September 2006

Two more NRCC fliers attacking Wetterling

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

“Traditional Marriage is hanging by a thread,” says the first side of a new flyer that recently arrived at households in the Sixth Congressional District. “Patty Wetterling is holding the scissors,” says the second side, with the same bad-hair-day mugshot of Wetterling that has been in the previous four fliers from the National Republican Congressional Committee. There’s also a big picture of a scissors and the smaller type says:

“Liberal Patty Wetterling is against a Constitutional Amendment that would ban gay marriage. You’d think protecting marriage would be easy. Obviously Patty’s “hometown” values aren’t our values.

Quickie fact check:
DFLer Wetterling does oppose a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. She says it’s unnecessary because gay marriage is already banned by state and federal statutes.

Her Republican opponent, state Sen. Michele Bachmann supports both a state and federal constitutional amendment on the issue. She says the experience of Massachusetts demonstrates that statutes limiting marriage to opposite sex couples can be struck down by the courts.

And there’s a sixth NRCC flyer attacking Wetterling. Here’s the text:

“Don’t Be Fooled. Take a closer look at Patty Wetterling’s ‘hometown values.”
This side of the flyer has the bad-hair-day mugshot and the “closer look” reference sets up a magnifying glass over the words: “Pro-Abortion. Pro-Gay Marriage. Pro-bisexual, transgender.”

Then, on the other side:

“Do these sound like hometown values to you?
“Pro-Abortion? In her 2004 race for Congress, Patty took over $50,000 through pro-abortion groups.” (I’m assuming this is a reference to EMILY’s List, which supports women candidates who support abortion rights, as Wetterling does. EMILY’s List supported Wetterling in 2004.)

“Pro-Gay Marriage: Patty is against a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage.”

“Pro-Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans-gender: Patty is supported by the largest Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Organization.” (This apparently refers to the Human Rights Campaign, which does advocate for gay, lesbian bisexual and trans-gender rights and does encourage contributions to Wetterling.)

Other than her position on same-sex marriage, which has been a disappointment to many gay rights advocates because Wetterling does not advocate legalizing it, I’m not clear what policy positions Wetterling takes that qualify as pro-glbt. It’s quite possible that HRC support for Wetterling reflects a strong desire by gay rights advocates to defeat Bachmann, for obvious reasons.

David Joseph De Grio, a gay rights advocate, informed me in an e-mail that Wetterling has returned a donation from the Human Rights Campaign PAC. I’ll try to follow up on that.

Screenshots of the new fliers are viewable on the Bachmann v. Wetterling website.

We’ve Got Issues

My favorite statistic (that makes me want to apologize to my kids)

Friday, September 29th, 2006

If I was asked that common poll question about what I see as the biggest issue in a presidential or congressional race, I would say “the unsustainable fiscal course of the U.S. government.” That answer usually doesn’t score very well with the general public.)

I really appreciated that the Strib gave decent play this morning (although it shoulda been on page 1) to a story McClatchy News Service story by Kevin G. Hall headlined “U.S. Deficit’s Funny Math,” which pointed out one of the most powerful and common methods of understating the deficit and debt.

That story made me get off my chest a rant (well, I hope a controlled, fact-based rant, if there is such a thing) about what we’re doing to our kids and how far we are from any honest discussion of the fiscal future in our politics. This is a really Big Question.

When I finished ranting, I decided it was too long to post right on the blog, mixed in with the latest ad or poll. I’m told that long posts are a turn-off, or mess up the the look of the blog or something. So I put it on a separate page, that’s just a click away.

But I ask you to read it, then come back here and comment, if you care to. If you missed the first link, here’s another one.

New Zogby Senate poll

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Zogby has another Interactive poll (that means it’s conducted online) on the Minnesota Senate race. He does these, at least partly, for the online Wall Street Journal and you can see it for yourself by clicking on Minnesota in this map.

He shows the race, as of 9/28:
Klobuchar: 49%
Kennedy: 40%.
Not sure if he has Fitzgerald in this poll. If I can find that out tomorrow, I’ll update this post.
Zogby says they have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

In a fund-raising e-mail to supporters, Kennedy campaign manager Pat Shortridge says that there are two other recent polls showing Kennedy down by eight percentage points. I have no information about these other polls. Shortridge says these three polls show that the race “will be one of the closest in the country.”

In the previous thread about a Zogby poll, there were a lot of questions about this relatively new and relatively unproven “interactive” methodology. It’s not as dumb as some commenters suspect, where anyone can “vote” in the poll. But the methodology is controversial within the polling industry. (If they ever get it widely accepted, this method will revolutionize the polling profession, because the polls are so inexpensive to conduct compared with traditional telephone interviews.

If you’re curious to know about how it works, here’s Zogby’s description of the method.

Zogby poll on Guv race

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Zogby has one of his “interactive” (that means conducted online) polls out on the Minn. Guv. race. He has it.

Hatch: 44%.
Pawlenty: 43%.
Hutchinson: 6%.
Pentel: 1%

718 likely voters statewide, conducted Sept. 19 through 25, 2006. Margin of sampling error: 3.7 percentage points.

Roll Call on 6th District: NRCC overdrive

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call has a fresh piece on the 6th District Bachmann-Wetterling-Binkowski race. Roll Call is members-only online, so this link will only get you the first paragraph.

Most of the piece is basic information anyway, or quotes giving various party lines. But a few tidbits:

Roll Call says the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent more than $500,000 on ads and mailings attacking Wetterling.

The NRCC has spent $27,000 on polling in the 6th District, and spent $10,500 on Sept. 13. I don’t know what they found, but obviously it increased their interest in the race, judging by the amount of advertising and mailing they’ve done since.

EMILY’s list, a key Wetterling ally, has polled in the race. Their results have been circulated, and showed Bachmann with a small lead, within the margin for sampling error. The only published poll sponsored by a neutral entity (KSTP-TV) found Bachmann with a nine-point lead. That was a robo-dialing poll two weeks ago.

Quoting PoliticalMoneyLine, Roll Calls says that Bachmann has raised a total of $1.1 million overall, $348,000 from PACs, and had $666,000 on hand as of Aug. 23.

Wetterling had raised $1.3 million, including $138,000 from PACs and had $801,000 on hand.

Buffalo sighting in Guv race

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Independence Party Guv. nominee Peter Hutchinson probably won’t be matching the advertising budgets of Tim Pawlenty and Mike Hatch, so he’s trying to level the playing field a tad with high-tech humor.

His campaign has created an interactive, online Buffalo called “Indie” who dances, tells jokes, speaks in a British accent and gives you Hutchinsonian positions and even takes questions.

Is That a Fact?

How many facts can you leave out before it’s a falsehood

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

The latest episode of the hit series “Is That a Fact?” dings Patty Wetterling pretty hard for an ad in which, as the story says, omits a fact so relevant that it crosses the line into falsehood.

The Wetterling ad in question, titled “More,” has a major problem and a minor problem, and I regret that I may be be somewhat to blame for the lesser one.

Interestingly, for those, like myself , who are using the “Is That a Fact” project to try to catalogue the different ways that political communications can stray from the staright and narrow, the smaller deception is the half-truth, while the bigger one is the deception by omission.

Here’s the deal

Wetterling’s ad asserts that Bachmann, contrary to being a tax-cutter, actually supports a 23 percent federal sales tax on everything you buy! If true, that would be a pretty big deal!

The reference is to a plan, called “The Fair Tax” by its advocates (although I don’t where it has much to do with tax fairness, but a lot to do with tax simplification) would indeed impose a 23 national sales tax on everything you buy, even up to cars and houses.

Problem 1 (the smaller one): Bachmann hasn’t clearly embraced the Fair Tax. You can get a taste of the back and forth on that from the story itself, if you don’t mind, or you can read the endless boring passage below headlined “please stop reading here”.)

Problem 2 (the bigger one) is that the Fair Tax plan is supposed to be “revenue neutral,” meaning the federal treasury breaks even on the deal, because in exchange for the 23 percent sales tax it repeals all federal income and payroll taxes. That’s a pretty big tradeoff.

But the Wetterling ad didn’t mention the repeal of income and payroll taxes.

You can argue about whether a 23 percent sales tax would really replace all the revenue collected from federal income and payroll taxes, and you can argue that the Fair Tax would make the tax system more regressive, but you can’t honestly argue (as the Wetterling ad does) that it’s an overall tax increase and you can’t discuss it honestly until you acknowledge that in exchange for paying the new sales tax, you get out from under income and payroll taxes.

Wetterling declined to be interviewed about the problems with the ad. Her campaign manager, the helpful and friendly Corey Day, couldn’t come up with much of a defense for leaving that little fact out of the ad. He said it was included in the press release announcing the ad and in the factual backup on the Wetterling website. Which it was. And if you believe that as many people are going to read the website as are going to see the ad, that would be a pretty good excuse.

Please stop reading here…

because the next section is a little uncomfortable and embarrasing for your obedient blogger.

Bachmann’s official position on the Fair Tax idea is that it’s “worthy of debate.” Considering that the idea has ben before Congress since 1999, and she’s presenting herself as a tax expert, and she has said that the federal tax system is “totally broken” and “in need of a complete overhaul,” one could fairly ask her when she will be ready to clearly come out for or against it. But “worthy of debate” by itself does not mean she’s for it.

Among the bits of evidence adduced by Team Wetterling to prove that Bachmann favors the Fair Tax was Feb. 21 piece by yours truly, containing short summaries of all the Sixth District candidates, Republican and DFL, back when there were six such candidates. In describing some of Bachmann’s positions, I wrote: “Would replace income tax with national consumption tax.” (That’s not a quote from Bachmann, but a paraphrase from me.) My recollection is that Bachmann spoke so enthusiastically about the idea, that I believed she had embraced it. But she called to say that I had overstated the case and had only committed herself to consider the idea.

Two days later, I wrote about it again and said he position was that Bachmann ” would consider the elimination of federal income taxes, to be replaced by a national consumption tax.”

In the backup for the ad, Wetterling cited both pieces. If my reporting contributed to an honest misunderstanding of Bachmann’s position, I apologize. But as recently as last week, in debates, Bachmann spoke about the Fair Tax idea, cautiously gave some of the pros and cons, and said she considered it an idea worth debating.

p.s. Yes, I’m aware that the NRCC is now running a TV spot that repeats the inaccurate characterization of Wetterling’s position on the Bush tax cuts. She favors allowing them to expire only for the highest-income one percent. The NRCC ad is based on the premise that she favors allowing them to expire entirely.

I addressed this matter in a recent “Is That a Fact?” both in the Biq Q and in the paper. Then, the NRCC was doing it in a flyer. Now it’s a TV spot.

Bachmann continues to decline all opportunities to comment on the deceptive NRCC communications.

New Klobuchar ad

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Amy Klobuchar has a new ad airing and viewable on her campaign website. It’s the most emotional she has put up so far, and marks the first time she has mentioned Kennedy’s name on the air.

This ad is clearly intended as a rapid response to the newest Kennedy ad disparaging Klobuchar’s work as a prosecutor.

The new Klobuchar ad features three relatives of crime victims, including the mother of stray-bullet-shooting victim Tyesha Edwards, talking about how Klobuchar’s office prosecuted those who hurt their families. As you might guess, they all give Klobuchar a thumbs up.

At the end it takes a turn. The narrator suggests that viewers trust the word of police organizations that have endorsed Klobuchar, “not Mark Kennedy’s attacks.” Then Edwards’ parents reappear and her mother says into the camera:

“Mark Kennedy, you should be ashamed.”

It’s obviously not a statistical reply. Three satisfied customers doesn’t prove much about the overall performance of the office over eight years. And there’s not to check in the way of facts.

But the ad signals that, for now at least, instead of counterattacking, Klobuchar is going to try to shame Kennedy for the two attack ads he has launched.

The ad is titled: “Ashamed.” Check it out for yourself. What think?

What do you think about the leaked intelligence estimate on Iraq?

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Pres. Bush has questioned the motives of those who leaked a National Intelligence Estimate that says the war in Iraq has undermined the war against terrorism. He declassified portions of the report, and reasserted that “going on the offensive against people who want to do harm to America” was a good idea.

Here’s the declassified portion of the report.

Here’s the transcript of the White House press conference, featuring Bush and Afghan Pres. Karzai, at which Bush talked about the leak and the report.
Here’s the latest AP analysis piece on the topic, which is currently on the cover of the Strib’s website.

And here’s the L.A. Times piece that the paper Strib ran on the front page today.

What do you think? Should the leakers have leaked it? Do you believe that the portions declassified by Bush are enough to form a conclusion about what the intelligence estimate really said? Do you buy the idea that the war in Iraq strengthening the jihadist movement? Do you buy the idea that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror and retreat from that war would strengthen the jihadists?

True Life Tales of an Ink-Stained Wretch

The case of the vanishing no-show

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

Noon, Tuesday. New ads popping up all over the place. Ink-stained wretch hoping to sneak away for well-deserved, high-fiber lunch. But no. Phone rings.

It’s Andy Parrish, Michelle Bachmann’s campaign manager. Ink-stained wretch appreciates that Parrish has never given him major grief over ink-stained’s work. Ink-stained gets plenty of grief.

Says Parrish: A St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce candidate debate is just beginning and Patty Wetterling, Bachmann’s opponent, has canceled one hour before debate begins after committing to be there leaving a roomful of disappointed chamberites and commercists (plus Rotarians, they are co-sponsors).

If true, this would be a story. There’s been an undercurrent of Wetterling-won’t-debate-me emanating from the Bachmann camp for a while, but since they just had three debates, the issue sort of died down. A last-minute unexcused absence would revive it. A definite brouhaha opportunity.

Parrish has never lied to Ink-stained, but old journalism rule states: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Will the organizers of the debate confirm this? Ink asks.
Parrish: Yes, call Teresa Bonin, president of the chamber.
Ink dials Bonin’s cell phone. Voice-mail message. Of course, the debate just started. She’s a little busy. Leave message.

Next move. Call Corey Day, Wetterling’s campaign manager. Ask Day: Is it true? Day: No way. We never committed to be there. Ink: Well, did you tell them Wetterling wouldn’t be there. Day: Yes.

Day has also never lied to Ink, but journalistic rule…

Ink: is there someone at the Chamber who can confirm? Day: (you guessed it) Yes, call Chamber Pres. Teresa Bonin. She’ll confirm.
Ink tries Bonin again. Voicemail again. Leave second message. Go to lunch.

Pause here while ink eats lo-cal lunch including all major food groups.

After lunch. Back at desk. Trying to finish big piece on Senate candidates’ positions on Iraq war (hint: Kennedy, for it. Klobuchar, against.) Desperately hoping for new distraction. Phone rings.

Bonin: Sorry. Couldn’t take your calls. Middle of debate. What can I do for you?
Ink: Did Wetterling accept then cancel an hour before?
Bonin: Not exactly, but I really wish she had been here.
Ink: Yes, but had she ever promised or committed to be there.
Bonin: No, not really promised or committed. We’ve worked on it for four weeks. Wetterling didn’t say yes or no for three weeks. Then a week ago, scheduler called to say she probably couldn’t make it. So I asked them to reconsider. There’s been some back and forth since then. Not until this morning did I get a final answer that she wasn’t coming.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it: Write a newspaper story off this case.

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