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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Kline Record: Slime and Defend

Although I don't support John Kline and disagree with almost everything the modern Republican party does, I was until recently impressed with the fact that Kline never stooped to smear attacks for partisan advantage. Then I read his remarks from March 9, 2004. The nickel summary is that in responding to an attack that DNC chair Terry McAuliffe made on Bush's highly dubious military service record, Kline chose to distort McAuliffe's remarks into an attack on 193,000 members of the National Guard.

Anyone who was awake during the 2004 election cycle is familiar with this tactic: a Democrat attacks or criticizes Bush, and Republicans respond by claiming that Democrats are attacking our troops. It is standard Republican playbook sleaze, and this time Kline spewed it on the floor of the House.

I don't want to re-hash the argument about Bush's service record here; I will only summarize it by stating that Bush was unable to account for almost an entire year of the time he was supposedly serving in the Texas Air National Guard (TANG), and didn't seem to eager to answer questions about it. Bush was unable to produce a single former TANG member who could credibly report having served with him. Given the fact that rabid Bush supporters were doing everything they could to cast doubt on John Kerry's military record, it was only fair for Bush's opponents to question his. And it was only fair to emphasize those questions when Bush was unable to acceptably account for his whereabouts.

This is what Terry McAuliffe did in February 2004. While he may have gone over the line by calling Bush AWOL and stating that "Bush never served in our military", that's what a party leader is supposed to do: make partisan attacks. And whatever else one might think of McAuliffe's charges, they were clearly leveled at George Bush, not at any member of the active-duty military or National Guard. And yet, look how John Kline chose to spin McAuliffe's remarks on the floor of Congress:

Mr. Speaker, we hear many outrageous claims and public discourse today on the floor of this House and outside of this House, and the integrity of the President of the United States is impugned over and over again, and we simply do not have time to address all of those issues; but today I rise to address an unacceptable offense against the men and women of our National Guard and the Commander in Chief-of-the United States military.

As my colleagues may know, Mr. Speaker, last month the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Terry McAuliffe, attacked President Bush by claiming he was AWOL, AWOL from the Alabama National Guard. He also cheapened the service of the men and women of the National Guard by saying that President Bush, as a member of the Guard, never served in our military.

In the time that has passed since Mr. McAuliffe made his unfounded charge, the President has produced military records which reflect his service and honorable discharge in the National Guard.

Mr. Speaker, the President has had the opportunity to exonerate himself; and I believe the men and women who have served their country, our country, as members of the National Guard deserve to be exonerated as well. Mr. McAuliffe's comments discredit, discredit the sacrifices of tens of thousands of National Guardsmen and -women and is a slap in the face to their service, to their families.

I believe the men and women of our National Guard serving this very moment in Afghanistan, Iraq and throughout the globe, including many Minnesotans serving in Bosnia, would disagree with the sentiment that they are not serving their country. More than 193,000 National Guards members and Reservists are currently serving in the war on terror, and over 129,000 are overseas.

While in Iraq last fall, I had the good fortune to spend time with members of the Minnesota National Guard who provided transportation in and out of Baghdad, and I would say it was the best transportation in and out of Baghdad. These men and women are steadfast servants of our military and our country who have given up their own freedom to ensure liberty for others. Whether on the front lines or serving in support roles, these brave Americans are the difference between terrorism and freedom. If that is not service to our country, Mr. Speaker, I do not know what is.

This week, yet another National Guard unit from Minnesota will depart to serve our country, another National Guard unit will depart to serve our country; and I challenge anyone to question the sacrifice of these Guardsmen and -women and the families they are leaving behind.

As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, I take offense to Mr. McAuliffe's demeaning the characterization of our National Guard. His baseless insinuation diminishes the National Guard as an institution, and he owes an apology to the Guardsmen and -women in uniform serving our country and protecting their fellow Americans.

Mr. McAuliffe's comments represent the worst of election-year politics. It is deplorable for anyone, much less the leader of a national party, to denounce, degrade, and dishonor a fighting force that is at this moment fighting for freedom and democracy around the world.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the men and women of our National Guard and say thank you. We love you; we are with you.

As I said before, this is a familiar tactic. McAuliffe attacked Bush's military record, in an admittedly unfair way, and in his response, Kline spent the majority of his time refuting a nonexistent attack on our armed forces. Republicans are very adept at spinning Democrats' words into attacks on our troops, even though you can read every campaign speech from every Democrat for the past two election cycles, and you won't find such an attack anywhere. It's a Republican tactic called "Slime and Defend", sliming your opponent while wrapping yourself in the flag and hiding behind the military. Look for it to rear its ugly head, unfortunately, in the 2006 campaign. Just don't be taken in by it.

And one more thing. If I were a member of the National Guard, I would be more concerned about the fact that National Guard units routinely receive equipment inferior to what those in the regular military receive. Of course, I expect it will be a good long while before John Kline gives an indignant floor speech about that.


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