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A New Solution for Deficit Reduction: Hire Russ Feingold

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Newly ascendant Republicans say they want to trim federal spending and contain the budget deficit.

Liberals are wary such efforts will damage Social Security and other government programs.

President Obama’s own deficit commision reportedly is bogged down trying to find solutions that can find sufficient support.

Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats will have to find a way to work together, and that’s what most voters expect.

How, then, to forge a genuine solution that all sides could support?

Try asking Sen. Russ Feingold. The three-term Democrat from Wisconsin may have lost his bid for re-election this month, but he also may be just the person who can forge a solution.

There is no doubt Feingold holds great respect among liberals and progressives. Democracy For America, the left-leaning political action committee affiliated with Howard Dean, not only fought hard for Feingold’s failed re-election bid, but after his defeat it went so far as to circulate an online petition to supporters thanking him for his dedicated service.

The true Senate maverick, Feingold has been just as steadfast in his pursuit of deficit reduction, never missing an opportunity to tout his Control Spending Now Act, a bill which would eliminate waste, actually deal with earmark reform, and, yes, cut the deficit by about a half trillion dollars over ten years.

The easiest course to bring Feingold into the debate would be for President Obama to nominate him as the new White House budget director. Obama’s present nominee for the post, Jacob Lew, already is in some trouble, anyway. Sen. Mary Landrieu has gone as far as to put a hold on the Lew nomination.

At this stage, Obama could easily point to the new realities of the election, thank Lew for his willingness to serve, withdraw the Lew nomination, and name Feingold instead. Feingold having been a senator himself, other senators—Democrat and Republican—would not likely oppose Feingold’s nomination.

If Obama doesn’t want to put Feingold in at the Office of Management and Budget, the president could still find a way to employ him.

Obama clearly is not going to preempt or subvert his own task force, but the president could—and should—bring Feingold and his ideas into the mix.

This could involve Obama himself proposing the Control Spending Now Act to Congress, and daring the new House majority to defeat a bill so named, and just see how big a PR disaster that would be.

Obama also could bring Feingold to the White House in an explicit policymaking capacity. It wouldn’t be enough to put the soon-to-be-former senator in an advisory capacity. Rather, the president should empower Feingold with actual authority and decision-making—and then send Feingold to Capitol Hill to begin negotiations on what a deficit-reduction deal could look like.

Feingold would have to have the ear of the president, and be presumed to be speaking for him.

Deficit reduction is a tough issue, but by his unique position as both a progressive and a deficit hawk, Feingold should have instant credibility with the opposing constituencies.

More to the point, Feingold would force Republicans to prove how serious they are.

Is the GOP using the deficit merely as a political weapon against the president, or is it interested in real progress?

If Republicans truly are interested in the latter, then they would do well to embrace Feingold as a budget negotiator in a way they didn’t embrace him as a senator.

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About Scott Nance

  • Rev Sigbott Phipp

    Interesting thought, but Obama is not a progressive and he is not interested in doing anything of any substance to rid Washington of the corrupt culture of cronyism and corporatism. Feingold would never get the job.

  • Baronius

    I’ve said before that Mrs. Clinton may run. She’s got an impressive resume. A lot of the party felt like she was short-changed by the leadership in 2008.

    She can distinguish herself from President Obama with a stronger, more pro-Israel foreign policy, which will help her among moderates, and a more gay-friendly agenda to placate the left. She can also attack Obama on her signature issue, health care.

    There are two things she needs which are outside of her control. She needs a foreign policy-related reason to resign, and at least one more year of 8.5%+ unemployment.

  • Baronius (#25), it only “weirds him out” because I’m participating in this discussion: handyguy hates my guts and brings a fervently negative predisposition to everything I write on Blogcritics, be it articles or comments. He’s hardly alone in that.

  • Baronius

    Handy, I don’t know who that comment is addressed to, but it should be clear that we’re speculating. I don’t think any of us have said that we know what he’s going to do, but it’s fair to consider what any public official may do in order to advance his career and his agenda. Why would that weird you out? We talk nonsense on BC all the time.

  • And you are basing all this amazing knowledge of Mr. Feingold’s thoughts, feelings, opinions and plans on…what, exactly?

  • However you (#21) personally gauge his prospects, there are sound reasons Feingold might prefer to run against Obama, rather than accept a post within the administration that would effectively neuter him.

    1) By campaigning against Obama, Feingold could hope to force Obama to withdraw for the sake of the party. (Instead of Howard Baker in 1987, think Gene McCarthy in 1968.)

    2) With respectable showings in the caucuses and primaries, Feingold would at minimum force Obama back to the left, which has been disappointed in what it perceives as his ineffectively centralist governance.

    3) With strong showings in those caucuses and primaries, Feingold would be ideally positioned heading into the 2012 Demo National Convention to replace Biden as Obama’s #2. A rejuvenated Obama/Feingold ticket would have far more appeal to the left than Obama/Biden.

  • Cannon, I don’t usually respond to you because your comments mix facts, non-facts and just plain ranting into an appalling if fragrant concoction.

    But Tim Geithner has had only government jobs for at least 20 years. He has never run a hedge fund, certainly. The relevance and seriousness of his tax issues has been discussed ad nauseam. He was embarrassed at the errors, his taxes have been paid, no one with any sense has ever claimed he was dishonest or a criminal. Too sympathetic to Wall St? That’s a different argument.

    Larry Summers was a hedge fund consultant, but he’s not the Treasury Secretary, and he’s leaving the government any minute now to return to Harvard.

  • Baronius

    Alan – We’re really not communicating here.

    I’m saying that Feingold might welcome the opportunity to work for a president whose agenda he believes in (like Howard Baker did) even if it would prevent him from seeking higher office. Feingold is no fool. He’s got to know that the odds are very slim that he’d be able to beat an incumbent president in the primary, and further, that such a challenge may weaken Obama in November 2012. Feingold would lose both personally and ideologically. On the other hand, if he helps aright the Obama administration, he can accomplish some real good for the progressive wing over the next two years, and strengthen Obama for November 2012. He’d win ideologically, and personally he’d find a place in the history books.

  • No, that’s not what I’m saying. Of course from Obama’s standpoint, that’s a cool strategy. Better to have your enemies inside the tent pissing out instead of outside the tent pissing in, and that eminent vulgarian LBJ used to so quaintly put it.

    But what about from Feingold’s standpoint? I doubt he’s as much of a fool as you take him for. If he truly has presidential ambitions, he’d never fall for such an obvious Obama trick.

    Plus, it’s less than two years to the 2012 general election. Prospective candidates must tool up well in advance these days to get the edge on their opponents. That’s especially true if Obama plans to run for reelection. In that case, Feingold has no time to waste filling some fallback position within the administration, which would serve only to more closely identify him with Obama–the very man he presumably hopes to unseat in 2012.

  • Baronius

    Alan – No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that co-opting a potential Presidential candidate can work. If Obama plans to run again (and I’m sure he does), he’d have to feel safer knowing that Hilary Clinton, Jerry Brown, and Russ Feingold are all busy. In fact, the best thing he could do to secure his position in the party is to give Feingold a high-ranking position. Put him in as Chief of Staff and assign him gay rights, run against the Republican House, and hope the economy turns around. Not a bad strategy.

  • Cannonshop

    Hmmm… Feingold would certainly make a better SecTreas than the Hedge-Fund Operator and tax-evader currently holding the job.

    Problem I see, is that he IS clean, and therefore unlikely to get the nod for any position in the Executive that holds real power-and that comes from analyzing the Chicago scene that Obama comes out of.

    and Handy? the piling on is perfectly in keeping with the job he’s taken, the POTUS job is a job where you have a target on your ass 24/7 and if you’re thin skinned, it’s hell on earth.

    as it should be-nobody in that job should get a free ride, especially when the occupant of the office has screwed up as badly as quickly as this one has. The best security for the liberties of the citizens is when the Government must JUSTIFY every action it takes, and suffers under a microscope of hostility. Think about the worst abuses under Bush-they all happened when we-the-people were cutting him a break after 9/11, while Clinton’s best years in terms of accomplishing the actual MISSION of the Presidency occurred when he had to fight an opposition congress and was getting his gaffes and errors re-broadcast in stereo constantly and loudly.

  • Jack, support whomever you wish, but this Democrat and most others still support the president and find the current piling-on by both left and right to be grossly unfair. (It also seems to be most prevalent on the internet and on cable news shows, surprise surprise.)

  • Jack

    handyguy, normally i’d agree with you but on this one i really believe that russ feingold has the support of many many democrats across the country. look let’s be honest here. obama doesn’t have the support of his own party and those that voted for him.

    and a whole bunch of democrats (along with their staffs) just became unemployed. doesn’t look good for obama. count me as a supporter of russ feingold for president!

  • This ‘scheme’ is all internet speculation, not anything that anybody knows. The ‘draft Feingold’ folks are all clearly wearing their own brand of tinfoil hats. Scott was not reporting something that has actually been announced or planned — just thinking out loud. Right, Scott?

    Feingold is a good guy, lots of people are sad he lost, he deserves a job as much as anyone. But running against a sitting president in your own party is strong medicine and usually destructive. And I do not see that happening.

  • So what are you telling me? That Feingold will become Obama’s Howard Baker, a sacrificial lamb who willingly falls on the sword of his presidential ambitions in order to save Obama’s ass as Chief of Staff. This in turns clears the way for Joe Biden to replace Obama in 2012, leaving Feingold out in the cold. I hope Feingold is smoking the same stuff you are when Obama lays out this harebrained scheme. That’s the only way it’ll happen.

  • Baronius

    Alan – In nineteen eighty-something (pardon the laziness), Reagan asked Howard Baker to become his Chief of Staff. Baker took the hit for his party and stabilized the administration. If he hadn’t taken the job, he probably would have run for President in 1988. You can argue whether Reagan did this just to make the way easier for Bush, but that was definitely one of the effects of that move.

  • If Feingold’s running for president in 2012, why would Obama offer him a high position in the administration? That would only raise Feingold’s profile for 2012. Or is it your theory that Obama plans to retire in disgrace in 2012 after only a single term, yet is so enamored of Mr. Clean that he will do everything in his power to see that Feingold replaces him in two years? You Demos are a pretty wacked out bunch, that’s for sure.

  • Twittle Twitterer

    Yup there is a @draftfeingold twitter account that I’m following. I hope he runs. We need someone that can beat the republicans in 2012 and it’s clear to me that Obama can’t win. We need Russ Fiengold to run!

  • Alice in Wonderment

    Baronius & Allen, did you watch Russ Feingold’s concession speech last week? He ended it with, “it’s on to 2012 and it is on to our next adventure. Forward!”

    So its not surprise to me that there is a draftfeingold2012 facebook page and website. I wonder if they are on twitter?

  • Blue Dog Bob

    I would actually be interested in seeing Russ Feingold run for president. I checked out the draftfeingold2012 website and watched the video. He’s whistle clean and as a blue dog dem, I can tell you that I agree with a lot of his decisions.

  • Baronius

    Alan, it’s entirely appropriate for a president to assemble the best staff he can. He ought to have spent the past couple of months window-shopping for Cabinet members. Just looking on the Senate side, Crist and Sestak have decent credentials. And there’s no reason not to go across the aisle and get Mike Castle on his team. In the House, plenty of Blue Dogs just became available. Among the more liberal former members, Rick Boucher has plenty of experience, and John Salazar was rumored to be a potential Cabinet member in 2008.

    As for Scott’s suggestion, I have a more radical idea. Why not Feingold for Chief of Staff? The guy who has the job now isn’t one of President Obama’s inner circle, from what I recall. And it’s a high enough post that it might lure Feingold away from a primary challenge, if that’s something he’s thinking about.

  • Arch Conservative

    Forget Social Security.

    The greatest advice we can give to anyone under the age of thirty?

    Learn to speak Chinese.

  • There is neither honor nor accountability in Washington. Scott Nance advises President Obama to renege on his current nominee for White House budget director and appoint Feingold instead. So much for honor.

    Nance also assures the President that, since Feingold is a member of that exclusive club known as U.S. Senators, Feingold will breeze through the Senate confirmation process. Thus Feingold will be ensconced in another cushy top government job as a consolation prize for having been dumped by Wisconsin voters. So much for accountability.

    In Washington politics, there are no losers. There are only winners who stride in through the front door, as Republican Ron Johnson will do when he replaces Feingold in January, and winners who sneak in through the back door, as Feingold seems poised to do.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  • Sally Mae

    draftfeingold2012.com and sign the petition for Russ to run for President! Run Russ Run!

  • DemDalton

    There’s a draftfiengold2012 dot com website already. I joined the facebook page and signed the petition!

  • mark


  • If Feingold, known as ‘Mr SuperClean’ for his strong stance on ethics, were offered a White House job, it would not qualify as a product of a ‘revolving door of cronyism and corruption.’ That is a ridiculous and ignorant thing to say.

    Feingold is a smart, capable man. There’s no reason not to offer him a job for which he is well qualified.

  • Every election cycle, the rallying cry is “Throw da bums out!”

    But when voters do throw one them out, he invariably lands on his feet, quickly securing an appointed post within the administration (if he is of that same party) or copping some high-paying sinecure as a lobbyist or “resident fellow” at a university or think tank.

    It’s no wonder politicians don’t answer to their constituents’ will. They know they’re guaranteed lifetime job security through Washington’s revolving door of cronyism and corruption.

    Also, on a side note: “commision” (¶3) is misspelled.