Charlie Rose interviewed Sen. Russell Feingold on his PBS show tonight and Russ didn’t disappoint (thanks to Crooks & Liars for the video). He made the statements you’d expect about NSA spying and the war in Iraq (agin’ ’em).
But Rose managed to elicit some very interesting positions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Frankly, I expected to hear from an AIPAC-automaton in the same manner that Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton have become hard-wired pro-Israel hawks. But Feingold surprised and delighted me on two points.
It is a truth universally acknowledged by the AIPAC wing of the Democratic party that the Separation Wall is an absolute, incontrovertible good which must be supported without question. Personally, I object to the Wall as currently built for many reasons though I would not object to such a Wall if it followed the Green Line. So imagine my surprise when Feingold called the wall “unfortunate.” He acknowledged that there is a current need for a barrier to protect Israelis from terror attacks. But he made crystal clear that he sees such an edifice as a temporary one; and one that would be eliminated once the security situation can be improved.
What is so extraordinary about such a statement from a potential Democratic presidential candidate? First, it seems that every aspiring presidential candidate attempts as much as possible to hew to Aipac’s hard-line on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For Feingold to speak differently not only takes a lot of courage. I think it indicates a refreshing level of sophistication in his understanding of the conflict. He’s taking a common sense approach to it rather than a hardline ideological approach like Clinton and the other Aipacnik candidates.
Second, Feingold also took a refreshingly independent stance vis a vis U.S. policy toward the Palestinians and the new Hamas government. While it is true that he did not endorse direct contact with Hamas “as long as it calls for Israel’s destruction” (as he put it), he also made clear that he does not support the iron fist policy advocated by Aipac and Israel. He indicated that he supports continuing U.S. humanitarian aid to the Palestinians through NGOs and other entities. He mentioned James Wolfensohn’s testimony before his Senate Foreign Relations committee in such a way as to make me believe he supports the latter’s efforts to prop up the Palestinians economy so that people don’t starve all for the sake of maintaining ideological purity regarding Hamas’ alleged terror sympathies.
All of which makes me announce here and now that I’m supporting Russell Feingold for president in the Democratic primaries. I should also add that what started me thinking in this direction was Feingold’s announcement that he planned to introduce a censure motion against Bush for the illegal NSA eavesdropping. I thought to myself: “that’s the kind of guts that I look to in a presidential candidate.”
I also pledge that I will, on no account, support Hillary Clinton. While I have admired her for years, she no longer deserves such admiration. She has made clear that she believes she can only be elected president by campaigning to the right. In some ways, this was Bill Clinton’s strategy in 1992 and it worked for him (I didn’t vote for him in the Democratic primaries either). The difference is that I thought Clinton ran a masterful general election campaign. And he convinced me that he would largely not govern from the right. And he didn’t (except for a few major exceptions). I have no such faith that Hillary would do this. In fact, she seems like she intends to be a Lieberman clone except without the absolute stodginess.
Just so you know that other folks have had similar ideas, I note several blogs and sites devoted to the proposition that Russ Feingold would make a fine president. There’s RussforPresident.com and Russ Feingold for President. Feingold maintains a blog at MyDD.