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Feingold Rocks TBA Conference

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Eli Pariser introduced Russ Feingold this morning, who was cheered with "Run, Russ, Run!" as he arrived, and who received four standing ovations just during the introduction and many, many more during his speech. When Pariser mentioned Feingold's vote against the Patriot Act, his vote against the war, and his plan to end the war, the crowd rose and cheered.

Feingold began by arguing that the Democrats need more than a majority in Congress. We were in the majority, he said, when we passed the Patriot Act and when we went to war in Iraq. Being in the majority is not enough. We have to also stand on principle and do the right thing.

We must not be afraid of criticizing this administration, Feingold said. This is our job. I happen to believe it's also good politics.

Feingold said that people ask the same thing all over the country: When are you guys going to stand up?

Feingold repeatedly objected to strategists' advice. They tell him to play it safe.

There will not be progressive change this year or any year, Feingold said, if we think we can win by default. That makes us look weak and full of fear.

Feingold said he saw a little sign of hope when Harry Reid shut down the Senate - but it didn't last.

Had there been a connection to 9-11, he said, or credible evidence of an imminent threat from WMDs, I would have voted for it [the war] . It wasn't there. I was in the CIA briefings. It wasn't credible.

Al Zarqawi, Feingold pointed out, was not in Iraq until after the war began. He was in the Kurdish-controlled area. This war gave him a platform to come into Iraq and recruit terrorists.

Feingold received huge applause when he said that Bush was ignoring the three words "under the law." Bush is breaking the law with his illegal spying, Feingold stressed. The President, he said, is claiming that if he doesn't like a law that Congress passes, he can disregard it.

This is a constitutional crisis!

I am not advocating the impeachment of the president, but I do believe his actions are right in the strike zone of what the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the words "high crimes and misdemeanors". [thunderous applause]

Feingold then said that instead of impeachment he proposes censure. He offered no argument for that choice.

He did complain that consultants told him to stay away from censure. He said the polls show they are wrong politically as well as morally. He did not comment on similar public support for impeachment.

Feingold concluded by pointing to the lasting impact of the Republicans' wins in 1994, and said that the Democrats need progressive wins that will last for many years - clearly suggesting that the way to do that will be to get behind his presidential campaign.

I heard comments on bloggers row afterwards to the effect of "I like him but don't know if he's viable." I've got news for you, guys, what we like IS what is viable. Otherwise we're listening to the consultants that Feingold has learned to ignore.
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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
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