Friday, June 09, 2006

Finally Feingold

Okay, so, first things fist: Why has it been so damned long since I've blogged?

Well it's a funny story. First, I had a major paper due in one of my classes, then I had to study for final exams, then I actually had to take final exams, then I engaged in this insane thing called the law review write-on competition, then I was out of town and without internet access, and then I was starting a new job.

Okay, so that story wasn't funny at all. But it was true, and I hope that's good enough. I consider this blog and working to make Russ Feingold the next president of the United States one of the most important things I do...however, at this point, it isn't always the most urgent thing I have to do. I'd like to promise that I'll never go this long without updating the blog again...but I think a better (and easier to keep) promise would be to stop making promises about how often I can get around to updating this thing.

I'll update it when I can, and when I do, I'll always do my best to make it is informative, intelligent, and entertaining as possible. Rest assured that I continue to believe that Russ Feingold is the best choice for the Democratic Party in 2008. In fact, every time I watch the news I wish I had the time and energy to blog here, because every time I watch the news I am reminded that this party and the nation need a man with the vision, courage, and integrity of Senator Russ Feingold.

Okay, the apology out of the way, let's talk about some of what was going on in the world of Russ since I've been gone...(Warning, this post is long...after all, I'm trying to make up for almost three months of not posting...)

Gay Marriage: On Wednesday the Senate rejected the Republicans latest attempt to write discrimination into the Constitution, once again rejecting the proposed amendment banning gay marriage by a vote of 49-48. While I am grateful to all the senators, Democratic and Republican (yes, seven of them actually voted against it) who helped defeat this amendment, this is a Feingold for President blog so, naturally I have to call attention to the fact that not only did Senator Feingold oppose the amendment, he has taken an even stronger stand for civil rights than the vast majority of his fellow senators, declaring his support for full marriage equality. As this (month old...yeah sorry about the delay, again) article notes:

In a speech here Saturday night to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Senate Democrat Russ Feingold vowed to help defeat the Wisconsin referendum, declaring that marriage "is not always and should not always be between a man and a woman."

Along with his state, Feingold may provide his own case study in the politics of gay marriage. Like most Democrats, he opposes a constitutional amendment defining marriage, an amendment that is expected to fail in the Senate next month. But he has gone a significant step further and declared his personal belief that gays and lesbians should be able to marry. He is one of only four U.S. senators - and the only potential 2008 presidential candidate - to do so.

Feingold has surprised even some gay rights advocates by stating his endorsement in such plain and unequivocal language, in contrast to the personal qualms about gay marriage typically voiced by political figures who support civil unions. Along with being honored at Saturday's dinner, the senator drew several standing ovations.
"It goes against a lot of what people were brought up to believe, let's face it," Feingold said in an interview last week. He said he declared his views because he was going to have to vote on the Wisconsin referendum.

"I thought it was best just to say what I really have concluded, that this is really the ultimate civil rights issue, not just a state's rights issue, and that I support gay marriage. If two people care enough about each other that they want to get married, they ought to be able to," he said.

I applaud Senator Feingold for once again ignoring the fear-mongering tactics of the Republicans and taking a bold stance in defense of civil rights. I hope that the people of Wisconsin will follow Senator Feingold's lead, and the state's Progressive heritage, and reject the referendum.

Of related interest: please check out Equality for Feingold, a blog for GLBT supporters of Senator Feingold; Senator Feingold's press release (from April...) announcing his support for marriage equality;, and Senator Feingold's Diary at DailyKos calling the gay marriage ban "A Shameful Political Ploy."

National Intelligence
: Unfortunately, unlike on the gay marriage amendment, the majority of the Senate did not follow Senator Feingold's lead when it came to opposing the confirmation of General Michael Hayden as CIA director, which passed by a vote of 78-15.

Senator Feingold's confirmation votes are always fascinating to observe as he tends to give great deference to the president to choose his own people, much to the chagrin of some of his supporters. Senator Feingold voted for the confirmations of John Ashcroft as Attorney General, Condi Rice as Secretary of State, and John Roberts as Chief Justice. He's certainly no partisan hack when it comes to these votes (or any votes really) and when he opposes a nominee (such as with Attorney General Gonzales and now General Hayden) there's probably a pretty damn good reason for it.

From Senator Feingold's statement in opposition to the Hayden confirmation:

"I voted against the nomination of General Michael Hayden to be Director of the CIA because I am not convinced that the nominee respects the rule of law and Congress's oversight responsibilities. General Hayden is highly experienced and talented. But, as Director of the NSA, General Hayden directed an illegal program that put Americans on American soil under surveillance without the legally required approval of a judge. Having finally been briefed about this program last week, I am more convinced than ever that it is illegal. Our country needs a CIA Director who is committed to fighting terrorism aggressively without breaking the law or infringing on the rights of Americans. General Hayden's role in implementing and publicly defending the warrantless surveillance program does not give me confidence that he is capable of fulfilling this important responsibility.
The stakes are high. Al Qaeda and its affiliates seek to destroy us. We must fight back and we must join this fight together, as a nation. But when Administration officials ignore the law and ignore the other branches of government, it distracts us from fighting our enemies. I am disappointed that the President decided to make such a controversial nomination at this time. While I defer to Presidents in considering nominations to positions in the executive branch, I cannot vote for a nominee whose conduct raises such troubling questions about his adherence to the rule of law."

During the Senate confirmation hearings Intelligence Committee chairman Senator Pat Roberts used his old catchphrase: "I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties. But you have no civil liberties if you are dead."

Now that quote makes me feel like my head is going to explode; and it likely has the same effect on the rest of you. I thought for days about what would be the best thing to say to criticize such a ridiculous quote and the even more ridiculous ideas it stands for. Then I realized Senator Feingold had come up with the perfect response...over four years ago, in the debate on the PATRIOT Act in October of 2001:

"Of course, there is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists.

But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. And that would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America."

Of related interest: The transcript of a great Feingold speech on National Security from the National Press Club ; a good commentary from on that speech ; and Senator Feingold's statement about the death of al-Zarqawi.

Censure: Yes, it's been a while since Senator Feingold first introduced the idea of censuring President Bush for the domestic wiretapping program. Yes, it's no longer the talk of the town. But that doesn't mean the idea has disappeared and that doesn't mean it is not worth talking about.

The time that passed has proven that at least one of the arguments against the censure resolution was bunk: it did not galvanize support around President least it didn't galvanize the support of the between 60 and 70 percent of Americans who continue to disapprove of the way President Bush is doing his job.

When asked by Jonathan Singer at myDD about another of the criticisms of the resolution, that it was all a political ploy by Senator Feingold, the answer reveals yet another reason why Senator Feingold would be a great president:
Feingold: Well, obviously it wasn't a political ploy, and I think most of the people asked in a poll like that don't know who I am. Anybody who knows who I am knows that this is the kind of thing I have been doing throughout my career when I think something's wrong, especially with lawbreaking or possible lawbreaking.

I was the only Democrat to vote to hear the evidence in the Clinton impeachment trial. I was one of the first two Democrats to call for an independent counsel when there were concerns about Democrat President Clinton's campaign finance practices. So I think anybody who really knows me knows that not only was this not political but I would have done this if a Democrat President was making such outrageous assertions about executive power as George Bush is doing.

After the Bush Administration I don't know if there is anything America needs more than a president who understands and respects the limits of executive power.

Of course, the fact that the criticisms of the censure proposal are wrong isn't actually a reason to support it. So, here is the reason I support it, stated as simply as possible: I don't want to have to explain to future generations why, when the president decided he could stop following the law merely because he didn't it like it any more, nobody stood up to tell him he couldn't do that.

So please, if you haven't already, head on over to Senator Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund website you can sign up in support of the censure resolution as a citizen co-sponsor; and then to you can sign a petition in support of censure that will also be sent to your senators and representatives.

While I wish that Congress would have chosen of it's own accord to stand up and hold the President accountable, at the end of the day the responsibility lies with us, the American people, to demand that Congress take action and tell the President that we will not stand idly by while he breaks the law. I hope that we don't fail in that task. As the distinguished jurist Learned Hand once said, "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it."

(And obviously I've been in law school too long if I think quoting Learned Hand somehow magically makes my argument more compelling.)

New websites: Several new Feingold state websites are out there: Wisconsin, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas! Also of note, is RussForge a website for creating and sharing Internet resources for the Feingold movement.

And thus ends the update. See you in another two and a half months! (Kidding, kidding...)

Seriously, my thanks to everybody who read through this post and continues to read this blog. If you made a comment or sent an email in the past couple of months and didn't get a response, I apologize and please send or post it again and I'll get back to you. I really appreciate all the feedback I get.

Until next time, keep going Forward!



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