a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

This is what elections are for

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 16th, 2008

Writing for the Washington Post blog “The Fix,” Chris Cilizza pronounces himself gobsmacked by the ad above, writing:

Among the extremely tough lines delivered by the tearful couple:

* “I don’t blame the Army for our son’s death, I just blame the bad policies on President Bush, Norm Coleman who voted for this.” (Nancy Anderson)

* “I have no faith in Norm Coleman. He has no ability to make up his own mind.” (Claremont Anderson)

* “If Norm Coleman would have stood up to the president and said this is not a good idea maybe he would have listened.” (Nancy Anderson)

Wow. WOW. The ad all but blames Coleman for the death of the Andersons’ son, arguing that Coleman had the power to stop it by opposing the war in Iraq from the start.  […]

While allowing that the ad helps “make clear what is at stake in this election,” Cilizza continues with the warning,

…the ad runs a real risk of being seen as an attempt by Democrats to score political points on the back of a personal tragedy. The image of a physically shaken Nancy Anderson on screen walks right up to the line of what is acceptable in the realm of politics.

No, this is a perfect strike in what is acceptable in the realm of politics. Wars have consequences.  It’s not some kind of frivolous political point to say that voting for this war — repeatedly — should have consequences as well.

Given that Cilizza doesn’t take the time to spot the “maybe” in Ms. Anderson’s statement, it’s not surprising he doesn’t take the time to provide some background about the alleged victim, United States Senator Norm Coleman.  Reports like this one (“Coleman and Franken on Iraq: Everything you need to know,” Eric Black, Minnesota Post) paint essentially the same picture the Stuarts do (emphases in original):

Norm Coleman was an early and unconditional supporter of the idea of war in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. After four years of toeing the pro-Bush, pro-war line, he wobbled slightly in early 2007 by doubting the wisdom of the surge. He has since recanted those doubts, thinks the war is going well and takes basically the same position on current matters as John McCain and President Bush. He believes the prospects are good for a drawdown of U.S. troops, but it must be done based on conditions on the ground as reported by commanders in the field, not according to an “arbitrary” timetable set for “political” reasons in Washington.Coleman recently told a press conference that, even if he had known then everything he knows now, he does not consider his original support for the war to have been wrong.

In a long interview with me about the whole six-year U.S.-in-Iraq saga, Coleman declined to affirm that last statement.  I asked whether he believes that after the whole tale is told the invasion and occupation of Iraq will turn out to have been worth it for the United States. He declined to answer the question directly and instead converted it, as he has often done, to a question he felt more comfortable answering: “Do I think the world is better off without Saddam Hussein running a country. The answer is yes.”

Summing up: Coleman started out for the Iraq War, finally thought briefly about being against it, but then stayed for it.  “Yes man” seems fair.  “Maybe Bush would have listened” if Coleman had changed course seems fair. “Can’t make up his own mind” seems fair. “All but being blamed” for the war that killed the Anderson’s son seems very fair — Coleman wasn’t some slob arguing about it at the barbershop, he cast a vote that sealed the deal.

No — these all seem like very fair critiques to make of someone who wants to be reappointed to one of the most powerful positions in the country.  This is essentially a man who has not learned anything of value in the last six years, is torn mainly between political self-preservation and abject servitude to the GOP party line, and then resorts to playing games in dodging his responsibility for the predicament he helped put Americans in.

Americans like the Andersons, not to put too fine a point on it.

Cilizza’s concerns about this ad are seem like another one of those episodes of faux astonishment and outrage which — consciously or not — seek to turn the debate from the ugly, painful war issue itself to the more comfortable one of how we’re permitted to see it and debate it.  We mustn’t see the caskets.  We mustn’t speak ill of any soldier or any general.  We tut-tut when Cindy Sheehan has the bad manners to repeatedly remind us that her son is still dead.

Cilizza’s right to identify this ad as a strong one, one that cuts through the grotesque fog of denial around this war.  The ad, the campaign, and the election offer Minnesotans a valid choice: to choose continued war, or not. To agree with the Andersons, or not. To elect a Senator Franken, or a Senator Coleman.

That’s what elections are for.

One Response to “This is what elections are for”

  1. » Blog Archive » Better Democrats Says:

    […] Al Franken (MN), who made his opposition to the Iraq war the center of his campaign with effective, hard hitting ads like this one. […]

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