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Russell Feingold: A Patriot Against The Usa Patriot Act

1137 words - 5 pages

Less than one week after the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S.A. Patriot Act was introduced to Congress. One month later, the act passed in the Senate with a vote of 98-1. A frightened nation had cried for protection against further attacks, but certainly got more than they had asked for. Russell Feingold, the only Senator to vote down the act, referred to it as, “legislation on the fly, unlike anything [he] had ever seen.” In their haste to protect our great nation, Congress suspended, “normal procedural processes, such as interagency review and committee hearings,” and, “many provisions were not checked for their constitutionality, lack of judicial oversight, and potential for abuse.” Ninety-eight senators were willing to overlook key civil liberty issues contained within the 342 page act. The lone dissenting vote, Wisconsin Senator Russell Feingold, felt that our battle against terrorism would be lost “without firing a shot” if we were to “sacrifice the liberties of the American people.” Feingold duly defended American civil liberties at the risk of his career, truly exemplifying political courage as defined by John F. Kennedy.
Feingold’s position as the only senator voicing opposition to the Patriot Act did not come without controversy. Despite all difficulties, Feingold never questioned his choice, and in fact declared that it was, “probably one of the best things [he’d] ever done.” Feingold acknowledged that he agreed with much of the Patriot act, however saw that certain provisions, “trampled on constitutional rights.” He declared that, as an elected representative, he took an oath to the Constitution that, “wasn’t an oath of convenience,” and displayed unyielding devotion to his fight to defend American civil liberties. Kennedy defined “devotion to principle” like this that may “[lead] to unpopular courses,” as a standard of political courage. Two of the senators that Kennedy felt represented exceptional political courage showed the same dedication and willingness to stand alone, and vote alone, as Feingold. These were John Quincy Adams, the only Federalist to vote for the Louisiana Purchase, and Sam Houston, the sole Southern Democrat to vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Feingold made an even bolder move than going against his party, yet not one without consequence, and ignored the opinions of the entire Senate.
Feingold’s opposition “seemed an act of political suicide,” to some , and he was targeted in following elections by the Republican party for his stand against the act they were championing. Wisconsin’s Republican senate challenger of 2004, Tim Michels, made an entire advertisement campaign out of Feingold’s vote. One advertisement picturing “footage of the 9/11 attacks,” as a narrator told viewers that "our leaders passed new laws to keep us safe,” but that, “Russ Feingold voted against those laws." Another advertisement pictured the Pentagon smoking as a narrator declared, “Ninety-eight...

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