Sunday, November 12, 2006

Feingold Rules Out Presidential Run

In a move that many Progressives will find incredibly disappointing, Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold has announced that he will not run for president in 2008, choosing instead to focus on his work in the United States Senate.

"I want you to know that I've decided to continue my role as Wisconsin's Junior Senator in the U.S. Senate and not to seek the Democratic nomination for President in 2008," said Feingold in a statement.

"I'm sure a campaign for President would have been a great adventure and helpful in advancing a progressive agenda. At this time, however, I believe I can best advance that progressive agenda as a Senator with significant seniority in the new Senate serving on the Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Judiciary and Budget Committees."

While saying that serving in the Senate for 14 years has been "the greatest privilege of my life," Feingold made it clear that his decision was very much driven by Democrats taking control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in Tuesday's midterm elections.

"I am extremely pleased with what we have accomplished. During so much of that time, however, we Democrats have not only been in the minority but have often been so deeply mired there that my role has often been to block bad ideas or to simply dissent," said Feingold. "That is a very important role but I relish the thought that in this new Congress we can start, not only to undo much of the damage that one-party rule has done to America, we can actually advance progressive solutions to such major issues as guaranteed healthcare, dependence on oil, and our unbalanced trade policies."

Feingold also talked in his statement about how he believes that anyone promoting the same ideas would be considered a viable presidential contender and that the message was far more important than him as a candidate.

"While I've certainly enjoyed the repeated comments or buttons saying, 'Run Russ Run', or 'Russ in '08', I often felt that if a piece of Wisconsin swiss cheese had taken the same positions I've taken, it would have elicited the same standing ovations," said Feingold, 53, who opposed the Iraq war from the very beginning. "This is because the hunger for progressive change we feel is obviously not about me but about the desire for a genuinely different Democratic Party that is ready to begin to reverse the 25 years of growing extremism we have endured."

I believe Feingold is wrong about that.

At a time when too many Democrats have stood on the sidelines and played it safe -- and thus, done little to combat the failed policies of the Bush administration -- Feingold has been a consistently strong voice against the Iraq war and an overt thorn in George W. Bush's side, include formally proposing a Senate censure of Bush for his illegal domestic spying program.

To many Progressives, this has made Feingold the antidote to Senator Hillary Clinton who, while having a giant campaign war chest for 2008, has done little to show Feingold's level of true leadership over the last six years.

But, with Democrats taking over the Senate, Feingold, who joins former Virginia Governor Mark Warner in removing himself from presidential consideration, wants to stick with his leadership role there.

"Although I have given it a lot of thought, I cannot muster the same enthusiasm for a race for President while I am trying simultaneously to advance our agenda in the Senate," he said. "I love this country very much and am so lucky to be able to serve it in the United States Senate. My heartfelt thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement."