August 2009

Norm Coleman takes fellowship at Harvard

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

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Former Senator Norm Coleman, who remained largely in the shadows since his election defeat earlier this summer, will be moving to Harvard University for a week this fall to be a visiting fellow, the school announced this afternoon.

He will hold the position for one week in November, Harvard spokesman Esten Perez said, and will succeed former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe. A statement from the school states that visiting fellows “traditionally meet with student groups; lead discussion groups on topical issues and their experiences in public and political service; and participate in public policy classes with students and Harvard Kennedy School faculty.”

Perez said Coleman will have a variety of roles on campus, including leading a discussion about an undetermined topic of his choosing.

“One thing he’ll definitely do is meet with a lot of students and student groups during his time here,” Perez said. “But he’ll do at least one session where he’ll lead a discussion on the topic of interest.”

The fellowship takes place during the week of Nov. 16. And while most of Coleman’s events will be centered around student groups, Perez said there is a possibility he will speak publicly as well.

Coleman took a job this winter consulting for the Republican Jewish Coalition, a Washington-based nonprofit.

Ellison compares health care debate to civil rights movement

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

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In a conference call with reporters this morning hosted by the Campaign for America’s Future, Rep. Keith Ellison emphasized the need for a public option in health care reform. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Ellison characterized the current debate as being on par with the civil rights movement or the women’s suffrage movement.

“Let’s just acknowledge the fact that we are right in the middle of a historic debate. And I believe that this debate is as historic as the debate for civil rights, historic as the debate to get the EPA. I mean this is a great moment in American history, and there’s no doubt that the interests that are on the table are so great and the stakes are so high that there’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be competitive.”

He returned to this point later in his remarks:

“The fact is that the people who are standing opposed to the public option, these people are standing against reform, they are siding with big insurance industry bosses against the American people. Simple as that. And we’re simply not going to stand for it. No more so than Susan B Anthony stood for it, or Martin Luther King stood for it – or any of those people who fought for real reform to make America better.”

Courting the faithful

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

President Obama is doing a live webcast call-in with faith leaders on Wednesday about health care. Ceding no ground, the anti-abortion group known as the Susan B. Anthony List has organized a “Keeping faith with the unborn” call on health care that organizers say will contact over 350,000 “pro-life” voters in key states. Added to the lineup: Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Kline to Walz: No

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican, has formally declined an invitation from Democratic colleague Tim Walz to appear together in a town hall forum on health care reform.

The invite, which has become something of a tempest in a teapot, is unlikely to be forgotten soon by either of the two congressmen representing adjoining Minnesota districts.  Kline’s office, which has called the offer a “publicity stunt,” is now smarting that their boss’s letter sending his regrets appeared promptly on a left-leaning Minnesota political blog. It also was referenced in a DFL attack piece charging that Kline has taken the “work” out of “district work period,” (a phrase Kline used in his letter to Walz).

So much for bipartisanship, professional decorum, and collegiality.

Late-breaking Update: As Walz prepares for his “teletownhall” meeting Tuesday evening with U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a spokeswoman from his office says she has “no idea” how Kline’s letter to Walz got out into wider distribution.

Town Hall Town Schmall. Read My Press Release

Monday, August 17th, 2009

The war of words over town hall meetings in Minnesota has become rather more personal between neighboring congressmen Tim Walz, a Democrat (on left), and John Kline, a Republican (on right).

Walz, who took some mild heat for holding a couple of health care forums without the benefit of actual public participation, decided to to hold a real public forum in Mankato on Thursday. (He will also hold a “teletownhall” meeting Tuesday with U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius). In the spirit of bipartisanship, he said, he was inviting Kline to join him on Thursday. No screaming and shouting. Just “meaningful, civil discussion.” This, he suggested, is how we do things in Minnesota.

The written invitation went out around midday on Friday, with a press release announcing the invitation going out to the media a few hours later.
Maybe what happened next can be blamed on the post office. Or the phone company. Or the Internet. But somehow, the press release announcing the invitation was out before the letter got to Kline, who was out of the office on Friday (it’s August recess in Congress).

Feeling somewhat blindsided, Kline’s office released a less than grateful reply at close of business Friday: “That we received his invitation today, the same day it was released to the press, leads me to question if there was ever a good faith intent on Mr. Walz’s behalf. Frankly, it sounds like a publicity stunt.”

Stunt or no stunt, Kline left himself, and Walz, some wiggle room by adding that he was “not going to commit” until they discussed it directly.

As of high-noon Monday, still no direct parlay between the two congressmen, who according to Walz’s letter, share constituents with the “common bond” of working and being treated at Rochester’s Mayo Clinic.

But itchy fingers over at DFL headquarters in St. Paul have now unleashed the following press release: “Rep. John Kline reached a new low in apathy this week — turning down Rep. Tim Walz’s invitation to a bipartisan town hall…”

Anybody want to lay any bets that these two will appear on the same stage on Thursday?

President Bachmann? Lord knows …

Monday, August 17th, 2009

If you’re Michele Bachmann, it seems that aiming for the highest office in the land requires getting a green light from the highest possible authority.

In an interview published over the weekend, the Sixth District congresswoman says she’ll run for president if “the Lord was calling me” to do it.

The interview, conducted by the conservative news website WorldNetDaily, is her most recent foray into headline-making. Just last week, she linked herself to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, another Republican woman who mesmerizes the party’s base and drives Democrats nuts. “Don’t let them Palinize me!” she pleaded in a fundraising letter.

Asked about a Bachmann-for-president run, she said:

“If I felt that’s what the Lord was calling me to do, I would do it. When I have sensed that the Lord is calling me to do something, I’ve said yes to it. But I will not seek a higher office if God is not calling me to do it. That’s really my standard. If I am called to serve in that realm I would serve, but if I am not called, I wouldn’t do it.”

If that sounds vaguely familiar, Bachmann made similar comments in 2006 about her decision to run for Congress. At the time, Bachmann said that she and her husband fasted and prayed for three days about whether to run and “that on the
afternoon of day two, God made that calling sure.”

She added: “Who in their right mind would spend two years to run for a job that lasts two years? You’d have to be absolutely a fool to do that. You are now looking at a fool for Christ.”

In the WorldNetDaily interview, Bachmann also took direct aim at her critics: “I also think they’re upset that I’m willing to go on radio and TV shows and call them out on their policies. They’ve thrown just about everything they can throw at me and they haven’t prevailed yet, and I think that infuriates them.”

Bachmann’s spokesman, Dave Dziok, said today she is spending time with her family this week “so she’ll be hard to get ahold of.” However, regarding a 2012 presidential run, “it’s safe to say that there are absolutely no plans in the works – in any way, shape, or form – for a possible candidacy,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Kline to Walz: Thanks, but no thanks

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Rural Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz, who has decided to let the public in on his health care forums, wants Republican John Kline to join him at a town hall forum he has scheduled next Thursday at Mankato East High School. “In return,” the congressman’s office says in a press release, Walz would join Kline at a town hall forum of his choosing in his district.

Walz, citing the shouting matches and disruptions that have marred health care forums around the country, said “that’s not how we do it in Minnesota.” His proposal, he said, would restore “civility” to the tradition of town hall meetings.

Sounds collegial and bipartisan, except that the invitation came as news to Kline, who was traveling Friday when the letter went out. His office called the invitation a publicity stunt.


Bachmann won’t be ‘Palinized’

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann knows she’s in the Democrats’ cross-hairs like no other modern pol beside former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. In a recent fundraising letter makings its way around the blogosphere, Bachmann quotes Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity calling her “the second most hated Republican woman” — second only to Palin. Now with Palin apparently taking a breather, Bachmann tells her supporters “I may be absorbing even more of the liberals’ scorn.” The reason? “I’m out there every day speaking the truth about their attempts to guide this nation into socialism.”

Adduced into evidence: A Star Tribune column this week sympathizing with her adult son’s decision to join AmeriCorps, a group she has equated with “re-education camps” that promote the philosophy of big government. Bachmann called the column a “hit piece on one of my kids.” She sums up her fundraising appeal under the headline: “Don’t let them Palinize me!”

Pawlenty’s presidential prospects paltry in NH?

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

As Gov. TIm Pawlenty hits the road again to burnish his brand with national Republicans, a new poll out of New Hampshire shows he has a decidedly uphill battle on his hands if he harbors presidential aspirations.

A poll conducted this week among likely Republican voters in the first primary of the 2012 presidential campaign shows Pawlenty with the support of just 2.7 percent. Leading the pack among potential GOP candidates is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was supported by just over 50 percent of those polled. Also polling ahead of Pawlenty were former Govs. Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The poll, conducted by Now Hampshire, a conservative news site in the Granite State, was conducted Monday and Tuesday among 403 likely Republican voters. It has a margin of sampling error of 5 percentage points.

Romney, who took second place in last year’s New Hampshire primary, already is positioning himself for another run in 2012, but has said he hasn’t decided whether to run. Pawlenty, for all the specullation about his national ambitions, also has repeatedly said he hasn’t decided what he’ll eventually do. It’s notable, however, in the midst of his repeated recent criticisms of President Obama, Pawlenty also has gone out of his way to criticize the health reform plan Romney midwifed in Massachusetts.

Pawlenty, who will speak to a gathering of national Republicans in Chicago Friday, can take solace from the assessment of his chances by Mike Dennehy, a veteran of Sen. John McCain’s two campaigns in New Hampshire.

Dennehy told Now Wisconsin that New Hampshire is a political environment that might ultimately embrace someone like Pawlenty because “New Hampshire loves underdogs.”

Peterson announces times for town hall forums

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

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Rep. Collin Peterson, who has been recently criticized for his statements about town hall forums, announced the details of two public health care events that he will hold next week. The format of the meetings was spelled out in a news release:

“The events will begin with a panel of local stakeholders and experts who will make brief statements that will be followed by a moderated panel discussion, with questions from the audience to begin at that point.”

The rural Democrat said in an interview earlier this week that the number one concern he has heard from constituents recently has been regarding fiscal responsibility.

“I’d say the number one thing [I hear] is why are we spending so much money,” Peterson said. “You know, whats going on here? Why is this deficit 1.8 trillion dollars? Have you guys gone crazy? That kind of thing. And I think that is where some of the concern about health care comes, because we’ve spent all this money on stimulus and bailouts and car bailouts and all this stuff – run up this big deficit – and then they hear that we’re going to have a health care bill that’s going to spend another huge amount of money.”

Willmar Meeting:
2 p.m., Friday, August 14, 2009
Health and Human Services Multipurpose Room
2200 23rd Street
Willmar, MN 56201

Bemidji Meeting:
1 p.m., Monday, August 17, 2009
County Administration Board Room
701 Minnesota Avenue NW
Bemidji, MN 56601


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