Posted: 01/20/07 14:36
by Dave Mindeman
In today's Star Tribune, Eric Black goes to great pains to explain Norm Coleman's position on the troop surge. The article points out that the official Coleman position has been consistent all along because he has dissected the Bush "surge" into two parts -- Baghdad and Anbar.
This is not a criticism of Eric Black... he is just reporting on the public back and forth between Coleman's office and the DFL. But Mr. Black could have done the same kind of painstaking position analysis of John Kerry's positions in 2003:
October 2003, a year after voting to support the use of force in Iraq, Kerry voted against an $87 billion supplemental funding bill for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He did support an alternative bill that funded the $87 billion by cutting some of President Bush?s tax cuts. But when it was apparent the alternative bill would not pass, he decided to go on record as not supporting the legislation to fund soldiers. Kerry complicated matters with his now infamous words, ?I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.? -- CBS News Analysis, Sept. 2004
The analysis states Kerry's positions -- and they are technically correct, but the public criticism wasn't buying it.
Similarly, Coleman is a master of the nuanced word and this new attempt to be on both sides of the "surge" issue is typical of his constant manipulation of "official" positions.
All of Eric Black's explanations also are technically correct.. helped along by page after page of Coleman's press releases, but is that complicated assessment valuable to the average Minnesotan who wants a clear answer on Iraq?
Parsing words in the Bush "solution" to Iraq, may allow for vagueness and timely emphasis on the point you want to make, but the mood of the American people doesn't seem to be allowing for long winded explanations regarding Iraq. And the real bottom line is that Coleman's current position offers no answers; and is basically a passive approval of the status quo with no hope for a quick Minnesota National Guard homecoming.
Take a look at the current "developing" position of Senator Coleman. He supports sending 4,000 US troops to Anbar province. He opposes sending 16,000 troops into Baghdad. He officially divides the current conflict in Iraq into sectarian violence (Baghdad) and defeating Al-Qaeda like terrorists (Anbar). He opposes a non-binding Senate resolution that would go on record as opposing the Bush plan for a troop surge, only because he favors a "surge" in Anbar.
He criticizes all Democratic positions and apparently opposes any major changes to what we are doing by the President. He also jumped on board Minnesota criticism of the deployment extention of our own National Guard troops -- even though "part" of his position wants more troops and even though he won't fully support Senate opposition to the Bush plan. Which way do you want it, Norm?
Norm is doing what he always does... he is waiting for someone else to formulate a consensus. He waits for others to find that acceptable solution so that he can pounce on board.
During the 2002 campaign, he stated his opposition to drilling in ANWR to quiet the environmental lobby. He was on the record but he wanted to work with the administration, too. So, when it came to official votes on the issue, he held to his promise. But whenever there was a procedural vote that would bring the issue to the floor or up for debate, Coleman would side with his Republican colleagues. And he began to parse his position.....especially when some money for Minnesota projects was tacked onto a general energy bill that including ANWR drilling. For the "good of Minnesota", he would have to favor such a bill. Fortunately for Norm, that bill never came to the floor in that form.
Norm is the consummate politician. He is careful to leave a paper trail that can be "technically" consistent. But he can't take that courageous position that may cause him to stand alone. He could never take a position like Paul Wellstone did in 2002 -- voting against a war that was supported by the public in a year he was up for reelection. During Norm's early years in the Senate, he was the consummate administration team player. He became popular on the fund raising circuit for the GOP --he was the guy who beat Walter Mondale. He basked in the attention. But now that the public has repudiated the Republican foreign policy positions, Norm has run away from his "buddies" and is embracing the old bipartisan talk that he hopes will placate the moderates once again.
Norm's career is a prototypical evolutionary model.... survival of those who adapt. He is certainly not afraid to "reposition" himself and that will make it difficult for a Democrat to beat him. What will Norm Coleman be in 2008? Not even Norm knows that one.