Feingold Praises Warplane He Repeatedly Tried to Kill

In a bid to garner more support as he runs to recapture his old U.S. Senate seat, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has begun to praise the capabilities of a warplane that he once tried to kill. In what he has dubbed his “Fiscal Fitness” plan, the former two-term Senator and ex-Obama Administration official offers a series of policy prescriptions that he claims will save taxpayers money. One of Feingold’s proposals is to kill the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which seeks to provide the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps with a next-generation fighter, in favor of retaining F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft.

As a Senator, Feingold repeatedly sought to cut funding for the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Using both stand-alone legislation and floor amendments, Feingold vigorously waged war on military readiness by attempting to force the military to stop buying the airplane.

“The Secretary of Defense shall terminate the F/A-18E/F aircraft program,” one Feingold bill declared.

But now that he’s back on the campaign trail, Feingold has changed his tune. Calling the F/A-18 and the Air Force’s smaller F-16 “cost-effective,” the Democratic Senator is insisting that the military not buy the newer F-35 in favor of keeping older aircraft flying. Feingold is skeptical that the F-35 will perform as advertised, and his plan calls for “Replacing this program [the F-35] with purchases of existing F-16s and F/A-18s.”

That may sound good, but it isn’t a straightforward solution. Lockheed is still building F-16s for allied nations, but Boeing, which builds the F/A-18, doesn’t build the older version of the warplane anymore; instead the company exclusively manufactures the very version Feingold repeatedly opposed in the late 1990s.

Feingold’s call for the Air Force to continue its dependence on aging but still lethal F-16 is out of step with the latest thinking by defense leaders and analysts. Recently, a Congressional committee that shared Feingold’s skepticism of the F-35 being able to live up to promises, began the process of examining whether or not the F-22 Raptor, still the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world, should be brought back into production. The Air Force, thanks to budget cuts, stopped well short of buying as many of the airplanes as experts suggested would be necessary to maintain a strong airpower edge.

Why Feingold’s plan doesn’t call for increasing F-22 purchases is unclear; it could simply be that Russ Feingold opposes new warplanes that allow the military to maintain its vaunted technological superiority. Alternatively, Feingold could have omitted the suggestion because his “Fiscal Fitness” plan wasn’t about putting forward serious policy ideas and was instead designed to look tough without actually focusing on real policy ideas.

Russ Feingold’s War on the F/A-18 Super Hornet

As darkness crept across Afghanistan on a late fall day in 2011, an F/A-18 Super Hornet flown by a U.S. Navy pilot released a single precision guided munition that killed a Taliban leader plotting to carry out attacks against U.S. ground forces. In the previous decade, F/A-18s flown by Navy and Marine aviators flew thousands of missions executing air strike after air strike in support of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

When President Barack Obama insisted on reducing the number of U.S. ground troops in the country, it was aircraft like the Super Hornet that served as a force multiplier allowing the U.S. to continue to keep insurgents at bay while protecting grunts on the ground.

Fast forward to August of 2014, and a pair of F/A-18s flying from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush became the first U.S. warplanes to attack ISIS. Since 2001, the F/A-18 has seen service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and served as an important tool for both Republican and Democratic Presidents. More critically, the F/A-18’s ability to fulfill both air superiority and ground attack roles has meant that it could provide vital protection for U.S. troops waging war on the ground.

It’s not an understatement to say that the F/A-18 has saved lives.

But none of this would have been possible if Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) had gotten his way. Twice, in two successive sessions of Congress, the ultra-leftist Democrat introduced legislation to kill the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

In 1997, Feingold introduced S.520 which demanded that the Secretary of Defense immediately halt the procurement program for the F/A-18 E and F variants, which were intended to replace outdated F-14 Tomcats which were more expensive to fly and were relics of the Cold War.

“The Secretary of Defense shall terminate the F/A-18E/F aircraft program,” the legislation declared. Two years later, in 1999, Feingold introduced the exact same language in S.129.

Additionally, Feingold twice introduced amendments on the floor of the Senate to limit how many F/A-18 Super Hornets the military could buy. Large, bipartisan majorities rejected the amendments each time.

The Super Hornet is a modernized and larger version of its smaller predecessor, the F/A-18 Hornet. In the early 1990s the Navy, facing a shrinking post-Cold War budget, wanted to combine the functions of a fighter (the F-14) with an attack aircraft (A-6) and significantly upgrade the resulting plane to meet 21st Century threats.

To make the savings possible, the Navy – along with its subordinate force the Marine Corps – needed to fund the development of, and ultimately buy, the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Within the decade the military was taking delivering of the new warplane and barely into the 21st Century it would become a workhorse in the skies above the Middle East.

Why Feingold opposed the purchase of a cost-saving aircraft is unclear. According to Boeing, the current manufacturer of the Super Hornet, the plane “is the most cost-effective aircraft in the U.S. tactical aviation fleet, costing less per flight hour than any other tactical aircraft in U.S. forces inventory.” Further, upgrades to the aircraft mean it is projected to be in service until 2040, making it a relative bargain in the ever expensive world of warplane development.

Feingold’s subsequent opposition to the war in Iraq hardly offers any justification for his ardent opposition to an airplane the Clinton administration wanted for its cost savings and multi-role capabilities.

As the long-time Democratic Senator runs to regain his old seat from Wisconsin this year, national security will be – and has been – a topic of debate. Explaining to Wisconsin voters why he opposed a warplane that has kept American fighting men and women safe will be a lot more difficult than offering vague pronouncements about American policy. Voters understand the difference between opposing various wars and opposing the tools that keep American service members safe and allow them to do their job and come home. The latter is hard to justify.

Feingold Loves Sanders, But Has Relationship with Clinton

Sen. Russ Feingold, the top Democratic candidate statewide in Wisconsin this year, is sitting on the horns of a dilemma as the Iowa caucus gets underway today. Feingold really likes the socialist policies of Bernie Sanders, but he has a relationship with the powerful and vindictive Hillary Clinton. As the pair face off today in neighboring Iowa, Feingold is struggling to not alienate any part of the Democratic party as he works to take out Sen. Ron Johnson (R) in a re-match six years in the making.

The struggle Feingold faces is one Democrats across the country face. In his heart, Feingold genuinely believes that Sanders, if not his personality then his policies, represent the next best step for the country. After losing re-election in 2010, Feingold started Progressives United PAC, a vehicle for continuing his involvement in Democratic politics. In January 2015, Progressives United gave Sanders $1,000.ClintonFeingoldEmail

Last week at a Milwaukee event, Feingold praised Sanders, calling him an “honorable person” and saying he felt a kinship with the self-described socialists. Straying from his talking point, Feingold even said he and Sanders “held out” for a single-payer option in ObamaCare when it was passed in 2009. Even amid the historic federal government power grab that was the Affordable Care Act, a single-payer option was viewed as so extreme it could threaten the legislation’s passage even in a Democrat-controlled Congress.

But despite his fondness for the open socialism of the aged Sanders, Feingold does have to weigh the awful consequences of challenging the Clinton machine.

According to an e-mail from Clinton’s personal e-mail server, Feingold reached out to then-Secretary of State Clinton asking for a personal meeting in 2009. An e-mail from Huma Abedin, a Clinton confidant and aide, to Clinton’s “[email protected]” account, Feingold wanted to talk or meet with Clinton between 8am and 9am on Sunday, August 2.

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Clinton’s ownership and use of private, unsecure e-mail accounts and personal e-mail servers has become a major issue for her on the presidential campaign trail. At least 1,600 of Clinton’s private e-mails were classified, and on Friday it was reported that at least 22 of the e-mails she sent or received on her private server were “Top Secret” or higher in their classification. It is illegal to send or receive classified government information on a personal or unsecured e-mail system.

Just how long Feingold will continue to walk the tightrope between Sanders and Clinton depends on how long the Democratic presidential primary lasts. But as the race sweeps across the country and comes closer to Wisconsin (which votes on April 5), the baggage of both candidates will threaten Feingold, who needs to run as a very independent Democrat to beat Johnson and recapture his old Senate seat.