Saturday, July 17, 2010


Maha's analysis of Russ Feingold, Useful Idiot, is spot on.
I like Russ Feingold, but I think Mark Kleiman makes a good point about Feingold and the financial reform bill. Feingold was the only Democrat who voted with the Republicans against cloture. He did this because he didn’t think the bill was good enough, and I suspect I would agree with all of his objections. 

However, Mark says, because Harry Reid had to compromise with some “moderates” so the bill could be voted on, it was watered down even more. Mark writes,
With the W.Va. seat still vacant, that meant that Reid needed Snow, Collins, and Scott Brown, as well as Ben Nelson. … The bill as passed exempts at least three major sources of consumer maltreatment in the financial market: car loans, payday loans, and check-cashing services. It omits the $19B bank tax to pay for bailouts. It has a very weak form of the “Volcker rule,” thus leaving the country exposed to future meltdowns. Those concessions were the price of those last four votes.
Mark goes on to say that Feingold suffers from “integrity narcissism,” which is a great phrase. It’s a syndrome I normally associate with Dennis Kucinich, but if the shoe fits …
And there's a lot of this integrity narcissism going around.  Feingold's a politician, after all.  But Maha brings up the much larger and much more important point that by refusing to compromise on the fact the bill wasn't good enough, the Dems had to then turn to the Republicans who made the bill worse.

And someone needs to beat Russ Feingold and in fact all the Firebaggers over the head with that salient point until they understand.  It is one thing to say "I will not support this bill because it's not good enough."  But when that intractable refusal to compromise becomes an abdication of legislative responsibility, and that loss of a vote in our hyper-partisan Senate means that Republicans can then work to strip out the provisions they don't like, your integrity doesn't mean a damn thing.

Russ Feingold made the bill worse by not voting for it, which was the complete opposite of what Feingold's stated intent was.  This is what I mean by "useful idiocy" for the GOP.  How did Feingold's opposition make the legislation more progressive in any way?  It failed miserably in that respect:  the Dems then courted Scott Brown, who had his own list of demands.  His demands were met.
“I’ve spent the past week reviewing the Wall Street reform bill. I appreciate the efforts to improve the bill, especially the removal of the $19 billion bank tax."
So again, what did Russ Feingold accomplish other than being a useful idiot?

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