Russ Feingold Needed Back In The Senate

Russ Feingold has announced plans to attempt to win back the Senate seat he lost six years ago in the video above.

“People tell me all the time that our politics and Washington are broken. And that multi-millionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling the shots,” Feingold says in the video. “They especially say this about the U.S. Senate, and it’s hard not to agree. But what are we going to do? Get rid of the Senate?

“Actually, no one I’ve listened to says we should throw in the towel and give up — and I don’t think that either,” he adds. “Instead, let’s fight together for change. That means helping to bring back to the U.S. Senate strong independence, bipartisanship and honesty.”

Feingold lost his seat in the Republican sweep of 2010, and is considered to have a better than even chance of winning it back in a presidential election year. It would be unusual in recent years for this to occur:

While Feingold is seen as a very strong candidate with perhaps better than even odds to pick up the seat he lost to Ron Johnson during the 2010 Republican tsunami, his return to the chamber would certainly be a rarity in the modern political era.

Smart Politics first reported in February that only two U.S. Senators have returned to the chamber after losing their seat at the ballot box since 1956.

The last U.S. Senator to be defeated at the ballot box and then later win an election back to the chamber was Washington Republican Slade Gorton

From the beginning of direct elections in 1913 until the mid-1950s, such comebacks were much more common, with 14 defeated ex-U.S. Senators winning back a seat in the chamber…

Feingold’s return to the Senate is very important for those of us who vote Democratic based upon issues such as civil liberties, opposition to unnecessary wars, campaign finance reform, and transparency in government. If Hillary Clinton should win the Democratic nomination as most expect, this would leave us with a choice of both a Democrat and most likely also a Republican who is very conservative on all of these issues. (The lone exception on these issues might be Ron Paul, but he has been flip-flopping to sound like a more conventional Republican).

Russ Feingold has battled with Clinton in the past, and he will hopefully be a strong voice in the Senate for liberalism as opposed to Clintonian conservatism. Feingold would also make a far better presidential candidate than Clinton, but it is understandable he would concentrate on winning back his Senate seat as opposed to an uphill battle for the presidential nomination.

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Clinton Failed To Report 1100 Foreign Contributions Despite Her Disclosure Agreement; Fact Checker Gives Three Pinocchios To Clinton Foundation Response

Clinton Global Iniative

Hillary Clinton continues to receive criticism from the mainstream and liberal media, along with fact checkers, for major ethical violations  and the dishonest responses from her supporters. When Clinton became Secretary of State there were essentially two requirements placed upon her by the Obama administration to avoid the breaches which we are now seeing: disclose all the donors to the Clinton Foundation and archive her email on government servers. She failed to do comply with each of these. Bloomberg reports that the Clinton Foundation failed to report 1100 foreign donations:

The reason this is a politically explosive revelation is because the Clinton Foundation promised to disclose its donors as a condition of Hillary Clinton becoming secretary of state. Shortly after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the Clinton Foundation signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Obama White House agreeing to reveal its contributors every year. The agreement stipulates that the “Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative” (as the charity was then known) is part of the Clinton Foundation and must follow “the same protocols.”

It hasn’t.

The Washington Post has more on this story.  Elsewhere in The Washington Post, Karen Tumulty asked, Are the Clintons too cozy with the people who give them money? She is one of many journalists who have pointed out the irony of Clinton’s empty talk on campaign finance reform. Not only do the current revelations make a mockery out of any attempts at campaign finance reform, but it should be recalled that the laws now on the books came about as a result of previous actions by the Clintons:

Nonpartisan advocates of limiting money in politics say the problem is, in no small measure, one of the Clintons’ own making. “It would be in everyone’s best interest if the Clinton Foundation adopted a policy of accepting no money whatsoever from any foreign countries, foreign corporations and foreign individuals,” said Fred Wertheimer, a veteran of the fights over campaign finance who is now president of the watchdog group Democracy 21.

There is indeed an echo of the furor that was generated in the 1990s when the Clintons wooed big Democratic Party donors with overnight sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom and intimate coffees in the Map Room, where they could rub elbows with the government officials who regulated their industries…

The controversies of the 1990s paved the way for passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — also known as the ­McCain-Feingold Act for its sponsors, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and then-Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). A key feature of the law was a ban on the unregulated “soft money” that the Clinton White House had been so adept at raising with its many overtures to deep-pocketed donors.

She proceeded to clash with Russell Feingold over campaign finance reform.

In light of the recent revelations, several non-partisan watchdog organizations, including some mentioned in Tumulty’s article, are questioning the ethics of the actions by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Common Cause has called for an independent audit of contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

The Clinton Foundation made insufficient responses recently and their excuses for failing to disclose some of the contributions have failed to hold up. The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Three Pinocchios for one recent misleading excuse.

This his hardly the only dishonest response from Clinton’s supporters regarding her recent ethical violations. Ron Fournier noted “the predictable, paint-by-numbers response from the Bill and Hillary Clinton political operation.”

1. Deny: Salient questions are dodged, and evidence goes missing. The stone wall is built.

2. Deflect: Blame is shifted, usually to Republicans and the media.

3. Demean: People who question or criticize the Clintons get tarred as right-wing extremists, hacks, nuts, or sluts.

This is essentially the same as what David Corn described in Mother Jones last month.

Clinton supporters have concentrated on trying to make it appear that they are dealing with attacks from the right. In reality, Clinton does not currently have a Fox problem as much as she has a problem with The New York Times, Reuters, AP, The Guardian, media Fact Checker sites, and some liberal magazines. They have concentrated on claiming to debunk Peter Schwitzer’s book Clinton Cash by screaming that there is no smoking gun in the book. The reality is that Schwitzer’s book is only a small part of the evidence against Clinton, with other reports doing more to demonstrate her guilt than Schwitzer, who never claimed to prove the case in his book. Clinton supporters felt so threatened by the fact that Schwitzer has also been working a similar book on Jeb Bush, diminishing their claims of a right wing attack, that they have been repeating a false claim from a pro-Clinton blog that he is not writing the book on Bush. Their “evidence” consists of a statement that the conservative publisher of Clinton Cash is not publishing the book on Bush, but Schwitzer had said he is seeking a different publisher for that book.

While failing to respond to the real questions, Clinton supporters also demand deflect from the facts in demanding that a quid pro quo be demonstrated, but such evidence is rarely preserved in such cases. Nor is it considered necessary for proof, at least when people other than the Clintons are involved.  The standards in such a case are that the Clintons failed to abide by the regulations.  That is the key fact, but beyond this there is demonstrated transfers of unusual amounts of money, both in the form of contributions to the Foundation and unprecedented speaking fees paid to Bill. This was followed by those who made the payments receiving favors, sometimes including changes in position on the part of Hillary Clinton. Analogous cases in matters such as insider trading are based upon establishing such violations of rules and in patterns of the transfer of money, not in proving a quid pro quo.

On top of this, by her own admission, Hillary Clinton has destroyed evidence. She admits to wiping the server. The usual standard in a criminal case would be to assume that any evidence which has been destroyed would be detrimental to the person who destroyed the evidence. This should certainly be sufficient to raise serious doubts in a matter of ethics as opposed to criminal prosecution.

Amy Davidson has a set of five questions on the uranium mining deal which are well worth reading in The New Yorker.The first deals with the question of a quid pro quo:

Was there a quid pro quo? Based on the Times reporting, there was certainly a lot of quid (millions in donations that made it to a Clinton charity; a half-million-dollar speaker’s fee) and multiple quos (American diplomatic intervention with the Russians; approvals when the Russian firm offered a very “generous” price for Uranium One). The Clinton perspective is that, although the approvals were delivered by the State Department when Clinton led it, there is no evidence that she personally delivered them, or of the “pro” in the equation. The Clinton campaign, in its response to the Times, noted that other agencies also had a voice in the approval process, and gave the Times a statement from someone on the approvals committee saying that Clinton hadn’t “intervened.” The Clinton spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether Clinton was briefed about the matter. She was cc’d on a cable that mentioned the request for diplomatic help, but if there is a note in which she follows up with a directive—an e-mail, say—the Times doesn’t seem to have it.

This speaks to some larger questions about political corruption. How do you prove it? Maybe the uranium people simply cared deeply about the undeniably good work the foundation is doing, and would have received the help and approvals anyway. In cases like this, though, how does the public maintain its trust? Doing so becomes harder when the money is less visible, which leads to the second question:

That led a discussion of the failure to meet disclosure requirements, and then three further difficult questions for the Clintons.

So far it looks like Schwitzer has provided valuable information in his book for legitimate, non-partisan journalists to investigate, and from media reports he has also made some mistakes. That is why it is so important that he has allowed journalists to evaluate his research. This conservative writer is certainly not the only one with ideological connections investigating this topic. David Sirota and other liberal investigative journalists have also dug up problems in the recent past, and reported earlier this week on another situation in which payments were made to the Clintons prior to receiving favors, along with millions in additional payments to Bill Clinton “just before or just after firms lobbied his wife’s State Department.”

While the more serious issue is that Clinton failed to disclose over one thousand donors, Vox reviewed those which have been disclosed and even there found a serious problem:

The size and scope of the symbiotic relationship between the Clintons and their donors is striking. At least 181 companies, individuals, and foreign governments that have given to the Clinton Foundation also lobbied the State Department when Hillary Clinton ran the place, according to a Vox analysis of foundation records and federal lobbying disclosures.

After presenting the data the article states, “That’s not illegal, but it is scandalous” and concluded:

Ultimately, it is impossible to tell where one end of the two-headed Clinton political and philanthropic operation ends and where the other begins. The “trust us” model is insufficient for the public. It’s also an ongoing political liability for Hillary Clinton. Both she and the public would benefit from greater controls. She’s not the first politician forced to defend contributions to her charity. Tom DeLay, the legendary former House majority leader and whip, was hammered by the left for taking donations for his children’s charity from corporations and lobbyists with business before Congress.

On one level, there’s little difference between special interests donating money to politicians’ campaigns and donating to their charities. The nature of the objections raised by the Clintons taking money from interested parties also applies to their solicitation of contributions to her presidential campaign — and to similar asks made by every other politician. On another level, though, a politician’s charity is a special avenue of access.

Politicians’ charities are an attractive place for special interests to funnel money. They can give much larger sums to charities than they can in hard campaign dollars. Because the charities are, by definition, nonpartisan, the contributions look less political. The politician who runs the charity usually has a pretty strong emotional tie to its sustainability and often benefits from payment in the form of travel and accommodations in conjunction with the charity’s activities. Last but not least, donations to the charity are tax-deductible, in contrast to campaign contributions.

Candidates for office should seek to set the bar for their own conduct higher than the level required by current law. More important, at a time when the American public has rightly lost confidence that politicians serve the public first, foremost, and exclusively, Hillary Clinton has fallen short of that standard.

Update: Ethical Violations At Clinton Foundation Tarnishing Clinton Brand And May Cripple Campaign

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The Primary Battles Beyond Hillary Clinton

Ezra Klein wrote about how Hillary Clinton is crushing the opposition for the Democratic nomination, primarily due to winning the support of the Democratic elite. He does end with this thought:

The question for the Democratic Party is whether Clinton is going to be as strong in the visible primary — and the visible election — as she is in the invisible one. The skills necessary to win over Democratic Party elites may not be the skills necessary to win the election — and if Hillary doesn’t face serious opposition in the visible primary, Democrats may not find that out until too late.

Her mishandling of both her book tour and her response to the news on her private email server should be enough to suggest to the elites, and everyone else, that Clinton is no more prepared to run now than she was in 2008. Most likely she will win the nomination, but I’m not going to give up hope that the Democrats will nominate a liberal instead of Clinton with so much time to go. Martin O’Malley is a long shot but he does stand out in one way–he says he is running. Joan Walsh interviewed him at Salon. He primarily spoke about economic matters, positioning  himself to go after the Elizabeth Warren backers. He had little to say on issues beyond economics saying, “Let me say that over the course of the next couple of months we’ll be laying out a number of policy speeches, almost certainly on national security and foreign policy.”

Bernie Sanders would also go after Clinton from the left on economic matters but he is sounding less enthusiastic about running.

While Clinton definitely deserves to be challenged from the left on economic matters, I do wish there was a comparable potential challenger on the civil liberties and social issues which I’m more interested in. Ron Wyden’s name sometimes comes up in wish lists of Democratic candidates, and he would be high on my list. Any consideration of Democrats who have been strong on civil liberties issues will naturally turn to Russ Feingold. He is is leaving his current  job as a special envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa and there has been a lot of speculation that he is planning to run for the Senate in 2016. If Clinton should self-destruct, I wonder if he would aim higher.

Meanwhile over on the dark side, The Politico Caucus believes that the Republicans have harmed themselves with the Iranian letter:

“The Republicans handed the Democrats a perfect issue going in to 2016,” said a New Hampshire Democrat. “No matter what they do from now until November 2016, Democrats have endless editorials to pull devastating quotes from to demolish the Republicans. Truly a gift.”

“I talked to a number of non-political Granite Staters who were, to be blunt, shocked by its appalling lack of respect for the presidency,” said another, “by its undermining of American credibility and by what they felt was essentially an un-patriotic act.”

Far too few people who don’t follow politics closely do not realize how extreme the Republicans are, and the degree to which their actions are contrary to American interests. Can this be the issue which opens more eyes?

Despite how unethical Clinton’s behavior has been, both with the use of her private email server and her dishonest response, I doubt that this will have  any significant impact on the election results. The political meaning isn’t that people will turn against Clinton because of this, but that it shows Clinton’s ability to self-destruct as more controversies come up during the campaign. I did receive a link to one poll which claims, “Majority of Americans believe email controversy will hurt Clinton’s 2016 ambitions.” Being skeptical I checked into Vox Populi, which conducted the poll. It turns out to be a Republican outfit, with Mary Cheney a partner.

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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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