Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pleading for Relevancy in Minnesota's U.S. Senate Campaign


Three of the five men in this photo could be reached at 202-224-5641 at some point in their career.


My first job out of law school was to work for U.S. Senator Wendell R. Anderson as Legislative Counsel. The first phone number on my first business card was 202-224-5641. Rudy Boschwitz, a Republican I usually disagreed with but came to admire for a time, inherited that phone number from Senator Anderson. My government studies professor at Carleton, Paul Wellstone, earned the right to be phoned at 202-224-5641 from Senator Boschwitz.

I have a lot of emotion invested in 202-224-5641. Hubert Humphrey answered that number until 1965. Walter Mondale answered it until 1977. It was the number the Carter White House called to tell me that if I dropped Senator Anderson's bill to establish a Holocaust Memorial and thereby allow the President to take credit for the memorial's establishment, I could name a representative to the first Holocaust Memorial Commission. It was the number that Senator McGovern's staff called to ask me if we would co-sponsor a bill to legalize marijuana. It was the number they called back to in order to save my job by confirming that I had said "no" even though the bill came out with Senator Anderson as a co-sponsor.

Currently, Norm Coleman uses 202-224-5641. He doesn't deserve it. His victory in 2002 was a tragic fluke. He has tarnished the reputation of 202-224-5641 by turning his back on his more liberal upbringing and pandering to the far right in order to retain his position of power. He is now attempting to utilize my First Law of Politics (i.e., Never Assume an Informed Electorate) by having us believe that the last six years of serving as the president's lap dog were really demonstrations of his ability to exercise independent judgment and seek bi-partisan solutions.

Yesterday I posted a blog with a photo of the statue of President Harry S. Truman that stands in the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. President Roosevelt chose Harry Truman to be his running mate in 1944 largely because of the work then Senator Truman did as the chair of the committee investigating war profiteering. Senator Truman earned a reputation for determination, integrity and independence in his efforts to protect American soldiers and their supporting taxpayers from unscrupulous government contractors.

Guess who served in the same post in the U.S. Senate when the Republicans were in the majority for most of our current war effort? Here's a clue. You can reach him at 202-224-5641.

Guess how many hearings Senator Coleman held to make sure that Halliburton and other "no bid" contractors were being held accountable by the Bush Administration for the billions of wasted dollars and resulting loss of life among under-equipped U.S. troops? Here's another clue. Same as the number of Minnesota Viking Super Bowl rings. Only with less effort.

Norm Coleman doesn't really expect to run on his record. He chose to rely on McCarthy-like scare tactics to defer any critical analysis of his unwaivering support for the president's war effort. Now, as the public finally awakes to the real cost of our collective blindness, Norm is avoiding focus on his record by running television ads touting his support of Federal assistance to rebuild the 35W bridge (gee, thanks) and by having his partisan colleagues trash Al Franken.

Here's a multiple choice test for those of you who struggled with my open ended "guess" questions. Choose the letter next to your choice of the target of Norm Coleman's campaign rhetoric.
a. Senator Coleman opposes Al Franken's proposal to start the process of bringing troops home from Iraq, thereby forcing the Iraqis to make the difficult political choices necessary to stabilize their government and operate as a sovereign nation.
b. Senator Coleman opposes Al Franken's proposal to provide meaningful support for the American educational system and move away from programs like No Child Left Behind that merely prepare students to take standardized tests.
c. Senator Coleman opposes Al Franken's proposal to deal with the health care crisis by taking steps to assure that individuals won't have to rely on expensive and limited emergency room resources in order to obtain treatment for routine and preventable medical conditions.
d. Senator Coleman believes Al Franken is unqualified to serve in the U.S. Senate because his accountant screwed up and didn't file the proper tax returns in all the jurisdictions which lay claim to Mr. Franken's earnings.

If you answered "all of the above", you didn't read the question.

While each of the statements is true, only "d" is deemed worthy of discussion by the Coleman campaign and its cohorts at the office of Minnesota's Republican Party. That's the way we engage in political discourse in 2008. Norm Coleman knows that a vast majority of Minnesota voters disagree with his positions on items a, b, and c. Rather than show some leadership and try to make the case for his position, Senator Coleman is content to get folks riled up over a non-issue, like Al Franken's accountant's malpractice, smear Al Franken with the non-issue, deflect any scrutiny of the record of Senator Coleman's first term in the U.S. Senate and undermine the credibility of anyone who pursues such scrutiny.

I long for relevancy in political debate. I long for public servants who are willing to show some backbone and defend their beliefs without resorting to nonsensical character assassination. In my mind, to deserve to have your name associated with 202-224-5641, you have to be willing to stand for something greater than a shortcut to re-election. You have to have principles that are not morphed by the latest Gallup Poll or Karl Rove gameplan. If a candidate lacks those minimal criteria (note that it's not even a requirement that they share
my political views), then they ought not be allowed to besmirch the reputation of 202-224-5641 and the worthy public servants who have answered its call.

Please join me in supporting Al Franken's U.S. Senate campaign. Insist on relevancy in political debate. Give Al some money. Call 202-224-5641 and tell Norm Coleman to show some respect for his office and for your intelligence. This race is much too important to devolve into investigations of accountant malpractice. Let's decide this one on the issues that matter to all of us.

1 comment:

Maura said...

Sam, This is so right on. I was sad yesterday to see what the Coleman campaign is doing to Franken. You should send your blog to the newspaper for all to read. Thank you for your thoughts! Maura