Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Russ Feingold for President

When I backpack out west, high in the mountains, every once in a while I arrive at a terrifying moment. A foot path, on a steep slope, is normally exhilarating but safe. But when the slope and ten feet of trail are covered with ice you either turn back for a long journey to your point of origin or you take your chances. Each time I have gone forward, heart pounding and head dizzy, step by step, because with one slip I could slide down hundreds of feet of rocky mountainside and possibly die. I’ve always made it, but it’s been sheer luck that my boots gripped.

America is at such a dangerous point today, one of only a few in all of U.S. history. We have a president who invaded and occupies another country on completely false pretenses, and we let him get away with it. We have a president who has patently violated multiple provisions of the Constitution and Law, and we let him get away with it. We have a president whose phony war on a military tactic, terror, is generating more terror, and he’s getting away with it. We have a president who dared the Iraqi insurgency to “bring it on, “ and they obliged him. And his actions dare his foreign victims and adversaries to hit America in the only place it will really hurt. Here. And he’s getting away with it. Too many Democrats are letting him get away with it. And now most leaders of both the parties are laying the premises for attacks on Iranian territory, which could lead to a general war in the Middle East involving Israel, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. And eventually, New York City, Washington, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and our own Disney World. If “they” get the chance. And when that happens America will shift even farther to the right, the Republican Party will be resurgent, our freedoms will be further curtailed and we will waste hundred of billions more dollars on ever more pervasive security to protect us from …..what we ourselves have created with our foreign policies of aggression, arrogance and double standards selectively applied to “enemies” of the moment which create endless war.

And so with the above in mind, I have sifted through all the evasive language, signals and clues of the presidential candidates looking for one who fully understands this moment in U.S. history, someone whose values, intellect, personality and character have combined to create clearness of thought and wisdom about what needs to be done to turn us back from this disaster. We know the Republican Party is hell bent on charging down the same road, albeit in smarter fashion perhaps. But too many of the Democratic candidates are equivocal. And equivocation leaves too much to chance and it certainly doesn‘t provide the strong leadership that is essential to persuade the American public to seriously change course. There is a great danger that they will stumble accidentally perhaps down the same path the Republicans are taking us. They are certainly not offering a clear, strong alternative to it.

Cleary Hillary Clinton is not this person. Her support, alone among the Democratic candidates, for the Senate resolution designating the Iranian Guard as a terrorist organization and authorizing military action against Iran is just her latest in a long string of offenses, the most egregious of which is probably voting to allow the export of cluster bombs to Israel even after it had dropped four million of them, many many of them indiscriminately in civilian areas of southern Lebanon.

Other candidates haven’t grabbed my imagination. Al Gore clearly needs to be restored to the presidency he won in 2000, but unless the nomination contest deadlocks he’s not going to run. In addition, I’m still not convinced he has the clearness of thought to get us across the ice patch without slipping, though he might. I just read his 2002 speech on “Iraq and the War on Terror.” He was right about Iraq of course, but his speech was full of references to “avenging” 911, of waging the “war on terror” without any discussion of its causes or non-military ways of dealing with it, and of hunting down and killing the co-conspirators of 911, as if it took more than a dozen people to provide logistical support for 20 hijackers most of who certainly did not know the real purpose of the mission given the compartmentalization of all covert actions. He too was buying the neo-con premises that are fueling terror. Maybe he has become enlightened on this count in the past five years, but my quick look at his major speeches and press coverage contained no new comments on the “war on terror” or the emerging war on Iran.

Barack Obama certainly shows promise as one who might lead us back from this abyss. But as I researched his record I kept turning up mixed clues and signals. Many very good things, such as his fiery denunciation almost alone with Al Gore in 2002, of the invasion of Iraq, his subtle signals asserting independence from the right wing warmonger elements of the Israel lobby, if that’s what we call it, his opposition to the Iran Resolution, although he was the only Senator to skip the critical vote, and his recent call for global abolition of nuclear weapons. But amidst all these positive cues I kept coming across “clues of concern”. The essay he wrote this summer for Foreign Affairs was full of mixed cues but its overall tone was one of tough talk and a troubling reference to how we “won” the Cold War, a gross historical falsehood. He’s endorsed by Zbiegniew Brezinkski, Jimmy Carter’s destructive Cold War Warrior. He reminds me a lot of JFK, for good and bad. The Cold War warrior JFK who winked at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which lead to the Missile crisis that nearly killed all of us a year later. The JFK who perpetuated the Cold War and militarization. Not that Obama has not learned some of those mistaken worldview. In the end while I am positive about Obama, I am not inspired.

So I turned to John Edwards, and I see more consistency, less “clues of concern”. Yes, there is the big Black Mark, his vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq. A big black mark. Yet he has vigorously and assertively repudiated his vote and set out a solid plan for disengagement from the disaster that he helped create. But that’s not good enough. Still, his vociferous opposition to the Iran war resolution indicates he has learned. Last May, he became an early advocate of global nuclear weapons abolition. His essay in Foreign Affairs was in clear contrast to Obama’s: while still troubling at times, it was a tone of acknowledgement of the causes of terror tactics and the critical importance of “engagement” with foreign adversaries through trade and diplomacy. These “signals” combined with his many good domestic positions recommend him highly. His courting of labor and working people’s issues and his frequent participation in ACORN events over the years has impressed me. ACORN is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, one of the, if not THE, leading nationwide grassroots group organizing lower and middle income working people to fight for their interests. I was an ACORN organizer for a while. ) And on that note I must mention that Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, to his great credit. Community organizing is one of the greatest vocations of all. It’s up there with teaching and the priesthood.) Thus, from a practical standpoint, I can endorse John Edwards for President. As my pragmatic endorsement. Still, I need someone better.

So as I cast about for someone else, of course I came to Dennis Kucinich. For a Progressive, he’s a no brainer. On every count he meets my criteria for the vision, wisdom, strength and clearness of thought that is capable of leading the American public away form the abyss so I endorse him for President too. I don’t even have to explain why. But we have to be practical. My main, my single problem with Kucinich is that he is a Congressman. By tradition members of the House of Representatives rightly or wrongly are not regarded as serious presidential candidates. No member of the House has been elected President in 150 or so years and that was in a different age. So practically speaking, I endorse Dennis Kucinich for Vice President. Let us hope he runs for the Senate from Ohio, which will position him for a presidential run.

But I’m still left without a true strong visionary inspiring practical leader. And then I realized we need somebody like Kucinich who’s a Senator. And it was obvious: Russell Feingold. Feingold ran an exploratory campaign last year, raised some money, but in the end said he didn’t have the stamina and personality to subject himself and his family to the grueling presidential campaign. We need to draft him. Draft Russ Feingold. He is one of only handful of Progressive leading lights in the Senate. Almost alone he has talked of impeaching Bush and Cheney and has offered a practical resolution to censor him over the illegal warrantless searches. He opposed the Iraq war authorization when Edwards and Hillary voted for it. He opposed NAFTA and CAFTA. He supports state by state federally funded national health insurance. He’s lead the movement for serious campaign finance and lobbying reform. He’s right down the line. But there is one thing that tipped me over. I remembered how Cold War Warrior anti-communist Richard Nixon normalized relations with Communist China and all the talk that only a president with such credential could have done that. And I realized that as a Jew, Russell Feingold might be the only President capable of getting Israel to do what it has to do to restore Middle East peace after these 60 years and knock the main pillar out of the “war on terror” and the rearming of Hezbollah and Hamas and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and Syria, perhaps: withdraw most Jewish settlers from the West Bank and participate in the establishment of a fully independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital and aggressively pursue global abolition of nuclear weapons. Russ Feingold for President. Draft Feingold. And to help carry the swing state of Ohio, Dennis Kucinich for Vice President.

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