Dare to Go Along With the Crowd


What do you call a politician who parts company with all of his colleagues to vote against something known as the USA PATRIOT Act based on principled concerns about its effect on civil liberties? According to one of the Republicans vying to run against Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), "cowardly" fits the bill.

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  1. Cowardly is just a word the the powers that be use when it is convenient to try to shame those oppose them. A great example of this is when the military labels Iraqi insurgents as cowards for no dressing in standard military garb, attacking and then fading back into the general population.

    When American colonists did the same thing to the Hessians, my school history books praised for being clever.

  2. I would not attribute an honest motive — and certainly not concern about anyone’s freedom — to Feingold.

  3. I don’t have anything close to enough balls to float a rubber dinghy full of plastic explosives up to a navy destroyer and set it off. Only cowards have the fortitude to do such a thing.

    Yes, Aaron, I think you’ve nailed the definition of that word, as used by our politicians. Frankly, I think it makes us look kind of stupid.

  4. careful, joe. You know what happened to Bill Maher for saying almost exactly the same thing.

    I’m no fan of Feingold (especially of his campaign finance legislation), but I don’t see how anyone can doubt the courage it took to vote against USA PATRIOT in the fall of 2001. Look at all the Democrats who were so chickenshit of being called unpatriotic they rubber-stamped it–even though they later confessed, when it was less unpopular to say such things, that they had “reservations.” Feingold was the only one (THE ONLY ONE) who had the balls to put his career on the line and risk being demagogued.

  5. As much as I think PATRIOT in unconstitutional, since Russ is the man who put the Feingold in equally reprehensible McCaine/Feingold Act I find his “principled concerns about [PARTRIOT’s] effects on civil liberties” to be a little disingenuous.

    Sounds like election year posturing, on both sides, to me.

  6. So I also suppose that fellow Republican Ron Paul made a “cowardly” vote when he did the same thing. Which I suppose is true. It takes a lot of courage to vote for something no one was able to read before the vote.

  7. Good grief, garym. You sound just like Noam Chomsky, who uses this formulation all the time. “In light of the fact that he disagrees with me on issue X, it is simply not plausible that he has any genuinely commendable motivations on issue Y.”

    People who disagree with you on campaign finance reform are still capable of laudable sentiments on a range of issues. Grow up.

  8. I think that Feingold has cast some other good votes for limiting federal intervention in local law enforcement.

    Considering his party, this Patriot vote is quite laudable. While most Democrats were shaking in their political boots, conservative Republicans like Bob Barr, Ron Paul,and Dick Armey led the push to secure sunset provisions on some of the most anti-civil liberties aspects of the Patriot Act. Barr and Armey both joined the ACLU out of concern with the threats to liberty contained in the Act.

    The question should be, how to set those Republicans straight who are not for de-fanging Patriot.

    Feingold is assailable on a lot of accounts but his brave vote against Patriot is not one of them. Attack him for the campaign-finance law and for being an ultra big spender( although, not as big and bad as Kerry):


    Might I make a suggestion? I think we should all contact our representative and senators and tell them to let the provisions of Patriot set to expire, do so. The preservation of liberty for our children and ourselves might well be depend on our taking action now!


  9. Magilla Gorilla: Reducing all chararacteristics to mere “disagreement” implies that there are no really bad actions, and everything is a matter of opinion. But if that’s the case, there can’t be any really good and principled opinions either, so Feingold can’t get any credit under such a relativist standard.

    Feingold did not merely “disagree” with me (I’m quite sure he never even consulted my opinion). He was a principal behind a piece of legislation which put a gag on criticism of office holders. Someone whose “principled” view of civil liberties excludes dropping them when he can benefit thereby is an opportunist and nothing more.

    If “growing up” means refusing to regard people’s actions as indicative of their character, long live Peter Pan.

  10. But the question remains: Why did Feingold vote that way? In view of his name being synonymous with censorship of political speech, it simply is not plausible that he was concerned that the bill “eroded civil liberties.”

    It’s particularly interesting that his partner in assault on the 1st Amendment is the one who’s defending him.

  11. But the question remains: Why did Feingold vote that way? In view of his name being synonymous with censorship of political speech, it simply is not plausible that he was concerned that the bill “eroded civil liberties.”

    Hey, I agree that the campaign-finance law sucks. But I think it is eminently clear that he was absolutely concerned about civil liberties, and willing to go on record (amidst indescribable pressure) and say, “This is wrong.”

    You’re right: he’s no 100%-er on civil liberties. Few office holders are. But to suggest he cast the lone “no” vote for the Patriot Act for some sinister, Machiavellian motive is just plain bizarre.

  12. I wrote:

    “The question should be how to set those Republicans straight, who are not for de-fanging Patriot.”

    I meant to write:

    The question should be how to set those Republicans and Democrats straight, who are not for de-fanging Patriot

  13. If a million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.

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