Russ Feingold

The Politics Of Genuine Personality: Few And Far Between!

To find a politician past or present who was a genuine personality, a REAL person, who gave or gives a damn about the American people, not his or her own agenda, has always been difficult, and the list of national leaders who fit this description, are, indeed, few and far between!

There is so much cynicism about politics, and the thought that there are no decent political leaders, who truly care about the welfare of their constituents and the betterment of the nation is common, BUT there are politicians who, through their actions and words, have proved how genuine they really are!

A selected list of such political leaders follows:

Senator Robert LaFollette Sr. of Wisconsin (1906-1925) (R) (Progressive)

Senator George Norris of Nebraska (1913-1933) (R)

Senator Robert Wagner, Sr. of New York (1927-1949) (D)

Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota (1949-1964, 1971-1978) also Vice President (1965-1969) (D)

Senator George McGovern of South Dakota (1963-1981) (D)

Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota (1991-2002) (D)

Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin (1993-2011) (D)

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (2007- ) (Socialiat)

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (2013- ) (D)

Senator Joe Biden (1973-2009) also Vice President (2009- ) (D)

The Dangers Of The Supreme Court Run Amuck In Favor Of Wealthy And Corporations!

The Supreme Court is totally out of control, with its new decision on having no limits on campaign spending by wealthy donors, added on to the Citizens United Case of 2010, and the limitation of voting rights in a 2013 decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts has solidified a five member GOP majority to destroy all attempts to prevent corporate and wealthy people from controlling the political system, an effort pursued from the time of Theodore Roosevelt a century ago through Senator John McCain and Senator Russ Feingold in the 1990s and early 2000s.

That is all for naught now, and shows the dangers of a runaway, reckless, right wing radical Court!

This is what made Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Barack Obama criticize Court power, along with progressive reformers including Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, Senator George Norris of Nebraska, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont!

This is the result of 13 Supreme Court nominees since 1960 by Republican Presidents, to only 8 by Democrats, and with two of those Democratic appointments (Arthur Goldberg by John F. Kennedy and Abe Fortas by Lyndon B. Johnson), only lasting three and four years respectively.

Of course, Republican appointments of Harry Blackmun by Richard Nixon; John Paul Stevens by Gerald Ford; Sandra Day O’Connor by Ronald Reagan; and David Souter by George H. W. Bush, turned out to be major surprises in their rulings, but we also ended up with some of the most reactionary and right wing radical appointments in all of American history with the appointments of William Rehnquist by Richard Nixon and the elevation of Rehnquist to Chief Justice by Ronald Reagan; Lewis Powell by Richard Nixon; Antonin Scalia by Ronald Reagan; Clarence Thomas by George H. W. Bush; and Samuel Alito by George W. Bush. The appointments of Chief Justice Warren Burger by Richard Nixon; Anthony Kennedy by Ronald Reagan; and Chief Justice John Roberts by George W. Bush, have been more of a mixed bag, sometimes good, and sometimes horrible in its effect on constitutional law!

Meanwhile, John F. Kennedy selected a mostly conservative Justice Byron White; Lyndon B Johnson selected Thurgood Marshall; Bill Clinton selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer; and Barack Obama selected Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, but sadly, their influence in the last four of the five names listed, has been mostly in being the opposition, sometimes vehement in nature!

The effect on the future of American democracy is massive, with this right wing Court majority, and the only hope is the eventual retirement of Scalia and Kennedy, and hopefully, continuation of a Democratic Senate and President for the rest of the decade, so that the Court changes direction in the future!

Barack Obama Continues Tradition Of Progressive Republicans And Liberal Democrats

President Barack Obama demonstrated in yesterday’s Second Inaugural Address that he is following the best traditions of the progressive and liberal champions of the 20th and early 21st century!

Not only is he pursuing the vision of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, but also of many others, including:

Senator Robert La Follette, Sr. of Wisconsin, progressive Republican
Senator George Norris of Nebraska, progressive Republican
Senator Robert La Follette, Jr. of Wisconsin, progressive Republican
Senator Jacob Javits of New York, progressive Republican
Senator Clifford Case of New Jersey, progressive Republican
Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, progressive Republican
Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland, progressive Republican
Senator Charles Percy of Illinois, progressive Republican
Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, progressive Republican
Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, progressive Republican, Independent, liberal Democrat
Senator Robert F. Wagner, Sr. of New York, liberal Democrat
Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois, liberal Democrat
Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, liberal Democrat
Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, liberal Democrat
Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota, liberal Democrat
Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, liberal Democrat
Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, liberal Democrat
Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, liberal Democrat
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, liberal Democrat
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Independent Socialist, allied with Democratic Party

And this list of ten progressive Republicans and ten liberal Democrats are not a complete list, but they are among those who have stood the test of time on their progressive and liberal values!

And realize that La Follette, Sr., Humphrey, McGovern, and Mondale all ran for President, and that Humphrey, Mondale and Biden all have served as Vice President of the United States.

Bipartisanship Of The Past: Why Not Now?

When one looks at American history in previous recent decades, one sees so much evidence of bipartisanship between Republicans and Democrats, and one wonders why that is not possible now in the interests of the nation!

Witness the following examples:

1962–John F. Kennedy calls upon Dwight D. Eisenhower for help and counsel during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

1963–Lyndon B. Johnson becomes President after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and calls upon Dwight D. Eisenhower for advice in a moment of crisis.

1964–President Lyndon B. Johnson calls upon Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois to help push through the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1983—President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill work together on Social Security reform and get it passed.

1990s—Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia works with Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana on arms control legislation, lessening the dangers of nuclear war after the end of the Cold War.

2000s—Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona works with Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin on passage of campaign finance reform legislation.

2001—Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts works with President George W. Bush on education reform.

Instead of publicly calling for the move to make Barack Obama a one term President, as Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky enunciated in 2009, or Speaker of the House John Boehner to use foul language against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and to say he refuses to have any more private meetings with President Barack Obama, what we need is mutual respect, and willingness to cooperate!

And this includes the idea that both Republicans and Democrats need to “cross the aisle”, and stop vilifying each other as the “devil”, as this prevents doing what is good for the American people!

The country is sick of the partisan wrangling and the lack of respect and dignity displayed, and is calling for Congress to act like adults and to work cooperatively with the President, who always has an open minded attitude toward discussion and compromise within reason!

Arlen Specter, A Senate Giant, Leaves Behind A Complicated Legacy As He Dies At Age 82

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who died today at age 82, was, without a doubt, a Senate giant, who leaves behind a complicated legacy.

Specter was a Democrat in Philadelphia, turned a Republican, and then, at the end of his career, a Democrat again!

Specter was a liberal Republican who became a moderate, but fought against the conservative trend in his party.

Specter was one of the most influential Jewish Senators in American history, ranking on the level of New York Senator Jacob Javits, Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff, Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum, Michigan Senator Carl Levin, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, California Senator Barbara Boxer, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, and New York Senator Charles Schumer. Only Javits was a Republican, other than Specter.

Specter was a giant figure on the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, involved in 14 Supreme Court nomination battles, including the stopping of Robert Bork, and the defense of Clarence Thomas, and the impeachment controversy surrounding President Bill Clinton.

Specter was a prickly, ornery individual, who did not suffer fools very well, whether Senate colleagues or constituents, and became a major critic of the mindless Tea Party Movement in the Republican Party after the election of President Barack Obama.

Specter lost his seat in the Senate after 30 years, when he backed President Obama on health care, and switched back to the Democratic Party, giving them, for a brief period, a 60 member filibuster proof majority in the US Senate.

Specter was seen as a man of principle, but also an opportunist, who gained many enemies all over the political spectrum.

Specter was a key figure in the Warren Commission investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy, being on the staff of the commission, and promoting the viewpoint of a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, which became the official viewpoint of the Warren Commission, a viewpoint he never backed away from, despite the many conspiracy theories.

Specter may have been a “loner” in many ways, but in the thirty years he was in the US Senate, he gained a lot of respect and stature as one of its giant figures, who could not be ignored, overlooked, or mistreated, as he would always fight back, including his two courageous battles with cancer in his last decade.

Arlen Specter is a person who historians will have to wrestle with to understand American politics and history in the 1980s, 1990s, and the early 21st century! His effect on so many areas and issues will be a goldmine for scholars in the future, trying to decipher the controversies and issues going back even to the 1960s!

May Arlen Specter rest in peace, knowing he had a great impact on his nation that will not be forgotten!

Wisconsin: The Home Of Progressivism, Now A Center Of Right Wing Conservatism

Wisconsin was the birthplace of modern progressivism, with the Governorship of Robert La Follette, Sr. from 1900-1906.

Regarded by scholars as the greatest Governor in the history of all states throughout American history, La Follette promoted regulation of corporations, labor protections, environmental conservation, the direct primary, and the role of women and intellectuals in government policy making.

A Republican, when many believed government was good, he would go on to the US Senate, and be regarded as one of the top five US Senators of all time, and his son Philip would promote progressive reform as Governor in the 1930s.

Others would be in state government and in Congress promoting what La Follette believed in, including Democrats such as William Proxmire, Gaylord Nelson, Russ Feingold, and Herbert Kohl.

But two years ago, Wisconsin took a sharp turn to the right, defeating Russ Feingold for reelection to the Senate, and putting into office a Tea Party activist, Ron Johnson.

At the same time, Scott Walker was elected Governor, and declared war on labor rights, women, and education, and was able to win a recall election through the power of the funding of the Koch Brothers and other right wing interests.

Reince Preibus, the Republican state chairman, succeeded Michael Steele as Republican National Chairman.

And Paul Ryan, in the House of Representatives since 1998, became head of the Budget Committee, and promoted the Ryan Plan, which wishes to destroy Medicare as we know it, and calls for major cuts in Pell Grants, the end of ObamaCare, privatization of Social Security over time, the gutting of Medicaid, and massive cuts in Food Stamps, among other aspects of the plan.

And now, Ryan could be a heartbeat away from the Presidency next January 20, were Mitt Romney to win the Presidency on November 6.

The battle between progressivism and conservatism is in full heat, and Wisconsin is the center of the battle, and one wonders what Robert La Follette, Sr. is thinking in the afterlife, as he realizes what has happened in his beloved state!

Those Against “Reasonable” Gun Control Laws Are Promoting Anarchy And Lawlessness, Undermining Police And Law Enforcement Agencies!

With the horrific events in Aurora, Colorado, on Friday, the Movie Multiplex Massacre conducted by James Holmes, we are seeing conservatives, Republicans, and the National Rifle Association ready to fight to prevent even “reasonable” gun control laws.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, elected with the help of the Tea Party in 2010 over the great progressive Russ Feingold, came out swinging against any gun control legislation, using the same crazy viewpoint of Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert that if others in the audience had possessed guns, they could have stopped the gunman, fully misunderstanding that several people using guns would have likely led to far greater casualties, as no one would know who was the perpetrator, and who was trying to stop him!

Johnson, on Fox News Channel, saying this ridiculous comment, was contradicted by Senator Diane Feinstein of California, who knows the horrors of guns, witnessing the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.

As Feinstein asserted, there is ABSOLUTELY no reason for ANYONE other than the military and police forces to have access to assault rifles, and magazines of large numbers of ammunition. Handguns and hunting rifles for specific purposes, after a total background check are reasonable, but not AK 47s or other types of rapidly firing machine guns that can kill large numbers of people, as this massacre was conducted two days ago.

This is a struggle that needs to be fought against the unreasonableness of the National Rifle Association, and those Republicans, and even Democrats, who seem to have the belief that we are fighting the Indians on the frontier, or are fighting the Crusades in the Middle East in the medieval period.

A civilized society MUST put controls on guns that are unnecessary, and that only crazy people would wish to possess, as what is the purpose of having assault weapons, except to kill large numbers of people? It is not like a handgun to protect oneself, or a hunting rifle to go hunting for deer, or whatever!

Sanity must be demonstrated, and requires courage by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and those who understand that if nothing is done, the massacre in Colorado will be repeated with much higher numbers of casualties, far surpassing the all time record of 70 victims which occurred two days ago!

Also ask law enforcement agencies, and one will find that the police see themselves as the front line of possible victims, as even with their own defenses, the widespread ownership of assault weapons endangers their lives, even more than the average civilian!

The Crucial Wisconsin Recall Election Next Tuesday June 5: It Could Affect The Fall Elections!

Next Tuesday, June 5, “Bully” Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin faces a recall vote after only 17 months in office, only the third time in American history that a governor has faced recall, the other two times in North Dakota in 1921 (Lynn Frazier) and in 2003 in California (Grey Davis), with both of them being recalled.

This recall election is much more crucial, as Scott Walker has run a corrupt government, a government which has taken away labor rights and favored the wealthy over the average Wisconsin citizen, and allowed himself to be influenced by right wing interests led by the Koch Brothers.

If Walker wins, it will be a major setback to the progressive movement, embolden conservatives, including the Tea Party Movement, and the other “Bully Governors”, and could affect the state vote and the national vote for President and Congress in November.

This election is not to be taken lightly, and it endangers the fight against the extremists on the right, so we must push everyone who understands the dangers to get out there and vote, or else the price paid will be heavy!

Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee is worthy of the support of the national party and President Obama much more directly than has occurred so far. Bill Clinton may go out and campaign, and President Obama needs to take a stronger stand, and possibly his presence, in the next few days in Wisconsin.

This is the home of Robert La Follette, Sr.; his sons Robert Jr. and Philip La Follette; William Proxmire; Gaylord Nelson; Russ Feingold; and many others who have contributed to progressive reform in the past century.

Better to fight and lose, than sit back and allow regressive policies to be emboldened and affect the nation as a whole! We must not cave in, but instead, continue to fight for basic principles of fairness and equity!

Grade Level Speaking Ability Of Congressional Members Declining! Sign Of The Deterioration Of Discourse!

An analysis of the discourse that goes on in Congress reveals that the grade level speaking ability of members of Congress, as an average, has declined since the coming of Tea Party Republicans to the House of Representatives, and dramatically lower than it was seven years ago, in 2005.

In 2005, the average member of Congress was rated 11.5, a junior level in high school, while now it is 10.6, a sophomoric level, one full grade lower!

The ten lowest ranked members of Congress are all Republicans, with eight of them being Tea Party Republicans, including two Tea Party Senators.

Interestingly, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin was rated the second lowest Senator in speaking ability, with an 8.6 score, and is a demonstration of what Wisconsin lost in allowing Johnson to win over former Senator Russ Feingold, long considered one of the most brilliant members of the Senate, in the Congressional elections of 2010.

Also, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, also elected in 2010, was the lowest in score of all Senators, with an 8.0, and this guy wants to run for President? This is the same person who is an eye doctor by profession, but not certified by the national organization, but instead formed his own optometric association and certified himself! Give me a break!

Just as a point of information, the two highest ranked Senators in speaking ability were Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka with a score of 14.2, and Maine Senator Olympia Snowe with a score of 14.0. The sad part is that both these Senators are leaving at the end of the year, not seeking re-election!

So the whole point of the Senate, and even the House of Representatives, supposedly being “the best among us”, people who have the distinction to serve as our representatives in both houses of Congress, is under scrutiny, and only adds to the low public opinion rating that Congress has, most recently 13 percent!

Congress has become a disgrace, and particularly so with the Republican Party membership!

Barack Obama And Progressive Disillusionment: What Is The Alternative?

With the announcement of a deal on the Debt Ceiling Crisis last night, but still to be voted on today by both houses of Congress without a guarantee of its passage at this moment of writing, the question arises as to what is the future of the progressive movement in America.

Many might say the answer is to give up on Barack Obama and challenge him in the primaries, and or run a candidate on a third party line in November 2012.

If one looks at the history of such efforts, however, it always leads to the worst alternative to progressivism being triumphant!

In November 1967, Senator Eugene McCarthy entered the race for the Presidency against President Lyndon B. Johnson, followed by Senator Robert Kennedy in March 1968, leading to his withdrawal and replacement as the administration candidate by Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The split engendered in the party over the war in Vietnam led to a divided Democratic convention, and the defeat of Humphrey by Richard Nixon, who proceeded to continue the war in Vietnam another four years, something assuredly that would not have happened under a President Humphrey. This tumultuous split in the Democratic Party helped to make for a Republican advantage, and permanently changed the Democratic party, whereby they would only win the Presidency three times out of the next ten national elections.

In late 1979 and early 1980, President Jimmy Carter was challenged in the primaries, for being too moderate and centrist, by both Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Governor Jerry Brown of California. The effect of the primary challenge was to weaken Carter for the campaign, with all of the attacks by Kennedy and Brown used by the Republicans against Carter, and Ronald Reagan won the election, setting back the progressive movement dramatically, still having an effect in 2011!

There was similar discontent among some progressive elements with Bill Clinton in his first term, but no revolt or challenge from within the progressive movement, and Bill Clinton, with his faults and shortcomings, was reelected to a second term, the only Democrat to do so since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

So while there can be discontent and disappointment with Barack Obama, that he has not achieved everything that progressives desire, try to imagine President John McCain instead, and try to imagine whether any of the many accomplishments of the Obama Presidency would have been achieved, and the answer is clearly negative.

So when Ralph Nader, who helped to defeat Al Gore by running in Florida in the 2000 election, talks about challenging Barack Obama, the answer is to steer clear of him unless one wants another 2000 election, unless one wants a Republican likely to be further to the right than George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan were in 2000 or 1980.

And when one tries to consider what progressive spokesman could really win the nation in 2012, one comes up empty handed. Certainly, Ralph Nader has no credibility and is seen as fringe in nature. Dennis Kucinich has appeal for some of what he advocates, but has run twice in the Presidential primaries and comes across as loony to many with his personal quirks. Bernie Sanders is appealing to many, but is actually a Socialist, not a Democrat, and could not possibly have broad based appeal. Russ Feingold is probably the most attractive alternative, and has formed Progressives United, an advocacy organization in Madison, WIsconsin, but he is weakened by the loss of his Senate seat in 2010, and it would be better if he ran for Senator Herb Kohl’s Senate seat with Kohl retiring, with a good chance to come back to the Senate in 2012 and promote the progressive cause from that location, in a more constructive manner.

Who else is possible, with any credibility? Realistically, NO ONE, and therefore, there is no alternative but to support Barack Obama, have him and his party fight the good fight over the next 15 months, and work to create a solid majority for progressive causes in the House of Representatives and the Senate!

If that quest is successful, and with a second term and no reelection to face, Barack Obama would likely turn further to the left, stick his neck out, and become more progressive than he has been able to do, logistically, in this first term. With all the criticism that has been and will be made of Barack Obama, he still has the most progressive term in office since Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s with his Great Society!