During Conference Call with Bloggers, the Wisconsin Senator Highly Critical of Colleagues, 'Washington Insiders' and Even John Edwards for 'Playing it Safe on This One'
Says 'Dems Trying to Have it Both Ways' While 'Americans are Dying Unnecessarily'...
By Brad Friedman on 2/5/2007, 5:16pm PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from Phoenix, AZ...

In a conference call with several bloggers concluded moments ago, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) had a number of harsh words concerning today's procedural bickering and fillibustering by Republicans in the Senate, which stifled both votes on his own legislation to end the Iraq War as well as amendments offered by other lawmakers to several non-binding resolutions that also failed to come to the floor for a full vote.

Feingold's remarks were highly critical not just of the Republicans, but even moreso of his own Democratic caucus colleagues, "Washington insider consultants," and even former Senatorial colleague-turned-presidential candidate John Edwards, for failing to take a tough stand to end the war in Iraq.

In a passionate, thirty-minute call, Feingold stressed, "This is an important moment to see if we're gonna try and end this war. Frankly, I'm disappointed that Democrats are playing it safe on this one."

"We need to play hardball on this. We're gonna have to take the lead on this issue and we're gonna need to tie this place up as long as it takes," he said in describing what he sees as a fear and timidity in his colleagues who now hold a slight majority in the Senate...

"The problem is a whole lot of middle-of-the-road Democrats who refuse to pull the trigger, who refuse to do what needs to be done," Feingold stressed. "Even people who voted against the war" seem afraid, he explained. "It requires courage. It requires brinksmanship."

As we previously reported last Spring, after a bloggers' lunch with Feingold in Los Angeles, the progressive third-term Senator continues to place a great deal of blame for the failure to act among his colleagues on the "Washington insiders, particularly from the previous administration...who say if you're going to take a tough stand, they're going to tear you apart."

He said the advice of the "media consultants" and "power structure in Washington" has led fellow Democrats to believe they'll be criticized if they withhold funding for a war they previously supported. Those same insiders, he explained, previously supported the war and are now scared to death about what would happen if their clients --- many of whom who have now admitted their initial support for the war was a mistake --- now took a tough stand to undo that mistake.

"They want their cake and to eat it too since they voted for the war. They're trying to have it both ways. That has to end because Americans are dying unnecessarily. Too many of my colleagues are trying to massage this and have it both ways. That has to end."

Feingold was also critical of John Edwards who, he says, has been "masquerading" as a critic of the war, but whose proposal so far only calls for refusing to fund the proposed Bush troop escalation in Iraq. Even he, Feingold said, fails in his rhetoric to call for withdrawal and a full defunding of the current debacle.

In response to our query about whether or not the Democrats might "call for a straight up or down vote" on some of these matters, as had been demanded by Republicans during similarly contentious matters while they owned the majority, Feingold said that's a possibility that he hopes Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) would consider.

Expressing a mix of both praise and criticism for the Majority Leader's handling of the matter, Feingold acknowledged "some problems with the way [Reid] has handled this," but says "he's a tough guy" and he's been "impressed" by him. He hoped that after today's session Reid might "go home and think over what they did to us today" and consider doing something like that.

In response to a question from Firedoglake's Christy Hardin Smith, asking how bloggers and citizens might help in his fight, Feingold urged folks to call their Congress Members to demand tough action in hopes that it might give them the backbone to do the right thing.

"Call your members and demand a timeline to withdraw the troops and withhold funding after that," he urged.

"I can't go home knowing that there are Wisconsin men and women who are going to die unnecessarily because we refused to do the right thing," the Senator concluded near the end of the early-evening call.

UPDATE: Other bloggers' coverage of same conference call...