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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Kline: Congratulations Graduate, Insert Voter Name Here

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 05/28/07 11:01

by Paul Hoffinger

People say about many incumbents that they provide "great constituent service". Most of the aides at a Congressional Office are there for that purpose: to listen to the concerns of voters from the state (for a Senator) or from the district (for a member of the House), reach out to voters and convey constituents' concerns to the Washington office to the DC aide who works on that topic. On immigration matters, often the work of an aide in the local office can be critical in saving the lives of people in danger in foreign countries where civil strife may be happening.

Today I accidentally opened an 8-1/2x11 manila envelope sent to our foster-daughter from the local Congressman. His big franking signature is affixed where a stamp would normally appear. On the letterhead of the Congress of the United States House of Representatives, dated June 8, some two weeks in the future from time of receipt, there is this accolade:

"Dear Graduate,

Congratulations on your graduation from High School What an exciting and rewarding time for you and your family! You should be very proud of your accomplishment after the years of hard work and dedication that has brought you to this, your Graduation Day.

I am pleased to enclose a certificate of recognition to honor your accomplishment. I want to send you my personal congratulations and wish you the best as you embark on your next adventure.

Please let me know if I can ever be of service to you."


And it's signed in the same big script over the legend of his name, Member of Congress. Behind the letter is a cardboard sheet bearing the Congressional Seal in color with this legend in a script font: "Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, Presented to [and our foster-daughter's name in some machine-generated calligraphy] on the occasion of your graduation from High School," with the graduation date and a stamp of the Congressman's name once again, over "Member of Congress".

I suppose it really shouldn't bother me so much. They probably all do it. It's probably good "constituent service", right? And it might not be such a burr under my saddle except for the fact our foster-daughter asked quizzically "What?", when I told her I was an active member of the other major party than the one our Congressman swears allegiance to. "You what...?", as if it was such an oddity that she found it hard to believe.

If she knew what a detractor of public education our Congressman is. What a strong supporter he is for All the President's Initiatives in education, including No Child Left Behind, less centralized funding, more local funding, where less bureaucracy wastes less money. And less money. And less money. If she knew how our state is being out-paced by the likes of Georgia and other southern states typically the most "frugal" (read "cheap" ) in educating their kids.

I might even tolerate her misguided political proclivities, were it not for the sleazy targeted mailing campaign the Congressman foisted on us with money he got from the sleaze-meister himself, the Congressman's good friend, the bug-killer, Tom DeLay. The Orkin man occasionally speaks from whatever house they've got him in, with electronic ankle-bracelets, or whatever minimum security place, or maybe he's just free to roam the streets and launder again, maybe they didn't convict the guy yet. Which is why the Congressman was able to use his money freely to fund his dirty targeted mailing campaign, with its slimy half-truths about his opponent, the whistle-blowing war-critic. She sent a campaign worker to "spy" on his office. Someone in her campaign compared him to Colonel Klink. She opposes funding the military. She has no respect for "legitimate authority", like, uh, why like even the President of the United States. She has no plan to end the war, she only wants to criticize it. She hangs around with Cindy Sheehan and other disreputable war-protesters. And the dirty money made a great difference. He was one of the few Congressional friends of the president to get re-elected in a swing district.

He refuses to answer how he voted in caucus to keep DeLay Majority Leader, after details of his money-laundering came out. After estimating last year that in some odd-months we would see the effectiveness of our military in cooling the hostilities in the middle east, he resisted attempts to have an open town hall meeting to discuss the matter for two months. Finally, at that meeting, he dutifully trotted out supporters of our escapade in Iraq. He also heard pointed questions about the seemingly infinite series of "emergency" appropriations he voted to spend in that bottomless pit. The most recent vote came after the president vetoed a timetable for withdrawal. Disappointingly, some Democrats passively voted with the local conservative incumbent, ignoring the mandate of last fall's election, and the president got just what he wanted.

Whether the support comes from lock-step sycophants or pusillanimous progressive wannabe's, people get just as dead with the "money for the troops" which Congress appropriates. Aren't we tired of this stuff yet? Something entirely inappropriate about this appropriation. It's time for old peaceniks to re-mobilize. We need blood spilled in vials on military records again. Time to resist the machine. People willing to go to federal prison for a year or two. People hardly noticed when the fellow lit himself on fire at the entrance ramp to the Chicago expressway a couple months back. We need consistent work to expose hypocrisy.
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Pawlenty Makes "A" List While MN Sinks

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 05/28/07 10:06

by Dave Mindeman

It is a little annoying to watch and listen to national pundits praising Governor Pawlenty into national prominence. After all, his political accomplishments have been more like Houdini escapes than any political steamroller.

Two elections by under 50% of the vote. In his first term, he balanced a budget via a government shutdown and by pushing government expense onto the backs of local units. In the latest session, he vetoed his way to the status quo....making education thankful they got anything and abdicating any responsibility for solving massive transportation issues.

Governor Pawlenty may be a national contender for conservative popularity but he did it on the backs of Minnesota citizens and with the help of an all too compliant DFL legislature.
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Disappointed: But Won't Shut Up or Give Up

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 05/27/07 15:21

by Dave Mindeman

Some personal notes:

The past few weeks have had a lot of disappointing results. The State Legislature and the Congress, despite solid Democratic majorities withered in the face of executive vetos. I expressed some of my personal disappointments with all that in past posts, and that reality has certainly not changed.

But, I am not one of those who will call for the "heads" of those who lead us into those disappointments. I am too much of a realist to join that chorus. Democrats may not have developed spines yet, but the alternatives are far less palatable. I stopped counting on "the party" long ago. I prefer instead to work for progressive issues.... often, as it stands now, that means working for Democratic candidates, but it doesn't mean I am 100% convinced that election of Democrats means the goals have been achieved.

In regards to the Iraq Supplemental bill... Frankly, I have more respect for Tim Walz's YES vote then I have for Hillary Clinton's and Barak Obama's NO votes. Although I disagree strongly with Walz, he, at least, offered an explanation that shows some soul searching. At first blush, the cynic in me remains skeptical that the timing of RNC Ads against Walz and his vote are too coincidental. But after reading his Op-Ed explanation, I think he is sincere....wrong, but sincere.

On the other hand, Clinton and Obama did what was politically expedient for their personal campaigns. They concealed their hand up to the last minute. The cynical side of me would, again, be convinced that they counted up the votes to see that the bill would pass overwhelmingly without them, then cast their own NO votes to appease those of us who are on the anti-war left. Too cynical? Maybe.

Amy Klobuchar is still a puzzle. Although she never seemed to be strongly in the anti-war camp, her rhetoric seemed to lead to a conclusion of getting out of Iraq, sooner rather than later. I guess I was mistaken and won't make that assumption again.

Overall, the Democratic leadership is most to blame. They cannot articulate a coherent strategy. They continue to react to White House talking points rather than initiating their own. My only hope is that their future strategy has more potency....as they are the only other horse to back. The problem continues to be time.... waiting for September will mean at least 300 to 500 more American soldiers will pay the ultimate price.

In Minnesota, the Democrats in both Houses are just a few votes short of veto proof majorities.... yet they act as though they are completely powerless. Negotiating positions are abandoned at the first sign of an executive objection. The Governor seems in complete control of the media message. Maybe it is just a first round feeling out process, maybe inexperience, or maybe new tactics are needed. Whatever it is, I hope there will be better outcomes during the next session.

Although disappointed, I haven't given up. The DFL Party wants the progressives to just accept what happens and shut up. That isn't going to happen. The progressive movement has worked too hard to sit quietly in the corner when opportunities are there. Some are very angry.... some want to see changes in leadership. I won't go that far but I am pretty desperate for better results.

Patience may be a virtue, but when soldiers are dying in Iraq and the poor keep getting neglected at home, it is hard to put patience at the top of the list.
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