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John Kline's Record

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, December 17, 2006

A Nice Political Ring to It

Last February, House Republicans, including John Kline, voted for the largest-ever cut to student loan programs. When the Democrats formally take control of Congress in January, one of their priorities will be to roll back some of these cuts:

The plan to lower interest rates that lenders can charge students is part of a broader Democratic effort to make it easier for students and parents to pay tuition by increasing Pell Grants from $4,050 to $5,100 per year and expanding tax credits, among other things.

When Republicans cut these loan programs, the cuts only passed by a vote of 216-214. Had Kline voted the other way, the vote would have ended up deadlocked and the cuts wouldn't have passed. What does Kline have to say about the Democrats' plan to restore funding?

Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline, a member of the House education committee, said the Democratic plan to lower interest rates "has a nice political ring to it." But Kline said Congress has to make hard choices on education spending and that the money could be better spent on special education because the federal government has never met its commitment to pay for 40 percent of those costs.

A nice political ring indeed. People of good will may disagree about whether higher education or special education merits priority for funding, but that's not the position Kline took last February. He voted to cut education funding, and the Congressional Record shows that Kline didn't say a word about special education funding from the day the 109th Congress convened to the day he voted for the funding cut.

But then Kline is an expert on saying and doing things with "a nice political ring" and little substance. Like naming post offices, for example:

. . . while the 109th Congress set a record for fewest days spent in session, among the work it did accomplish was passing a resolution renaming the Farmington post office the Hamilton H. Judson Post Office.

In fact, of the 383 pieces of legislation signed into law during the 109th Congress, a fourth of them were bills naming buildings, particularly post offices. Aside from Farmington, the post office in Dennison --- population 166 --- is now officially known as the Albert H. Quie Post Office.

Quie, a former congressman who served a term as Minnesota governor, grew up on a farm a couple of miles from the 30-by-40-foot building that now bears his name.

U.S. Rep. John Kline sponsored the house resolution that renamed the Dennison post office. He also was behind the bill that named the post office in Farmington after Judson.

"A nice political ring to it" should be John Kline's epitaph.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Draft Versus Volunteer

As we've noted, John Kline has recently been on a rampage against a purely theoretical return of the military draft. In his Strib op-ed, he says, in part:

It is outrageous that a small but vocal number of antiwar activists are willing to undermine the effectiveness and safety of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to advance their opposition to the war. While a draft might do wonders for swelling the ranks of bitter veterans who would protest U.S. foreign policy, it would do great harm to our national security.

. . .

Having seen it from both sides, I can say without hesitance that the all-volunteer force is better.

. . .

Why? Because there is no substitute for a team that is unified in purpose. Under a draft, there would be tens if not hundreds of thousands of recruits who did not want to be there, and it would harm our nation's defense by undermining the camaraderie and cohesiveness of our Armed Forces.

More than one veteran took offense at what they believed was Kline's denigration of those who served under the draft.

One Joe Green had this to say:

Kline also dishonors the many draftees who have served honorably in times of war by claiming that draftees "would harm our nation's defense by undermining the camaraderie and cohesiveness of our Armed Forces." I was a draftee during the Vietnam War. No one told me I was doing this. I wish I had known.

Kline should also remember that the last war our nation really won was fought by draftees: citizen soldiers. He should pay attention to the "citizen" part of that phrase and make an attempt to understand what that means.

And WWII veteran Alan Anderson cuts to the heart of the matter (emphasis mine):

John Kline shows a warped view of the role of the military in a democracy. As a draftee in World War II, I am offended by his assertion that a draft "might do wonders for swelling the ranks of bitter veterans."

I recall no draftees who served with me as being "bitter veterans." Senseless wars like Vietnam and Iraq produce "bitter veterans."

The ill-conceived Iraq war might have been avoided if a draft brought it home to more Americans. In a true democracy, all those qualified must be subject to a draft, rather than depending on brave volunteers.

Kline's characterization of those who suggest re-introducing the draft is indeed warped. If the U.S. mission in Iraq is central to U.S. security, then our leaders should not hestitate to ask Americans to band together in shared sacrifice for the benefit of our nation, and we the people should not hesitate to do so --- as we did during WWII. It is telling that in the case of Iraq, Kline believes that only the war's opponents could want such a thing. And as Mr. Anderson correctly points out, if serving in Iraq makes members of our armed forces bitter, that says more about the occupation and its conduct than it does about those who oppose it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Purple Hearts

In the past two weeks, John Kline has written two screeds opposing a purely symbolic effort to reinstitute the draft, a bill which everyone knows will be dead on arrival in January.

Yesterday, Kline proudly announced passage of a bill imposing harsher penalties for those who falsely claim to have earned military awards they haven't earned:

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said awards such as the Purple Heart "hold a deeper meaning and value for servicemen that far outweighs their monetary worth," and called the bill a chance to honor the sacrifice of all troops by preserving the military’s legacy.

There are only two reasons why Kline is burnishing his record of support for the military. For one thing, the Republican-led Congress, in its final throes, is still dragging its feet on getting anything done, and so backbenchers like Kline have plenty of time on their hands to pass feel-good legislation.

More important for Kline, the recent campaign exposed his record on veterans' issues, which quite frankly is dreadful. This didn't hurt him in 2006, but he's clearly working to neutralize this issue as a liability for 2008.

However, like Republican efforts to pass a "Flag Desecration Amendment" or privatize Social Security, this bill is a solution in search of a problem. I mean, how frequently do people trivialize the "deeper meaning and value" of the Purple Heart? Off the top of my head, I can only think of one such occurrence, and I don't recall Kline raising a stink about it then.

Kline's Take on the ISG Report

In my previous post, I chided Kline for ranting about a purely symbolic proposal to reinstitute the draft when there were more important things, like the ISG report, to talk about. Well, Kline hasn't written an 800-word screed about it, but he's now made a few public statements.

To start with let's consider the commission's recommendation that the U.S. work with Iran and Syria to find a diplomatic solution. When Coleen Rowley made the same suggestion in the campaign's sole televised debate, Kline responded with:

Oh please, Coleen. You're going to get Iran and Syria to come on board in agreement with the United States? You cannot solve these world problems with pixie dust.

When the ISG made the exact same recommendation, Kline responded thusly:

"We don't want to be in the business of making a deal with Syria and Iran," he said. "I'm not optimistic about that."

I'll give Kline credit. At least his position hasn't changed, even though his attitude (condescending toward his campaign opponent, respectful toward his "good friend", "hero" and "political mentor" James Baker) has.

Additionally, Kline had this to say:

Meanwhile, Kline, whose son, Army Maj. John David Kline, returned this fall from a one-year tour of Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, said the report confirmed that goal of a democratic, peaceful Iraq remains critical and that a quick pullout would be bad for the region and the U.S.

Kline also was glad to see the group reject the idea of dividing the country into ethnic regions and the idea of sending more U.S. troops.

He backed the basic message of the group that the one thing the U.S. cannot do is more of the same. "They said, if we don't do something, that's bad," Kline said.

If Kline backs the notion that the U.S. cannot do more of the same, that's a flip-flop from his position 3 months ago, when Hometown Source newspapers reported Kline's position as "stay the course". And Kline's claim that the report states "that a quick pullout would be bad for the region and the U.S." stands in direct opposition to the following passage from the report's executive summary:

The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.

The summary also states that "The United States must not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq," which directly contradicts the position Kline took during the campaign.

Like the Democrats did to the Republicans in the recent election, this report delivers "a thumpin'" to Kline's position on Iraq. Yet he makes a grasp for vindication by insisting that the report confirms the goal of a democratic, peaceful Iraq.

The goal has never been in question, congressman. What all sane people have repeatedly questioned have been your means of attaining it. And in this report, your good friend, hero and mentor has publicly stated that your means of attaining it are dead wrong.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


So today, the Iraq Study Group issued its report. The war in Iraq is undoubtedly the major policy issue for America today, and the ISG report is the starting point for discussions on the right policy for success. Given John Kline's bedrock support for the U.S. occupation of Iraq, as well as his emphatic disagreement with the report's conclusions, one might expect him to make a statement about it. So far, nothing.

But Kline hasn't been completely silent since the election. On one issue, Kline has spoken up loudly and often (well, twice), and that issue is his adamant opposition to reinstating the draft. Here's a taste of his strawman argument:

It is outrageous that a small but vocal number of antiwar activists are willing to undermine the effectiveness and safety of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to advance their opposition to the war. While a draft might do wonders for swelling the ranks of bitter veterans who would protest U.S. foreign policy, it would do great harm to our national security.

No one --- Kline included --- thinks that Charlie Rangel's resolution to reinstate the draft has a snowball's chance in hell of passing. Yet Kline has chosen to write not one, but two foaming rants opposing it, rather than saying anything substantive about Iraq and what to do there.

And as far as undermining "the effectiveness and safety of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines," the provision Kline and the House Armed Services Committee quietly inserted into a military appropriations bill effectively ending all oversight of reconstruction efforts in Iraq is far more damaging than Rangel's purely symbolic bill ever could be.

Pixie Dust

Today the Iraq Study Group --- a group led by John Kline's hero and mentor, James Baker, and facilitated by The United States Institute of Peace, an organization Kline openly disdains --- released its recommendations for dealing with the quagmire in Iraq.

In an interview with ABC, Baker made two statements which stand in direct opposition to Kline's stated policy positions on Iraq. Kline believes we must send additional troops to Iraq, although he has never explained where these troops will come from. Baker says that beefing up forces is not a realistic option. Furthermore, when Coleen Rowley stated, in a televised debate during the campaign, that we need to engage Iran and Syria in working toward a diplomatic solution, Kline cut her off and denounced the idea, saying "You cannot solve these world problems with pixie dust." Baker disagrees:

Baker clearly said that those against talking with Syria and Iran are wrong. He said that what the report calls for with respect to Iran is, "nothing different than what this very administration did in Afghanistan when it asked the Iranians to help us in Afghanistan and they did." He said Iran's nuclear ambitions should be treated as a separate issue and that, "those should be left to be dealt with in the U.N. Security Council."

Baker, who has negotiated with the Syrian government in the past, referenced his previous diplomatic trips there. "We have an embassy there, we have ambassadors here," and that "notwithstanding their state sponsorship of terrorism" the United States has always been talking with Syria.

Since Kline prides himself on placing "principle above partisanship," I'm sure he will be issuing a statement tomorrow criticizing his hero and mentor Baker every bit as harshly as he criticized Rowley during the campaign.

Update: Apparently I was wrong about Kline wanting to send more troops to Iraq. I was thinking of this interview Kline gave three months ago in which he stated that he wants a bigger Army. He wants this so that we won't need to send so many reserve troops to Iraq.

But he has still never explained where these new recruits will come from.