Civil liberties concerns are tough arguments to make sometimes, especially to Americans who don’t pay attention to detail and nuance, and who are clearly more than willing to trade anything away for illusory security promises. Sen. Russ Feingold has stood out over the last few years as a consistent voice of doubt regarding unfettered increase of executive power, and of reason when everyone around him is screeching for haste and whatever is polling well. 

In short, Sen. Feingold has been a rock of sanity and long-term consequence consideration.

And I wanted to pause for a moment today to say thank you for that — it has meant a lot to me, and to the nation, that he and a handful of other Senators and Representatives have stood up time and time again to ask their colleagues to think a bit more on the consequences of their actions.

Sen. Feingold was a guest on The Young Turks yesterday, and spoke eloquently and passionately about his concerns for the rule of law:

…Ben Mankiewicz: Alright, well, Senator Feingold, without naming names, and I understand you don’t want to single out any of your colleagues, what is the overall reasoning, do you think, what is going on with some of these Democrats who might surprise us? I mean, they’re not stupid. Well…not all of them anyway. Why are they buying into a notion of a compromise when there really is no giving on the other side? 

Senator Russ Feingold: It’s the latest chapter of running for cover when the Administration tries to intimidate Democrats on national security issues. It’s the most embarrassing failure of the Democrats I’ve seen since 2006, other than the failure to vote to end the Iraq War. These are the two real sad aspects of an otherwise pretty good record. It’s letting George Bush and Dick Cheney have their way even though they’re that unpopular and on their way out. It’s really incredible.

Cenk Uygur: It is incredible. So, I mean, it leads to the question that everybody’s been asking. You know, whether it’s our viewers, the readers of the blogs, etc. the actual bloggers, everybody that’s paying attention is asking: Why are the Democrats doing it? You know, I got three possibilities. One is caving. They think, "Hey if we give into Bush, we’re going to win more elections, and we don’t really care about the policy, and the fourth amendment in the constitution are an interesting side note, but I want to win more elections." Number two is, they’re scared of their own shadow and they didn’t get the memo that the Republicans are grossly unpopular throughout the country, and that President Bush is the most unpopular President in the history of the United States. But if they didn’t get that memo, you got to question a couple of different things about their judgment. The third theory out there is that they’re complacent that people like Rockefeller signed off on some of these abuses and they get money from the lobbyists. So they don’t really want to rock the boat.

Senator Russ Feingold: Well my honest belief is that it’s the first two. I don’t really see it as having to do with political contributions. I don’t see it that they really want to cooperate with this stuff. I see it more as the first two things you said. Having to do with political fear, and, you know, calculations about elections to be honest with you. There are many areas that I think are grossly effected by money. I think it is less true of this, and it has more to do with political fear.

Thank you, Sen. Feingold. And every other elected official who stood tall when everyone else shrank back…

UPDATE:  Amendments to the FISA bill are coming in fast and furious.  The ACLU has some comments here.  And they issued a letter to Senators urging them to reject the bill unless amended on a number of areas.  I’m hearing that Cardin has a proposal for a shorter sunset, which is a great idea, and that Specter has submitted an amendment that looks good as well.  More details as I get them…as always, call your Senators and urge them to stand up for civil liberties and the rule of law, and against telecom immunity. 

The HJC hearing is in recess for a series of votes.  Marcy will resume liveblogging once it gets underway again.