by user Layla
Sen. Russell Feingold said regarding presidental prospects in 2008 several things regarding Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But what struck me most was not that he wouldn’t commit to whom he would vote for. Instead it was his answer to Salena Zito’s question to begin with. He said regarding who he would vote for simply this; " Somebody who voted against the Iraq war." But then considering that Feingold himself is a liberal it does not surprise one to note he would say that.
So let me begin now at the begining and put some perspective here for those of you that may not be familiar. Feingold was against the war long before Democrat Jack Murtha let his sentiments be known.
The Wisconsin liberal made a bold move last Wednesday forcing the hands of both Democrats and Republicans to take a stand by introducing legislation, "rather than another stinging but flaccid nonbinding resolution — on what to do about Iraq."
Ms. Zito said, "Feingold’s defund-the-war measure, the Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007, would, in a nutshell, end all financing for the deployment of U.S. military forces in Iraq after six months — excluding a limited number of troops who would train the Iraqi army, police force and counterterrorism forces. "It’s our job to fix the mess," he said at a hearing, "and if we don’t do so, we are abdicating our responsibilities.""
Feingold sat down last week in his Senate office in Washington "to talk about Iraq, the state of the Democratic Party and the country, and why he opted out of the race for president."
When it comes to owning the heart, mind and soul of his party’s liberal base, Feingold is the man. The Code-Pinkers gave him a rock-star standing ovation when he introduced his defunding bill, nearly turning the Senate Foreign Relations Committee room floor into an anti-war mosh pit.
Much to their disappointment days after the Democrats won back control of the House and Senate, he chose not to run for president.
"I dropped out because I did not have that fire in my belly," he says, "and I just did not want it bad enough."
He also felt a strong obligation to focus on what he wants to accomplish in the Senate, especially now that Democrats are in the leadership.
"What you have to do is not miss opportunities" he explains.
"I personally came up with the idea of saying, ‘Look, I am the chairman of the Constitution subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee. There are people out there saying that you can’t use the power of the purse to cut off funding of the war, that it might be constitutionally suspect.’"
So, he proved them wrong in a hearing with constitutional scholars that made it pretty clear it can be done.
To those outside of the Washington Beltway and progressive politics, Feingold is more familiarly known as the conjoined namesake of the campaign reform bill, McCain-Feingold. Feingold considers criticism of McCain-Feingold to be based on a ridiculous myth.
"The (political) right perpetrates that it did not work and it did not get rid of money in politics. Well, that was never the goal," he explains. "The bill’s main purpose was to not allow members of Congress to directly raise six-figure contributions from corporations, unions or individuals — that was what the bill was about, banning party ’soft’ money."
So, could the darling of liberals work with a President McCain — a Republican who left no doubt a week ago that he is in the race — if McCain won the 2008 election? "
Even though I am going to be supporting the Democratic nominee, I do think that John McCain would make a great president."
It should not be surprising to anyone that Feingold "thinks his own party’s presidential prospects for 2008 are robust."
"Hillary Clinton is a really smart, talented, strong person and she is ready to be president," says Feingold, who has traveled to Pakistan with her on a fact-finding mission. He also is impressed by the junior senator of Illinois: "Barack Obama is really exciting in terms of his ability and the message that he sends … domestically, but also internationally."
As Ms. Zito rightly titled her article - I close this article reiterataing it - "Feingold is as Feingold does."
Salena Zito is a Trib editorial page columnist. Ms. Zito has graciously granted me copyright permission to reprint her work here on The HILL Chronicles.