July 2009

The air war continues

Friday, July 31st, 2009

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced Friday that it is launching a month-long advertising and grassroots “offensive” against more than two-dozen targeted Republicans on health insurance reform. Among them are Minnesota Republicans Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen, both Democratic targets in next year’s mid-term elections. No surprise there. The radio ads will offset a similar campaign on the same topic by the Republican National Committee (RNC) targeting rural Democrats Tim Walz and Collin Peterson.

A Franken moment worth waiting for

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Finally, a little Franken fodder for the press gallery. It took 23 days in office, but Sen. Al Franken finally had a confrontation with somebody. To wit, Texas-oil-billionaire-turned-wind-power-guru T. Boone Pickens, of Swift Boat fame, who introduced himself to Franken Thursday after a Democratic policy lunch in the Capitol. According to Politico.com, Franken neither stood nor made nice. Rather, “Franken began to berate him about the billionaire’s financing of the Swift Boat ads (against John Kerry) in 2004.” Politico’s headline: “Franken feuds with T. Boone Pickens.” The conservative American Spectator, picking up the Politico account, intoned: “The Franken Meltdown Begins.”

Gender confusion from Bachmann’s office

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

BachmannRelease.JPGRep. Michelle Bachmann’s office sent out a press release this morning announcing that the Club For Growth was honoring her with an award for defending “economic freedom.” The quotation from the club’s president Chris Chocola, however, was quite puzzling.

“With his/her score of 91%, Congresswoman Bachmann is a champion of the pro-growth agenda,” said Chocola.

(emphasis mine)

A good reminder to double-check your work when using the copy-paste function.

Michele Bachmann, pop song diva …who knew?

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has a starring role in a new viral video that uses news clips of a House floor debate as its unlikely source material.

The video shows Bachmann speaking during a recent debate on climate change legislation, saying members can “choose liberty or we can choose tyranny …” They’re her words, but she’s not exactly speaking — she’s singing, thanks to a software program called Auto-Tune that turns a regular soundtrack into a musical one.

“Auto-Tune the News” is the brainchild of a group of young political satirists and has been viewed nearly a quarter-million times. In addition, the clip features Reps. John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The video’s creators awarded Bachmann the prize of “second best unintentional singer.”

Have a look:

Klobuchar makes a rare departure from her party

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
AX239_15F2_9.JPG

Sen. Amy Klobuchar took an unprecedented departure from her party on Wednesday as the only Democrat to support a largely symbolic Republican measure requiring bailed-out auto companies to issue every taxpayer common stock.

The senator’s spokesman, Linden Zakula, said it was the first time that she has been the only Democrat to side with Republicans on a party-line vote. Democrats otherwise voted unanimously against the measure – with all but three Republicans supporting it.

Sponsored by Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, the amendment to an appropriations bill would have specifically required bailed-out auto companies like GM and Chrysler to issue common stock to every American who filed taxes in 2008 – emphasizing the public’s multi-billion dollar investment in the corporations. Dubbed the “Auto Stock for Every Taxpayer Act,” it would also have prohibited more TARP funds from going to auto manufacturers. The text of the amendment can be found here.

“Senator Klobuchar’s vote sends a message that taxpayers deserve to recover their investments and that the government should get out of the car business as soon as possible,” Zakula wrote in an e-mail. “Senator Klobuchar will continue to push for a full accounting of the funds and the oversight taxpayers deserve.”

In December, Klobuchar voted for a measure to bailout the auto companies – though it eventually failed. Zakula said in an interview that Klobuchar has “always had concerns” about the plans to restructure GM and Chrysler.

Klobuchar’s Minnesota colleague, Democrat Al Franken, seemed to view the Alexander amendment differently.

“He doesn’t see a way to administer it, and there are more feasible and effective ways to hold auto companies accountable,” said Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh.

By their words ye shall know them

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

This is hardly science, but a spot check of the Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Words web site gives a succinct glimpse into what’s on the minds of our elected officials in Washington. The site, which tracks the words most often uttered in speeches and other pronouncements logged in the Congressional Record (we’ve featured this before on BQ), gives this snapshot of the Minnesota congressional delegation over the past year:

Tim Walz, 1st District, DFL, “veterans” (68 times); John Kline, 2nd District, Republican, “school” (23 times); Erik Paulsen, 3rd District, Republican, “business” (35 times); Betty McCollum, 4th District, DFL, “families” (101 times); Keith Ellison, 5th District, DFL, “progressive” (370 times); Michele Bachmann, 6th District, Republican, “tax” (250 times); Collin Peterson, 7th District, DFL, “agriculture” (19 times); Jim Oberstar, 8th District, DFL, “transportation” (247 times); Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL, “country” (170 times); Sen. Al Franken (just sworn in July 7, has yet to make a floor speech).

Wellstone Action’s chief heading down under

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Jeff Blodgett, Wellstone Action’s executive director, is taking his organization’s message far afield this week: to Sydney, Australia.

Blodgett will deliver the keynote address Friday at the national convention of the Australian Labor Party, offering advice on how to create the kind of grassroots political organization that contributed significantly to President Obama’s victory last November.

Obama’s campaign utilized many of the campaign tactics Blodgett utilized in managing the late Paul Wellstone’s three U.S. Senate runs. After Wellstone’s death, Wellstone action was created to continue teaching those strategies to candidates and political activists.

Blodgett managed Obama’s campaign in Minnesota last year, handily winning in the state. His speech is titled, “Winning with Obama — Building a Movement for Change.”

Former colleague reflects on Franken’s behind-the-scenes transition

Monday, July 27th, 2009

WNYC’s Mike Pesca interviewed SNL writer and former Al Franken colleague James Downey this morning about the senator’s “hyper-partisan” approach to comedy and how that played out in the writer’s room over the years. Pesca explained that he and Franken sometimes clashed over what is fair game in political humor, especially as Franken transitioned into a more serious role.

Check out the interview here, transcript here.

RNC health care ad aims at rural MN Dems

Monday, July 27th, 2009

With the health reform fight in full swing in Washington this week, the Republican National Committee (RNC) is launching radio ads targeting rural Democrats in conservative or centrist districts, including Minnesota Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz.  The hope, of course, is strengthen the hand of opponents worried about growing budget deficits. “If Barack Obama and the Democrats get their way, the federal government will make the decisions about your health care,” a radio voice says. “And, their plan costs a trillion dollars we don’t have.” The RNC declined to disclose the cost and reach of the ad campaign, which will likely be matched by liberal groups that support the Democrats’ health system overhaul. But in Peterson’s case, at least, the RNC might have missed the mark a little. It criticizes Obama’s stimulus package and suggests that listeners “look at their record.” Well, a look at Peterson’s record shows he voted against the stimulus package.

Update: The RNC’s LeRoy Coleman (native Minnesotan who worked for an unrelated U.S. senator by the same name) responds: “The ad refers to the record of President Obama and Congressional Democrats, and urges Minnesota voters to hold Congressmen Walz and Peterson accountable if they support (the health care bill).”

Peterson on conspiracy theorists: “That’s why I don’t do town hall meetings”

Monday, July 27th, 2009

An article about the debate surrounding Barack Obama’s citizenship in Politico today features a quotation from Rep. Collin Peterson, who told the paper (sarcastically?) that many of his constituents are conspiracy theorists.

“Twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents a conservative Republican district in Minnesota. “That’s why I don’t do town meetings.”


This is a place where open-minded critical thinkers of all political persuasions encounter information and arguments that both support and challenge their preconceptions. The goal is not to eliminate differences but to narrow and clarify them. We begin with a bedrock agreement that the search for insight and clarity is important, serious - and fun.

We ask commenters to be civil and substantive and, if possible, good humored. We reserve the right to delete comments that disregard this request.

Follow The Big Question on Twitter Do you use Twitter? Follow The Big Question.