Feingold#039;s motives still in question

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

As most of you probably know by now, Senator Russ Feingold, who visited Greenville late last year while on vacation to play golf, will be returning to the Camellia City March 28, part of his three-stop Alabama tour that will also take him to Birmingham and Montgomery.

The senator ruffled the feathers of most residents when, in my view, he gave an unflattering description of Greenville, and its residents, on the liberal website Salon.com. I've personally read, and re-read, Feingold's op/ed piece and have come to the same conclusion each time; Feingold, upset with the outcome of the recent presidential election, used Greenville as an example to tell those that would listen how the Republican Party, or "radical conservative movement" as he described it, is ruining America.

He basically stereotyped all Greenvillians based on what he saw out of the window of his car and while ordering dinner at Bates House of Turkey. It was akin to me visiting Wisconsin and saying everyone who lived there had bad taste because of the color someone painted their house.

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There were parts of Feingold's opinion piece I agreed with, such as how the people of Alabama were generous in what they give of themselves to those less fortunate, and that Bates House of Turkey serves a good sandwich, but the rest is suspect.

I had a brief discussion with Feingold last week as I was researching the story we published on his return visit. The "vibe" I got from him was pleasant and genuinely inquisitive, but it still left me wondering what his motives really were, beyond a press op as he tries to position himself for a presidential run in 2008.

He told me his Alabama visit was a fact finding trip; a chance to learn why Alabamians are increasingly voting Republican when the majority of Alabama's municipal and county offices were filled by Democrats. He also said he wanted to try and open a dialogue between his home state of Wisconsin and Alabama.

My personal opinion on the former has to do with the reality that the national Democratic Party is in a shambles, much of it due to people all across the country finally beginning to understand that the Republican Party is not "for the rich man" as my late grandmother told my father one time, but they're for things such as traditional family values, something this country badly needs to get back to. On his wish to begin a dialogue between Alabama and Wisconsin, I think he could have found a different approach than firing a shot across the bow of the USS Alabama.

So what do we have to gain from Feingold's visit? Lots of press, that's for sure. Feingold is bringing his own press corps with him and I expect the state, and maybe national press, will take notice of the Camellia City and learn what we already know- the American Dream is alive and well here and we're a pretty forgiving lot.

They'll also learn that Greenville has a lot of good things going for it, that we're a resilient bunch that pulls together to get things done, and that we make our own decisions based on what we think is best for our families and our community. There is no "radical conservative movement" pulling the strings here, just good, honest, hardworking folks who are proud of who they are and what they've worked hard to get.

Do we need to do more to better care for those less fortunate? You bet we do. Are there things we can improve upon? You bet there are, but you can find that same story line in any city in the country, large or small, and I'm sure in Wisconsin.

I expect when Feingold leaves the Camellia City this time he won't be writing about eating turkey, but about eating crow instead.

Dennis Palmer is publisher of the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 125 or via email at dennis.palmer@greenvilleadvocate.com.