Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 9, 2008

BRING ON CHAIRMAN FEINGOLD.... A few days ago, The Hill ran an item that I can't quite wrap my head around.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden leaves an open chairmanship on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that could end up being filled by one of the most outspoken critics of the Iraq war.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), among the chamber's most liberal members, is the fourth Democrat in line on the committee, behind Biden, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Sen. John Kerry (Mass.).

Dodd said Thursday he plans to stay on as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Kerry is reportedly lobbying to be President-elect Barack Obama's Secretary of State.

That leaves Feingold, an unapologetic champion of civil liberties and a staunch opponent of the Bush administration's war in Iraq, next in line. Feingold opposed the war from the start and was the first senator to call for a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable.

Democrats could bypass the Wisconsin senator and choose a more centrist member, such as Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), who initially supported the war and could be more open to compromise. But that would rile the party's left wing.

Ordinarily, seniority dictates the next in line for the chairmanship, and if Kerry does leave for an Obama administration, it's Feingold's gavel. Except, maybe it won't be, because he's a "liberal" who, like Obama, was right about the war in Iraq when most were wrong.

In fact, The Hill quotes Dan Senor, the former Bush administration spokesman in Iraq, saying Feingold would be "a hard-left chairman," while Nelson "is basically supportive of Obama but not with the ideological purity that Feingold has." Why Democrats would take advice from Senor is unclear.

What's more, Digby noted a "Democratic strategist" named Michael Feldman arguing on television the other day that Feingold's opposition to the war in Iraq "would immediately then raise some issues for the caucus and for leader Reid."

This is, of course, utterly bizarre. As Yglesias noted, "[T]he idea that anyone could, with a straight face, argue that Feingold should be disqualified on account of having been correct about Iraq is a sad comment on the state of things."

Steve Benen 8:57 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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"Why Democrats would take advice from Senor is unclear."

Gee, could it be because a significant number of them are spineless, gutless, heartless, and close-to-brainless crypto-Rethugs in thrall to the same corporatocracy that owns and operates the Repuke Party, and to The Village propagandists -- and another significant number of them are "Blue Dog" Dem's?

This has been another episode of SASQ (ht atrios)

Posted by: smartalek on November 9, 2008 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

why do conservatives think they still get to dictate anything?

Posted by: Lesley on November 9, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Umm, behind the economy, wasn't ending the Iraq war one of the platform issues for the Dems in '08? Specifically, wasn't it a timetable for orderly withdrawal that would get our brave men and women out of needless harm's way?
I would think that NOT giving Feingold the chairmanship would raise more problems for the caucus. Especially among the base that gave them on overwhelming victory in '08.
Where's your bread buttered, guys? Jeez.

Posted by: Govt Skeptic on November 9, 2008 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Spineless crapweasels. Whether it was renewing FISA with the added bonus of civil immunity for telecoms that aided the Bush Administration's illegal spying, failing to reinstitute habeas corpus rights, leaving Guantanamo Bay's prison open, or continuing to fund ongoing operations in Iraq while falsely claiming they needed a veto proof majority to stop the war, the national Democrats have been tested and found wanting. We need a new second party to challenge the Democrats- and it should be on the left, not the right.

Posted by: Goose on November 9, 2008 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Welcome To The Monkey House.

We can't have someone who was right about Iraq chair the Foreign Relations Committee. That would make those who were wrong about Iraq (all repubs, and a good many Dems) feel really bad about themselves! Isn't it bad enough that all those Joe the Plumber types will have to suffer through the competence of an Obama admin? It's a slippery slope, and if we're not carefull we'll end up with someone at Treasury who can, you know, actually do arithmetic.

Posted by: Joe on November 9, 2008 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding Feingold, that rumor's already been put to bed:


Speaking of which, it's going to take a while -- like a year -- before all the usual-suspect anonymous-quote-types go from being Bush lackies to Obama lackies, so we'll keep getting stupid rumors for Republicans for a while.


Regarding Kerry, the idea that he's 'lobbying' for the Secretary of State job is also coming from the right, so obviously I think it would be a good idea to STOP PARROTING RIGHT-WING TALKING POINTS on your blog.

Draw up any list of candidates for the position of Secretary of State under Barack Obama and you'll find Kerry near or at the top of the list. He's so obviously qualified it's not even worth talking about, and he clearly has an affinity for and rapport with Obama.

Posted by: The Phantom on November 9, 2008 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

"But that would rile the party's left wing."

That would be about 99% of Democrats who voted in this election. Every Dem voter I contacted during my many weeks of canvassing here in good ole RED North Durham supported getting out of Iraq asap - even those split-ticket voters who would not vote for Obama.

Posted by: csmith on November 9, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, you're missing what the "right" viewpoint is on Iraq: it was unpatriotic not to follow Bush to war. Being right was wrong. Refusing to follow its Commander in Chief would make America weak and vulnerable to its enemies. Bush may have screwed up the war, but 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. Got it?

Posted by: idlemind on November 9, 2008 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

If seniority isn't the sole criteria for these positions, how did Lieberman get the one he did?

Posted by: jen f on November 9, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Just because the election is over doesn't mean the GOP tactics of lies and spin are. I think the main thing they want to do, is keep their followers from thinking.

Keep them in fear and anger. Maybe it won't work as well anymore.

Posted by: yesican on November 9, 2008 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not all that keen on Kerry for SecState, myself. I'd prefer a career diplomat. With Iraq being all but decided (since the Iraqis agree with Obama already), I would rather see Feingold heading some other committee. I'm probably wrong, but I always considered Feingold stronger on domestic stuff. Feel free to correct me on this if I'm wrong. Which other Committee would Feingold be in line for?

Posted by: Tim H on November 9, 2008 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

A better reason not to have Kerry as SecState- the defacto SecState is going to be Biden, at least on major matters. No reason to waste Kerry there.

Posted by: Tim H on November 9, 2008 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

The Party In Power, Those Who Know Better Than We, aka The Ruling Class (whether the left-center faction or the right faction), has no interest in having "the people" actually tell them what they should be doing. And heaven help someone who was actually right about their little invasion of Poland to begin with!

This is part of the same business of Dodd and Bayh telling everyone it should be OK for their buddy, Kapo Joe, to come back to the club without fear of ostracism.

Posted by: TCinLA on November 9, 2008 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

My vote would be for Feingold, for sure. Bill Nelson is my senator (Florida), but he is not someone I would support for this role. I have disagreed with about half his votes over time, including funding for new nuclear weapons research. He certainly does not represent the change we need to help change our foreign policy from that of Empire to that of admired world power. Yes, Feingold is an unapologetic liberal and we need many more like him in the Senate.

Posted by: impeachcheneythenbush on November 9, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Fortunately Senator Feingold represents me in the fine state of WI. He has, far more often than not, voted the way I would like to see and has tried to live within the spirit of the campaign finance bill he helped author during each of his re-election campaigns.

He voted against the War in Iraq.
He was the only senator who voted against the Original Patriot Act.
He voted against FISA
He voted against the 700 billion bailout bill.

He has been tireless in performing the hard work his office requires and in many cases is one of the best informed Senators on the subjects he comments on. If he could be cloned and used to replace all the other members of congress, we would truly have the world's greatest deliberative body and the country would be the main beneficiary.

He briefly considered running for President, but realized that, in a crowded field, a Jew from a small Midwestern state stood little chance. However, his clear-eyed evaluation of his chances is a good sign that his ego is still kept in check by his intellect.

He has my vote for a long as he wishes to remain in office. And as far as I am concerned, he would greatly improve the effectiveness of any committee he becomes chairman of.


Posted by: Chrisbo on November 9, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

A) Fuck Ben Nelson and his Blue Dog bullshit. Feingold has seniority, is a loyal Democrat, and was right about the most significant foreign policy issue of the past decade. Washington journalists need to get it through their heads that the anonymous chickenshit conservatives who are feeding these lines to them don't get to dictate anything anymore.

B) Joe Lieberman has his chair because he ws needed to ensure Democratic control of the Senate. He has zero seniority as a Democrat because he is not a Democrat. The leadership needed him, but it was always an agreement based on expediency. Even now, the only reason they haven't announced that he's out of the caucus is because of the very slight chance that he will provide the 60th vote to break filibusters. But there is no chance that he keeps the Governmental Affairs chair with a Democratic administration. The biggest criticism against him has been his unwillingness to investigate Bush. When he suddenly begins investigating Obama's bathroom habits, do we want him to be able to say he's just doing what we asked him to do all along? Fuck that and fuck him. Really, he should go before we even know if Martin, Begich, and Franken win. That way his ouster will rightly be regarded as principled rather than a cold political calculation. Besides, there's always a possibility of flipping one or both of the Maine senators.

Posted by: Singularity on November 9, 2008 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Tim H. - Even if Iraq is "all but decided," Afghanistan is not. Neither is any other area of the world which our Foreign policy addresses. Feingold is also tremendously strong on civil liberties.

Posted by: impeachcheneythenbush on November 9, 2008 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

One point about Feingold and his antiwar vote. People were very quick to call out Democratis who voted for the IWR, particularly if they saw some political advantage. But they turned a blind eye to any political advantage that a politician might have for voting against the measure, as if Senators and Congresspersons wouldn't be able to make the same sort of political calculations.

I'm all for Feingold. But given that the IWR was going to pass, he had the luxury in the context of that vote to decide how he wanted to position himself. Not all 'for' votes were about waging war, not all 'against' votes were solely votes of conscience.

The sooner we get over the idea of purity tests for career politicians, or the equally absured idea that any of them is sainted, the better off our politics will be.

Posted by: The Phantom on November 9, 2008 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

The general tenor of remarks from such people is that Obama should always be ready to do what Bush would do, because Republicans must retain control even if they are in the minority. Remember, only Republicans are patriotic and have the interests of America at heart, so we must always look to these sterling and pure thinkers to get guidance for everything we do.

Posted by: Carol on November 9, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

I think there's more to the story than an opposition to the Iraq war. If you look at the evolution of Obama's stump speeches the removal of references to Guantanamo is striking. It will be interesting to see what kind of a priority the shuttering of our operation there takes as our true quagmire isn't in the middle east, its in Cuba.

Removing our troops from Iraq is relatively straightforward; dissolving an internment camp with a significant amount of innocent prisoners is going to get very, very dicey. I have absolutely no idea what to do with that mess. I haven't heard any good ideas, either.

If you want to render all of this liberal ascendancy talk moot very quickly, let some innocent prisoners free and put them in Indiana.

Posted by: mark r on November 9, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK


Feingold isn't "pure", but I would argue he is as close to it as we have available in the Senate.

In his 1998 reelection, he followed the guidelines for the McCain-Feingold bill even though the bill had not passed. Many Democrats criticized him for the decision as his opponent took advantage of loads of soft money. Fortunately, Feingold eked out the win.

He was hammered by Republicans and some Democrats for his vote against the "PATRIOT" act. Days after 9/11, it took tremendous political courage to vote against anything the President wanted. Feingold stood for his principles while every other Democrat cowered and voted against bedrock civil rights.

I'm proud to have for Feingold to be my senator and I'm confident he will be an excellent chair for the committee.

Posted by: Proud Wisconsinite on November 9, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

What ever propelled The Hill to ask Senor's opinion to begin with? He was the flack for the disastrously mismanaged Coalition Provisional Authority - our answer to Baghdad Bob. (Wish I had some screen captures of the CPA website's cheery front page from early April 2004, when Iraq was exploding from one end to the other.)

It's hard to think of a Bushie with less cred, with the possible exception of Heckuva Job Brownie.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 9, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the price for this is Secretary of State Warren Christopher Jr., aka John Kerry.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 9, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Why does this sound so familiar? Oh, I know...remember how unpatriotic it was to have been right about Vietnam? I always thought it was amazing that Bush 41 promised before the Persian Gulf war that it would be "no Vietman," then a couple years later based his campaign against Clinton on the premise that he was a "draft dodger."

Posted by: Judy in Ohio on November 9, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

When Clinton was elected, his first Secretary of Defense was Les Aspin, who had been the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The next most senior member of the committee was Ron Dellums, a man far to the left of Feingold and a passionate opponent of the MX missile and the B-2 bomber. There was no attempt to deny Dellums the gavel, and even Republicans will admit that he ran the committee in a fair manner.

Posted by: Vadranor on November 9, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Short Translation:

Putting someone competent in a position of power embarrasses those who were there before. Its a reminder how wrong they were and we just want to move one.

Posted by: TGP on November 9, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Attorney General Russell Feingold!

Posted by: rovezaleeker on November 9, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Voted against the Iraq war,FISA,patriot act, the seven hundred billion bail out??
Damn,those sound like conservative positions to me. Given the chance I would vote for him to hold any federal office in the land

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on November 9, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Now that we've got close enough to 60 Senators to, possibly, be able to sway a few saner Repubs into getting things done.. Can we please talk a bit less about depopulating the Dem caucus by placing those Senators in admin positions? I expect there'd be no danger in removing Kerry from the Senate, since he'd be replaced by another Dem (but would that Dem be as savvy?), but in some other cases...

As far as Feingold is concerned... he should have *any* position within the Senate that he wants; he's one of the smartest and most honest people there.

Posted by: exlibra on November 9, 2008 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

EC Sedgwick,

I think "sound like former conservative positions" would be a better wording as all of the above were brought to us by our "compassionate conservative" president and many of his enablers in the Republican caucus.

I suspect you are a traditional conservative and as such would probably find fault with Russ's belief that government CAN solve some problems. However, he is a strong defender of the constitution and a firm believer in government accountability, and, hence, would probably have some appeal to you.

Posted by: chrisbo on November 9, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK



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