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Tribune endorsement: Feingold should remain in Senate

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For the good of Wisconsin, Russ Feingold deserves to continue his service in the U.S. Senate.

The three-term Democrat from Middleton continues to lead with his principles and work in a collaborative, bipartisan fashion to strengthen our nation and its role in today’s complex world.

He grasps the complexities, especially abroad, and he continues to show a great deal of courage in tackling difficult issues in a thoughtful, forward-thinking manner with members of both parties.

There are plenty of things to like about his opponent, Ron Johnson — his business and manufacturing background, his grasp on finance, his rapid rise to become a viable candidate for U.S. Senate.

But his stick-to-the-playbook rhetoric is, at times, troubling.

The Oshkosh businessman insists that Feingold should be thrown out because he’s a career politician. When the Tribune’s editorial board asked Johnson about Republicans in Wisconsin who have been career politicians — names like Walker, Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Petri — he said he has no problem with that, because he shares their political philosophies.

Well, at least he’s honest about it.

His party-line mantra on throwing out health care reform ignores the economic reality that the current model is unsustainable and the Medicare reimbursement for the people and the health care institutions of Wisconsin are grossly unfair compared to other parts of the country.

It also ignores the business principle that the government should be paying for health care outcomes — quality of care, not just quantity of procedures and testing.

We think a real business-minded maverick would embrace that basic business practice.

Johnson does what so many Republican candidates are doing this fall — changing their tune from “repeal” to “repeal and repair” or “repeal and replace.” Of course, they only say that while backpedaling.

Johnson also criticizes the stimulus spending, saying you can’t prove a negative when asked if the economy would be worse now had we not approved the stimulus package. His focus is just on the debt.

When asked if he could point to a single accomplishment of President Barack Obama or Sen. Feingold, Johnson sat in silence for a long pause, and then allowed that he really couldn’t think of a single thing.

In other words, Johnson seems to have no interest in working in a bipartisan fashion — something that Feingold stands for and that the people of Wisconsin expect.

Feingold has consistently displayed the independent character that has made his state proud. And his breadth of knowledge and experience in foreign affairs is a big plus compared to his opponent.

Sen. John McCain, the Republican who worked with Feingold on campaign-finance reform, called his efforts “an inspiring example of civic courage.”

Feingold has also worked extensively with Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a conservative Republican and physician, on such issues as fighting AIDS in Africa and pushing the need for fiscal restraint.

Russ Feingold is no party hack. He’s a thoughtful senator who has infuriated both parties — at times, simultaneously — with his willingness to show the courage of his convictions.

We think he could have been a stronger voice on passage of health care reform. We worry about the dangers of card-check legislation and the damaging impact it could have on businesses.

But, on balance, he continues to be the independent-minded senator who will work with colleagues on either side of the aisle to push reasonable reform and effective solutions.

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