Friday, December 16, 2005
Today the U.S. Senate blocked a renewal vote on expiring provisions of the "Patriot Act". Senator Russ Feingold D-Wisconsin played the lead role and in doing so may have shown Democrats once and for all that sticking to your beliefs and voting your conscience are the only true ways to lead your party and your country.
In September of 2002, Feingold was one of the few Democrats to speak out and vote against authorizing the President to use force in Iraq. On the Senate floor he argued:
Mr. President, this proposal is unacceptable. The Administration has been talking about war in Iraq for quite some time now. Surely they had the time to draft a more careful, thoughtful proposal than the irresponsibly broad and sweeping language that they sent to Congress.
Apparently the Administration put forward such broad language as a negotiating tactic - asking for everything in the hopes of getting merely a lot.
But we are not haggling over a used car. We are making decisions that could send young Americans to war and decisions that could have far-reaching consequences for the global campaign against terrorism and for America's role in the world in the twenty-first century.
Feingold said this at a time when the country was still gripped by the immediate fear of the 9/11 attacks. It was not an easy position to take. Yet it was the responsible decision - the morally correct one.
When the debate over the original “Patriot Act” occurred, Feingold again stood strong, ending his floor speech proclaiming:
Congress will fulfill its duty only when it protects both the American people and the freedoms at the foundation of American society. So let us preserve our heritage of basic rights. Let us practice that liberty. And let us fight to maintain that freedom that we call America.
Although I suspect that many felt the way he did, Feingold was the lone nay vote that date.
Then came the current Senate debate on the renewal of the “Patriot Act”. Feingold once again displayed his willingness to fight for freedom and the American way of life. This time he did not stand alone as he made his statement:
We knew the time would come when we would have to take a stand. And now we have. We are united today, as we were then. This is not a partisan issue. This is an American issue. This is a constitutional issue. We can come together to give the government the tools it needs to fight terrorism and protect the rights and freedoms of innocent citizens.
With this kind of leadership and his willingness to take a stand on tough issues, Senator Feingold has sent a message to the Democratic Party. Do not shy away from unpopular decisions and do not cast your votes based on future political implications. Just do what is right.
Feingold stuck to his beliefs, defending our country and its constitution and as a result of today’s events has risen to the top of the democratic political heap.
Maybe in the end responsible leaders will finish first.