Feingold focusing on Senate work, won’t rule out VP role


By REID MAGNEY | La Crosse Tribune

ONALASKA, Wis. — U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold admitted Monday he’d have to seriously think about it if asked to be a presidential running mate.

But Feingold’s flirtation with the White House has given way to renewed enthusiasm for life in the Senate, now that there’s a Democratic majority.

At a listening session in Onalaska City Hall, Feingold talked enthusiastically about chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution Subcommittee — and getting to hold hearings about the loss of habeas corpus.

About 50 people listened as Feingold answered audience questions that ranged from fixing Medicare Part D to freeing up money for a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in La Crosse County.

And, of course, there were questions and praise for Feingold about his positions on Iraq and the Patriot Act.

“I’m not anti-war ... I think we need to be very, very tough on those who have attacked us,” Feingold said. “But this war was one of the dumbest decisions in the history of the United States of America.”

“I’m a very close friend to (U.S. Sen.) John McCain, but I couldn’t disagree more with his attitude about ‘Let’s send in 100,000 more troops.’ It is an unwinnable situation,” Feingold said. “We need to turn this thing around.”

One thing about Iraq Feingold said he’s happy about is it appears the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction will continue. Feingold created the IG’s position when he voted for the original $87 billion to fund the Iraq war, but the House of Representatives voted earlier this year to phase out the IG’s mission of watchdogging the $30 billion the U.S. plans to spend there.

One thing Feingold expressed no enthusiasm for is impeaching President Bush.

“I don’t support impeachment, and I don’t support impeachment hearings, even though I think the president has probably committed an impeachable offense,” Feingold said in response to a question from Al Schulz of La Crosse.

“We are not required to impeach the president simply because he’s committed an impeachable offense, which I think he did with the illegal wiretapping. We have to decide whether it’s in the best interest of the country to go through that process.”

A few audience members asked Feingold to sponsor or co-sponsor bills. He said he generally doesn’t co-sponsor bills unless they state where the money will come from for spending.

Feingold took questions for nearly 1½ hours before leaving for a second listening session in Prairie du Chien. He has conducted more than 1,000 listening sessions since being elected to the Senate in 1992.