Championing civil liberties — mostly

I’ve been a closet admirer of Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) since he singlehandedly opposed the Patriot Act in the Senate.

According to an opinion piece today in the New York Times, now it seems the senator is campaigning to bring back the rule of law and the Constitution to government and the Congress to correct what he said were Bush Administration abuses of the past eight years.

Mr. Feingold has been compiling a list of areas for the next president to focus on, which he intends to present to Mr. Obama. It includes amending the Patriot Act, giving detainees greater legal protections and banning torture, cruelty and degrading treatment. He wants to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to restore limits on domestic spying. And he wants to roll back the Bush administration’s dedication to classifying government documents.

As a defender of civil liberties, Senator Feingold sometimes goes off-track, as he did in a big way with the misguided McCain-Feingold Act (and here) to “reform” campaign finance. Let’s hope he’ll be on target in defending our constitutional rights in his new endeavor.

For readers who don’t know Senator Feingold’s bona fides as a defender of liberty, here’s a quote from a speech he gave a month after September 11, 2001:

Protecting the safety of the American people is a solemn duty of the Congress; we must work tirelessly to prevent more tragedies like the devastating attacks of September 11th. We must prevent more children from losing their mothers, more wives from losing their husbands, and more firefighters from losing their brave and heroic colleagues. But the Congress will fulfill its duty only when it protects both the American people and the freedoms at the foundation of American society. So let us preserve our heritage of basic rights. Let us practice that liberty. And let us fight to maintain that freedom that we call America.

As the senator takes up his new battle, let’s hope too it’s not a partisan one — both Democrats and Republicans have run roughshod over the Constitution. Maybe he’ll check out some of CEI’s writings on constitutional and legal issues.