Russ Feingold faced Ron Johnson in a televised debate Friday night –and took advantage of it. I transcribed some of their exchanges and have posted them online. Some highlights (or lowlights in Johnson’s case):
- Responding to a question about the Tea Party, Johnson claimed “Senator Feingold’s record has been pretty clear: he wants government control over lives, he wanted a single payer government run health care system, he has voted for higher taxes…” That gave Russ Feingold the chance to respond:
I’ve been waiting for a chance to talk to the Tea Party people about where we agree and where Mr. Johnson disagrees. The people in the Tea Party really value the Constitution. I think they probably read the Constitution before they were 55 years old which Mr. Johnson admitted, he just read it this year. And even though he made some comments originally about how the PATRIOT Act maybe had some problems he fell into line with the Republican view and he says he’s for the PATRIOT Act. I was the only Senator to vote against the PATRIOT Act because it invaded personal freedom, and the Tea Party people agree with me on that.
- Johnson’s concern for freedom seemed to only extend as far as his wallet. Freedom of speech? Not so much:
I’m also somewhat optimistic from the standpoint that we have General David Petraeus, I think probably the finest general we have operating the Army today. And by the way it’s, you know, a general that Senator Feingold refused to vote for the resolution condemning Moveon.org that placed the ad in the New York Times calling it General “Betray Us.” I thought that was pretty shameful.
- On checks, balances, and separation of powers, Johnson tried to deny that he would simply duck all debate once a war was on. But his explanation of what he would do instead sounded like he didn’t understand members of Congress have actual powers they’re supposed to wield:
I wouldn’t do what Senator Feingold did, is try and float a resolution to cut off funding while our troops are in battle in Iraq. If I had a real problem with the war, what I would do is I would talk with my fellow Congress people, I would talk with the administration until I developed a consensus so we could obtain a majority and then go to the American people and say listen, we need to reverse course here, but we want to do it as a unified country. I would never play politics with war.
- Feingold was able to respond to that in the course of answering another question, about whether the U.S. was doing the right things to prevent another 9/11:
The fact is the president is doing the best job he can but we are not focusing and have not been focusing since 9/11 on the real issue. The real issue is Al Qaeda is an international syndicate that operates in many countries. We should not be invading country after country and getting stuck there, when the real plan is to work with other nations — and almost every nation in the world wants to get these guys — to find them, and destroy them. That is absolutely essential and we have to have a global vision of this.
And you’re not going to that global vision, Ron, by just talking privately to Congressmen. You’ve got to talk to other people, you’ve got to talk to experts, you’ve got to talk to constituents. The people of Wisconsin actually have something to offer you and me about their views about what we should do to protect our country.
Herewith a confession: I don’t agree with Senator Feingold about everything. For example, while I know my side has lost the argument by now, I don’t consider gun ownership to be an individual right, or they wouldn’t have put all that stuff about “well regulated militia” up front in the Second Amendment. I also disagree that “all options have to be on the table” to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
But I think Feingold is right a lot more often than he’s wrong. Feingold would of course never be a lockstep Republican the way Johnson surely would. But when I think about the PATRIOT Act, Iraq, TARP, Afghanistan, and FISA, to name a few, I like that Feingold’s no lockstep Democrat either. Support Russ Feingold now!