Russ Feingold Favorite In Wisconsin Senate Race

If Russ Feingold wants to return to the Senate, Public Policy Polling shows he is a strong front runner, beating four Republican contenders by double digits:

51% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Feingold to 38% with an unfavorable one. He’s on positive ground with independents at 50/37 and almost twice as many Republicans (15%) like him as Democrats (8%) dislike him. These numbers are a pretty clear indication that his loss last year had less to do with him than it did with the national political climate and poor Democratic turnout in the state. Things are moving back toward the Democrats nationally and that’s particularly the case in Wisconsin where Scott Walker has quickly become quite unpopular.

In hypothetical contests Feingold leads Tommy Thompson 52-42, Mark Neumann 53-41, JB Van Hollen 53-38, and Jeff Fitzgerald 54-39. He wins independents by at least 9 points in all of the match ups and takes more than 90% of the Democratic vote while keeping the Republican candidates in the 80s within their own parties.

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The Tea Party Is Not Winning As Americans Reject Both Extremes

A reader of The New York Times and Washington Post might become quite confused as to who is winning. Today E. J. Dionne tells us the Tea Party is winning. However, yesterday Frank Rich pointed out that things are not going well for the far right:

Glenn Beck’s ratings at Fox News continued their steady decline, falling to an all-time low last month. He has lost 39 percent of his viewers in a year and 48 percent of the prime 25-to-54 age demographic. His strenuous recent efforts to portray the Egyptian revolution as an apocalyptic leftist-jihadist conspiracy have inspired more laughs than adherents.

Sarah Palin’s tailspin is also pronounced. It can be seen in polls, certainly: the ABC News-Washington Post survey found that 30 percent of Americans approved of her response to the Tucson massacre and 46 percent did not. (Obama’s numbers in the same poll were 78 percent favorable, 12 percent negative.) But equally telling was the fate of a Palin speech scheduled for May at a so-called Patriots & Warriors Gala in Glendale, Colo.

Tickets to see Palin, announced at $185 on Jan. 16, eight days after Tucson, were slashed to half-price in early February. Then the speech was canceled altogether, with the organizers blaming “safety concerns resulting from an onslaught of negative feedback.” But when The Denver Post sought out the Glendale police chief, he reported there had been no threats or other causes for alarm. The real “negative feedback” may have been anemic ticket sales, particularly if they were to cover Palin’s standard $100,000 fee.

The news section of The New York Times also points out problems faced by the Republicans:

…in the view of officials from both major political parties, Republicans may be risking the same kind of electoral backlash Democrats suffered after they were perceived as overreaching.

Public surveys suggest that most voters do not share the Republicans’ fervor for the deep cuts adopted by the House, or for drastically slashing the power of public-sector unions. And independent voters have historically been averse to displays of political partisanship that have been played out over the last week.

“If Republicans push too far and overreach their mandate, they will be punished by independent voters, just as they were in 1996,” said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who was a senior adviser to President George W. Bush. “Voters said they wanted bold action. They are getting bold action. But Republicans need to be constantly reminded that the last election was a referendum for change, not a referendum for the G.O.P.

Mr. McKinnon said that although Mr. Obama had claimed a mandate after his election, it turned out to be exaggerated, The president had paid a price for it, he said, and was adjusting.

Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin who was turned out of office in the Republican sweep last year, said the new crop of Republicans was drawing false conclusions from the party’s victory.

“They are taking some kind of public expression of deep concern about the economy and turning it into something entirely different,” Mr. Feingold said. “They are making a mistake. They say: ‘Well, we won the election. Elections have consequences.’ And I say, yes, and we are going to have another election next year.”

What we are really seeing here is a failure for both extremes.

When the Democrats took control of the White House and Congress I recall writing a post warning that the Democrats would again become a minority party if they were to overreach. Looking back at the 2010 election, this should be updated to add the Democrats were also at risk of losing if the Republicans could create a false perception of Democratic overreach. I am glad to see that the article describes the problem of  as “Democrats suffered after they were perceived as overreaching” as opposed to actual overreaching.

The Democrats took a centrist course but failed miserably in explaining their actions, once again allowing the Republicans to define them and create a false perception of a move to the far left and overreaching. In addition, Obama did make one serious mistake in reversing his campaign position against the individual mandate. This allowed Republicans (who initially supported the mandate) to oppose health care reform as something being imposed upon Americans by big government as opposed to a case of government stepping in to provide help to those who need it when the market has failed.

Frank Rich is right that those on the far right are losing because, fortunately, many conservatives out in the real world don’t support the extremism and know-nothing philosophy of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party. Many on the left are also making a mistake when they see any support by Barack Obama or other Democrats for fiscal responsibility as giving in to right wing frames and a victory for the Tea Party.

Cutting the deficit is important in the long run. Republicans were wrong during the Bush years when they argued that deficits don’t matter, and exploded the deficit by fighting two wars off the books while cutting taxes primarily for the ultra-wealthy. It is far better to point out how Republican policies are responsible for the deficit than to shy away from any discussion of cutting the deficit. Rather than avoid the discussion, Democrats must point out that some deficit spending is beneficial, such as Obama’s stimulus which kept us out of a depression. Democrats must also continue to point out how cutting taxes for the ultra-wealthy and spending on Bush’s wars has done far more to increase the deficit than Democratic spending.

Some on the left want to avoid any use of “conservative frames,” but in doing so they actually hurt the left. When they refuse to mention anything discussed by conservatives, they allow conservatives to take credit for positions they do not actually promote. As a result we have conservatives claiming to be champions of freedom and capitalism, despite the reality that they really support more government intrusion in the lives of individuals and confuse plutocracy for capitalism.

This mistaken view that the left must avoid any conservative frames  leads to many of the attacks on Barack Obama from the left. Obama, while certainly not always perfect, at least understands that the way to win a majority is to demonstrate to rational conservatives that the economic policies they desire can better be delivered by his administration than by the extreme right. Those who oppose Obama’s attempts to appeal to conservatives argue that this has not led to any support from Congressional Republicans. This is correct but misses the point. The real target is not Congressional Republicans, who care more about denying Democrats any victories for political reasons than they care about any specific issues, or the good of the country. The target is the more rational voters who might have voted Republican in many of the recent elections but who are not totally brainwashed by the right wing noise machine. Attracting these voters, along with independents,  explains why Obama’s popularity has consistently been higher than that of Congress, and is now moving upward. It might also explain why some are turning off Glenn Beck.

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Obama Graded On Overturning Bush’s National Security Measures

Russ Feingold has graded Barack Obama on overturning George Bush’s national security measures. Obama generally received good grades, with one notable exception. The Hill reports:

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) on Tuesday released a report card-style review of the Obama administration’s progress in overturning President Bush’s controversial national security measures, giving President Obama high marks for most actions except for a “troubling” use of secrecy.

Feingold, a member of the Intelligence Committee and chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution, gave the highest marks for Obama’s renunciation of Bush-era practices such as harsh interrogation techniques and resistance to Freedom of Information Act requests. Those practices all received “A” grades.

“The difference between this administration and the Bush administration is night and day,” Feingold said in a morning conference call with reporters.

However, Feingold was harsh in his judgment of Obama’s “repeated assertion” of state secrets — a legal defense the administration has invoked three times in court to resist the release of information. That practice earned the lowest grade in Feingold’s report, a “D.”

Feingold said the administration is using the assertion in an “over-broad” manner, and called for the president to support legislation that would allow judges to review state secrets in a secure, closed process.

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Big Brother Is Watching At the Border

There have been complaints for several months regarding the seizure of laptop computers at borders, recent newspaper reports have detailed the extent the government can go. The Washington Post reports:

Federal agents may take a traveler’s laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop’s contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement…

The policies state that officers may “detain” laptops “for a reasonable period of time” to “review and analyze information.” This may take place “absent individualized suspicion.”

The policies cover “any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,” including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover “all papers and other written documentation,” including books, pamphlets and “written materials commonly referred to as ‘pocket trash’ or ‘pocket litter.’ “

Ultimately if there is no evidence of a crime the devices are returned and copies of the material will be destroyed but written reports may be maintained. The report does state that, “When officers determine there is probable cause of unlawful activity-based on a review of information in documents or electronic devices encountered at the border or on other facts and circumstances-they may seize and retain the originals andlor copies of relevant documents or devices, as authorized by law.” Does this mean that if there is a copy of an illegally downloaded song on an iPod or computer they may retain the device?

Senator Russ Feingold has been holding hearings on this policy and is introducing legislation to “require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.”  A pdf copy of the policy is available here.

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Dodd and Feingold Plan to Filibuster FISA Bill

Senators Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold have announced plans to filibuster the FISA bill:

This is a deeply flawed bill, which does nothing more than offer retroactive immunity by another name. We strongly urge our colleagues to reject this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation and oppose any efforts to consider this bill in its current form. We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that may have participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program, and as long as it fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans.

“If the Senate does proceed to this legislation, our immediate response will be to offer an amendment that strips the retroactive immunity provision out of the bill. We hope our colleagues will join us in supporting Americans’ civil liberties by opposing retroactive immunity and rejecting this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation.

Harry Reid has announced support:

“Unfortunately, the FISA compromise bill establishes a process where the likely outcome is immunity to the telecommunications carriers who participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program. Sen. Reid remains opposed to retroactive immunity, which undermines efforts to hold the Bush Administration accountable for violating the law. Thus, he will cosponsor the amendment offered by Senators Dodd and Feingold to strip out the immunity provision, and support their efforts to strip immunity on the floor. “

While I support both their plans to filibuster and their opposition to retroactive immunity, I will mention once again that I am far more concerned about the provisions which provide for insufficient protections of civil liberties in the future than I am about what happened in the past. I hope that drawing the line on retroactive immunity we don’t wind up winning on this while giving everything else away. If faced with the choice of a good FISA bill which adequately protects civil liberties in the future but which also contains retroactive immunity or the current bill minus the retroactive immunity, I’d go with the first choice. Maybe enough Democrats will stick together, being in the majority after all, to prevent both negative aspects of the bill from being passed. I sure wouldn’t mind seeing the telecommunications companies lose out on what appears to have been an effort to buy votes.

With regards to Democrats sticking together, this means you, Barack. The Senate is a deliberative body. Should, as a consequence of hearing such deliberations, you change your mind, I certainly will not think any less of you. Changing one’s mind when they have made a mistake is only a sin to the small minded people on the far right who are obsessed with flip-flops.

Sure, I’ll vote for Obama regardless of what he does on this bill, knowing that the alternative is far worse, but I would sure respect him more if he stood firm on this civil liberties issue. I’m sure he is looking at the political ramifications, but with a second poll now showing a double digit lead, he can afford to stand up for principle.

As long as the Democrats act as if they are afraid of being labeled as being soft on terrorism, the Republicans will be able to use this against them. Ultimately the Democrats need to stand up for liberal principles, and this is the year in which voters appear to be most receptive to listening.  By going along with this compromise, the Democrats are allowing the Republican line to go unchallenged, perpetuating the illusion that the Republican approach is effective in defending the country when they are actually both undermining civil liberties and pursuing policies which are not necessary for our national security. Ultimately the only way the Democrats can end their problem of being portrayed as being weaker on national security is to face the Republicans head on and make respect for civil liberties a bigger part of the pubic discussion.

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Obama Wins Superdelegate and Takes Lead in Senate Endorsements

Earlier in the race it was about delegates. Currently the Clinton campaign stresses the popular vote. At one time Hillary even jokingly suggested gong by bowling scores. Although the Clinton campaign changes the metric by which they claim Clinton should get the nomination there’s one measure which they won’t be using for now–endorsements from their fellow Senators. The endorsement today by New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman now gives Obama the lead (14 to 13) over Clinton.  In endorsing Obama Bingaman wrote:

Our nation faces a daunting number of critical challenges: reasserting America’s leadership in the world, meeting our needs for energy independence, addressing global warming, making healthcare accessible and affordable, positioning our economy to effectively compete globally, and extricating ourselves from the war in Iraq, to name a few.

To make progress, we must rise above the partisanship and the issues that divide us to find common ground. We must move the country in a dramatically new direction.

I strongly believe Barack Obama is best positioned to lead the nation in that new direction.

The race for Senate endorsements will continue as eighteen Senators still have not made an endorsement. The endorsements to date are under the fold.

(more…)

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Feingold Backs Obama

Russ Feingold has announced that he voted for Obama in the Wisconsin primary and will support him as a super delegate:

Sen. Russ Feingold said today that he voted for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama in this week’s Wisconsin primary and indicated that he likely will vote for Obama’s nomination as one of the state’s “superdelegates” to the Democratic convention this summer.

“I really do think that at the gut level, this is a chance to do something special” for the nation, Feingold said, adding that electing Obama represents “an enormous historical opportunity for America and for our relationship with the world.”

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Feingold and Krauthammer Question Edwards’ Newly Developed Principles

Robert Novak is spreading a rumor that there might be a deal between Obama and Edwards in which Edwards becomes Attorney General. I hope this isn’t true as after the mess created in the Bush years we need someone with a stronger background in Constitutional law and civil liberties.

Edwards has also come under criticism from a couple different people today. Last week I quoted Russ Feingold as calling Edwards the most “problematic candidate.” Feingold repeated his criticism of Edwards in an interview with Huffington Post:

“I don’t understand how somebody could vote, five or six critical votes, one way in the Senate and then make your campaign the opposite positions,” Feingold said, expanding on comments he made a week ago to the Appleton (Wisconsin) Post-Crescent. “That doesn’t give me confidence that if the person became president that they would continue the kind of policies that they are using in the Democratic primary. I’m more likely to believe what they did in the Senate.”

Asked to explain what precisely he found problematic, Feingold offered that Edwards had “taken in” voters by switching positions on several key issues.

“You have to consider what the audience is, and obviously these are very popular positions to take when you are in a primary where you are trying to get the progressive vote. But wait a minute — there were opportunities to vote against the bankruptcy bill, there was an opportunity to vote against the China [trade] deal. Those are the moments where you sort of find out where somebody is. So I think, people are being taken in a little bit that now he is taking these positions.”

(more…)

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Feingold Amendment Fails on Procedural Vote

The Feingold Amendment to cut off funding for the war lost 29-67 on a procedural vote. Following are the Senators who voted in favor:

Akaka (D-HI), Biden (D-DE), Boxer (D-CA), Byrd (D-WV), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Clinton (D-NY), Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), Harkin (D-IA), Inouye (D-HI), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Kohl (D-WI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Leahy (D-VT), Menendez (D-NJ), Mikulski (D-MD), Murray (D-WA), Obama (D-IL), Reid (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schumer (D-NY), Stabenow (D-MI), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR).

The candidates for the Democratic nomination all voted for it, as did John Kerry. It is unusual here in Michigan to see Debby Stabenow make the more liberal vote while Carl Levin let us down.

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Dodd Responds To Edwards on Iraq

Christopher Dodd is having a tough time getting attention in this year’s crowed field. It took an attack on one of the front runners to get some media attention today:

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) just released a statement taking former Sen. John Edwards to task for his new ads on President Bush’s veto of a bill establishing a firm deadline for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

“As Senator Dodd was the first candidate to support the Reid-Feingold measure, we agree that Democrats in the Senate should stand up to a President who stubbornly refuses to change his failed policy in Iraq,” said Christy Setzer. “We wish that Senator Edwards was still in the Senate for this important fight.”

Setzer added: “If we can’t get his vote in the Senate, of course we would welcome Senator Edwards ‘ support for Senator Dodd’s plan, which would safely re-deploy out troops and bring an end to this war within on year rather than the incremental eighteen-month approach he has proposed.”

Yowza!

The Fix also notes the difficulty Dodd is having getting his message out:

Dodd is the lone presidential candidate to voice support for the measure being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) that would set a date certain for not just withdrawal of American troops but for funding for the war. Dodd’s campaign has repeatedly highlighted that fact as an attempt to distinguish himself from the field of better known candidates include Edwards as well as Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

If Dodd wants to distinguish himself from Edwards, he might also use the same argument I recently suggested for Bill Richardson. Dodd, like Richardson, is qualified to be President.

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