Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What is Feingold's problem?

Mistermix asks, in response to a Russ Feingold ad sucking up to conservatives: "Could it be that the reason Russ Feingold is in trouble is that he’s an unpalatable mix of trimmer and righteous prig?"

Feingold is clearly a bit of a horse's ass at times. On the one hand, he's been right an astonishing amount of times over the past decade, and his opposition to the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq War have been thoroughly vindicated in retrospect. But the financial reform stuff is inexplicable. I could understand his opposition to it if it were some sort of bargaining tactic, but his statements on financial reform betray a shocking narcissism. Here's one that's quoted in the post: "Rather than discussing with me ways to strengthen the bill, for example, they chose to eliminate a levy that was to be imposed on the largest banks and hedge funds in order to obtain the vote of members who prefer a weaker bill."

Of course, this levy had to be eliminated because moderate Republicans Scott Brown and Susan Collins made it clear that they would vote against cloture on the bill if it contained the fee. With all Democrats beside Feingold on board with the bill, plus presumably Collins's fellow Maine Republican Olympia Snowe (who did not complain about the fee) and whoever eventually takes Robert Byrd's seat, there are 59 votes in favor of FinReg, one short of the required 60. Feingold could have saved the fee had he announced his support for it. Instead, he has chosen to insult the intelligence of those of us who follow these things closely by acting as though some sort of dastardly Blue Dog plot to weaken the bill, rather than a small tweak to try to actually pass the thing. The amount of self-pity, rationalization, and slipperiness in this sentence alone can't help but move my opinion of Feingold just a little bit from being a conviction-based crusader toward just another arrogant politician who can't admit that he made the wrong call. As for the bill's ultimate effectiveness, I'm not unsympathetic to people who wish it were stronger. But at some point one has to make the choice between bolstering the status quo and taking whatever progress you can. Too many liberals think that politics is like The West Wing when, really, it's a lot more like Yes, Minister.

I suppose we shouldn't blow this completely out of proportion--the guy does have a pretty good track record, as I said before. But I guess this is a good piece of evidence that while I believe they often try to do the best job they can, we should never completely put our faith in politicians. Though Feingold is still preferable in my book to the risible David Obey, his fellow Wisconsin Democrat. Ugh.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.