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.
Dan Sniderman says
Richard – I completely agree. I’ve been admiring Feingold for some time – and I think anyone who thinks Hillary is electable is dillusional. She will inspire a LOT of negative activity on the right. Let alone her pandering on ridiculous topics like video games to try to show she is no leftist.
The sad thing is the passion she inspires from people on the left who do admire her – but I personally think she is insincere…
If Hillary is the Dems choice in 08 they will lose. Every bigot that voted against homosexuality will turn out to vote against a woman for president.
The key national site promoting a Feingold candidacy is now RussForPresident.com — the Draft Russ site you linked is basically defunct.
Richard Silverstein says
Greg: I’ve updated the link in the last paragraph to the one you provided (RussforPresident).
I would like to add my comments to your very refreshing statements about both Sen. Feingold and AIPAC.
I listened to Mr. Feingold once again this morning on “Meet the Press.” As usual, he did not disappoint in that he comes across as an honest, intelligent, insightful individual.
Frankly, I was a bit concerned about his stance vis a vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am looking for a candidate who takes an objective view and is willing to pressure both sides to reach a resolution to this never-ending saga, as opposed to one who blindly follows AIPAC’s demands (Lieberman).
Given that the humiliation of Palestinians by Israelis is viewed by Arabs/Muslims as the humiliation of them all, it is imperative that a viable Palestinian state be established ASAP. Such a step would be in the best interests of all concerned, including the U.S.
Unfortunately, Bushites have turned a deaf ear to this conflict and allowed Sharon, and now Olmert, to do as they please, thereby further alienating the Arab/Muslim world.
Since Jerusalem will have to become part of the equation, I would suggest Israelis declare it an OPEN CITY where all great religions converge. Christians, Jews and Muslims would be INVITED to participate in its governance, a gesture that would be globally embraced.
Rather than hide behind a wall, Israelis would become an integral part of the world community and, by cooperating with Palestinians, would soon transform both nations into a flourishing region.
Richard Silverstein says
Eva: Thanks for yr comment. I too envision a Middle East in which cooperating States of Israel & Palestine could be a joint powerhouse in any number of fields including technology and agriculture. But that day may be some time off I’m sorry to say.