by Nick Welsh
Potential Democratic presidential candidate Russ Feingold (pictured) — the outspoken senator from Wisconsin — pressed the flesh in Santa Barbara last weekend, warning that continued political caution by Democratic candidates could spell certain defeat in the upcoming November elections. Speaking first at a Montecito fundraiser and later at a Democratic Women’s luncheon, Feingold said some leaders are “too timid” about standing up for what they believe. The only senator to oppose the PATRIOT Act, Feingold also voted against giving President George W. Bush war authorization powers and, more recently, introduced a bill to censure Bush for authorizing wiretaps on the telephones of American citizens. This latter effort caused much embarrassment among Democratic moderates and failed.
Feingold calls for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the year’s end, and predicts political success for any party that achieves the withdrawal. He supported the invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks because of the Taliban’s well-documented support of Al Qaeda; by contrast, he said, Iraq did not support Al Qaeda. Because the U.S. is enmeshed in war in Iraq, he said, America is less able to respond to world crises. He argued Hizbullah took advantage of this fact by launching its recent incursions against Israel. Feingold also said that peace in the Middle East is only possible if a Palestinian state is created. When asked what his first actions would be if elected president, Feingold said he’d end discrimination against gays and lesbians, issue no executive orders that evade the law, and repeal all current executive orders, which critics contend Bush has used to circumvent Congress and minimize the checks and balances written into the Constitution.