Senator Russ Feingold – The Judas of the Democratic Party

So the netroots is a bit overjoyed at Senator Russ Feingold’s deragotory and a bit misleading statements about the DLC. After I read them, I fully intened to rebutt some of them but, alas, NewDonkey, who actually works for the DLC, beat me to it. So I’ll give a point by point comparison of the two:

Sentator Feingold: They are the ones that coalesced with the big corporations to pass unfair trade agreements that hurt America.

NewDonkey: Funny: I thought maybe this guy named Bill Clinton–following the tradition of every Democratic president going back to Martin Van Buren–had a bit more to do with, say, NAFTA than anybody at the DLC.

Sentator Feingold: It was the DLC that came up with the health care plan with the Clintons that was so complicated nobody could understand it.

NewDonkey: I was particularly interested to learn from Feingold that the DLC “came up with the health care plan with the Clintons that was so complicated nobody could understand it.” Gee, I seem to remember that the DLC actually opposed the Clinton Health Plan.

(Kudos to FrenchieCat over at DemocraticUnderground for pointing out that Feingold is using an old Republican talking point in this instance. The GOP used the meme “the healthcare plan is too complicated” to help sink it with the American public.)

Senator Feingold: DLC consultants ‘instill fear in Democrats’ by saying opposition to the war would be taken as not supporting the troops…. “It’s the DLC that has cut off our ability to say things like, ‘Let’s get out of Iraq because it’s a bad idea.”

NewDonkey: Until now, I had no idea what vast powers we exercise around here. Al From or Bruce Reed or somebody gets quoted in the papers, and Democrats fall silent in terror. And the stuff about “DLC consultants” is beautifully vague. Unless I’m forgetting something, the chief political consultant for the last two Democratic presidential candidates was named Bob Shrum, whose relationship with the DLC is about as warm as Ned Lamont’s with Joe Lieberman.

Look, folks, what the DLC does is to write policy papers, hold conferences, publish a magazine, and network among state and local elected officials. Three of us do blogs. Our staff is small by Washington think tank standards; our budget is a fraction of CAP’s. Democrats are free to take the DLC’s advice or leave it. It’s hilarious to be told that attacking us represents some sort of profile in courage; it seems to have done wonders for the career of David Sirota, whose willingness to spit venom at the DLC has helped make him a quote machine in both the blogosphere and the mainstream media.

So why the gratuitous outburst from Russ Feingold? It’s not like many actual voters have ever heard of the DLC; hell, it took my own family about five years to internalize the fact that I worked for the DLC rather than the DNC. You have to figure Feingold was sending a signal to [a] segment of Democratic activists, old and new… there’s nothing in Democratic politics today more tediously orthodox than DLC-bashing. I do offer one suggestion to other bold, brave politicians out there: if you’re going to do this, try and get the basic facts straight.

And what of Russ Feingold himself? NewDonkey also said intoning “DLC” and hearing the instant cheers from the left is a nice shorthand, and less politically risky than, say, frontally attacking Bill Clinton. But Feingold has done just that in the past and, in the process, enabled the Rightwing coup attempt against Clinton in the 90s.

As I said a few weeks back, and as Lieberdem beautifully layed out the next day in excrucriating detail, Feingold was the Democrats’ Judas during the impeachment trial of President Clinton.

Among Democrats, Feingold was the most persistent and vocal critic of Clinton and the greatest Democratic proponent of continuing the GOP investigations throughout the period from 1997-1999. During the Lewinsky scandal in particular, Feingold was Clinton’s strongest and earliest Democratic critic.

And yes, this is the same Russ Feingold who is a hero of the progressive blogosphere.

When the scandal first broke, Feingold said, “If there is any proof that (Clinton) lied under oath, I will have no trouble voting on his impeachment,” making him the only Senate Democrat to openly consider that most extreme measure.

He later said that Clinton should seriously consider resigning. Even in the wake of the House impeachment vote, when Clinton was at his most politically vulnerable, Feingold refused to say Clinton shouldn’t resign – even as fellow Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl strongly insisted that Clinton should remain in office.

At the actual Senate trial, Feingold was the Democrats’ Critic-in-Chief, voting to continue the trial and keep the charges on the books right up to the final vote:

Feingold was the only Democrat to vote against Robert Byrd’s motion to dismiss the charges.

Feingold was the only Democrat to support the motion to subpoena witnesses to testify against Clinton.

Feingold was the only Democrat to vote against either of Daschle’s motions to proceed to closing arguments – and he voted against both of them (on January 28 and on February 4).

Feingold did ultimately vote against removal, but unlike… every other Democrat, he did not announce his opposition to impeachment until the day of the final vote. Feingold even refused to sign onto Dianne Feinstein’s bipartisan resolution to “censure and move on”, a resolution pushed by the founders of … because it would have undermined the proceedings of the impeachment trial. He only supported censure after impeachment had failed, when censure was the strongest measure left on the table to use against Clinton.

After Clinton’s impeachment trial was finally over, Feingold summed up his feelings succintly: President Clinton has disgraced himself.

Guess what, Senator Feingold. You will NEVER get the nomination for President. Don’t waste your time.


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