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Monday, February 28, 2005
Who's Up and Who's Down
Minnesota 2006 Edition
So things are a little bit calmer now than they were a few weeks ago, and it's time for us to take a gander at where things stand in the races for Senate and Governor in Minnesota. Our Senate rankings are revised, and the Gubernatorial rankings brand new. We start in Washington....
Democratic Farmer Laborites
1. Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Minneapolis) (LR: 9)
Klobuchar is rapidly emerging as the candidate to beat. Yes, it's early, but Klobuchar is rapidly cashing in as a moderate Democrat in a liberal city, with a well-known (but not too well-known) name. And being a woman doesn't hurt her. She's wanted a shot at the Senate since she beat Jim Ramstad's sister for Hennepin County Attorney. Heck, she even was once touted by the good folks at Powerline, so she's got actual crossover appeal. She'll be in the mix.
2. Michael Ciresi, Partner, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi (DFL-Minneapolis) (LR: NR)
Ciresi has a ton of money--being a partner at one of the two or three biggest law firms in Minnesota will do that for you. He established his cred as a good Democrat while leading the state's anti-tobacco crusade--Skip Humphrey outsourced the job to Robins, Kaplan, and Ciresi was the lead attorney on the case. He ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2000, losing in the primaries to Dayton, but he's well-known and well-regarded, and would be a strong candidate for the seat.
3. State Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) (LR: NR)
Rukavina would soak up a good chunk of the left, and given his geographic location, a chunk of the Iron Range, as well. An early pick to be the Jerry Janezich of 2006. Unfortunately, Janezich didn't win.
4. Patty Wetterling, Activist (DFL-St. Joseph) (LR: 5)
Wetterling has been hinting that she may bypass another run at the 6th in order to try for the Senate. On the one hand, Wetterling has all the assets she had in 2004: a proven track record as an activist, a sympathetic back story, a good image statewide, and boundless energy. Unfortunately, she is vulnerable to charges of inexperience, especially on foreign policy. While this isn't as big an issue in a lower-profile race, in a campaign for Senate, the inexperience is a liability. I still think she should run for the 6th again--it's lean-right, not solid-right, and the candidates massing for the GOP are hard-right enough that Wetterling would have a great shot--but if she does seek the Senate, she'll have a good chance at the nomination.
5. State Sen. Steve Kelley (DFL-Hopkins) (LR: NR)
Kelley is well-respected, but he just doesn't have the juice that the top four candidates have. Will need to raise quite a bit of money fast to be in the running.
6. Fmr. State Sen. Jerry Janezich (DFL-Chisholm) (LR: NR)
Janezich is a firey campaigner with a demenor befitting the bartender he is. Unfortunately, he's already gone down in flames in 2000, when he won the DFL endorsement but lost the nomination to Dayton. I don't see him getting a second shot.
7. Mark Rotenberg, Counsel for the University of Minnesota (DFL-Minneapolis) (LR: NR)
His claim to fame? Chaired the Lieberman campaign in Minnesota in 2004. Well, then....Not a chance in the world of winning. Kurt Schiebel has a much better chance of securing the nomination.
8. Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-St. Paul) (LR: NR)
If she does decide to run, she'd have a good chance of getting the nomination, but not as good a chance of winning in the general. I think she actually starts out with less gravitas than Klobuchar, which means she starts behind in the "Most Popular Female Politician in the Race" race. Most likely will just run for reelection in her incredibly safe seat.
9. Justice Alan Page (DFL-St. Paul) (LR: 1)
Has said he's not interested, will instantly jump to #1 if he changes his mind.
10. Hubert H. "Buck" Humphrey IV, Professional Heir (DFL-Minnetonka) (LR: NR)
Hasn't ruled himself out. Has a last name of Humphrey. Would be a disaster if he somehow won the nomination. Fortunately, I doubt he could.
11. The Field
Dwindling rapidly. There's always a chance of a Rebecca Yanisch sighting, or that Bill Luther might get suddenly committal (although I think Luther might consider trying to retake the 6th if Wetterling runs for Senate). But the window is closing. Realistically, candidates (with the exception of Ciresi) will have to be operating at an all-but-declared level by summer if they hope to raise the cash to compete.
Falling Out: 2. Mike Hatch, 3. Judi Dutcher, 4. R.T. Rybak, 6. Bill Luther, 7. Randy Kelly, 8. Skip Humphrey, 10. David Minge
1. Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Watertown) (LR: 1)
Norm Coleman has already endorsed him. In a party with actual party discipline, that's a pretty strong signal that this is Kennedy's nomination to lose.
2. Fmr. Sen. Rod Grams (R-Ramsey) (LR: 2)
Being a former United States Senator means never having to bow to rationality. He's beloved on the right, but will he win any support if the groupthink favors Kennedy?
3. Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Rochester) (LR: 3)
Gutknecht has been penning a number of Star Tribune op-eds, which leads me to think he may indeed be eyeing this seat. But I still think in the end, he'll bow to the inevitable.
4. Brian Sullivan, Owner, Simon Delivers (R-Orono) (LR: NR)
The darling of the ultraconservative set, Sullivan would have a legitimate shot if he ran. His problem is the same as Grams'--if the right coalesces behind Kennedy (who is ideologically fine to them) Sullivan would face an uphill battle.
5. State Auditor Patricia Anderson (R-Eagan) (LR: 5)
Anderson probably stays out of this race and eyes the Governor's race in 2010. Or not. Who knows what she's thinking?
6. The Field
Again, this race is so clearly Kennedy's to lose that the only question is whether anyone is dumb enough to take him on. I think Grams is. I doubt anyone else is.
Dropping Out: 4. Randy Kelly, 6. Cheri Pierson Yecke, 7. Mary Kiffmeyer
1. Some Other Random Guy You've Never Heard Of (LR: 5)
By far the most likely endorsee.
2. Fmr. Sen. Dean Barkley (IP-Annandale) (LR: 1)
His nomination if he wants it. Does he want it? Would you want it?
3. The Field
I don't know why you'd want this thankless task but hey, good luck to you.
Dropping Out: 2. Tim Penny, 3. Sheila Kiscaden, 4. Jeff Fecke
Democratic Farmer Laborites
1. Attorney General Mike Hatch (DFL-Burnsville)
As Mark Kennedy is to the Republican race for Senate, so Mike Hatch is to this race. Clearly, Hatch has been running for this seat since around November 5, 2002. Also clearly, Hatch is the best-known and most powerful of all of the possible DFL candidates. He's succeeded tremendously as Attorney General. And he knows how to run for Governor, having run in 1990 and 1994. Far and away the one to beat for the nomination.
2. State Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson (DFL-Willmar)
Johnson is a Brigadier General in the United States National Guard. He's an ordained minister. He's the only person in the modern era to lead both parties in the Minnesota Senate, having served as Senate Minority Leader before switching to the DFL. He's extremely well-respected, and his role in rebuilding the Democrats' spirits in this state after the 2002 massacre and subsequent rollover by former Majority Leader John Hottinger should not be minimized. Biggest liability is that he's pro-life, but then again, so was the last DFLer to win the Governorship. Definitely one to watch.
3. Fmr. Metropolitan Council Chair Ted Mondale (DFL-St. Louis Park)
The son of Fritz, Mondale sought the position in 1998, and could resurface again. On the list primarily as a line of demarcation; other than Johnson and Hatch, all of the big names actually seeking office are doing so over on the Senate side. That's a function of Pawlenty's raw popularity and Hatch's standing as the presumptive nominee.
4. The Field
Mark Dayton, anyone?
1. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Eagan)
You were expecting maybe Arne Carlson? Pawlenty will have the endorsement unopposed, as is befitting a Governor with reasonably high approval ratings who has been unswerving in supporting right-wing orthodoxies. Is charismatic and likeable, even if his policies are bad for the state. Will be a formidable candidate in 2006--as will Hatch. This race is shaping up to be a great one.
1. Fmr. State Education Commissioner Christine Jax (IP-St. Paul)
I just wanted to impress you by throwing out a name that seems possible. I have no idea who the IP runs, or why.
2. Some Random Guy You've Never Heard Of
Here's your most likely candidate.
Damn That Conservative Moral Relativism
Shakespeare's Sister has an interesting take on BTK:
I’m just wondering if maybe Dennis Rader didn’t find laws against his actions quaint, too? I mean, I'm just curious if maybe the women who are brutally bound, raped, tortured, and manage to survive it, or family members of the women who don't, are offended at all that exactly this kind of treatment of other humans is considered by our new Attorney General to be acceptable under certain circumstances.
Hey, really, it's just like a fraternity prank, right?
Of course, this is what happens when we give up on values of right and wrong, and start using squishy definitions that are supposed to fit the circumstance.
Joetion Toward Compjoemize
The left blogosphere is abuzz with rumors that Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is about to break bread with GDub and throw the Preznit a lifeline on Social Security.
I think it's likely, and I think Ezra sums up Lieberman's likely thought process:
Lieberman found himself ignominiously rejected during the 2004 primaries, basically ignored during the election, branded a traitor during the Gonzales vote, and then viewed as an enemy on Social Security. The sum total of all that has been a marked uptick of interest among Democrats in finding and funding a primary challenge against him....With all that in mind, I see no real reason he'd want to languish in the Senate, condemned to a future of intraparty battles and partisan marginalization. Cutting a deal on Social Security might be his way out, because it might bring with it a new position for Joe: Secretary of Defense in the Bush administration.
Let me first of all say that I would be in favor of Joe Lieberman as SecDef, if only because it would mean an end to Rumsfeld. Given Bush's history of working with those on the left side of the aisle who have helped him, I think it's more likely that Lieberman will be outed as the love child of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden during his next reelection campaign, but hey, Lieberman can dream, right?
But understanding why Lieberman is doing what he's doing doesn't really help the left. The truth is, Lieberman can do an awful lot and still remain in the good graces of the Democratic party. If President Bayh wanted to appoint Lieberman as Secretary of State, there'd be a bit of grumbling from the left wing of the party, but not much. Right now, I'd rate the likelihood of a primary challenger agains Lieberman succeeding as somewhere between slim and none; indeed, if I were from Connecticut, I'd be supportive of him, even though he's slightly to my right.
But if Lieberman sells out the Democrats on Social Security, all that changes. He will become a pariah in the party, and rightly so. Social Security is, in many ways, the pinnacle of Democratic big governmentism, and it should be; the sumbitch has worked, and worked staggeringly well. Given that the easiest and most popular solution to the "crisis"--blowing the caps on the payroll tax--also happens to be the fairest and most in keeping with the spirit of the program, there's little reason for any Democrats to leap to a forced compromise on the issue. Especially when the President's party is currently getting destroyed by the process. Especially when the GOP has stabbed moderates in the back every time they've tried to help them.
If Lieberman crosses the aisle to try to help out Bush, then he deserves whatever he gets--and for the record, that will be a well-armed primary challenger and an enraged Democratic base.
Democracy, Whisky, Kablooie
If ever there was a neat counterpoint to the "hey! Democracy in Iraq has magically transformed the country into a magical land of liberty and prosperity!" crowd, it's today's unfortunate news that, well, it didn't.
The death of 125 Iraqis is, of course, a terrible reminder that we're not anywhere near done in Iraq, elections or no elections. Democracy is great, and I'm in favor of it--what's happening in Egypt is beyond doubt a good thing. And maybe, eventually, Iraq will blossom into the democratic regime we've all been promised.
But forgive me for being pessimistic. I've yet to see that Iraq is blossoming into a nation where people don't blow up on a semi-regular basis. Let's get to that point before we start declaring this war a success.
Microsoft Delenda Est
Firefox has pushed Internet Explorer's share of the browser market below 90% for the first time in three years.
Okay, it's a long way from destroying Ft. Redmond, but it still makes this inveterate Gates-hater smile.
Friday, February 25, 2005
Wetterling Mulling Senate
Per Flash. My recommendation to Patty Wetterling: don't. Run again in the 6th, where you'll be facing either archconservative Cheri Pierson Yecke or arch-archconservative Michele Bachmann. You've got a great shot of not only beating, but destroying those candidates (even in a lean-right district like the 6th).
Wetterling is ready for another crack at the 6th. I don't think she's ready for a Senate race yet. And I don't think she's the best candidate the DFL can put forward for that seat.
How Low Will Conservative Bloggers Sink?
Hunter directs my attention ot this post by Deacon at Powerline regarding potential Supreme Court nominees like John Hinderaker. Republicans are concerned that the most ludicrously conservative nominee get the endorsement, and they may be prepared to argue that any opposition to Hinderaker is tatamount to High Treason against the United States of America.
Are conservative bloggers dumb enough to make this argument in favor of Hinderaker?
The Name On Everybody's Lips is Gonna Be...Condi!
Condoleeza Rice, the Secretary of State for the most powerful nation on Earth, wore a stunning ensemble the other day.
This makes her totally hot, and that completely means that she's like the best Secretary of State ever, since we all know that the most important thing about being Secretary of State is not being a good diplomat, but looking hot.
Some days, it doesn't pay to get up in the morning....
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Shades of Dave Chappelle
The late, unlamented Panzerfaust Records has gone belly up--because one of the founders might be Mexican.
Oh, you poor white supremacists. I feel so sorry for you. Oh well...at least you've still got Prussian Blue.
Ezra captures what GDub's internal monologue would be like if he had such a thing.
I don't think I've read a better pro-marriage article in a long time.
Writing in Tapped, Matt Yglesias notes how it's quite all right if pro-choice activists are grumbling about the potential candidacies of Bob Casey, Jr. and Jim Langevin.
For my money, I'll take anyone with a (D) after their name right now, as long as they're not planning on becoming the next Zell Miller. I'll take Casey over Santorum every single time.
(And for heaven's sake, why doesn't Chafee get it over with and switch parties? As a Democrat, he probably easily wins reelection. As a Republican, he's probably doomed.)
The Fruits of Democracy
Jeanne D'Arc has the skinny on both Ahmad Chalabi's reversal of fortune and the almost certain degredation of the rights of Iraqis with two X chromosomes. It's a must-read.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
John Hinderaker isn't misinformed about totalitarianism. He's just on the other side.
At what point can we disregard a schoolyard bully who doesn't believe in evolution and accuses every Democrat in America--save Joe Lieberman and Zell Miller [sic]--of actively working to destroy the country?
Hinderaker is an embarassment to the State of Minnesota.
Oh, and for the record, Jimmy Carter is not a traitor. But unless you drank the Kool Aid, you knew that.
UPDATE: Incidentally, this post on Power Line's love for creationism is the shiznite. Selected fun:
Have You Heard About the Lindbergh Baby?
Michelle Malkin has her finger on the pulse of the hot new craze, cutting.
Of course, it's not hot and it's not new, it is a craze, but only in the sense that it is related to other addictive behaviors. And Malkin lays the blame at the foot of Hollywood, because Christina Ricci was a cutter, and admitted it. How dare she!
I'm not even going to dignify this with a response, other than to point you to Michelle Catalano's evenhanded, reasonable, and accurate post on what is not a craze, but a serious mental disorder that requires treatment and--more than that--sensitivity.
When the Moon Shines On the Bay
The Vikings have reportedly traded Randy Moss to Oakland in exchange for MLB Napoleon Harris and the seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft.
I'll talk more about this later, but if that's the deal, I'm all for it. So long to Randy, a supremely talented and supremely selfish wide receiver, who will one day be in the hall of fame, but who will never be the player he could have been.
And What Is The Republican Position on Social Security Again?
Well, if you believe Rick Santorum's supporters, it's that it has to go.
At least somebody's being honest....
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Where Have All My Friends Gone? They've All Disappeared.
Minnesota alt.country stalwarts The Jayhawks are quitting the business. By my lights, this leaves the vastly overrated Wilco and the soi disant reunited Son Volt as the last keepers of the flame.
More USA Next Slime
Josh Marshall finds more inanity from USA Next.
Now, I don't usually go off on rants here, but I think it's time I do.
I've never been a big fan of the AARP. Like any interest group, they've pretty much had their hand out, and they've backed a number of things I've opposed, most recently Bush's overhaul of Medicare.
But like any good interest group, they've been evenhanded; indeed, their backing of Bush's Medicare plan was perfectly in line with the AARP we've come to know, an organization willing to push for more money for seniors, and push Democrats and Republicans alike.
This is the organization that Karl Rove's slime machine is gearing up to attack. Is the AARP perfect? Far from it.
But are they a piece of the liberal puzzle, right in lockstep with Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Willie Horton, and Noam Chomsky? Don't make me laugh.
So why are they doing it? Why would Rove and Co. go after a large, nonpartisan interest group that was supporting his policies as recently as two years ago?
Simple. They're doing it because the AARP is in their way. And they will do anything they have to do to get their way.
They will destroy the AARP if they have to. They will call John Kerry insane. They will stab Ted Kennedy in the back. They will compare Max Cleland to Osama bin Laden. They will declare Jimmy Carter a traitor. And they will not hide what they are doing.
They are doing it so that their agenda becomes law. Period. It is not about what is good for the country--not even on a Reaganesqe level, where I could disagree with the man and still see that from his point of view, he was doing what he thought was best.
They are not doing this to make things better. They are doing this to cement power.
This is why I went back to the Democratic party. Because people willing to lie to advance their agenda must be opposed. I was right to back Kerry in 2004, and I am right to oppose Bush now.
The Democratic party has tried moderation. I say this now, and I mean it: it is time to fight.
We may lose some battles along the way. There is no guarantee that standing on principle will win us Congress in 2006, or the White House in 2008.
But we must stand and fight anyway. We must stand in the way of the Bush attack on Social Security. We must stand steadfast against making permanent the profligate Bush tax cuts. And--yes--with Iraq on the way to peace and prosperity and liberal democracy (or so say the neocons), it is time for us to stand up and demand that the administration tell us when our troops are coming home.
We can work on framing these issues all we want. But it is time to believe in ourselves. We are not wrong, they are not right, and if we try to meet them in the middle they will only roll us. That's been proven time and again.
I am a moderate, by temperament and ideology. But there is no moderation in Karl Rove's world. And so I close with a quote from the man who started the revolution on the right--a man who would be aghast as what passes for conservatism today: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the defense of justice no virtue.
Barry Goldwater was right about that. It's time we on the left side of the aisle realized it.
Monday, February 21, 2005
No, This Is Not a Joke
Like the Swift Boat Vets Against Kerry? You'll love the latest attack on the AARP!
Lovely, huh? And when I mention the Swifties, it's not a metaphor; this one's being run by that same crew.
Of course, where is the evidence that the AARP is against the troops and for godless homosexual lust? Well...nowhere. But you're MISSING THE POINT! If the AARP is against the president's Social Security bait-and-switch, they're against everything good about America ever and on the side of Osama bin Laden!
Now, yes, the AARP backed Bush's ill-conceived
And if you thought the AARP was nonpartisan, given that, they're, you know, nonpartisan, well...nobody's nonpartisan anymore.
The real question is whether something this blatantly ridiculous could possibly work. Sadly, as we learned last November, the answer is yes.
Rocket...I'm Takin' a Rocket....
You know, there are many rhetorical tricks to being a blogger.
Oh, you think we just put words down on Blogger? Ha! There's an art to it, or at least some small craft.
One of the best tricks to employ, especially while in the midst of a debate, is the weary sigh of an argument. It goes something like this: "Well, look, we all know that George W. Bush is intending to invade Syria, but of course you conservatives would never admit such a thing."
The weary sigh is great, because it provokes a response. If you're unlucky, your opponent keeps her head and just plows ahead, but usually she can't avoid taking the bait, and writes something like, "Sure, we are invading Syria! And you liberal scum will complain all the way to Damascus." That's some fun.
But if you're really, really lucky, and time things well, your weary sigh of an email might just cause your opponent to lose it.
Which is the response that Guru over at Minnesota Politics received when he dared to challenge the great Hindrocket.
Guru's letter wasn't friendly, but neither was it harsh. It prompted this lovely response:
You dumb shit, he didn't get access using a fake name, he used his real name.
That's some high-level discussion!
Now, Mitch has already rushed to the barricades, proclaiming that Hinderaker was in the midst of a swarm of negative criticism at the time, and lost his temper.
Sorry, the argument doesn't fly.
Power Line has been on quite the roll lately. Time blog of the year. Appearances on CNN. Universal acclaim and hits to match.
But with the good comes the bad.
Do the operators of Power Line get negative mail? Of course they do. But I just had a commenter declare that I was acting idiotically the other day. Did I let loose a profanity-laden, juvenile tirade? No. I simply engaged the person.
Do the Power Line folks get more vitriol than me? Sure. But guess what, guys? That's what the "delete" key is for. Besides, if you want to cast your own aspersions--like, say, declaring that Jimmy Carter is a traitor--then you have to be prepared to deal with people that disagree.
For what it's worth, Hinderaker has apologized. But it's a bit late. His angry response was that of a bully, of the guy so smug and self-important that anyone else is just a bit dumber and a bit slower and a bit less worthy.
I've met his kind before; they always flame out in the end. As for me, I think it's now safe to say that Power Line has begun its slow fade back into obscurity. Opinion journalists--which is all bloggers are--tend to survive in direct proportion to how well they realize that other people may hold differing and equally valid opinions. There's no evidence of that from Hinderaker.
Hunter S. Thompson
People will call Thompson's evident suicide a waste, and of course it is. Suicide is a difficult ending for the normal to conceive of, even for those of us who have heard its twisted siren call.
But Thompson was, of course, a man of excess. Perhaps he didn't use drugs as much as he boasted, but he used nonetheless; if he suffered from depression, the drugs would only have thrown the oscillations of that disease into higher relief. It is sad to say, but perhaps it is remarkable that Thompson lasted as long as he did before succumbing to his demons.
Regardless, Thompson will be remembered, first and foremost, as a great writer. Whether Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was truth, fiction, or both, it's an entertaining yarn; Thompson's writing crackles with wit and subtext. When you wonder why the world mourns this man today, it is because he was supremely talented.
Yes, his writing tailed off in his declining years. So what? He will be remembered for his work of the early seventies, long after we bloggers have been forgotten.
UPDATE: Giblets has an opposing view.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Global Warming Real
From the Financial Times:
A parcel of studies looking at the oceans and melting Arctic ice leave no room for doubt that it is getting warmer, people are to blame, and the weather is going to suffer, climate experts say.
Yes, it is. Unfortunately, the reality-based people are not in charge here.
I've given up, though, on finding a solution, because all available evidence is that we won't. There are none so blind as those that will not see, and the administration has no interest whatsoever in curtailing fossil fuel use, despite the fact that it would both help the environment and reduce the funding for terrorists.
But heck, what do I know? I'm just a guy with a blog, living in Minnesota. Global warming will be great for us, at least until the North Atlantic Current shuts down, plunging us into an ice age.
But that'll happen after 2010, so what does our president care?
Fafnir defines it.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
The Daily Show does blogs. As usual, they do it well.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Life on Mars?
Well, Howard Dean sure did it. He told a racist joke, and at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus:
"You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room?," Dean asked to laughter. "Only if they had the hotel staff in here."
What, you don't see how that's racist? You think that's a pretty standard Democratic party joke, sort of like the one about Teddy Roosevelt and the guy whose dad was a dimmycrat?*
Well, you just don't want to see!
Please. Was Dean saying that all black people are servants? Hell, no! He was saying that's how the Republican Party treats black people--and as noted liberal Ramesh Ponnuru says:
Give me a break. Dean is saying, hyperbolically, that there aren't many blacks or other nonwhites in the Republican party. He's right. I've been to many, many Republican dinners where most nonwhites present have been serving the food. (Or giving the keynote.) If Republicans are bothered when people make that observation, they should try to make it less true.
*The joke goes like this: Teddy Roosevelt was speaking to a group of citizens when one old coot came running in, shouting, "I'm a dimmycrat! I'm a dimmycrat!"
"Well," said Teddy, "why are you a Democrat?"
"My father was a dimmycrat, and his father was a dimmycrat, and that's why I'm a dimmycrat!"
"Well," said the president, haughtily, "what if your father had been a horse's ass, and his father had been a horse's ass? What would you be then?"
"Easy," said the man. "I'd be a Republican."
Buckle Your Seat Belts Part Deux
So yesterday, we were talking about the odd recent history of Minnesota in gubernatorial election years. '90 featured skinny dipping and insufficiently devout Jews, and '94 featured a party dumping an incumbent and the worst DFL candidate in the past century.
But if you want truly, amazingly, mind-bendingly weird, that was about to happen, in the year....
Arne Carlson was stepping down after two terms as a reasonably successful Governor. The battle to succeed him would be fierce. On the Republican side of the aisle, the man to beat was Norm Coleman, a recent convert to the Grand Old Party and a wildly popular mayor of Saint Paul.
Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the Minnesota's capital city, Saint Paul is a great place to live, and a city with phenomenal neighborhoods. In the early '90s, it also featured a downtown in which you could've detonated a tactical nuclear warhead at 5:15 in the afternoon and not killed a soul.
Saint Paul was dead. Its offices were empty, its retail was moving out. Norm Coleman changed that. He had aggressively courted business. Yes, he may have gone overboard here or there, but anyone familiar with Saint Paul before Norm and after Norm knew, deep in their hearts, that he had done a great job with the city.
Coleman wasn't alone in the race, though. Challenging him was the standard-bearer of the Christian Right, Allen Quist. Quist didn't have the sheer popularity of Coleman, but he controlled a large enough faction in the GOP that he could potentially deny Coleman party endorsement.
It didn't come to that. Norm Coleman, the man who had appointed a transgendered deputy mayor, came out strong against gay rights. He proclaimed loudly his pro-life status. He played up his affinity for cultural conservatism of the most rigid kind. This had the intended effect. Quist stepped aside and endored Coleman; he had a clear field for the primary. But it had an unintended effect as well.
Coleman had been a Democrat just two years before. Many of his supporters were moderate Democrats who had thought Coleman might be a slightly more conservative version of Arne Carlson--mainstream Republican, yes, but not doctinaire. Coleman's merger with Quist served as a wake-up call, driving a wedge between them and Norm that would linger throughout the race.
But those disaffected Dems had scarcely better choices on the left. The race was dominated by the sons of former politicians. The major contenders were State Sen. Ted (son of former Vice President Walter) Mondale, Hennepin County Attorney Mike (son of former Governor Orville) Freeman, and Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III.
The "My Three Sons" race quickly turned into a two-man battle. Freeman won the DFL endorsement, and Humphrey decided to challenge him in the primary. Humphrey felt, somewhat justifiably, that his recent performance in leading the nation in attacking tobacco proved his mettle. Besides, he was better-funded and better-connected; Skip beat Freeman easily in the primary.
There was another primary that day. The tiny Reform Party had recently gained major-party status, thanks to Dean Barkley's better-than-5% showing in the '96 Senate rematch between Wellstone and Boschwitz. The party got state funding and automatic ballot access, and so they were allowed to run a candidate. Like any good third party trying to build a name and grow support, they chose a B-list celebrity.
Jesse Ventura was a noontime fixture on the local sports talk station, KFAN. He had been mayor of a midsize suburb, Brooklyn
The race opened with Skip Humphrey holding a slim lead over Norm Coleman, with Ventura in the high-single digits. It may have ended that way, if not for a fateful decision.
Humphrey had tapped Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe for Lieutenant Governor; Moe was bereft of charisma, but he'd been around for a long time and he held the Senate in line. Moe advised Humphrey that he needed to get Ventura into the debates. The thought was that Ventura would come off as a conservative, and blunt Coleman's support.
And it seemed like a good idea. Ventura was entertaining, but he wasn't a threat. During an early debate held up on the Iron Range, when asked a question about the IRRRB--an agency dedicated to revitalizing the region--Ventura admitted he didn't know what it did. You could almost sense the cognoscenti chuckling. Meanwhile, Skip Humphrey declared that he had a large program that would make the IRRRB better, while Norm talked about how we needed to cut the IRRRB.
That was pretty much the election. Skip calling for big programs, Norm calling for cuts, and Ventura standing between the two saying, "Heck, I don't know."
But Ventura benefitted from something that nobody was fully aware of at the time. The whole state was pretty much sitting in the middle, saying "Heck, we don't know!" Humphrey's vision seemed straight out of 1973, while Coleman's seemed straight out of South Dakota. Neither was especially compelling, and as they both hammered at their base, the middle started to expand.
Ventura slid up slowly. 12%. 15%. It was around 15% that he admitted he thought legalizing prostitution and marijuana wasn't a bad idea. Such musing might kill a different candidate, but the state thought all the more of him, because while Norm and Skip hewed to the talking points, Jesse seemed to actually be telling the truth. Ventura scored more points noting that FCC regulations kept him off the air at KFAN, while Humphrey--the sitting Attorney General--and Coleman--a sitting mayor--campaigned while drawing taxpayer funds. And all the while, Skip proposed big programs, and Norm proposed cutting things.
Enter Bill Hillsman. Last seen helping Paul Wellstone upset Rudy Boschwitz eight years before, Hillsman was brought on board to help Jesse. The ads Hillsman crafted--featuring Ventura as an action figure fighting "Special Interest Man" and--imagine Pawlenty doing this--as a nude in the pose of "The Thinker" were a perfect fit for Ventura's cartoonish personality. Like Wellstone's ads, they worked not just because they told you about Ventura, but because they captured the essence of Ventura.
By the final debate, Ventura was in the mid-twenties. He was still out of striking distance of the big two, but it was clear that he'd be remembered. I was at that last debate, and at a little reception afterward, and the reception was really the story.
Skip entered the reception hall for approximately two seconds before departing. Norm breezed in, glad-handing the folks in the room quickly without actually getting caught saying anything, then left.
Ventura came in, grabbed a snack, and started talking to folks. My friend Don--then in law school--asked Ventura about his lawyer-bashing. Ventura talked about suing Vince McMahon and representing himself in a lawsuit filed during his tenure as mayor, admitted that part of his lawyer attacks were for show, and made a good point about bringing non-lawyers into the legislature while simultaneously saying he respected the profession.
It was about a ten-minute conversation. Now, my friend Don is a smart guy, he's a nice guy, and he can name the lineup of every 1980s hair metal band. But Don was just a law student.
And yet Ventura was willing to talk to a random guy for ten minutes about something, giving and taking all the while.
It summed up the election, and how it felt to the State of Minnesota. On election day, some internal polling was suggesting Ventura might just win the thing.
I will never forget that evening--the most memorable election day I've ever seen. Ventura opened in early returns at 31%, behind Humprey and Coleman in the mid-thirties. "Come on, Jesse!" I roared, and then watched, dumbfounded, as he passed Coleman.
And then, about a half-hour later, he passed Humphrey, too.
The lead was solid. Humphrey drifted to third as Saint Paul and Minneapolis finalized their reporting, and as the percent of the vote crept up, it was clear that there just weren't enough votes in the L for Coleman to get over the top. Jesse Ventura, wrester, talk show host, actor, and celebrity was the Governor-elect of Minnesota.
Ventura failed to live up to his promise, as we all know. But for those of us who watched the '98 race, it was clear that the most deserving candidate won. While Humprhey meandered about expecting to win because he was Hubert Humphrey's son, and while Coleman glided around expecting to win because he helped broker the return of the NHL to Minnesota, Ventura just went out and talked directly to the people, didn't pull any punches, didn't lie about what he believed, and didn't pretend to be something he wasn't. Jesse won because he alone realized that the election was, first and foremost, a judgement of the people.
The 1990 election was a romantic quest--the rise of Wellstone, the perserverance of Carlson.
The 1994 election was irony--Carlson winning in no small part because of Quist's attempted coup.
The 1998 election was comedy--Ventura making a mockery of the two major parties.
The 2002 election was tragedy.
Paul Wellstone stood again for reelection. He had promised twelve years before that he wouldn't, that he would serve two terms and retire. But Wellstone had been a Senator for more than a decade, and he knew now how much of a role seniority played. Besides, he knew the Republicans were gearing up for a major challenge. He didn't want the seat to swing to the right. So Wellstone forthrightly stood up, announced he was changing his mind, and placed his fate in the hands of the people.
Meanwhile, the GOP was gearing up with fervor. Wellstone confounded them--he was very liberal, even for the DFL. And yet there were a number of swing Republicans who would vote for him because he seemed honest and truthful. That Wellstone now seemed to have the opportunity to be Minnesota's Senior Senator for almost two decades was too much. House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty initially stepped up to challenge Wellstone, until he received a call from Vice President Cheney himself. Pawlenty was told to step aside, and make way for the former mayor of Saint Paul, Norm Coleman.
Coleman and Wellstone was a matchup that had political junkies on both sides of the aisle salivating. Coleman had come off well on election night of 1998, pledging to work with Ventura and generally behaving like a decent human being. Then he'd gone back to work for three more years in Saint Paul, and the city was still in great shape. There was a general sense that Coleman would've won the '98 but for the amazing appearance of Ventura. He was clearly the most popular, most charismatic, best overall candidate in the Minnesota Republican party.
Meanwhile, Paul Wellstone was a popular two-term Senator with a reputation as an honest man. He was one of the few bright spots in a decade of frustration for the DFL. He was far and away the most popular candidate on his side of the aisle.
With the two clearly aimed at each other, the campaign began early and with vitriol aplenty. Norm Coleman made an immediate tactical error: he began to attack Wellstone on credibility. His ads, which noted Wellstone's twelve-year pledge, asked whether Wellstone was honest.
But for an attack to land, it helps if it reflects reality and doesn't apply to the candidate making the attack. Wellstone responded with a great ad showing Norm Coleman at the '96 DFL Convention, proclaiming "Paul Wellstone is a Democrat, and I am a Democrat. We have to work together to elect Bill Clinton." If Wellstone was a flip-flopper for running for a third term, Coleman appeared completely spineless.
Coleman might have had an opening to attack Wellstone for voting against the Iraq war--this was, of course, at a time when we actually thought Iraq was a threat. Wellstone had told his good friend, Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN), that he knew the vote might cost him the election, but he had to vote his conscience. Minnesotans, of course, were familiar with the Senior Senator. They weren't surprised that Wellstone voted as he did; indeed, they respected him for voting his conscience on a controversial issue. As the race entered the home stretch, Wellstone held a slim but consistent lead over Coleman. He appeared to be on his way to victory.
Meanwhile, over in the other major race, Tim Pawlenty was battling businessman Brian Sullivan to see who could be more conservative.
Pawlenty is seen as stridently conservative today, but at the time he was viewed as the moderate candidate. Sullivan had inherited the Quist mantle, and he would fight Pawlenty tooth and nail, losing the party's endorsement late in the night. Sullivan, though, would step aside, allowing Pawlenty a free pass through to the general election.
On the left side of the aisle, the DFL was struggling to find a candidate who could reclaim the Governorship for the party. The race boiled down to three candidates: State Auditor Judi Dutcher, a former Republican who had switched to the DFL; State Senator Becky Lourie; and Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, who had run for Lt. Governor on the ill-fated Humphrey campaign four years prior.
The jockeying for position was fierce. Dutcher was backed by clear-eyed realists who wanted a winner, Lourie by the left wing of the party, and Moe by the party apparatus and the Iron Range. At the convention, Lourie dropped out and threw her support for Dutcher. It appeared Dutcher would get the nod, but Moe stayed strong, and squeaked out the endorsement. Dutcher, a recent party switcher, recognized that it would be difficult for her to win a primary, and dropped out as well. Moe had the field cleared for him.
Meanwhile, two other major parties fielded candidates. The Green Party--viable thanks to the showing of Ralph Nader in 2000--fielded the affable Ken Pentel, an activist with a good sense of humor and hard-left policy positions.
Meanwhile, the Independence Party looked for a successor for their incumbent Governor. Jesse Ventura had presided over a tumultuous four years, filled with odd escapades and rancorous debate. The party had disaffiliated with the national Reform Party over their endorsement of Pat Buchanan in 2000, and it was clear that they weren't in position to sweep to power yet.
In 2002, Ventura had pushed a budget proposal that included higher taxes, only to have the bill scuttled in a backroom agreement between Moe and Pawlenty. The two candidates had known that their Gubernatorial fates rested on beating Ventura, and not allowing their primary challengers to raise the issue of taxes. Ventura finally reached his limit, and announced he would not seek reelection.
The party struggled to field a candidate who could compete at Ventura's level. Initially, speculation surrounded Education Commissioner Christine Jax, but the party found a better candidate in former Rep. Tim Penny. Penny, a conservative Democrat, joined the Independence Party and pledged to address the budget honestly, and to pursue socially tolerant policies.
The race broke out at an even three-way split. Some polls put Penny in front, some favored Pawlenty, some showed Moe winning. It was clear that the race was going to come down to the wire, and any one of the three could win. Pawlenty captured a bit of a late edge, campaigning for special driver's licenses for non-citizens, something both Moe and Penny opposed. But going into the last weeks of the campaign, it was truly anyone's ballgame.
It was a funeral they were flying to, up on the Iron Range. State Sen. Tom Rukavina's father had died. Wellstone was campaigning hard--he was to appear with Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy later in the day--and he was in the midst of a tough fight. But he wanted to go and pay his respects, and so he and his wife and his daughter got into a small plane, along with two aides and two pilots, and flew into icy weather.
The snow was falling lightly, but it was nothing unusual for Northern Minnesota. The plane came in for its final approach at Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport.
It never made it.
The plane crashed in a fiery explosion. The Senator, his wife Sheila and his daughter Marsha, his aides Mary McEvoy and Will McLaughlin, and the pilots, Michael Guess and Richard Conry, all died upon impact.
What followed was grief, followed by disaster.
Just hours after Tom Harkin broke down crying on the steps of the Capitol, the DFL was forced to move forward, selecting a candidate to try to hold onto what had suddenly become an open seat.
The party turned to an old friend, Walter Mondale. Mondale was old, and had been retired from politics for almost twenty years, but he was one of the few people with the stature to run right from the get-go. It was agreed that Mondale would make his announcement after Wellstone's memorial service on October 30.
It was at that memorial that all Hell broke loose. Somehow, in the grief and chaos of the moment, nobody thought to vet the eulogies to be given that night. The first few speeches were moving, even heartwrenching.
Then came Rick Kahn's eulogy.
His speech started out well, talking about being mentored by Paul Wellstone, and his respect for Wellstone's passion and fire. It was a bit partisan, to be sure, but then again, so was Paul.
But the speech slid quickly off the rails. First, Kahn started saying that the Democrats needed to win the election for Paul Wellstone--a call that didn't sit well with the middle of the spectrum. Had he stopped there, it might have been okay. But he didn't. He instead made a direct plea to the Republicans to all but step aside and let Walter Mondale win.
The speech turned the grief over Wellstone inside out. The right played the media well, to be sure, but there was no doubt that Kahn's speech--bourne of grief and loss, not malice--opened the door. Had someone thought to ask Kahn what he would say, maybe a clearer head could've softened the edges.
But nobody did, and by the next day, the race had inexorably changed.
In the Senate race, Coleman would edge Mondale.
The Governor's race, ironically, was transformed even more. Those erstwhile Republicans who had been backing Tim Penny came home to Tim Pawlenty, while Roger Moe--who had been hoping to ride Wellstone's charisma to office--found no similar movement on his side. Pawlenty would win easily, Penny would take less than 20%, and Moe would become the third consecutive DFLer to fail to break 40%.
Had Paul Wellstone's plane not crashed, it's likely he would've won his race. The Governor's race is far less certain; Pawlenty had the momentum going into the final weeks, but that momentum could've changed in a normal campaign.
But there was nothing normal about 2002, except for the fact that there was nothing normal about it.
And so we come to now. 2006 has already seen a bit of weirdness, with an incumbent Senator stepping down. But what comes next is anybody's guess. Could a third-party candidate win? Could an incumbent Governor get dumped by his own party? Could there be a race-shattering scandal? Could tragedy strike?
All of these have happened already. What could happen next year may shock us all. Or maybe, just maybe, we'll have our first normal election since 1986, when the candidates talk about the issues, discuss the future of the state, and win or lose on their merits.
That outcome, indeed, might be the most shocking of all.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Threatening my health with sickle cell anemia.
What next? Will they use their immigrant wiles to infect me with Tay-Sachs disease? Or possibly Cystic Fibrosis? The mind boggles.
Cease and Desist
The Tulsa World's attorneys evidently haven't studied much copyright law. Sorry, guys, but there is exactly zero chance of success in this case. Michael Bates may not come from the same place on the political spectrum as I do, but who cares? Linking and quoting articles in the paper is not a copyright violation under even the most torturous of defininitions. It's fair use.
I'll be happy to donate to the defense fund--assuming the letter isn't retracted quickly.
Buckle Your Seatbelts
2006 is coming up, and if you're a Minnesotan, you know it's going to be weird.
It's always weird in Gubernatorial election years here. I don't know why. Maybe it's the cold. Or the influence of the Taxpayer's League. Or lutefisk--God knows that stuff can cause brain damage.
As we start moving on toward our next act, it might be good for those of you who aren't overly familiar to look back at the past sixteen years in Minnesota politics, in what I like to call Minnesota: Cavalcade of Insanity....
Incumbent DFL Governor Rudy Perpich has gone 'round the bend. Not content to have brokered the deal for some big mall, Perpich is making noise about supporting a bid for the '96 Olympics. Meanwhile, he's complaining about his official state portrait in the Capitol--from his first go-'round as Governor--and demanding it be replaced with one featuring his wife, Lola. Now, Perpich is one of the great characters in Minnesota history, but by this point Newsweek has dubbed him "Governor Goofy," and the nickname fits the attitude of Minnesotans. Perpich faced a strong challenge from a former state commissioner named Mike Hatch; Hatch ran as a pro-choice candidate, and while he didn't upset Perpich, he did some damage.
Meanwhile, over on the other side of the aisle, the Independent-Republicans (yes, that's what they were called back then) are locked in a battle for the soul of the party. Moderate State Auditor Arne Carlson is popular and well-liked by the state at large, and he fits ideologically in a long line of moderate-to-liberal Republican pols; polls show him beating Perpich easily. The party, however, opts to go with hardline conservative Jon Grunseth, thus ushering in the era of fiscal and social conservativism that is the hallmark of the party today.
Well, actually, funny story: it turned out that nine years earlier, Grunseth had invited three teenage friends of his daughter, and, unfortunately, his daughter, to go skinny-dipping with him in the family pool. Then, it turned out Grunseth had been having an affair for about a decade, and had divorced and remarried while carrying on with the same mistress throughout.
Needless to say, these revelations damaged the Grunseth campaign fatally. As Grunseth limped along, and Perpich drug the press corps to Lake Itasca for no evident reason, Carlson launched a write-in campaign. When Grunseth finally dropped out a few weeks before the election, the IRs turned to Carlson, the runner-up in the state primary, to fill the void. Carlson edged out Perpich in a close race in which, oddly, the DFLer was pro-life and the GOPer was pro-choice. A candidate who hadn't even had his party's nomination the month before was the Governor-elect. Governor Goofy was off to become a minister in the Serbian government. I am not making this up.
And this isn't even the most memorable election of the last twenty years.
Incumbent Senator Rudy Boschwitz (R-MN) was reasonably popular. Oh, sure, he'd voted "present" on the ethics charges against his fellow Republican David Durenberger, but nobody blamed him; the vote had been 98-0-1, and Minnesotans generally thought Boschwitz did the right thing to support his friend morally without actually voting no. And Rudy had a great schtick going--he gave out Root Beer-flavored milk at the state fair, and was more apt to be seen in plaid flannel than a suit and tie. No, Boschwitz seemed unbeatable.
The DFL, perhaps sensing this, decided that they may as well run some well-intentioned sacrificial lamb, maybe someone who would energize the left wing of the party. Hey, with a pro-lifer in the governor's mansion, they needed a lefty in the other big race. The party endorsed and nominated a short, verbose professor from liberal Carleton College. His name was Paul Wellstone.
The early polling showed little hope for Wellstone. He was mired in the twenties in the summer--not 25% behind, but 25% support. There was no hope for him. Most eyes were on the Governor's race.
Of course, we all know what happened. Wellstone ran some fantastic ads, put together by Bill Hillsman. His "looking for Rudy" ad showed him visiting Boschwitz's Minnesota office, only to be turned away. His other ads featured him talking quickly, because he had so little money he had to squeeze everything in. And of course, there was the battered old green bus that was the antithesis of a modern campaign vehicle.
Wellstone was honest, that much was obvious. And he was passionate, and he believed. Minnesotans liked him--how could you not? And the week before election day, there were almost as many Minnesotans ready to vote for Wellstone as Boschwitz.
If Boschwitz had kept his cool, Wellstone might not have won. Oh, he would've been a formidable contender for the open seat in '94, but '94 wasn't a good year for Democrats. Perhaps, if Rudy could've just kept it together through that last weekend, Wellstone would be just a footnote in Minnesota political history, and a popular professor at Carleton to this very day.
Half of me is glad Boschwitz blew it, and half of me kind of wishes he hadn't.
But Boschwitz did blow it, and how. A proud Jew, Boschwitz authorized a letter to be sent out on campaign stationery. The letter detaled how Wellstone--also a Jew--was not as observant as Boschwitz. Worse, Wellstone's wife, Sheila, was a non-Jew, and their "children were [being] brought up as non-Jews."
The letter killed Boschwitz. Jews found it patronizing. After all, since when had all Jews believed all things exactly the same? And who hadn't heard of interfaith marriages? Meanwhile, Christians asked themselves, hey, why is it wrong for someone to raise their children Christian?
Wellstone didn't win by much, but he won. Boschwitz became the only incumbent to lose in 1990. And Minnesota gained a senator who we could be proud of, even if we stood a little to his right.
The 1994 Senate election featured none of the craziness of 1990. Outgoing Republican Senator David Durenburger had been admonished by the Senate five years earlier and chose not to run for reelection. Into the breach stepped Rep. Rod Grams, a former TV news anchor who was certainly conservative, but reasonably telegenic. The Democrats turned to House Majority Leader Ann Wynia. Unlike Paul Wellstone, Wynia was largely charisma-free; she was known as a solid legislator, but she couldn't electrify a fishbowl with a toaster. In a year where the Republicans were winning nationwide, this race followed the script. Wynia didn't lose by much, but she lost.
Of course, she might have won--but for the Governor's race.
In 1994, Arne Carlson was a popular Governor. He'd governed as a centrist, and had reaped the benefits. It hadn't hurt that the Democrats were hell-bent on destroying their House majority in scandal after scandal under Speaker Dee Long; the Democrats would later prove they'd learned nothing by turning to Irv Anderson to helm the House, and in 1998, they'd lose their majority altogether.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Carlson was popular, and would've been tough for anyone to beat. So obviously, his party decided to put aside the weirdness of his ascendancy four years before and endorse him heartily, right?
Not a chance. The conservative wing of the Independent-Republican party was ascendant, and they were not going to stand for a moderate like Carlson in charge. (He'd backed gay rights, fergodssake!) So the party threw him over for former State Rep. Allen Quist.
Quist was almost a caracature of a conservative; today, he'd be slightly too lefty for the Republican party, but at the time, he was running a campaign long on social issues and demonization.
Carlson didn't take the lack of party endorsement lying down. He stood in the GOP primary against Quist. The campaign was bitter--Quist ran a commercial with Bill Clinton and Arne Carlson dancing around with kids singing "Clinton and Carlson/Carlson and Clinton/Not a lot of difference between 'em."
Carlson won the primary, and won it fairly easily, no doubt facilitated by Minnesota's open primary rules. It was the end of the road for that type of Minnesota Republican, however. A year later, the party would officially drop "Independent" from its name. Today's Republicans would find it fitting, no doubt, that Arne Carlson was the last of the Independent-Republicans.
Meanwhile, the Democrats looked poised to nominate the charismatic former Minneapolis police chief, Tony Bouza. Bouza was popular and charismatic, and while he'd lost the party's endorsement to State Sen. John Marty, Bouza was leading the polls as the primary neared.
Then, unfortunately for Tony, disaster struck: someone read his book. In his book, Bouza had written that he wanted to ban all handguns. When asked about the statement, Bouza said forthrightly that he had, indeed, meant it.
Needless to say, in a state where the NRA has some swing, such a statement made him unelectable. He instantly dropped, leaving the race between Marty and Mike Hatch, who was back, this time challenging from the right of the party.
The race was close--Hatch was born up on the Iron Range, and he did well there--but Marty won the endorsement.
He then proceeded to run the most ham-handed, lackluster campaign in recent memory.
How badly did Marty suck? It's hard to quantify. Suffice to say that Marty never hit when he could draw blood, and never put up his guard when his opponent counterpunched. Marty hailed from the left wing of the party; Carlson had just proven that he was not beholden to the right.
In the general election, Marty took 37% of the vote, and Carlson well over 60%. DFLers grumbled that the depth of Marty's defeat cost Wynia the election. They may be right.
As a bonus, the IR accidentally nominated a nuball for AG.
Sharon Anderson was a popular host of a local talk show. And Sharon Anderson won the IR nomination.
But Sharon Anderson wasn't that Sharon Anderson. She was a borderline-psychotic who, while being interviewed by local doyenne Barbara (Arne's Ex) Carlson, went off on a tangent about using eggshells to keep her hair clean. Carlson whispered into the mic, "Skip...stay healthy."
Skip, of course, was Skip Humphrey, the son of the late Vice President. He won this race easily.
His next race would be tougher.
Tomorrow...the fantastic, astounding conclusion!
Monday, February 14, 2005
Jeff Gannon, Male Prostitute
Look, I don't care that James Guckert is gay. That would probably be about the least interesting thing about the Jeff Gannon saga.
But now it appears that yes, indeed, Jeff Gannon was a male prostitute.
Now, the Secret Service does a good job. Generally, they're pretty good at running background checks, and finding people of questionable background and keeping them more than a few hundred yards away from the President of the United States. And yet "Jeff Gannon" was able to ask a question of the President of the United States, and he did so in the White House press room.
Under an assumed name.
With a defaulted tax judgement against him.
With a history of prostitution.
While working for a five-day-old news agency.
If you don't see something odd about this story, you've drunk the kool-aid and there's no coming back for you. When Bush rounds up the bearded--"Too close to islamomagicians"--you'll shrug, and say they had it coming.
For those not living in the fever swamp, though, this story raises intensely troubling questions about the current White House press office. Among them:
I don't know the answers to these questions, but it's time we started asking them. A free press is the bedrock of our democracy. I expect the government to try to spin the media. But when the government starts engaging in media tactics more befitting a tinpot dictatorship than the world's leading light of liberty, it troubles me. (And yes, righties, it would trouble me no matter the president, or his party; some things are right and some are wrong. This one here is wrong.)
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Given the lowly state of the T-Wolves this year, it's unsurprising that Flip Saunders was fired. But before we usher Flip off into the night, every Timberwolves fan worth their salt should give a hearty thank-you to Phil from Minneapolis.
Flip, you brought this team from obscurity to title contender. You were a good coach, and will be again, and sooner than later, I suspect. You brought class and style to the organization, and we won't forget you.
As for the start of the McHale era, well, should be interesting. As for who coaches the Woofies next year, my early money is on Raptors coach Sam Mitchell. But we shall see.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Dean is In
Howard Dean has officially been elected Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
It's not a move without risk. That's why I like it. Yes, yes, Dean has his issues--one of the reasons I was strongly against him when he was running for president.
But DNC Chair is not the Presidency. Dean will be partisan, yes, but he's supposed to be. And Dean has already shown signs of understanding well his role, pledging to let Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi set the agenda for the party (although, hopefull, Dean will help them actually sell it).
What Dean represents is a break from the past--a repudiation of the Terry McAulliffe/Bob Shrum/Donna Brazille nexus of failed apparatchiks. Thanks to his popularity with the rank-and-file, Dean is positioned to clean house in ways that Martin Frost, for example, could not have.
That does not mean that Dean is the perfect choice for DNC Chair--but of course, there is no such thing. What Dean does represent, though, is proof that the Democrats are ready to start thinking bigger than "boy, if we can just slightly alter this policy position, we'll gain back 1.2% of the electorate!" What we were doing, simply, wasn't working. Dean may succeed, or he may fail, but given where the Democrats are right now, the worst that can happen is that our position will be unchanged.
Why I Don't Care About Eason Jordan
So Eason Jordan has resigned, and the usual suspects are atwitter.
I know the right is all excited about bringing down the most powerful man in basic cable news who doesn't work for FOX or Comedy Central, but I'm sorry, I don't care.
So Eason Jordan said some dumb things? Yeah, he did. Should he quit because of them? Not just because of them, but also because he failed Fecke's Laws of Scandal: disclose now, disclose everything, disclose to everyone. Eason pretty much did the opposite, and nobody with that much of a tin ear for public relations should be running a news operation.
So fine, Eason Jordan lost his job. Why am I, a liberal, not rending my garments in despair? After all, Jordan is part of the MSM, right? And that means he's part of our evil liberal plot to instal Osama bin Laden as president, right?
Eason Jordan runs a network that's been going downhill since 1991. CNN is not a bastion of the left, and hasn't even approached that since Ted Turner left. It's not a bastion of the right, either--it's just not very good.
CNN loves the scandals. It would still be talking about Chandra Levy if 9/11 hadn't happened. It took the lead on the inane Scott Peterson trial. It's my go-to on the Michael Jackson case.
Meanwhile, CNN long ago gave up actually trying to report the news in any sort of depth. While FOX is evil, at least they go to some depth in their pursuit of
CNN is less a lynchpin of the Vast Liberal Conspiracy than the best example of bad media--ratings-obsessed, shallow, pack-mentality, sensationalistic garbage that is deservedly getting bested by FOX.
So Eason Jordan quit? Who cares? I don't care what happens to the SVP in charge of the WB, and I don't care about Jordan. What I'd like, at some point, is for the newsmedia to start acting like the newsmedia. Start asking tough questions (and yes, right now most would go to the Republicans. Guess why? Because they run everything. When a Democrat wins the presidency in 2008, ask her tough questions too). Stop engaging in groupthink. Get rid of the 123-year-old in prime time. And stop trying to outfox FOX--the conservatives like their news happy, and no matter what you do, you'll always be the liberal network to them.
In short, I don't care about Eason Jordan because CNN hasn't given me a reason to care about them. And I suspect that's true of my fellow lefty bloggers. So hey, wingers, good on ya. Now, as ODub says, "back to the phony White House plant reporter."
Friday, February 11, 2005
NARAL Finally Gets It
For the past decade, pro-lifers have wielded narrow bits of legislation as effective weapons in the culture wars. The debate over soi disant partial-birth abortion was largely meaningless--it represented a vanishingly small percentage of abortions, and the debate would've been over a decade ago if the pro-lifers had added two words to the bill--but it served as a great way to motivate the footsoldiers while painting the pro-choicers as radical and out-of-step with moderate Americans.
Finally, it looks like NARAL has come up with a legitimate response. They're calling on the pro-lifers to support increasing access to contraception as a means to reducing abortions.
It's great for a variety of reasons. First, of course, it's good public policy. Second, it's being authored by pro-life Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, so you can't accuse this of being a pro-choice plot.
But most of all, it's great because it will force the pro-life movement to choose: results or rhetoric? Do we actually want to reduce abortions, or are we so beholden to the far right wing of our party that we'll oppose contraception, too?
I think you know what I think their response will be. But like the pro-choicers in the mid-nineties--who got trapped in a losing battle over a horriffic procedure--this forces the right into taking a radical position that will not play well with most Americans.
For the first time in a long while, I can say this: well played, NARAL. Well played.
Even more fun than Pat Buchanan, Poppy Bush, or Al Haig: could Deep Throat really be Ben Stein?
Before you laugh yourself silly, click through. It's not as crazy as you might think. Yes, it runs afoul of John Dean's claim that Deep Throat is at death's door, but Dean has been full of baloney for years.
As for me, I think it would be great if the host of Win Ben Stein's Money proved to be the guy who told Woodward, "Follow the money." We can dream, can't we?
If you have some trouble understanding Mark Kennedy's position on Social Security, don't worry. He does too.
UPDATE: More here.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Congrats Chaz and Cammy!
Everyone's favorite couple will wed in April. They're registered at the British Treasury.
No word yet on where they'll live, though Charles has been heard saying he'd like to live in Camilla's trousers.
Must've Seen My Letter
Franken is out.
In or Out?
Flash has a great look at who's in and who's out for Senate.
Bad news: Page seems to be a hard no.
Good news: Buck Humphrey does, too.
No, No, No, No, No
I suppose it's human nature--with the void on the DFL side of the ticket, everyone wants to start picking magical candidates.
But no, the DFL should not draft either Garrison Keillor or David Wellstone.
For too long, the DFL has been in thrall with the idea of dynasty. Why else did we give Skip Humphrey multiple chances at the brass ring? Hell, why else did we nominate Buck Humphrey for Secretary of State, a braggart who isn't qualified to dig ditches?
Why? For the same reason that Julie Sabo was on the ticket in 2002. We like familiar things.
Well, enough. It's not like the DFL doesn't have candidates out there. Alan Page, Michael Ceresi, Steve Kelley, Jerry Janezich, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Rukavina, Bill Luther, Dean Johnson...there are a dozen or so DFLers who could step in and win the race. They're not gimmicky. They're actual legislators and county attorneys and former candidates and supreme court justices who have a track record and have had success.
These are the people we should be seeking out. Not Franken. Not Keillor. Damn sure not Buck Humphrey (who couldn't even beat Mary Kiffmeyer. Mary Kiffmeyer.)
There have been those who have said the DFL bench is spare. That's only because we've spent the better part of two decades refusing to consider anyone who didn't have a family name, or who hadn't spent three decades in the state senate. Two years ago, Barack Obama was a little-known state senator and an afterthought in the Illinois senate race. I'm not saying that we have an Obama waiting in the wings (who does?), but I believe that we can do better than turning to a celebrity candidate, or the son of a former senator. Indeed, if the DFL ever wants to stop stagnating, we must find a candidate who started at the ground level and worked their way up.
We have an opportunity here, folks. Mark Dayton was probably going to lose in 2006. Now we have a chance at winning. But that chance is embodied in actual candidates, not left-wing icons. And while I like both Keillor and Franken, neither will win in 2006.
And we need to try to win--running someone just to feel good is not an option.
An Open Letter To Al Franken
Dear Mr. Franken,
You're a funny guy. You're intelligent, you're One Of Us, and you're developing a nice presence on the radio.
Please, please, please do not run for Senate.
I appreciate what you're trying to do, but trust me, it's not going to work. For good or ill, from the day you started Air America you became the Rush Limbaugh of the left. Yes, you're a smarter version of Rush, and less addicted to painkillers. But there is a good 50% of Minnesota that would never, ever vote for you.
Quite frankly, Mr. Franken, this is a race you won't win. And the DFL needs to win this race. I like you. So keep the radio gig.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Mark Dayton Won't Seek Reelection
U.S. Senator Mark Dayton will not seek a second term as U.S. Senator, throwing the 2006 race wide open.
Dayton had been polling poorly lately, ever since he shut down his office in Washington out of terror fears. He was expected to face a stiff challenge in 2006.
With Dayton out, we may as well play a little Minnesota Senate speculation:
1. Justice Alan Page (DFL-St. Paul)
Page is easily the most popular politician in Minnesota, and would be difficult for anyone to beat. There were rumors two years ago that Page wanted to run for Senate in the wake of Paul Wellstone's death, only to be passed over for Fmr. Sen. Walter Mondale. If that's true, that only proves how stupid the DFL can be at times. Page would start out the prohibitive favorite for the nomination if he wanted the job. Then again, he'd have to step down from the bench, a position that's his for as long as he wants it.
2. Attorney General Mike Hatch (DFL-Burnsville)
Hatch has shown more interest in the Governor's mansion than the Senate, and I would be surprised if he took this seat. Still, he's extremely popular, and he could be tempted to take the easier of the two races on the 2006 slate.
3. Fmr. State Auditor Judi Dutcher (DFL-Minneapolis)
Sought the Governor's mansion in 2002, and would be Governor today if the DFL had chosen her. A former Republican and fiscal centrist, Dutcher is bright, articulate, and would make a great candidate.
4. Mayor R.T. Rybak (DFL-Minneapolis)
Rybak has become a solid Mayor, if not free of controversy. If he were to run, he would be a formidable candidate, with strong support from the left wing of the party.
5. Patty Wetterling (DFL-St. Joseph)
Wetterling ran a close race against Rep. Mark Kennedy, and would have a great chance of winning that district should Kennedy, as expected, get the nod. But she's popular enough statewide that the Senate might be a tempting target.
6. Fmr. Rep. Bill Luther (DFL-Stillwater)
The former U.S. Representative was redistricted out of office, but remains popular with centrists and liberals. He's stayed active, but does he have the stomach for another fight?
7. Mayor Randy Kelly (DFL-St. Paul)
Kelly is a decent man, and a pretty good mayor, and he'd be a fine candidate. Still, he's pro-life, which is anathema to the left wing of the party. More problematic is the fact that he endorsed George W. Bush in the 2004 election, something that may make him nuclear for higher office in the Democratic party.
8. Fmr. Attorney General Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III (DFL-Minnetonka)
Because no list is official without a Humphrey. Heck, throw Buck in there too. I doubt that he could rise again after 1998, but stranger things have happened in this state.
9. Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Minneapolis)
Klobuchar has been angling for higher office since the day she first got the nod. Don't be surprised to see her hat in the ring.
10. Judge David Minge (DFL-Montevideo)
Minge toyed with running in 2000, before choosing to run for reelection for Congress--a race he lost to Mark Kennedy. He could be tempted to reprise his race on more friendly, statewide territory.
11. The Field
Matt Entenza? Dean Johnson? There's always room for someone random.
1. Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Watertown)
The odds-on favorite for the Republican nomination. He's personable, but his star has faded after his attacks on Patty Wetterling. He probably could've beaten Dayton, but I'm not sure whether he has the wherewithal to beat, say, Alan Page. Still, he's the best contender on the GOP side of the aisle, unless Gov. Timmy decides that he was right in 2002 when he initially ran for Senate, only to step aside at Vice President Cheney's behest.
2. Fmr. Sen. Rod Grams (R-Ramsey)
Uff da, Rod. The GOP tried this in 1996 with Rudy Boschwitz. It didn't work out so well. Then again, Grams is immensely popular with the right wing of the party, and he won once.
3. Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Rochester)
I doubt that both Gutknecht and Kennedy will actually be running when the rubber hits the road. While both their districts lean GOP, they're not locks, and they've both shown some openings for the left in recent years. The GOP won't leave both seats unguarded. For a variety of reasons--from charisma to conservatism--I think the nod will go to Kennedy.
4. Mayor Randy Kelly (DFL-St. Paul)
Kelly could pull the ol' Norm switcheroo. He's all set up for it. I don't know if people would buy it twice--Kelly is a good mayor, but he doesn't have the skills of Nahm. And Nahm wouldn't be in office if not for a plane crash and an out-of-control wake.
5. State Auditor Patricia Anderson (R-Eagan)
The great female hope of the Republican party, Anderson has long been touted for higher office, ever since she was mayor of Eagan. With her recent divorce and other personal issues, though, Anderson may choose just to stay in a relatively safer seat rather than open her self up in a race of the Senate's level.
6. Fmr. Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke (R-VA)
Yecke was unceremoniously dumped as education commissioner, and nothing indicates she'll ever get over it. A more likely candidate for the sixth district than the senate, she's beloved on the right.
7. Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake Twp)
Kiffmeyer is beloved on the right for the same reasons most Republican Secretaries of State are beloved--she does her damndest to make sure the "wrong" sorts of people don't vote. Whether it's warning people of bald-headed people or complaining about same-day voter registration, Kiffmeyer is a SOS in the Katherine Harris mold. Again, I think she's more likely to seek a slot in the sixth.
8. The Field
It's not that there aren't as many possible GOP candidates as DFLers, its just that I think the top three on the list are so much more settled than on the other side of the aisle. Truth be told, this has been Kennedy's race since 2002. I'd be shocked if he isn't the nominee.
Hey, they're technically still a major party....
1. Fmr. Sen. Dean Barkley (IP-Annandale)
Barkley is the obvious choice. First of all, he actually was a U.S. Senator, albeit for about a minute and a half. Second, Barkley is smart, and dedicated, and was and would be a good representative for this state. Unfortunately, the past two years have not been good for centrist political parties, and Barkley may choose to remain a former U.S. Senator to being an embarrassed former U.S. Senator.
2. Fmr. Rep. Tim Penny (IP-Waseca)
Penny was the best man running for Governor in 2002, and he'd be the best man running for Senator in 2006. I imagine it's his if he wants it, but Penny has been pretty consistent in stating that he's not interested in returning to Washington, and if he did run for Senate, I think it's more likely he'd come back to the DFL.
3. Sen. Sheila Kiscaden (IP-Rochester)
After the big two, Kiscaden would make the most sense. She is, after all, the only IP officeholder in Minnesota. I think a more likely scenario, though, is that Kiscaden will run in 2006 as the DFL-endorsed candidate for her seat--whether officially or tacitly.
4. Jeff Fecke (DFL-Lakeville)
Why not me? I'm old enough. I've got the time. I've got as much a chance of winning as anyone else on this list. A vote for Jeff Fecke is a vote for Jeff Fecke! Victory in '06!
5. Some Other Random Guy You've Never Heard Of
Let's face it, the most likely scenario is that someone like me will be the nominee. I mean, the IP's most recent nominees have been Dancin' Jim Gibson and Jim Moore. I suppose one of them could run again. Or maybe Flash. You never know!
6. Fmr. Gov. Jesse Ventura (IP-WWE)
I think Jesse will run again when Hell freezes over. But he goes on the list because...well...why not?
7. The Field
Let's be honest: most of us who were in the IP two years ago have gravitated back to our traditional parties. Those of us who were DFLers are again, those who are Republicans are again. The IP worked when both parties seemed like they had stagnant visions for the future, and that neither seemed that bad. That isn't the case anymore. I don't know who will win in 2006, but I can tell you this: 2006 will be the year that the IP will lose its major-party status.
Monday, February 07, 2005
In honor of the New England Patriots, a few lists....
Best Teams Ever, Dynasty Category
1. Green Bay Packers, 1960-1967
Five, count 'em, five titles in eight years, including the first two Super Bowls. There's a reason it's called the Vince Lombardi trophy, folks.
2. San Francisco 49ers, 1981-995
The longest period of sustained greatness in NFL history. Five titles, two hall of fame quarterbacks, one great team.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1974-1980
Four titles in six seasons--an outstanding run.
4. New England Patriots, 2001-present
Three titles in four years in the most competitive era in NFL history. Win one more in the next two years and the Pats will jump to #1 on the list.
5. Dallas Cowboys, 1992-1996
How good would the Cowboys have been if Jerry Jones had just swallowed his pride and let Jimmy Johnson coach?
6. Miami Dolphins, 1972-1974
Back-to-back, one undefeated season, as dominant as you please.
7. Denver Broncos, 1997-1999
A two-year run of overwhelming dominance. Could they have beat the Rams if Elway stuck it out one more year? I think they could've.
8. Buffalo Bills, 1990-1994
Yeah, they never won the big one. But no other team has ever made four consecutive Super Bowls. They'd be in the top five if they'd won only one of 'em.
9. Minnesota Vikings, 1969-1977
See: Buffalo Bills.
10. Denver Broncos, 1986-1990
Three Super Bowls in four years. All losses, sure, but not a bad run.
Best Quarterbacks of All Time
1. Otto Graham, Cleveland Browns, 1946-1955
105-17-4 all time. Took his team to the league championship every single year he played. Won the NFL Championship in 1950, 1954, and 1956, in addition to all four All-American Football Conference championships--an astounding seven titles in eleven seasons. Simply the best quarterback in the history of the game, bar none.
2. Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers/Kansas City Chiefs, 1979-1994
Four Super Bowl titles, three Super Bowl MVPs, possibly the best clutch performer in NFL history. Holds postseason records for most touchdowns (44) and passing yards (5772). The greatest quarterback of his generation.
3. Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts/San Diego Chargers, 1956-1974
Three NFL Championships and a Super Bowl victory (in Super Bowl V). The first quarterback to pass for 40,000 yards. The gold standard for quarterbacks for two decades.
4. John Elway, Denver Broncos, 1983-1999
Five Super Bowls, two victories. Won the Super Bowl MVP in his las game as a pro, Super Bowl XXXIII. The greatest operator of the two-minute drill in NFL history. NFL's all time winningest quarterback (148 wins). The only quarterback to throw for 3,0000 yards and rush for 200 yards in seven consecutive seasons.
5. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 1999-present
Three Super Bowl titles in four seasons. 9-0 in playoff games, two Super Bowl MVPs. A quiet leader who puts team success above his own, and consequentially, enjoys both. A mortal lock for the Hall of Fame.
6. Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970-1985
Four Super Bowl titles in six seasons. NFL MVP in 1978. A clutch performer who had a cannon for an arm.
7. Brett Favre, Atlanta Falcons/Green Bay Packers, 1991-present
Two Super Bowls, one championship. Possibly the guttiest player ever to play his position. Three NFL MVP awards. The only reason the Packers won the 2004 NFC North Championship.
8. Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins, 1983-1999
Might be #1 on this list had he ever won a championship. Holds the NFL record for passing yards in a season, second in touchdowns in a season with 48. Possibly the best pure passer ever to play the game.
9. Steve Young, Tampa Bay Buccaneers/San Francisco 49ers, 1985-1999
Won Super Bowl XXIX, had perhaps the greatest scramble of all-time (a 49 yarder against Minnesota). Has second-highest single-season passer rating of all-time (112.8) and is third on the all-time list.
10. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts, 1998-present
Like Dan Mario, would be much higher on list if he'd won a championship. Unlike Marino, he still has the opportunity to. All-time single-season recordholder for touchdowns (49) and passer rating (121.1).
Honorable Mention: Fran Tarkenton, Y.A. Tittle, Donovan McNabb, Kurt Warner, Troy Aikman