Amy Goodman is one of my favorite wear-no-make-up, throw-no-softball-question journalists. Russ Feingold is the only politician I have literally stopped in the street so that I could beg him to run for office. I started out totally jazzed that they sat down to speak with each other this morning. I wound up feeling again all the disappointment I’ve had with Russ.
It’s just still hard to take that Feingold is not running for governor of my state. I didn’t expect to still feel this. Must be the fact that he has opted to sell President Obama and a book instead. Somebody in a far higher position than I bets that our fighting spirit and love for Russ will be transferred to President Obama. Interesting wager. I’m just not sure it works like that.
It’s said hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I am a woman but I am also a Wisconsinite. Thus, I will try to be a *nice* woman scorned.
Suarez and Goodman start out going straight to the point, noting that Feingold not so long ago was lambasting President Obama for using SuperPAC funding [or specifically, sending key staff members to SuperPac fund raisers]. Amy Goodman asks Russ Feingold how he’s fighting Citizens United. He says pushing for Obama’s reelection is necessary so that a president will be there to appoint Supreme Court Justices that will overturn Citizens United. He adds that a legislative agenda –requiring disclosure of financing,strengthening public financing, and getting rid of our laughable campaign spending enforcment [the FEC] is essential. [I’ll point out that the got-to-get-Obama-in was mentioned first and the legislative push was mentioned second].
Like Amy Goodman I would also assume Russ would have a few issues with Obama’s vote on NDAA and some other issues relating to freedoms lost. Russ is after all the man who voted against the Patriot Act. Good old Amy tackles this head-on and doesn’t let go:
AMY GOODMAN: How would you rate—how would you grade President Obama on civil liberties? You have been critical on a number of issues.
RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, I don’t do grades right now. That’s something that I prefer—
AMY GOODMAN: Aren’t you a professor?
RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, I do grades—yes, at a law school I did grades. But I’m not going to grade the President. I will say this: I am disappointed in his commitment to civil liberties at this point. He needs to get his game back on that. the damage that’s been done….
His twists are so dizzying you could call them gymnastic. Here’s the final exchange:
AMY GOODMAN: You have to leave, but you are critical of the President on Afghanistan, critical of the President on civil liberties and on going the route of super PACs. That makes for an interesting co-chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign.
RUSS FEINGOLD: How about a co-chair that’s proud of him for bringing us healthcare for the first time in 70 years? How about a co-chair who thinks that he has actually done a good thing with the economy and helped with the stimulus package, and we’ve had 22 months of positive job growth? How about a co-chair for a president that has the best reputation overseas of any president in memory, that has reversed the awful damage of the Bush administration, who, in places like Cairo and in India and Indonesia, has reached out to the rest of the world? Believe me, on balance, there’s no question. And finally, how about a co-chair of a president who I believe will help us appoint justices who will overturn Citizens United?
Or watch the whole interview.
What they said about Wisconsin
Amy gives my state just a bit of her focus at the end of the interview.
AMY GOODMAN: Just before you leave—I know that you just have a few minutes. You’re coming from Wisconsin. That’s where you’re based. That’s who you represented. And Wisconsin was ground zero for protest in this country. You might say it came right out of, maybe even inspired by, the Arab Spring. Before Occupy, there was Wisconsin.
Earlier this month, February 15th marked the first anniversary of the Wisconsin uprising that erupted after Republican Governor Scott Walker announced his plans to eliminate almost all collective bargaining rights for most public workers, as well as slash their pay and benefits. Now, a year later, Walker is in the midst of a recall and faces an investigation for campaign corruption.
It was February 14th last year when Walker first unveiled the curbs on state workers, after refusing to negotiate a new contract with them.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Good-faith negotiation requires give and take. We are broke in this state. We’ve been broke for years. People have ignored that for years, and it’s about time somebody stood up and told the truth. The truth is, we don’t have money to offer. We don’t have finances to offer. This is what we have to offer. And if you’re going to negotiate, you’ve got to have something to offer. We don’t have something.
AMY GOODMAN: Governor Walker. Are you thinking of running for governor, taking on Governor Walker?
RUSS FEINGOLD: I don’t think he’s going to be governor very long. And we’re going to have some great candidates, people who I know, who have executive experience, who are going to run and defeat him. I served the people of the state proudly for 28 years. I’m taking a break for a couple years. But I have worked hard. And through Progressives United, we have supported this recall effort and will continue to. And I was one of the first people to sign the petition, and I am going to be thrilled to have a new governor in Wisconsin as early as early June.
AMY GOODMAN: It is not just a simple recall. People have to run against him.
RUSS FEINGOLD: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: People are saying that you’re the sure-fire one. Is the state of Wisconsin, given your politics, important enough to you to run?
RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, of course, Wisconsin is extremely important to me. And the people that are running are people that I trust who really want to be governor at this time. I think that’s important. I think people have to know that the person who’s running is ready and eager to be governor the next day. I know a couple of our candidates that are likely to run are in that mode, and I think they are the right people to run. The notion that I’m the only guy that can do this, I think is wrong, because, you know what, this is a recall. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about sort of how do we, you know, figure out the ideal candidate. It’s about the fact that somebody did great violence to our state, and that we—if we have a credible candidate, who has experience, particularly executive experience, that’s going to be more persuasive to people in the state.
AMY GOODMAN: You say that Governor Walker did great violence. Explain what Governor Walker did. What do you think are his most egregious violations? And talk about the investigation, as well.
RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, I don’t believe that recalls should just happen anytime. On the other hand, we have a recall law in Wisconsin. They don’t have it in Ohio, for example. They can overturn laws by—as they did, by a vote. So, what’s a recall for? Well, it obviously doesn’t require criminal conduct. That’s not what it’s for. Yes, the Governor is under investigation. But it goes down that route, you know, who knows? Maybe he wouldn’t even be in office, or maybe that would be considered in the recall. But what’s the recall for? The recall, I think, is for when somebody has caused such damage to the state that their continuation in their term will continue a polarization and an inability to move forward, that it has to happen. This is that moment.
It’s like on foreign policy. I opposed almost every war that was proposed, and I said—people said, “Well, is there a war you would ever support?” Yes, when al-Qaeda attacked New York City and Washington, that was the occasion. Same thing on a recall. When you have collective bargaining rights, that the state of Wisconsin began collective bargaining rights for public employees, and somebody doesn’t even say basically that they’ll do anything about it, and they come in and instantaneously do that, break every tradition and every courtesy that’s ever been used in the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly—and I served in that legislative body of the State Senate for 10 years—show complete disregard for the extreme polarization that it’s causing, that person has done violence to the culture and traditions of the state of Wisconsin.
Add one other thing: the attack on the voting rights of Wisconsinites. That’s the other basic thing. You can’t bring out the whole laundry list. Otherwise, people are going to say, “Well, you just want to have the election over.” But undermining voting rights and collective bargaining rights is so basic and so unfair—
AMY GOODMAN: How voting rights?
RUSS FEINGOLD: Oh, they’re requiring IDs and toughening up our laws that are—we have great pride that we have some of the most open and fair laws for people to vote, and they are trying to prevent people from voting. So, to me, these are offenses against the rights of the people that justify and actually require the recall of Governor Walker