

Somehow, the rest of the liberal blogosphere doesn't quite see it this way. Since the vote in the judiciary committee, I've seen quite a few people refer to Senator Feingold as "yet another spineless Dem kowtowing to the Bush Administration" and have heard that he has committed political suicide as far as his presidential hopes go. More kindly, and quite paradoxically, I've seen the Senator's vote called a political move to help him appeal to moderate voters in the 2008 primaries. (I'm sure many moderate voters are thinking about the 2008 primaries now, and that the Roberts vote is the most important issue to them. And your sarcasm detectors should be going off the charts there.)

So has Senator Feingold become another spineless Dem? Or is he off pandering to the moderates, now that he assume he has his liberal base locked up (in the elections that don't begin for about two and a half years and which he might not even run in)?

No, I'm afraid the there is a simpler explanation. Russ Feingold is just being Russ Feingold.

Maybe that needs some explanation, especially to people who have just recently become interested in Senator Feingold. While it is true that Senator Feingold is, perhaps, the most progressive member of the Senate, he's not just a kneejerk partisan Democrat. He doesn't always do what the base of the party would like him to. He voted to confirm John Ashcroft and Condi Rice, too. And he doesn't always do what the leaders of the party would like him to do. He was one of three Senate Democrats to speak out against Bill Clinton's use of military force in Kosovo. He was also the only Senate Democrat to vote against dismissing the impeachment charges against Clinton without hearing the evidence (after the trial, he found Clinton not guilty.)

It would be fair to say Senator Feingold is a maverick, but he isn't a maverick just for the sake of being one. He is a maverick because he always stays true to his own principles regardless of popular opinion or the party line. While I'm sure he could describe his own principles better than I, I think a very short summary of it would be that he really believes in the Constitution of the United States and the way our system of government is supposed to work. For him, that sometimes means voting for qualified presidential nominees he doesn't agree with at all, rather then turning their confirmation hearings into yet another partisan battle. It also means wanting to hear the evidence in a trial to impeach the President of the United States, even though they're from the same party. Personally, I think this whole "principles before partisanship" thing is a big reason why Senator Feingold would make a great president. I think real political leadership means occasionally doing things that are not popular among members of your own party, or even the population as a whole, because they are in the best interest of the country. Others seem to think that a great political leader is someone who always agrees with them 100% of the time. Those people would be better off not supporting Senator Feingold. And instead casting a write-in for themselves.

That said, I can understand why some of his supporters might be disappointed in Senator Feingold for this vote. All I can say to them is that it is just one vote I don't think it is close to being enough to cancel out all the countless ways in which Senator Feingold has been a leader of the progressive cause. He remains the only Senator to advocate a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq and the only Senator to cast a vote against the PATRIOT Act. He has been fighting against corporate dominated free trade agreements for his entire senate career. And he has one of the best records out there on the environment, health care, women's rights and other progressive causes.

I can understand the visceral desire of some in the liberal blogosphere to treat every vote like it is the most important vote-EVER! And to believe that all Dems who vote the other way are TRAITORS! But, that's simply not true. While I wholeheartedly agree that the Democrats should stand united and fight all the important battles against the Bush Administration, I'm just not sure this was one. Remember that both of Clinton's Supreme Court nominees were confirmed with less than 10 votes against them. I don't think that means that the Republicans were an ineffective opposition.

Finally, remember that in these partisan struggles what goes around comes around. As Senator Feingold noted:

History has shown that control of the White House, and with it the power to shape the courts, never stays for too long with one party. When my party retakes the White House, there may very well be a Democratic John Roberts nominated to the Court, a man or woman with outstanding qualifications, highly respected by virtually everyone in the legal community, and perhaps with a paper trail of political experience or service on the progressive side of the ideological spectrum. When that day comes, and it will, that will be the test for this Committee and the Senate. And, in the end, it is one of the central reasons I will vote to confirm Judge John Roberts to be perhaps the last Chief Justice of the United States in my lifetime.

That's all I have for this week, I'll update when I have the time.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Forward With Feingold

My apologies for not updating more recently. First, it was a matter of me not having the time; then, after Katrina hit the the gulf coast, blogging about the 2008 presidential election seemed a lot less important. But I found I had something I really wanted to write, and now was as good a time as any to write it.

First Things First: Please, if you can spare anything, make a donation to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Thank you.

Feingold News and Notes: I had originally planned on writing a larger post on Senator Feingold's visit to L.A. in late August and the National Security speech he gave there, but for right now that's not happening. However, a transcript of the Senator's speech is available here at the Progressive Patriots Fund site. I haven't read it all yet myself, but I'm sure it's worth a read.
The front page for the Progressive Patriots Fund also details some of the Senator's efforts to help hurricane victims, most notably his work to ease the restrictions of the harsh new bankruptcy bill that is going into effect in October. It's worth reading about here.

Finally, in less important but exciting news, has raised enough money to start running blogads. They had five ads submitted and a very clever vote-through-donations thing to raise the money and determine the favorite ad. I was not able to donate then, but my favorite ad won anyway. ("Pop Quiz" by Jerry Troiano) I'll post the ad here when I remember how to do that. In addition, it is now posted at and Way to go RussForPresident folks!

And Now, Our Feature Presentation: Here's what I really needed to write. Since Senator Feingold announced his proposal for a timeline to end U.S. involvement in Iraq a number of columnists across the political spectrum, most notably Pat Buchanan, have compared him to Eugene McCarthy in 1968, and insisted that his anti-war stance will lead to disunity and defeat for the Democrats. Even before that, I've seen Senator Feingold compared to past candidates ranging from Bobby Kennedy to George McGovern to Howard Dean. Sometimes these comparisons are favorable, sometimes they aren't. Either way, they bothered me. This campaign, and all campaigns, need to be about the future, not the past. I thought about just posting an angry, stream of consciousness rant about this, but then I came up with a better idea. What I ended up writing was a commentary-I think of it as a very brief surrogate stump speech-that tied this idea into why I support Senator Feingold.

Here it goes:
"Forward with Feingold"

I have many normal, obvious reasons for supporting Senator Feingold for President. There are his progressive positions on the issues, from trade to health care to Iraq. There is his willingness to take principled and independent stands-like his lone Senate vote against the PATRIOT Act. There is his straightforward yet affable personality. And then there are the less obvious, and rather strange, reasons I have for supporting Senator Feingold. Here's one: I love his state's motto.

Wisconsin's motto is very direct. It's just one word; it's not even in Latin. It's "Forward." I think that is a beautiful motto. Short, simple, and relevant. I wish I could make it the personal motto of all the politicians and pundits out there. I wish all the talking heads out there were looking forward-and talking about how to bring this country forward.

But sadly, that isn't what I hear. Instead I hear commentators who are always looking backwards insist that 2008 is, in fact, the exact same year as 1968 and Russ Feingold is Eugene McCarty, destined to split the Democratic Party and doom it to defeat in November. Or I hear that 2008 is actually 2004 and Senator Feingold is Howard Dean-a netroots liberal phenomenon destined to burnout and be defeated by someone more electable-who, in November, turns out to be not that electable after all.

Of course, not all of the commentators are constantly looking backwards-some are looking at the present, with incredibly myopic eyes. They can't see beyond the latest piece of conventional wisdom. "Senators can't win the presidency", they repeat, as though it was a natural law. "We must nominate a Southerner!" they insist, as though it was in the Constitution. "And it doesn't matter anyway, because Hillary will get the nomination!" they state with such absolute certainty that they must have traveled into the future and seen it come true.

Why is it that as America stands at the beginning of a new century, we can only think about the past or the present? Why do our political commentators insist on using flawed historical analogies or regurgitating stale, simplistic conventional wisdom? Why limit ourselves to looking backwards or looking at where we are right now? Why not follow the advice of Senator Feingold's state's motto and look forward?

And that is why I support Senator Feingold: because I'm looking forward towards a better future and because I'm willing to work to move America forward. And because I know that Senator Feingold will provide the leadership so that we can go forward.

We can go forward to an America where no one has to live in poverty.

We can go forward to an America where we all have health insurance and all our children can attend quality public schools.

We can go forward to an America that is both secure from terrorism and strong in its commitment to civil liberties.

We can go forward to an America where the government always works for the public interest, not for the special interests.

I firmly believe that working together we, the people of the United States of America, can move our country and the world forward towards new horizons of opportunity, justice and peace.

Let's go forward together! Let's go forward with Feingold!
And, that's where the speech would have to end because everyone would be throwing rocks at me.

Seriously, I'd really like to know your reactions to what I wrote. Email and comments are always welcome. If you think it's horrible, let me know. If you think it's the greatest piece of political writing since JFK's inaugural address, you are quite delusional, but I would like to hear from you, too!

That's it for now, except for a tip of the hat to the pro-Russ Wisconsin political blog Forward Our Motto for introducing me to the great motto of the state of Wisconsin.

Who links to me?