An Interview and a Straw Poll
Just a little update about, yeah, an interview and a straw poll (sorry I couldn't come up with a more clever title...)
First, the interview. Washington Post reporters Chris Cillizza and Dan Balz are having an "ongoing series of conversations" with potential 2008 presidential candidates, and our man Russ had his turn last week. It's a fairly in depth interview, and below are three of my favorite parts. First, Senator Feingold talks about what he is hearing from Demcocrats around the nation as he travels:
Let's start with a broad question about the Democratic Party. There's all this talk about what ails the Democratic Party. What do you think the party's situation is these days and what needs to be done about it.I definitely agree with the Senator hear. If the Democrats can't be depended upon to challenege the president when in the opposition, why should people believe that they'd be capable of leading the country if they had a majority in Congress or won control of the White House?
SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, people are not just thirsty to win. They are tired of losing. It goes beyond that. And I have checked this everywhere a person can check it. I go to every one of Wisconsin's 72 counties every year and hold a town meeting. And pretty soon, it will be my 1,000th listening session.
I've been to about 14 different states across the country, including the deep southern states like Alabama and Florida ... . There is one central theme. People said the same thing. They said when are you guys going to start standing up?
There is this 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. And it is amazing to hear people, almost as if they've had the same script, saying we are tired of Democrats looking weak.
So that appears to be the conviction. I don't think people are as concerned about what the exact issues are as this feeling that we don't act like we are ready to govern this country both domestically and also especially ... standing up to the White House with regard to the mistakes and abuses of the post-9/11 era.
So that's what I hear. I'm convinced it is accurate.
On a similar note, Senator Feingold calls for the Democrats to take a clear stand on the war in Iraq in the midterm elections.
A lot of Democrats disagree with Senator Feingold, thinking that becasue of the President's low approval ratings and the general perception of incompetence in the administration and corruption in Congress, the Democrats should be able to win by default, out of disgust with the people in office now. But I think it will be impossible for the party to win without taking a clear stand on the issue that's on everyone's mind. We have to show we have a way to get out of Iraq and focus on fighting terrorism more intelligently and effectively.
Do you think it will hurt the Democrats in the midterm elections not to have a kind of clear consensus position on Iraq?
SEN. FEINGOLD: Definitely. I think people ... thought we were going to win in 2000. People thought we were going to win in 2002. People thought we were going to win in 2004. I think in each case, it was either the inertia that people didn't want to change the president in the middle of a war or concerns that Democrats weren't ready to handle these difficult antiterrorism issues.
If we don't show that we have a strong vision of how to complete that mission, bring the troops home, and refocus in a positive way in the fight against terrorism, I'm afraid people will once again by default, you know, hedge it and maybe allow Republicans to stay in power.
Maybe we would win one House back, ... but then I worry what the impact would be in the 2008 election when it is desperately important that we elect a Democratic president. So I am concerned about it. I think we are drifting completely on the Iraq issue right now. We should be endorsing a reasonable approach for a timetable to bring the troops home or at least redeploy them by the end of 2006. I think it would find great favor with the American people.
And, finally, I like this part:
I've heard a lot of people say -- privately and publicly -- that "Sen. Feingold makes a great candidate ... says what a lot of people are thinking. But governing is about compromise, and we're not sure that he has a compromising bone in his body." How do you answer that?
SEN. FEINGOLD: You know, I don't like blowing my horn. But I think it is fair to say that I'm one of the most experienced legislators in the United States right now. I have been a legislator for almost 25 years, [since] I was 29 years old. I know exactly when to hold them and when to fold them. I've done it hundreds of times, one of the most famous legislation probably of the last 20 years in America, the name that is most associated with major legislation.
... If you think McCain-Feingold is what I wanted it to be in the beginning, that was an excruciating eight-year process of compromise. On occasion, I said to John McCain, "I feel like my arm has been chopped off." It was a very tough process.
We started out with a bill that had to do with public finance -- or free television time and all these other limitations. We ended up with something very important, a bill on soft money. So I would argue I might have more experience with political compromise than just about any other member of the Senate.
I like that part becasue it shows something very important about Senator Feingold that unfortunately gets ignored too often: he's an experienced legislator who is experienced in crafting bipartisan compromises. Sometimes it seems like people think that only moderates know about compromise, that if you are a proud progressive like Senator Feingold, then all you do is standing around, talking about your principles and getting nothing done. The truth is, proud progressives know how to forge the kinds of compromises that bring our country forward.
The Straw Poll: Well, Senator Feingold certainly has the support of the people who've known him the longest and worked with him the closest: the Wisconsin Democrats.
At this past weekend's Wisconsin Democratic Party convention, Senator Feingold was the clear winner in a straw poll conducted by WisPolitics.com:
Russ Feingold 295
Al Gore 55
Hillary Clinton 48
John Edwards 41
Those numbers are out of 548 votes cast, and no other candidate recieved more than 40 votes...and no candidate came within 239 votes of Senator Feingold!
Obviously his fellow Badger State Dems are taking the Senator seriously as a presidential candidate! As ilya at RussforPresident.com says, "Now on to Iowa, New Hampshire and the rest of the country."
Thanks to Mike Schramm, Managing Editor of WisPolitics.com for bringing this to my attention!
That's all...until next time, keep going Forward!