"Did you ask him about the war?"

The question was a sarcastic barb from Senator Maria Cantwell staff and supporters after I followed popular Democratic Senator Russ Feingold and his aides out to their car and scored a brief interview with the antiwar hero. Feingold, who I was told was not giving interviews, was the unlikely guest speaker at a Cantwell rally in Ballard at Whittier Elementary on Saturday, May 20. The Feingold event was an obvious attempt by the Cantwellians to put a grade-A progressive stamp of approval on her campaign. (Her campaign is having trouble drawing volunteers from the party faithful who are chagrined over her pro-Iraq-war vote and her refusal to condemn the war.)

The last time Cantwell held a pep rally in Seattle—at Garfield High School in March, starring popular Democratic Senator Barack Obama—Cantwell was embarrassed when antiwar protesters spoiled the day with banners, catcalls, and eventually a full-blown antiwar chant that drowned out her speech ["Friendly Fire," by Eli Sanders, March 23].

Cantwell did not want a repeat performance this weekend. She didn't even attend the Cantwell/Feingold event, and took preemptive efforts to muzzle the crowd. (No signs were allowed—not even the exuberant "Send Rove to Jail" sign that a local Democratic precinct committee officer and her 14-year-old daughter tried to lug in.)

More to the point, it appeared that Team Cantwell successfully muzzled Feingold. Feingold's speech made no mention of the war. The Senate's leading war critic talked about campaign finance, the budget deficit, the environment, and energy independence. Feingold—who, unlike Cantwell, voted against the war in 2002—was the first U.S. Senator to call for troop withdrawal last year, and he introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill last month that would have required U.S. forces to quit Iraq by December 31, 2006.

But Feingold's atypical reticence that Saturday merely called attention to Cantwell's war dilemma. Why was Feingold, an obvious hero to the 200 or so antiwar Democratic activists in the room, sidestepping his stump issue—"The immoral war," as the afternoon's emcee, local Democrat activist Peter House, said by way of introducing Feingold to a standing ovation?

So, yes, I did ask Feingold about the war.

Why didn't you talk about the war in Iraq today? I've been very clear about my position on the war.

Yes, Senator, you have been clear. I ask because this is a Cantwell rally and Senator Cantwell hasn't been very clear about her position on the war... I'll let Senator Cantwell speak about her position on the war. I want to focus on the things that she's a leader on...

At Feingold's second stop—in Madison Park for the 43rd District Democrats' annual spring fundraiser (this time with Cantwell in tow)—the antiwar senator failed to mention the war yet again.

And so, contrary to last weekend's agenda, there the focus remains.