When a politician says he’s gonna do what’s right, even if it costs him his seat, it’s wise to take it with a pinch of skepticism.
But when it’s Wisconsin Dem Sen. Russ Feingold, it’s a little easier to believe, especially when, while fighting for his political life, he is turning down an offer of serious aid from his own party because wants to control his own message to voters.
Feingold, as I mentioned the other day, is trailing in his bid for a fourth Senate term. The DSCC (Dem Sen Campaign Committee) thinks they might be able to help save him by advertising on his behalf in Wisconsin. By law, Feingold has no input or control over that kind of advertising.
But Feingold — who may deserve the “maverick” designation more than his campaign finance reform partner John McCain (I forgot to mention the other day, Feingold, a civil liberties champion, was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act) — said no thanks to the DSCC.
Walter Shapiro of Politics Daily asked Feingold why. A couple of excerpts from his response:
“It’s because these are almost always inherently attack ads based on cookie-cutter notions of how you should talk to the people of Wisconsin,” Feingold responded after I [that’s Shapiro talking] pressed him for a reason for his stubborn resistance to a DSCC ad campaign. “I don’t want that kind of help,” Feingold said moments later. “I consider it to be outside help of a kind that is uncontrolled and tends to believe in a philosophy of slash-and-burn politics. That’s frankly not who I am. I don’t want to win that way…
“To me, not to have certain values about what it takes to win an election makes it not worth it to win an election. So I’m going to stick to those values. And if I lose because of it, so be it. And if I win because of it, even better.”
By the way — and this is pretty amazing to Minnesotans whose guv candidates have debated 20 times — Feingold and his Repub opponent, political newcomer and plastics manufacturer Ron Johnson, have never debated. The first one is this Friday.