Admiring portrait of the maverick liberal who was the only U.S. Senator to oppose the Patriot Act and the first to call for a timetable for American troop withdrawal from Iraq.
Horwitt, the biographer of activist Saul Alinsky (Let Them Call Me Rebel, 1989), draws extensively on interviews with friends, family and colleagues of the 54-year-old, twice-divorced Wisconsin Democrat. Russ Feingold grew up in one of the few Jewish families in Janesville, a small farming community. His Yiddish-speaking Russian grandfather Max owned a grocery store; his father was a progressive lawyer. One of five children, Feingold early showed himself to be bright, hardworking and a self-described “renegade by nature,” waging campaigns at his high school for a more relaxed dress code and other reforms. He first tasted politics at the University of Wisconsin, where he campaigned for John Lindsay in the 1972 Presidential primary. After college and a stint as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, he attended Harvard Law, practiced briefly and won election to the Wisconsin state senate in 1982. Ten years later, at 39, he became the youngest member of the U.S. Senate. He co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform bill, passed in 2002, led efforts to censure George Bush over NSA wiretapping of international phone calls and remains a steadfast opponent of the Iraq war. Written with the senator’s cooperation, the book describes an unfailingly courageous politician who champions reform in the progressive tradition of Teddy Roosevelt and Wisconsin Governor Robert M. La Follette, often to the consternation of colleagues. “You’re not living in the real world,” Hillary Clinton told him when he objected to the Democratic Party’s efforts to gut McCain-Feingold. Noting that the Wisconsin senator has been discussed as a possible presidential contender, the author suggests that Feingold offers “a serious, authentic alternative” to Washington’s Democratic establishment.
Not an official biography, but it might as well be.