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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.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

John Kline's Puzzling Interview

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

It's been three weeks since the 'debate' between Coleen, Jason Lewis and John Kline at the State Fair. Since then, Kline has refused at least four additional debates, and has ignored the debate challenge Coleen issued two weeks ago. While he continues to avoid an honest exchange of views in a neutral forum, he recently talked with T.W. Budig of ECM. In addition to reiterating his support for an open-ended occupation of Iraq, he made some truly puzzling statements about the campaign.

To begin with, Kline alleges that Rowley for Congress has been "relentlessly negative" in its campaign. This is a puzzling charge, coming from a congressman who launched three smear attacks in as many weeks in August. As evidence of the Rowley campaign's negativity, Kline alleges that Coleen Rowley and her supporters "attacked" him at parades. Actually, what the Rowley campaign did was pass out bookmarks with an abbreviated chart of John Kline's record on the issues, as scored by independent groups such as the League of Conservation Voters, the AFL-CIO’s "Working Families" group, the National Education Association and the Disabled American Veterans. The full list of rankings is available here. If informing voters about John Kline's record is "relentlessly negative", Kline has no one to blame but himself.

Kline goes on to charge that Coleen Rowley is difficult to pin down on the issues, saying "We need to get her, frankly, to say where she stands on some of the issues". If Kline is truly confused about Coleen's positions, then he should be welcoming debates, not ducking them. But it's difficult to understand how Kline could be confused in the first place, since Coleen has clearly stated her position on no fewer than 10 issues on this very website, and has authored numerous other pieces in the Pioneer Press, Star Tribune, New York Times and Huffington Post (the Star Tribune is currently running an op-ed she co-authored). Perhaps John Kline doesn't understand that a campaign website is the place where most candidates publish their positions on issues; certainly Kline has failed to do this at his own campaign site. But if he's confused about Coleen's positions, he once again has no one but himself to blame.

Speaking of issues, Kline next jumps into a discussion of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Budig, Kline "expresses shock that people seem to have conveniently forgotten that it was generally agreed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." But this statement is remarkably disingenuous. People haven't "conveniently forgotten" the consensus view in 2003 that Saddam had WMD; rather, they resent the fact that the administration manufactured that consensus by lying about the threat in order to generate support for the invasion. And instead of holding the administration to account, John Kline is continuing to cover for them.

Kline goes on to reiterate his rock-ribbed support for an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops in Iraq, noting that U.S. troops have been stationed in Germany for 60 years. Of course during WWII, we were fighting a conventional war against other countries, not a sectarian conflict among multiple guerilla factions; and combat was concluded within a relatively short time frame. Our troops have now been fighting in Iraq longer than we fought in Europe during WWII, and there is no end in sight. Indeed, our top two generals in the region recently testified that the sectarian violence is the worst it's ever been, and Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and Republican Senator from Nebraska, contends that the occupation is "destroying the United States Army". Despite overwhelming evidence that the occupation of Iraq is ineffective both in fighting terrorism and in fostering democracy, and the fact that it is destroying our military readiness, John Kline is adamant about staying the course. Indefinitely.

Kline does, however, want to increase the size of the Army.

"We should not have to deploy the reserve component to that extent," he said, noting the recent departure of 2600 Minnesota National Guards troops for Iraq.

It would stretch the military, but Kline believes the U.S. forces could handle Iraq and Afghanistan and also deal with North Korea or Iran if military action were deemed necessary.

Coleen Rowley supports responsible redeployment from Iraq; but since John Kline demands an open-ended commitment, a push to increase our overall troop strength is essential. But Kline conspicuously avoids discussing where these troops will come from; he has previously made it "crystal clear" that he "categorically" opposes reinstating the draft. Until he provides specifics on how to increase recruitment and retention, it's irresponsible for Kline to publicly state that the U.S. can reasonably maintain forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and North Korea or Iran.

Finally, Kline cites an increase special education funding and continued work on national security as his priorities should he win a third term. Coleen supports these goals as well, but Kline's record in Congress shows he hasn't always pursued them. On national security, John Kline prioritized tax cuts for millionaires above funding for homeland security, and has consistently voted against steps to secure nuclear and chemical sites, against improved air travel screening and inspections, against tougher border and port security, and against funding for first responders. And on education, Kline voted for a $12 billion cut in student loan programs --- the largest such cut ever.

What Kline fails to discuss about his third-term agenda is his long-standing support for Social Security privatization. He was one of the main champions of George Bush's doomed privatization effort in 2005, and Bush has clearly indicated Social Security is one of his priorities in 2007. There's every reason to believe that Kline will continue to toe the line for Bush if he gets the chance.

Yes, the answers John Kline gave in this interview are truly puzzling, but what's not puzzling is Kline's continued refusal to sit down with Coleen Rowley for another discussion of the issues. Kline knows that if he engages in another debate with a moderator just slightly less partisan than Jason Lewis, voters will get a clear look at Kline's record. Considering what that record is, there's no wonder Kline is sowing the seeds of confusion.

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