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Free Liberal: Coordinating towards higher values

Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Freedom Lovers for Feingold?

By Paul Gessing

In the world of politics, especially presidential politics, it is never too early to start talking about the future. Never has that been truer than it is now and rarely have so many Americans been so concerned with the direction their nation is heading.

Unfortunately, Harry Reid (D-NV) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have proven themselves utterly incapable of holding President Bush accountable for his egregious Constitutional abuses, and on the rare occasion that President Bush does something right (cutting taxes and signing free trade agreements for example), Reid and Pelosi fight him ‘til the end.

Because of Reid and Pelosi’s incompetence, I doubt the Democrats have enough of an agenda to take control of Congress in 2006. So, I am looking forward to the Presidential candidacy of Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) as a potential oasis of principle in a desert of deceit and incompetence.

Feingold is the only candidate who seems to be speaking to the 70 percent of us who polls say are deeply concerned about the direction our country is going. Regardless of your position on tax cuts and the federal government’s level of involvement in the economy, the anti-freedom nature of President Bush and his Administration must be readily apparent to even the most casual observer by now. Unfortunately, not a single Republican has had the courage to regularly stand up to President Bush on the war, spying, or seemingly anything else, including John McCain (R-AZ).

Even more perplexing than obeisance of most Republicans is the fact that many Democrats are either not directly attacking Bush’s policies or are advocating even more hawkish, anti-freedom positions than Bush. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is particularly guilty of this as she has been a staunch supporter of Bush in Iraq, voted for the Patriot Act, and is now trying to “out-hawk” Bush on Iran, even arguing “that we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations.”

The only anti-dote to this depressing spectacle is Senator Feingold of Wisconsin. Although advocates of freedom may be justifiably angry with him (as am I) for co-sponsoring a certain free speech-limiting piece of campaign finance legislation bearing his name, at this point we more important and pressing issues are before us.

First and foremost, no other Senator voted against both the Iraq War resolution and passage of the Patriot Act. The only other Member of Congress to vote against both bills was Ron Paul. That alone has to count for something. More importantly, Feingold has been a persistent critic of Bush’s most abusive policies and he has been among the most outspoken opponents of war with Iran. His recent effort to censure the President on his illegal wiretapping program – a resolution from which most Democrats ran – is only the latest example of his willingness to stand up for what is right.

So, you say, Feingold may follow a more responsible foreign policy with fewer civil rights abuses, but what about spending? Here the record is mixed, but I have reason to believe that a Feingold Administration would be far more fiscally responsible than Bush has been. First of all, assuming Republicans maintain control of Congress beyond 2008 (I realize this is not a given), Feingold would face split-party rule. As William Niskanen of the Cato Institute has found, over the past 50 years government grows far more slowly under split party rule than it does under single party rule. Absent a political groundswell for reduced spending that outstrips anything we have seen since the mid-1990s, split party rule seems to be the best available option for putting the brakes on our rapidly expanding federal government.

The second reason to be optimistic about fiscal policy during a potential Feingold Administration is that he, like John McCain, is a staunch opponent of government waste and unnecessary spending. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation regularly publishes a study that tallies up the cost or savings of the sum total of bills that each Member of Congress sponsors or co-sponsors. In this study, known as BillTally which is available at, Senator Feingold has consistently been found to be among the most frugal Members of Congress. For the first seven months of the 109th Congress, Feingold was the 11th most frugal in the Senate. During the 108th Congress he was the third most frugal. Thus, while Bush’s tax cuts might be history – if most of them aren’t gone already by 2008 – Congress’s out-of-control spending habits may finally be checked by a responsible adult occupying the White House who knows the meaning of the word “no.”

True, Senator Feingold’s is stances on a host of economic policy issues especially as they relate to taxes and economic regulation, not to mention political free speech, are less than optimal. That said, I shudder to think what might happen to our nation (not to mention our economy and civil liberties) if we do to Iran what we have done to Iraq. The top priority for those who love freedom must be to bring the troops home from Iraq and to avoid another costly and futile war. Of all the candidates who are likely to run at this point, I believe Feingold to be head-and-shoulders above the rest.

As Bush drops in the polls, perhaps a Republican will emerge to criticize the Administration’s many abuses. Or, maybe a viable candidate with star power and lots of money will run as an independent or with a third party. Both scenarios seem unlikely at this point. I’m hopeful for 2008. We can only hope the country survives two more years of Bush unscathed.

Paul J. Gessing is a Senior Editor of The Free Liberal and is a member of its founding committee. His writings have been published in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, and U.S. News & World Report. Prior public policy jobs included working at the Marijuana Policy Project and Congressman Bernie Sanders' office.
He completed his B.A. in Political Science at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and received an MBA from the Robert H. Smith School at the University of Maryland. Paul resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is manages a think-tank there.

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