The GOP is going after Fighting Russ Feingold with their newest radio ad. They aren’t even trying to hide their involvement behind a cut-out, like the SBVFT, this time. Apparently, the tenor of political discourse in America is now such that a politician can be accused of pro-terrorist leanings for standing up for Americans’ civil liberties, with no blow-back expected, and thus no reason to disguise the source of the slur.
Nor does it appear that Feingold’s own Democratic colleagues are interested in defending him. I think it is cowardly and craven. Every Congressperson and every candidate for Congress should be issuing press releases deploring this slur on the patriotism and intentions of a good and honorable public servant. The issue no longer just Feingold stepping out on the issue of censure, either; the GOP’s ad attacks him for even daring to question the re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act. They are suggesting that by trying to ensure that the civil rights of Americans are protected to the greatest extent possible, Feingold, and anyone who works with him, has questionable alliegance to America and its citizens’ security.
There’s only two responses to such political tactics that will work: denounce the low blows to the refs and make sure the fighter is penalized and warned, or start aiming below the belt yourself. There is a third way, of course, which is to stand aside and pretend not to notice. But it’s not a winning strategy. By remaining silent you legitimate the tactic for your opponent, even while you are giving the impression that there are still standards to be upheld. The result is that soon all your opponents blows will be aimed below the belt and you can’t respond in kind, or even complain, without them being able to call foul on you with a straight face while punching you in the nads.
Recall, please, how the GOP howls when a liberal makes the case that the President is a fascist, an incompetent, or corrupt. Such critics are labeled ‘Bush-haters’ – which translates to an illegitimate ad hominem attack, and thus against the rules of reasoned debate, and not worth listening to – and such criticism is often successfully categorized as just the unhinged ravings of someone suffering ‘Bush derangement syndrome‘. That’s how their game is played. They don’t even have to get punched in the nuts to scream foul. Result: the refs apply two standards and the GOP wins the fight.
When we let the GOP cheat with impunity we are only sowing the seeds of our future defeats, not preserving some lofty distance or studied decorum. We need to stop being chumps. Nobody respects a chump who won’t even stand up to cheating bully tactics. So pick up your gloves and put in your mouthgards, boys and girls; it’s time to go to the mat for Fighting Feingold – or it might be you who is the next victim of the GOP’s bullying.