The former Senator talks about Obama and civil liberties, progressive silence, campaign finance, and his new book VIDEO
Topics: Politics News
(updated below w/transcript)
During his 18 years in the U.S. Senate, Russ Feingold was easily one of the most interesting, intelligent, and independent elected officials. He frequently deviated from and vocally criticized his Party’s orthodoxy, and was by far the most stalwart voice among Senate Democrats in combatting the influence of corporate money in politics and defending civil liberties, especially in the post-9/11 era. His courageous sole vote against the Patriot Act in the weeks after 9/11 — underlined by a vigorous speech on the Senate floor in October, 2001, warning of the “loss of commitment in the Congress and the country to traditional civil liberties”– evinced all of those attributes. Those are the attributes that led me to advocate for his 2010 re-election and for readers here, in response, to donate over $50,000 in one day to his campaign.
At the same time, Feingold — even as he voices often vehement criticisms of his Party and of Obama — has been and remains a loyal Democrat. He was just named one of 35 national co-chairs for President Obama’s re-election campaign. He argues that whatever flaws plague the Democratic Party — and they are substantial, he will be the first to tell you — the GOP has become so extreme that their defeat is imperative. To the surprise of many people, he gave an interview last week to The Huffington Post in which he appeared to support President Obama’s due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki.
Feingold has just released a new book, entitled While America Sleeps: A Wake-up Call for the Post-9/11 Era, which recounts his years in the Senate, especially in the post-9/11 era. Unsurprisingly, the book is an unusually candid account of many of the conflicts he had with both parties and is well worth reading for that reason alone. The book also provides his assessment of the current political landscape. I interviewed him this morning for roughly 20 minutes and was able to explore some of these issues and apparent paradoxes with him: we spoke about Obama and civil liberties, the relative silence of progressives on these issues (which he denounces as “embarrassing” in his book), his position on Awlaki (which is more nuanced than has been depicted), the state of campaign finance and corporate money in elections, and several other issues.
This was supposed to be a video interview, but severe technical ineptitude on my part (which ended up blocking much of the screen) has rendered this more of an audio interview (the audio quality is quite good). It is in three parts and can be heard by clicking the players below (note that Part III is an audio player, not a YouTube player: just click the play arrow on the small recorder under “Part III” to hear it):
UPDATE: A transcript of this interview, courtesy of bmull, is now available here.
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Glenn Greenwald (email: GGreenwald@salon.com) is a former Constitutional and civil rights litigator and is the author of three New York Times Bestselling books: two on the Bush administration's executive power and foreign policy abuses, and his latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, an indictment of America's
two-tiered system of justice. Greenwald was named by The Atlantic as one of the 25 most influential political commentators in the nation. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and is the winner of the 2010 Online Journalism Association Award for his investigative work on the arrest and oppressive detention of Bradley Manning.