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Feingold stirs Democratic convention with criticism of war
By FRANCIS X. QUINN, http://www.journaltimes.com
AUGUSTA, Maine - Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin brought his anti-war message to the Democratic State Convention on Saturday, receiving a rousing reception from hundreds of delegates who approved an impeachment resolution targeting President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Reiterating a regular theme that has propelled him to prominence as a potential candidate in the 2008 presidential field, Feingold urged fellow Democrats to challenge the president on domestic and foreign policy.
Acknowledging the party's keen interest in rebounding from its minority status in Congress, Feingold said regaining power was a top priority but not the sole Democratic goal.
"It's standing on principle when you have the power," Feingold said, drawing one of several standing ovations at the two-day gathering's concluding session.
Feingold introduced legislation in March seeking to censure Bush over domestic spying, saying the president broke the law and violated the Constitution when he authorized the National Security Agency to conduct a warrantless wiretapping program as part of the war on terrorism.
Feingold told convention delegates Saturday he believed the United State had responded properly to the 9/11 attacks by going to war in Afghanistan, "but Iraq is the opposite."
Reasserting his call for a U.S. troop withdrawal by the end of the year, Feingold denounced an "Iraq-centric" strategy.
"This is mismanagement of the fight against al-Qaida," said Feingold, who also spoke at the New Hampshire Democratic State Convention on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, Feingold spoke at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's annual convention in Manchester, N.H. He said the Democrats will not win back majorities in Congress by default, rejecting the idea that they should just lay low and let Republicans self-destruct.
"Some say 'we've got it made ... let's not rock the boat,'" he said, "but I believe that's exactly how we lost in 2002 and 2004. We won't win by default. We won't win by just running out the clock. We'll only win if we show we are willing to discuss tough subjects or else we will be perceived as weak and full of fear."
Regaining the majority will be meaningless unless Democrats develop the backbone necessary to stand up for their principles, he said.
"The Democrats were in the majority in the U.S. Senate when we voted for the Iraq war and passed the U.S. Patriot Act," he said. "It's not enough to be in the majority, you have to stand for something."
Before launching into his stump speech before the Maine Democrats, Feingold praised them for putting the state in the Democratic column in presidential voting and touted the electability of three top-of-the-ticket Democrats seeking re-election this year _ Gov. John Baldacci and U.S. Reps. Tom Allen and Michael Michaud.
Feingold also encouraged state Democrats to expand on their successes in the Maine Senate and House of Representatives.
"The margins are too thin. We need more Democrats," he said.
Allen and Michaud have no intraparty challengers, while Brennan will be on the June 13 primary election ballot against little-known Christopher Miller of Gray.
The state convention awards no endorsements, but afforded major office candidates a chance to address some of the party's most active members.
Starting off the day, former state Senate Majority Leader Chellie Pingree, who now heads the national Common Cause organization in Washington, warned a women's breakfast audience against excessive partisanship even as she expressed hope that national elections this year and in 2008 can bring about "a very different country."
Pingree, who lost a U.S. Senate bid to Republican incumbent Susan Collins in 2002, lauded the federal Justice Department for pursuing evidence of wrongdoing in the "ethics scandal" that has embroiled the nation's capital and pointed to public financing as a way of refocusing political campaigns.
Saying that as a leader of a nonpartisan citizens' advocacy group she remains "a liberal and a progressive and a Democrat," Pingree said concerns over honesty and openness in government can prompt the public to mistrust Democrats and Republicans alike and adopt an attitude of "a pox on both their houses."
Essential to fostering faith in democracy, she said, is guaranteeing that elections are conducted fairly.
A service of the Associated Press(AP)