Former senator Russ Feingold looks at institutional failures, both domestic and abroad, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and proposes steps to be taken—by the government and by individuals—to ensure that the next ten years are focused on solving the international problems that threaten America.
In While America Sleeps, Russ Feingold details our nation’s collective failure to respond properly to the challenges posed by the post-9/11 era. Oversimplification of complicated new problems as well as the
cynical exploitation of the fears generated by 9/11 have undermined our ability to adjust effectively to America’s new place in the world. This has weakened our efforts to protect American lives, our national security, and our constitutional values. Ranging from institutional failures to “get it right” by Congress, the executive branch, and the media to the way we have spoken of the war on terror, the nature of Islam, and American exceptionalism, too often we have not made the best choices in confronting, in Churchill’s words, the “new conditions under which we now have
Senator Feingold explores the way in which the American public has been fed inadequate information
or mere slogans to explain 9/11, Al Qaeda, and related events. This compares unfavorably with the candor often associated with, for example, FDR’s fireside chats during World War II. Lumping Al Qaeda into a catch-all category known as “bad guys,” failing to make it clear that Islam itself is not a threat to our way of life, and underestimating the extreme difficulty of fully invading individual countries as a way to root out international terrorism are examples of this misdirection. Moreover, our general inability to keep our eyes on the international ball seems to have grown
even worse in the years following 9/11.
More than ten years after one of the greatest wake-up calls in human history, our nation seems to have again grown complacent about the issues that suddenly seemed so urgent immediately after 9/11. While America Sleeps suggests ways in which we can awaken a new national commitment to engage with
the rest of the world and one another in a less simplistic and more thoughtful way. Feingold’s hope is that when the history of this era is written, it will be said that our country was taken off guard at the height of its power at the turn of the century and stumbled for a decade in an unfamiliar environment, but in the following decade America found a new national commitment of unity and resolve to adapt to its new status and leadership in the world.
About the Author
RU SS FEINGOLD represented the state of Wisconsin in the United States Senate from 1993 to 2011. Since leaving the Senate, he has been a visiting professor at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the inaugural Mimi and Peter Haas Distinguished Visitor at Stanford University. In February of 2011, Feingold founded Progressives United, an organization devoted to challenging the dominance of corporate money over our
American democracy. Feingold, a Rhodes scholar, is an honors law graduate of both Harvard Law School and Oxford University and earned his bachelor of arts with honors from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the recipient of the 1999 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and the 2011 Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms
Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week
"In While America Sleeps, Russ Feingold takes us behind the scenes in the Congress in the time leading up to and following 9/11. In thoroughly analyzing the good decisions and the many dangerous mistakes that were made after the attacks, Senator Feingold gives us insights that should help Americans support policies that keep us and our liberties secure. This book will alarm you, entertain you, enlighten you, and prepare you as citizens to engage in the national debate about a crucial part of our foreign policies." –Senator Bob Kerrey
“While we hail from different political parties and most often disagree about the issues of the day, I have never met a more decent or honest public servant than Russ Feingold. We don’t often hear about Members of Congress with the courage of their convictions, but Russ lived that quality every day in the U.S. Senate. We waged many battles together for campaign finance reform, and I am honored to call him my friend. In his new book, While America Sleeps, Russ illuminates some of the challenges our nation faces in the post-9/11 era with his trademark integrity and independence.” –Senator John McCain
“Great senator! Great book!” –Lorrie Moore, author of A Gate at the Stairs
“Feingold offers a thoughtful prescription for elected officials and voters alike, and he invokes a passionate plea for every American to realize the momentous connections between ourselves and others around the world so that our nation is better able to proactively meet future challenges.” –Booklist
“Sage, sensible words by a leader who can now point to how right he was.” –Kirkus
“[Feingold’s] shockingly reasonable and carefully considered responses, as well as his respect for, and collaboration with, such Republican colleagues as John McCain and John Ashcroft, will make progressives, Wisconsinites, and other frustrated Americans nostalgic for the days of a more thoughtful, productive Congress.” –Publishers Weekly