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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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Rowley Record: Rowley Hits a Klinker

From today's Star Tribune:

Rep. John Kline demanded and got an apology Monday from his Democratic rival, Coleen Rowley, for a doctored picture on her campaign website depicting him as Colonel Klink, a bumbling Nazi prison camp commandant in an old TV comedy series.


Rowley, a retired FBI agent, said she would phone Kline to apologize.

"I'm going to say that ... it was in bad taste. ... This was a Nazi uniform and I didn't grasp that impact, and I apologize for any bad feeling that he got from that," she said in a phone interview. "But I would not apologize for thinking that his representation of our [Second] district has been incompetent. I think that many, many things that John Kline has uttered have been incorrect."

Okay, first things first. Rowley showed poor judgement in approving the use of the photo on her website. The photo was in poor taste. A congressional campaign should be about issues and ideas, not mocking caricatures of your opponent.

That said, Rowley's opponents are blowing this thing way out of proportion. For one thing, although they claim to be shocked at how awful the photo is, they sure seem to be fond of it.

For another . . . um, it was intended to humorously mock Kline, not call him a Nazi. See, the names happen to be quite similar: "Colonel Kline", "Colonel Klink", get it? And really, Colonel Klink isn't a Nazi, he's a 1960's sitcom character (and the character wasn't even a Nazi, just a member of the regular German military).

But the real meat of the issue is the way Rowley responded when John Kline expressed his anger. She immediately took down the photo, posted a public apology on her web site, and made an effort to contact Kline to apologize to him personally. What's more, she could easily have blamed it on a staffer or volunteer (anyone remember Mel Martinez?), but she didn't. She took personal responsibility for the conduct of her campaign.

Care to know the name of someone who hasn't taken responsibility in this manner, on an issue which mattered more than a clownish photoshopped image? John Kline. Unfortunately I can't link to it, but this is from the October 20, 2000 edition of the Pioneer Press:

The Republican Party of Minnesota aired a so-called contrast ad on Kline's behalf. It alleges Rep. Bill Luther, the three-term Democrat, voted against smaller class sizes in schools, teacher merit pay and tenure reforms.

The best face that can be put on these charges is that they grossly twist the circumstances of a 1999 vote in Congress. A fair analysis is that the ad sets out to tell a lie and does so.

In July 1999, the House was voting on the New Teachers and Training Programs legislation, which had several parts. A key difference between the Republican majority's bill and the version most Democrats, including Luther, voted for was that the Democrats were backing President Clinton's proposal to hire 100,000 new teachers in addition to features in both versions of the bill on merit, tenure, class size and other federal commitments to public education. The Republican version wanted to end certain federal education programs and substitute block grants to the states.

Luther voted for the Democratic version, which didn't pass but did include performance standards for teachers hired with federal money, the Clinton teachers, added $100 million in federal money for charter schools, and left tenure reform up to states.

So the reality is not that Congressman Luther is against improving and supporting public education, as the ad on behalf of Kline says, but that Luther didn't vote for a Republican version of how to deliver federal aid to schools.

Scot Crockett, Kline's campaign manager, said Luther did take the vote and that they stand by the allegations in the ad.

When the state GOP ran a misleading ad on Kline's behalf, an ad which, according to the Pioneer Press, "sets out to tell a lie and does so", Kline didn't disavow the ad or even choose to distance himself from it by claiming that his campaign has no control over what the state GOP does (like Bush did with the Swift Boat Veterans last year). When given the opportunity to take responsibility for his campaign and disavow sleaze tactics, he instead chose to "stand by the allegations".

Rowley made a poor choice in letting that photo get on her web site; I will be very disappointed if she makes a similar error in judgement in the future. But when it comes to things like ethical behavior and accountability, there is a clear difference between the candidates, and it's not favorable to Kline.


Blogger Hammer said...

Gotta disagree with this, Dave: The photo was in poor taste. A congressional campaign should be about issues and ideas, not mocking caricatures of your opponent. Remember the purple heart bandages that were proudly worn by delegates to the Republican convention in 2004? Politics today can be very cruel and mocking. If you get people to laugh at your opponent it helps your chances. Republicans do not hesitate to make cruel comparisons or use mocking caricatures. Rowley showed bad judgment in this instance, but satire, sarcasm, and humor are powerful weapons against the established power.

2/01/2006 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger David Bailey said...

I expect you're right, but could you provide a more appropriate example? I personally disagree with both the choice Coleen made with the Col. Klink photo and with the idiots with purple heart band-aids at the GOP convention.

I guess I hold a dual standard for candidates and their supporters. If the Col. Klink photo had merely appeared on some Rowley supporter's blog, I wouldn't object so much (certainly I wouldn't fault Rowley for it). I'd like to think if Bush was wearing a purple heart band-aid on his chin when he gave his address to the GOP convention, it would have hurt his campaign more than it helped, but I could be wrong about that. Goodness knows I've been wrong before about how the public will react to outrageous GOP behavior.

2/01/2006 06:29:00 PM  

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