Friday, December 09, 2005

Good Russ Feingold Interview on Air America

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), sounding more and more like a presidential candidate every day, was on Air America's 'Morning Sedition' yesterday and the entire interview was really quite good. While I still haven't entirely forgiven Feingold for voting in favor of John Ashcroft's confirmation, he articulates the Democratic position as well as anyone out there today and he does a tremendous job in this interview – including making it clear at one point that he thinks Donald Rumsfeld is a liar. Read on...

On the one-dimensional approach to national security as articulated by the president:
"The problem here is that he is so focused on Iraq as if it is the be-all and end-all of all of our national security that he doesn't really understand the challenge before this country. The fight here is against those who attacked us on 9/11 and the president keeps talking about the Iraq situation as if it's the only issue out there. There's some 60 countries where Al Qaeda is operating according to our administration and he's so focused on Iraq as if it's the be-all and end-all of our national security that he almost can't see straight.

"Sure there are positive things happening in Iraq and I'm very pleased about that. But unless we have some kind of vision about completing the mission there, not only will we not succeed in our further goals in Iraq, but we will also continue to weaken our country and our ability to fight Al Qaeda. We will continue to weaken our Army, which even our Army leaders say is in desperate shape. He's not looking at the big picture. He's only looking at one square on a chessboard and he needs to look at the whole question."
About turning Iraq into a manufacturing headquarters for terrorism:
"That's what the head of the CIA said in February. He said this is the leading training ground because of basically the way we went in there. And the president contradicts himself. On the one hand, he sort of describes the different elements of the insurgency, some of them from within Iraq and some from without and he acknowledges that it's not all foreign terrorists and then he goes and talks about this as relating to the broader fight against terrorism.

"What caused Iraq to become part of this was his mistake in going to Iraq and not focusing on bin Laden and the various parts of the world where Al Qaeda was operating. So, yes, it's true we have to deal with the situation at hand, but his idea that victory in Iraq is the issue is incorrect. Victory over Al Qaeda is the issue and he keeps confusing it and it's not really a military mission any more. It's really a political and economic mission, which he was talking about yesterday and that's what we should be focusing on as we find a way to complete the military mission, which has really, in my view, run its course."
On the fact that most Americans, either want an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or are clamoring for a timetable of some kind for getting our troops out of there:
"Well, they're probably talking about it very seriously behind the scenes. In fact there are times when some of the top generals basically get out there and say that and then they get put back in the woodshed. The reality is, the White House made a mistake by going into Iraq and they also made a mistake by saying we shouldn't have a timetable and now they're sort of trapped into that mind set.

"They've got to admit that that's a mistake and that a public timetable is a good idea. It helps our country be more supportive of what we're doing, it helps the Iraqi people take ownership of the process and it makes it much harder for the terrorists to recruit people from around the world to make jihad against the so-called American occupation So, that is the key to this situation.
Discussing whether or not Bush gets a free pass on the Iraq issue because there's no agreement within the Democratic party on what degree of withdrawal should occur:
"No, not at all. The President of the United States is responsible for this mission. The President of the United States is the guy in the first place, who should have had a plan to finish this properly. It is his job to be the Commander-in-Chief and it's regrettable that we've even had to talk about this. I didn't immediately come out and ask for a timetable. It was only when the president provided no leadership at all and they kept hiding in their bunker on this, that I started to talk about it.

"It's not the duty of the minority party in the United States Congress to say 'here's the plan.' It's the responsibility of the president of the United States, who's the Commander-in-Chief to say 'look here's what we're trying to do, here's the time by which we believe we can do it and here's when the troops, we hope, can come home.' He has failed on this. It's just silly to say that 200 or 300 Democrats should all agree and that that's our responsibility. I think most Democrats do think we need to figure out a way to finish this mission and bring home the troops. Sure there's going to be disagreement, but it's the president who was elected to provide leadership on this.
On Joe Lieberman's arguments for staying in Iraq:
"Joe agreed with the idea that we should go into Iraq, apparently as part of the greater war on terrorism. I never bought into that. He apparently bought into the idea, the urgency, of dealing with weapons of mass destruction and I didn't. And now he continues down the line with the White House, with this idea that we shouldn't have a timetable and that everything is going just fine there militarily. I was over there and, of course, every time our military fights, we win. But that's not the issue. The issue is whether or not we are encouraging the insurgency or not. And that's where I'm awfully sure I'm right

"I don't know if Senator Lieberman is listening to General Abizaid or General Casey, our top generals in that area, in that region – they say that our presence there is feeding the insurgency. So, to me, the only logical conclusion is that, unless you want to encourage a horrible insurgency, and foreign terrorists, that you do not talk in terms of trying to stay there as long as it takes, as they said, because that is a vision that will only encourage the very opposition that we do not want to encourage. I'm a friend of Joe's but I am completely in disagreement with him – as are almost all the Democrats. The story should be here that 40 senators, including one Republican, 39 Democrats voted for what is basically a timetable in the Senate and one Democrat disagreeing doesn't change that."
On a possible Secretary of Defense Lieberman – and watch the implication at the end for what a lying bunch the others are:
"I think he would probably do a fine job for this administration. I'll tell you this: I disagree with Lieberman tremendously on this issue and on many other issues but he is a man who keeps his word and I think he would be much more straightforward with regard to talking about this issue than Rumsfeld has been. Rumsfeld and Cheney have been frightful in their willingness to deny the reality in Iraq. I disagree with Lieberman's assessment of what is going on there but he has a much greater likelihood of being a person who would tell the truth."
Feingold closes by wrapping up his view of the current situation in Iraq and on the broader, true war against terrorism:
"The military aspect of what we've done in Iraq has pretty much run its course. We've beat them whenever we face them. It's not a military mission so much any more. What we need to do now is help the Iraqi people bring together their economy and their political situation. We should definitely stay committed to that even after the troops are leaving and after they're gone.

"But overall, this country needs to recommit itself to the broader fight against terrorism. Al Qaeda is an organization that's in 60 countries. We know that it's in Afghanistan and in the former Soviet republics and Britain and Spain and that's the kind of effort we had underway after 9/11 but somehow the president decided that Iraq, that didn't even have Al Qaeda there, was somehow the be-all and end-all of our national security. We need to protect the American people. As important as Iraq is, protecting the American people is the most important thing"