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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Feingold Goes Off-Script

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold spoke to the Journal Sentinel about John McCain, and, in this hyper-partisan election season, went waaaaaaay off-script.

"I think the guy calls 'em as he sees 'em, and as president would call 'em as he sees 'em, and would make people mad all over the place because it wouldn't fit anybody's playbook," said Feingold, who teamed up with McCain to rewrite federal campaign laws.

Feingold calls McCain "very original" and a "maverick by nature." McCain's own TV ads call him the "original maverick."
He qualified himself by saying yes, he’d rather have Obama, but then attacked attacks on McCain:

…"the notion that somehow (McCain) is going to get in there and be some kind of ideological Newt Gingrich right-winger is a joke. There's no way that he would do that," Feingold said.
More qualifying about how he’d “feel comfortable with both of them in there as president,” and then:

…(McCain is) a very good legislator from my point of view, because when he gets onto something, he doesn't just want to introduce a bill, he likes to move it. And he's fearless," Feingold said of McCain…

"He's a great guy to fight an uphill battle with legislatively. He keeps his word. . . . I probably shouldn't be saying this stuff, but to be honest about it, it was one of the better professional experiences I've ever had in my life," Feingold said.
But would you want to have a beer with him?

…McCain's a blast. He's fun to be around. He's certainly young in spirit. He's actually very young in energy," said Feingold.
But his temper!

"Yes, he shows temper. But he burns fast, and he doesn't let it cloud his judgment. He would not be a loose cannon in the Oval Office," said Feingold. "It's not like he's going to pick up the red phone in a rage."
And finally:

…"He is not a guy who wants to be chummy-chummy with political leaders of the party. He doesn't like that sort of constraint. He's an independent," said Feingold. "So he somehow managed to become the nominee of the Republican Party. But we all know it's not because he was somebody that was kissing up to the Republican establishment, to say the least."
This is Russ Feingold, of course: a maverick-by-reputation himself, so I’m not too surprised to see him going his own way, instead of following along with his Party.

The question is: what’s he thinking? This isn’t helping Obama. In fact, you can bank on seeing these quotes in Republican literature as the election gets closer. Hey, people in Wisconsin love Feingold. He’s very popular here. And the idea that this popular liberal Democrat is saying all this nice stuff about a Republican candidate for President…people want bipartisanship, right? They want an end to polarized, bickering, politics-as-usual.

Here’s proof that McCain is the guy to give us that.

But back to Feingold’s thought process. I see several possibilities of varying likelihoods:

  • Feingold was speaking honestly and off-the-cuff;
  • Feingold is speaking off his own script because he thinks reverting to election-year partisanship will be bad for his future career;
  • Or, possibly, he thinks going against the usual partisanship will be better for Obama in the long run;
  • Or, more likely, he sees greater legislative and leadership potential for himself if McCain wins;
Or, my favorite,

  • He doesn’t think Obama can win, so he’s keeping his powder dry and his bipartisan maverick credentials polished with an eye toward 2012.
For my money, Feingold knew exactly what he was doing. A politician with his experience doesn’t do this mistakenly – it was purposeful.

Regardless, conservative bloggers should look forward to throwing these quotes around in comments on liberal blogs over the next few months.

Oh, and I wonder what Debra Bartoshevich thinks of all this.

Hat tip to WisPundits.