Feingold vs. Kerry on the war
Published August 14, 2004
Even Wisconsin liberal Sen. Russ Feingold gets it. How telling it is that Democratic candidates John Kerry and John Edwards don't.
The only senator in 2001 to vote against the USA Patriot Act one month after September 11, Mr. Feingold was also one of 21 Democratic senators who opposed the resolution authorizing force against Iraq in October 2002. Messrs. Kerry and Edwards -- unlike Mr. Feingold -- enthusiastically supported the use-of-force resolution. Also unlike Mr. Feingold, however, Messrs. Kerry and Edwards opposed an October 2003 supplemental appropriation of $87 billion, which provided $66 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those votes by Messrs. Kerry and Edwards, who were pursuing the Democratic presidential nomination, were as cowardly as they were self-serving and opportunistic. Mr. Feingold recently told the Capital Times of Madison that his party's standard-bearers were "wrong" to oppose the appropriation bill. Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told New Yorker magazine that Mr. Kerry's opposition to the supplemental appropriation was a "tactical" move in Democratic presidential politics -- an attempt, in Mr. Biden's words, "to prove to [front-running Howard] Dean's guys I'm not a warmonger."
Messrs. Kerry and Edwards should have voted "yes to support the troops," Mr. Feingold told the Capital Times. Abandoning the troops in time of war was simply not an option for Mr. Feingold, whom the National Journal ranked as the sixth most liberal member of the Senate in 2003, not far behind Sen. Kerry at No. 1 and Sen. Edwards at No. 4.
Mr. Feingold explained to the Capital Times that he voted for the $87 billion supplemental appropriation because Wisconsin troops serving in Iraq had telephoned his office saying that "their Humvees weren't properly defended [with armor] and they didn't have [body-armor] flak jackets." Mr. Kerry, who had bitterly attacked the administration for failing to provide enough body armor for the troops, knew that the $87 billion supplemental included funds to remedy that problem .
Curiously, Mr. Feingold was one of 14 Senate Democrats who opposed the October 2002 use-of-force resolution but supported the $87 billion supplemental a year later. In an overwhelmingly bipartisan move, the Senate passed the supplemental appropriation by a vote of 87 to 12. Only four senators voted in 2002 to authorize force against Iraq but voted against funding military operations in Iraq (and Afghanistan) six months after Saddam Hussein was overthrown. Two of them were Iowa's Tom Harkin and Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, who retires at the end of the year. The other two were Messrs. Kerry and Edwards.
Mr. Feingold characterized a vote against funding military operations as "irresponsible" and tantamount to "cutting and running." Barely one month before the October 2003 vote on the supplemental, Mr. Kerry was asked if he would oppose the $87 billion funding measure if the Senate defeated an amendment that would have raised taxes to pay for it. "I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That's irresponsible," the junior senator from Massachusetts responded. Yes, it certainly is.