Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Rockingham County Democrats' First Annual Eleanor Roosevelt Covered Dish Dinner
Epping, New Hampshire
September 30, 2005


Thank you so much.  Thank you very, very much.  This is a great gathering and as I heard the score announced in the game, you know I was living in Boston going to law school on the famous Bucky Dent day so I know what this means here [laughter]  And I know that it's a serious thing to compete against, and all I know is keep me updated on the scores as well.

Thank you Lenore [Patton] and thank you John Rauh for what you've done throughout your life.  I was proud to meet John when he was a candidate in '92.  Obviously I'd hoped that he'd win as well, but obviously he hasn't stopped.  He is doing everything he can to move us to the next level, well beyond McCain-Feingold on campaign finance reform, and I thank you for your leadership on that issue, John.  [applause].

Had a wonderful day already today in New Hampshire.  Having the chance to campaign for the re-election of Bob Baines, the great mayor of Manchester, a wonderful gathering led by Kathy Sullivan, your Democratic Party chair, who has greeted me with open arms and made sure I had a chance to talk to a lot of Democrats in the state about the future of the Democratic Party.  I got a chance to go over to the Capitol and be with a Democrat governor [applause] -- your governor, John Lynch, who is a great guy.  Congratulations on putting a Democrat back in the State House.

I'm especially honored to be asked to be the speaker at the first annual Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner of Rockingham Democratic Party.  I remember growing up in a house in Janesville, Wisconsin, where there were pictures--Franklin Roosevelt.  The names that were often mentioned of course were people like Adlai Stevenson and Eleanor Roosevelt.  I remember Eleanor Roosevelt when she was alive and I was taught to watch very carefully what a great person she was.  Think of how her voice would be so meaningful today.  Her intelligence, her decency, and her compassion.  What it would have been like to have her talk about the problems with our government, the divisions in our country, and the tragedy that occurred in Hurricane Katrina, not only the national disaster, the failures in our country to address the differences and inequalities in our nation.  No one better than Eleanor Roosevelt to address such things.  So it's a tribute to you, to this party here in this county, that you have picked Eleanor Roosevelt to honor with the name of this dinner.

So why am I here tonight.  Well first of all [laughter], first of all [off mic], first of all, you invited me and I thank you for that.  And it's not my first visit by any means to New Hampshire.  In fact the Gore campaign in 2000 -- I said you know where can I go to help in the waning days of the campaign.  They said we want you to go up to New Hampshire.  And I came up here and I was told that you need to get on Boston radio to cover a lot of the state.  So they said to me okay Senator Feingold, New Hampshire only has four electoral votes.  Why are you here?  And I didn't want dead air.  So I said well you know maybe it would make the difference, those four electoral votes.  [laughter].  And it did.  Unfortunately.  We know that this state was red in 2000, but because of your efforts it was blue for John Kerry [applause], and we all thank you very much for that tremendous victory and that tremendous help.

But the reason I'm really here tonight is because what happened last November.  I was very lucky that night.  Fought hard to get re-elected.  Had a great campaign.  In fact all the campaign people from all the levels of president on down coordinated very well, and I was re-elected.  In fact I carried 27 counties that George Bush carried, which was a real thrill for me.  But you know what I thought I was going to be able to do, what I had hoped, was that -- I turned 50 a couple years ago -- I wanted to spend my 50s helping John Kerry and John Edwards change the face of this country.  I mean that's what I really thought would be a great thing to be able to do.  Well we all took a heck of a blow that night.  In the days after, you wouldn't believe the number of e-mails and calls and things that came into my office saying how can this be?  How could we have lost this election?  What are you, Russ, going to do to help turn this around?

We've got to get out there across this country as Democrats and turn this disaster around.  And for me, of course, the disaster included, instead of taking over the majority in the United States Senate, which I really thought we could do, it went just the opposite direction.  So there's a real sense in which after that election we were left with it seems almost like almost with nothing.  So I created a group called the Progressive Patriots Fund that would allow me to travel to different states in the country to try to do something about turning this around for 2006 and 2008.

And we went to the red states first.  Went to central Florida, Daytona Beach, Orlando, then I went to Alabama, to Greenville, Alabama, to Montgomery and to Birmingham, and then I went to Tennessee, to Nashville, and then we went to Pennsylvania, which is not a red state, but we've go to defeat Senator Santorum there with Bob Casey [applause], so we've got work to do there.  And yes we went to California.  But the point is everywhere I've been, Democrats are not disheartened.  They're not happy; [but] they're not sitting back, going I give up.  They are ready to fight.  And there's all kinds of progressive Democrats in places like Birmingham, Alabama, and they believe if we give them some attention we can turn this thing around.  So that is honestly what I'm about.

I believe we need to adopt a 50-state strategy.  We have to kind of let this blue and red state thing go.  It doesn't look good when a political party is trying to hand pick or cherry pick this state or that state.  We are a national political party and there are people in every single state in this country who want to help us change the face of this nation.  [applause].  That is the attitude that we must have going forward.

Of course people say, what's the message of the Democratic Party?  People often say it seems like you Democrats don't speak out very much.  We get a lot of that.  We need to hear more from the Democratic leaders.

Now one of the reasons it's kind of hard to hear us is of course the Republicans control both houses of the Congress, and we can't call any hearings at all, which makes it very, very difficult.  But that's only an excuse in isolation because the fact is we as Democrats have to provide a genuine alternative to the Republican party.  We cannot just be what I like to call, and others like to call, Republican lite.  That will not work.  That will not lead to electoral victories [applause] and it will not lead to the changes that we need in this country.

So what do we do?  I think what we have to do is try to address this in three parts.  John talked about the first step, which I think is very important.  First we have to prove we're willing to listen.  He talked about these town meetings I've done, and I've started to do them in other states.  First show the people of this country that you want to hear from them first.  Get a sense of what their ideas are.  Get a sense of what they care about.  Second, when they tell you what their priorities are, act on those priorities.  There are other things we have to deal with of course as Democrats to govern the country; we have to act on those priorities.  And once we figure out what those priorities are, let's pick the best ideas and the best solutions.

You might think, well, that's just common sense.  I don't think most people think that's what's going on in Washington.  I don't think they think that three-step process is going on, and when I say the best ideas, you know sometimes that idea is going to be associated more with a conservative thought; sometimes it's going to be more associated with a centrist thought; sometimes it's going to be more associated with a liberal or progressive thought.  But we should take the best ideas.

That's what John McCain and I did.  We're not the same philosophically by any means, but we both thought unlimited campaign contributions by corporations and others were destroying the political process.  So you can call that a conservative idea or a liberal idea, but it just sounded wrong, so we went after it and we spent eight years and we did eliminate those unlimited contributions, and turned it into a [applause] federal crime for officeholders to ask for those kind of contributions.

And I think the same thing goes for other issues.  If the best idea is to have guaranteed health care for all Americans, but lets every state have some flexibility in how they do it, I think that's a good idea.  Let's try that idea out.  If we think that trade agreements are negotiated in an unfair way to help big corporations and sell our jobs overseas, why don't we have a minimum standard for those trade agreements, whether it's a Republican or Democrat idea.  What if the idea is to have energy independence that includes wind energy and solar energy and and fuel cells and ethanol.  Whatever that idea is, you can label it as you want but the American people are dying for a chance to get away from dependence on foreign oil.  Let's pick the best ideas as Democrats and show the country that we are the party of the best ideas and the party of the best solutions.  Now I think this is especially true in light of the failures of this administration, obviously with regard to Katrina and the people all over this country are today for a different kind of political party.

I thought David Ignatius, the columnist, said it very well recently when he wrote, "In the aftermath of Katrina, there's an opening for a different kind of politics in America.  The new politics isn't about values, it isn't about settling scores.  It's about performance.  It's about putting a wounded, shaken country back on its feet, much as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in his famous first hundred days."

I think that is where we are getting to at this point in this country.  Of course we know that government should be limited and should only do certain things.  But when it should do something we should care about doing it right.

And to me the symbol of this for so many of us is the difference between FEMA under President Clinton and under President Bush [applause].  I tell you I know this issue because since I've been in the United States Senate, when Clinton was president, we had flooding in the Mississippi, we had flooding on the Lake Michigan border with Sheboygan and Milwaukee, we had tornadoes in the Northwest, we had tornadoes in the central part of the state.  We had drought.  And when those folks came in, when the federal government actually came here to help you and did a compassionate and wonderful job under President Clinton and James Lee Witt.  This president and this administration didn't really care about that department.  They put their cronies in there.  And the differences show.

So this is an opportunity, in the words of the column I just read to you, for Democrats to show what we have been and what we can be again, and that is a party of performance for the American people.

Tonight what I want to talk about are two areas where if this administration had listened, had picked the right priorities and had chosen the best ideas, they would have done something very differently.  Instead they are two areas where the administration's policy has been essentially miserable.  And we can show the American people that we are better suited to do the job.  And those two areas are watching the taxpayers' dollars and fiscal responsibility and truly focusing on the fight against terrorism instead of the mistakes that have been made with regard to Iraq.  [applause].

With regard to fiscal responsibility, Alan Greenspan was reputed to have said in France the other day to the foreign minister there quote the United States quote has lost control of its budget when deficits were allowed without any control from Congress.  Now if he said that in fact, good for him.  If he didn't say it, he should have [laughter] because it's the truth.

Let's recall what happened during those Reagan and Bush I years.  When Jimmy Carter was still president our deficit was under $100 billion.  By the time those twelve years were up, it was close to $300 billion per year.  Our debt under the end of the Carter years was under $1 trillion.  By the end of the Reagan-Bush I years it was $4 trillion.  That's the hand we were dealt when Bill Clinton and John Rauh and I were running in 1992.  That's the situation we were facing.  And I made it the centerpiece of my first campaign for the U.S. Senate that we would come in there and actually try to reduce and maybe even get rid of the federal deficit.

And I've got to give Bill Clinton credit.  Because he didn't campaign on this.  It was Ross Perot who talked about it.  But when Bill Clinton was elected he didn't say well I didn't campaign on that; I'm not going to bother with it.  In fact he wanted to give out a tax cut at that point  -- middle class tax cut was his goal.  But he got together with people and he realized, he looked at the books and he said my job as the leader of this nation is first and foremost to deal with this deficit.  He did the job and we did the job.  And during the 1990s we completely eliminated the deficit [applause] and began to bring down the debt.

In other words we performed, and we performed for all of the American people.  And the results showed when Bill Clinton's re-election was very much supported by many in the business community because they cared so much about this issue.

So now, even to be -- you can't even be credible in suggesting the Democratic Party is a party that doesn't know how to manage the finances of the country.  The idea that we're just the big-spending party those days are over; we've shed that image, and we have to make sure we never get it again.  But what is credible, what is credible is to give the Bush administration a failing grade when it comes to the question of fiscal responsibility.

We've had the largest deficits in American history in the last three years, over $300 billion and in one year over $400 billion.  And for what?  Was this money going for health care, was it going for natural disaster relief, was it seriously going for homeland security?  Of course not.  What it was going for was first huge tax cuts.  Cutting the top rate for the very wealthy, eliminating the estate tax completely, even for $100 million estates, except you have to die within ten years because they were doing Enron accounting to try to make it look like it wasn't really that expensive to do that.

And even worse, the numbers that I just gave you don't even tell the whole story.  Do you know that this administration has never budgeted a penny, basically, for the entire Iraq war?  I'm on the Budget Committee.  A week before the war I said to my colleagues on the Committee, I said, Mr. Chairman, I'm reading the proposed budget herem and we're going to war next week.  There's not a dime in here for the Iraq war.  And they said, oh, Russ, come on now, we don't know if we're really going to war.  [laughter].  So I lost that vote and then the next week we were on the floor with the budget and guess what?  We were at war.  And I said I suggest that we put away a fund here for this Iraq war, let's say $100 billion.  And the chairman of the Committee at the time got up and said Russ you know we can't budget for wars.  You don't know when a war is going to happen.  So this is the kind of monkey business that was going on and it continues to this day, that we don't even have -- when I give you those awful figures -- we don't even have that horrendous expenditure of $5 billion a month or more included in the basic budget figures.

Not to mention Congress on both sides of the aisle unfortunately allowed the pay goal rules to elapse.  These are the rules that required us to say how we're going to pay for things.  You know it really is pretty common sense in New Hampshire I would think.  We're going to do something.  Well it should be; it should be in theory.  You know if you're going to do something you ought to pay for it, and in the Senate the pay goal rules mean if you don't have a way to pay for it, then you've got to get 60 votes, not just 50.  Well those rules have lapsed.  I've taken the lead in the Senate to try to get these rules back in place, but this is all the record of the Bush administration and the Republican majority.  This is the performance of the party of the Bush administration on a bipartisan issue such as fiscal responsibility.

So what should Democrats talk about [inaud.]?  We can be specific.  We don't have to just talk in generalities.  We can talk about putting those pay goal rules back in place.  We can talk about increasing the exemption for the estate tax to make sure farmers and businesses can pass on their businesses but we don't want to eliminate the estate tax for everybody in the country, especially those that make over $100 million.  [applause].  We don't have to do the whole $70 billion in new tax cuts that they're proposing to enact before the end of this year.  We don't have to allow every kind of earmark to be thrown into every kind of legislation, whether emergency or not, and John McCain and I have proposed legislation that would give the president the ability to make us separately vote on some of those items.  We could cut 10 to $10 billion out of that slush fund for the HMOs that they got in the Medicare -- Medicare bill.  We could do something about the $4 billion in oil industry subsidies that were put in that ridiculous energy bill [applause] that was stuffed through Congress.

And while we're at it, members of Congress this year could give up the pay raise.  We don't need to have a pay raise [applause] in the middle of all this; that would help as well.

My friends it's sort of a cliché that we need to bring the deficits down and control finances for our children and grandchildren.  Well it may be a cliché, but I'll tell you something, it's just the truth.  We're just giving them the bill.  Fiscal responsibility is not a luxury that only applies when we're not at war or when we don't have natural disasters.

No, fiscal responsibility is a way to govern in good times and bad, and I believe the American people deserve no less.  And what better place to talk about this than New Hampshire?  Well there is one better place.  It's called Wisconsin.  [laughter].  Our delegation in Congress always has the number one record for being tough on spending.  Democrats and Republicans alike.  But New Hampshire has a great reputation as a steward of the public dollar and it's the state of course -- Gramm-Rudman comes from in part this state and of course the wonderful Concord Coalition, and I've been honored to be on their honor roll every single time that they've had that honor roll.  I'm known as a deficit hawk, and our best ad in the campaign is when they had  my 21-year old daughter get on TV and try to explain how I was tough on spending and the punch line was, I think that means my dad is cheap.  [laughter].  And she delivered that line with a little bit of a punch, but it made the point.

We as Democrats should fully embrace this tradition.  We have shown fiscal responsibility and the people of this country will now believe that we can perform in this area.  We must be the party of performance when it comes to watching your tax dollars and keeping the budget under control.

Now let me turn to the other subject.  And that is to an area that is even more disappointing and perhaps shocking with regard to the performance of the Bush administration.  And that is the area that I think is the top priority over all the issues that I have dealt with.  And that is successfully pursuing the fight against those that attacked us on 9-11 2001 and the tragedy of the divergence that this administration took us into with Iraq.  Ever since 9-11 2001 and throughout 2004 re-election period until today I still believe that we have, as Democrats and as Americans, have to say look, if there are people out there who are determined to kill everyone of us, we have to stop them first.  I think Democrats should say that very clearly every day, every time.

On 9-11 and afterwards I was impressed with the Bush administration's work.  I was impressed with Colin Powell's efforts around the world and the careful effort to line up what was ultimately the invasion of Afghanistan, which I did support and which I did believe was absolutely necessary.  And so it wasn't as if this is just an across the board criticism for the sake of criticizing the Bush administration.  I understood as a matter of fact that Bush would probably get re-elected very easily if things kept going in that manner.  We had a unified country; we had people on both sides of the aisle trying to put together against this shocking series of events.

Of course there was one major exception.  The only issue I've ever had where you get a standing ovation in an introduction.  But it's of course the errors of the USA Patriot Act.   And I did read it and I was concerned and I did vote against it, but now we have a chance to fix these errors.  The Senate version of the bill does improve many of the provisions relating to library records and sneak and peak provisions.  So that needs to be fixed.  But overall I want it clear that I thought things were generally moving in the right direction after 9-11.

But this White House lost its focus by swerving to Iraq.  Now I never bought into this.  I never understood this idea, and it seemed flimsy, of trying to make the connection between 9-11 and Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and apparently the White House didn't even believe it either.  Because I've seen the State Department document that George Bush's name is on from two months after 9-11.  It was right up there on their web site.  It listed 45 countries where Al Qaeda was operating according to Bush -- Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, France, Ireland, the United States.  Just one country wasn't on their own list?  And it wasn't a typo.  Iraq was not on their list.  So I don't know if they [laughter] ever believed the connection.  But they sure had the American people believe it, because of course they're going to believe the commander-in-chief at a tough time like this if he says that there is this connection.  And I really thought it didn't make sense.  So I voted against the war, and frankly too many Democrats voted for the war.  [applause].

I think putting Iraq on the front burner instead of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden was one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in modern history.  Now most of us share this dismay with the administration's lead up to the war, and somehow they must be accountable for it.  But tonight I want to have my remaining remarks to be about the conduct of the war in Iraq as it relates to the fight against terrorism in a way that I hope makes sense to people, whether you were for the war or against the war.  Just as the administration's reasons for going into Iraq were confused at best, its planning for the war and conduct of the war has been muddled at best or aimless at worst.  Just as the administration shows shifting justifications to avoid accountability for how we got in, the administration has abandoned candor and uses slogan after slogan to try to stifle questions and to cover up errors in the conduct of the war.

You've heard it all.  As soon as there's a terrible event over there, the president says -- they say the president's going to get on TV tonight and address the war against terrorism as if it was exactly the same as what's going on in Iraq.  But he says the same thing every time.  In fact he doesn't say anything.  There's nothing new.  There's no clarity to the mission, there's no clarity, there's no candor and there is no ideal of when we can successfully finish this mission and bring home the troops.

Now my friends that's his job.  And it's not fair to the troops whom we all support because they are uniquely [inaud.] especially in light of the mistakes of this administration.  They are doing their job; he should be doing his job.  [applause].

And he's not doing his job when all he presents is this false choice.  He says we're going to stay the course and anybody who doesn't want to stay the course just wants to cut and run.  That's a false choice, and doesn't accurately represent what so many people are talking about.  He's not doing his job when he says Iraq is the central focus in the fight against terrorism because he made it so.  But it's also the case that the idea that we're going to get all the terrorists to come to Iraq and we're going to get 'em all [laughter] and then we won't have to fight them in New York or Boston.  You know why I like to call that the roach motel theory.  [laughter].  I mean if it was true it would be great, but it's not and now we have reports, if you can believe this, from Newsweek this week that there are terrorists gloating in Afghanistan because they just got back from Iraq where they learned much better techniques of how to kill Americans.  He's not doing his job when he tries to intimidate us to prevent Democrats from speaking out by saying if you propose a time frame or a timetable then the terrorists will just wait us out.  Well then why don't they just stop now?  So we just leave and then they can take over.

In fact I was in Iraq with Senator Clinton and Senator McCain and there was a moment there when I got to ask one of the top generals, sir, off the record what would you think if we announced an idea about when we might finish this mission?  And he said quote nothing would take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents better.  Our military men and women [inaud].  The problem is that until we get some sense of when we're going to finish and bring our troops home, this is the poster for recruiting terrorists.  They say it is a permanent American occupation of an Islamic country.  It is fueling the insurgency.  And that is the problem with the president's argument.  The president is not doing his job and I think he's using cheap shots when he says opponents of the war as it is being conducted do not understand the lessons of 9-11.  I suggest it is President Bush who does not understand the lessons of 9-11.  [applause].

And the larger point is this.  This isn't only about our feelings about Iraq.  Iraq is not the be all and end all of American national security when it comes to the fight against terrorism.  It's about dismantling this network that is after us everywhere from Asia to the Middle East to Europe.  It's about the fact that this Iraq war as it's been conducted has weakened our Army tremendously, and our National Guard is down to only 34 percent of the equipment that they need, and our recruiting is dangerously low and coming to a bad conclusion both for the Army and the National Guard.  It's about the weakening of our American economy and the deficits and the lack of adequate dollars for homeland security.  And yes it's about the way in which the Iraq policy has alienated so many people around the world, especially Islamic peoples who were, many of them, with us post-9-11, but who don't trust our motives any more.

My friends, Democrats and too many Democratic leaders have been too timid in laying out these facts.  We have not yet become the party of performance when it comes to national security. We cannot cede the issue of national security to the Republicans.  We tried that in 2002.  It didn't work.  The American people are only going to vote for a party that's ready to govern, internationally as well as domestically.  We cannot let the administration put a taboo on talking about finishing this mission in Iraq which it has generally been successful in doing.  And that's why I've taken the position I've taken.  Not only offering a resolution to say, hey Mr. President how about your giving us a plan and a time frame. Didn't get a lot of help on that from him or frankly from Democrats.  And when I went home in August I thought that's as far as I'd go.  But I did eighteen of these town meetings in very conservative counties in Northern Wisconsin, places like Pickerel, Wisconsin.

At least I said to somebody there I didn't think this was a radical area, and one lady said we're getting there.  [laughter].  But these were largely people who had supported the war.  Some of them had kids over there who simply could not understand why this policy was so faulty and so full of mistakes.  And so I decided to break the taboo; I decided to say the words: how about this?  How about if we take the suggestion to try to have the troops out on a flexible basis by the end of 2006?  Said the words.  That we could have a vision.  Maybe somebody else has got a better idea.  But there's nothing wrong with putting forward an idea about when this thing can be done.  It's my belief that this isn't just something that appeals to the left.  I believe it is what appeals to what used to be called middle America, which Spiro Agnew even called the silent majority.  [laughter].  Now the Administration of course says that all we're doing by saying that it's the idea of cutting and running.  But it's just the opposite.  What it is is a vision of finishing the military mission, letting the Iraqi  people have their own government, and actually bring the troops home, instead of being stuck in a quagmire.  That's what I believe it is.

But we as Democrats must be forceful on this.  It's very interesting how the Katrina issue sort of both contributed to this and was a distraction, necessary of course.  But now Senators are beginning after Katrina to talk about Iraq again. We must try to get amendments and changes in legislation, such as the Department of Defense authorization bill to have a plan or make the president come up with a plan.  And we must give sustained attention to this issue.  Through the next Supreme Court nomination, through the appropriations bills, through the work on Katrina.  When we're in recess, we as Democrats have to talk about the Iraq policy and the fight against terrorism every single day.  [applause].  Otherwise it goes away.

My friends to be the party of performance, to be successful in 2006 and 2008, and most importantly to do what's right for the American people, we have to be bold on this issue and we have to show passion for American national security and we have to have the courage not just to say the administration has failed us in Iraq, but also to propose a way to finish this war, to complete our mission, and bring our troops home.  Only then will we be able to focus thoroughly and fully on the fight against those who attacked us on 2001.

Let me conclude, even though these are tough times, and sometimes it's hard to know what the work on first, but let me conclude with what I consider to be coming good news.  I've got a great feeling about 2006 for Democrats.  I've been around long enough to watch the trends back and forth, and yeah I know we come every time to you folks and we go this election is the most important election of your life.  [laughter].  I said that in 2004 everywhere I went, and I said and this time it happens to be true.  And you know what?  It was.  It was.  And it was a very, very unfortunate result.  But 2006 can be a watershed.

I remember coming to the Senate in 1992.  I was the 57th Democratic Senator.  I was back by the candy drawer, and I was happy to be there, believe me [laughter], but it wasn't like there was a shortage on Democratic Senators.  The Democrats had run the House for 40 years.  We had a new, wonderful, charismatic president on the Democratic Party and it looked like we were going to be in control for a very long time.  Well Republicans are very smart and the Contract with America came along; our Congress was swept out of office.  We haven't had the House since.  We've only had the majority in the Senate for 18 months during that entire time, and as a result we are very unable to move the agenda that we all believe in.  We spend much of our time just trying to stop the other side.  My friends the one party rule that we had, I think was -- had its problems, but it's nothing, nothing compared to the mistakes that this one party rule is causing.  I think this country has been mismanaged and I think the people know it.  I think we can blow them away in 2006.  [applause].

And when we do, and when we do, if we do it right, if you work like you did last time, we can take both houses back and this change can indeed last for 10, 15, 20 years.  That's the kind of difference you can make if we perform next year.  So let's listen to the American people, let's choose their priorities, let's work on the best ideas and best solutions and let's be both a party of conviction and a party of performance of the American people.  Thank you for having me.  [applause].

Rockingham County Democratic chair Gary Patton made a quick announcement about local candidates and then came questions.

Gary Patton:  Now Senator Feingold, if you know anything about New Hampshire, you can predict what the first question is going to be.  [laughter].  If you decide to run for president, are you committed to the [audience joins in] FIRST IN THE NATION NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY?  [laughter, applause].

Sen. Feingold:  I tell you I think one of the most wonderful things in American politics is what you do here having the first primary.  We like to talk about Wisconsin being a laboratory of democracy.  When it comes to presidential politics this is the laboratory for democracy and I can't imagine a scenario where we'd want to change that.  Of course the first primary should be in New Hampshire.  [applause].

Gary Patton:  Okay, put away the tar and feathers, folks.

...the next question concerned the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.  Subsequent questions touched on the next generation of campaign finance reform, the president's plan to privatize Social Security, a women as a vice presidential running mate, and the influence of the military-industrial complex and lobbyists.

# # #