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Friday, August 13, 2010

 4:26 PM 

Feingold: Discussing issues not 'mudslinging'

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold repeated his charges today that GOP opponent Ron Johnson would roll back Medicare improvements and privatize Social Security during a stop in Madison.

The Middleton Democrat appeared at the Madison Senior Center to receive the endorsement of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. As the country marks the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act tomorrow, Feingold said Johnson "specifically supports turning this program over to Wall Street."

Feingold also lauded the new federal health care reform law, saying it would improve Medicare coverage for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites "without cutting a single benefit." He said repealing the law, as Johnson supports, would eliminate those improvements and reopen the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

Johnson campaign spokeswoman Kristin Ruesch responded: "Ron's first priority is honoring the promises we've made to retirees and those near retirement. For Sen. Feingold to insinuate otherwise is completely untrue, and it's shameful for him to play politics with our seniors in a desperate attempt to save his Senate seat."

Speaking with reporters after the ceremony, Feingold said he doesn't believe the tone of this year's campaign is any more negative than his past races.

"I am always going to draw contrasts between the positions. ... Almost everything we've said and everything we've said in our advertisements on TV have been about the issues," Feingold said. "His ads are about attacking the fact that I've chosen public service."

Feingold said he was disappointed he could not discuss political issues without being accused of mudslinging.

"It's not mudslinging; it's called democracy," Feingold said. "We know this is a tough year politically. My objective is to get at least one more vote than the other guy. ... That's what this is about."

The senator also defended his campaign ads against criticism from Republicans and the Johnson campaign. He said Johnson has said "what he really thinks" on Great Lakes drilling, gun rights and unemployment insurance, only to be advised to reconsider by his staff.

"You can't have both sides of all these issues," Feingold said. "I only take one side of an issue, and he is acting far more like a politician than I ever have by constantly editing what he says."

Feingold also said he'd be in the Milwaukee area on Monday to welcome President Obama to the state "with open arms." The senator said he believes that's "absolutely" good politics, but added that he didn't care about the political implications.

"Barack Obama is trying to do the right thing for America, and I am doing that with him," Feingold said. "So politics don't matter. We're trying to help the people of this country out of the mess that they were handed."


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