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Eric Black on Wetterling-Bachmann

Eric Black has an article in the Star Tribune today, and a post on his blog, "The Big Question," addressing the Sixth District race. Though he states his own opinion in a question, to make it seem as if he's only fishing for input from the audience, his thesis seems to be this:

Wetterling is too incoherent; Bachmann is too extreme

One huge failure of the mainstream media is that it seeks to be even-handed, or, more accurately, "bi-partisan." Sometimes this is good. Though I am a partisan Democrat, I would rather see dedicated, truthful reporting than a liberal/DFL slant on everything I read. In many cases, especially in politics writing, it can be a negative. Most politics writing goes a little like this: some news is uncovered; both major parties (and, sometimes, outside observers or third parties) are given a chance to respond and spin, whether that spin is deserving of reporting or not. In the worst cases, reporters allow one side to blurt an obvious untruth for the sake of "balance." Now, I'm not accusing Eric Black of this last, most egregious pattern, but in both of Black's pieces, he follows the basic motif. He says something bad about Bachmann ("too extreme"), so he has to come up with something bad about Wetterling ("too incoherent").

Bachmann's extremism is on display for all and pretty indisputable. Head over to Dump Bachmann for example after example of her out-of-the-mainstream politics and views. You can agree or disagree with her policy views, but no one should argue that they are far, far to the right of the mainstream political discourse in Minnesota.

But here's what Black says about Wetterling:

Wetterling’s answers to specific issue questions are often so meandering and unspecific that they raise questions about how well-informed she is, on issues other than children’s safety. Feel free to quarrel with the premise. But please bear in mind, the argument I’m making is about the rhetoric moreso than the positions.

OK, Eric. I'll argue with both.

As an example he says illustrates both Michele Bachmann's extremism and Patty Wetterling's incoherency, Black lays out both candidates' views on Iran. I will quote that part of the blog entry in full for easier reference.

Bachmann on Iran Here’s Bachmann, during a May 3 debate with her intra-party endorsement rivals, on what the U.S. should do about Iran:

The question was: “If diplomacy should fail to stop Iran’s nuclear program, what should we do??

Bachmann: “I think that at this point diplomacy is our option. And we certainly don’t want to move toward a nuclear response any time soon or without an abundance of caution.

Iran is at a point right now where America has to be very aggressive in our response. We can’t remove any option off the table. And we should not remove the nuclear response.

However, we must proceed with an abundance of caution. Because we know that Iran is very precarious. And I think we should take very seriously the threats coming out of Iran right now. But again, there are other nations including Venezuela that we need to keep our eyes on as well.?

Just me talking here, but this is an interesting example. Depending on your preferences, you might note that Bachmann endorses diplomacy and caution. And saying that no options should be taken off the table, is almost boilerplate, since few people argue for taking options off tables.

On the other hand, you could notice that, although the question didn’t ask about whether the U.S. should nuke Iran, Bachmann chose to bring it up twice in her answer, to say that it is an option. And then what heck was up with the sudden appearance of Venezuela at the end of her answer?

Wetterling on Iran

Not long after impeachment, good ol’ Gary Eichten asked Wetterling what the U.S. should do about Iran.

Wetterling: “We have to hope. We have to take Iran’s threats seriously. They see a world without Israel and without the United States. We have to aggressively go after them and work diplomatically to try and stop their going forward. I think that it’s part of our not having a strategic plan.

This is an error we made with the Iraq war. We did not engage the support of our allies. And we’ve got to pull everybody together at this point and take it seriously with tough economic sanctions and hope that it makes a difference. Right now, they’re hurting and we can have an impact.?

Eichten: “Anything beyond economic sanctions??

Wetterling: ? Political sanctions. How we all work together. I think the U.N. option has to be given an opportunity to succeed.

We recognize the fact that we are living in a shrinking world and we have to figure out a way to work within this planet. And that’s going to take people, serious efforts of coming to the table.

We all have an interest in making sure that Iran does not go forward with their stated plan.?

Take the bit about working within this shrinking planet. Perhaps to some ears that sounds like Gandhian wisdom. To others, meaningless mush. Who, after all, suggests that the answer is to move Iran to another planet? Who opposes people coming to the table? And, ultimately, what do you do if no one at the table produces a solution?

Take a look at what both candidates really have to say. Of course, these exchanges are just short examples of each candidate's rhetoric and speaking style, but how can you say that Wetterling's position is "meaningless mush" without saying that Bachmann's position is the same? At least, if you are being at all intellectually honest? Both candidates are saying basically the exact same thing: Take Iran seriously, be aggressive, use diplomacy, proceed with caution. Where Wetterling talks of economic sanctions, Bachmann emphasizes the nuclear option (and then goes off about nuking Venezuela.) Neither speaks of specific steps, because that's really not what the interviewer was looking for.

This pattern could also extend to candidates' talk on education. Michele Bachmann's website is extremely vague on education-- two paragraphs of meaningless drivel: "high standards," "educational choices," "parents and guardians," "local control," "understand our students' needs," yada yada yada. Wetterling's is more specific, addressing No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act specifically and laying out plans in a section entitled, "What Will I Do?" Of course, for brevity's sake, she is still very general. If she was too specific and wonky, who would go to her website?

I think you have to acknowledge that both candidates, and all candidates in any race anywhere, are guilty of dumbing down their actual priorities into generalities. Michele Bachmann is just as guilty as Patty Wetterling, who is just as guilty as John Binkowski. That's politics, folks. For the sake of balance, Black's pieces did not acknowledge this fact and call Bachmann on her lack of specific detail. Star Tribune's readers deserve better.

Well, I could write more about this, but I'm going to see Snakes on a Plane! I may return a changed person. Head over to The Big Question to comment on this piece. It is a much bigger and more diverse forum than this humble site.


Talk of dumbing down things, and we have yet to see the Bachmann and Wetterling 30-sec and 60-sec TV spots.

Finally, foreign relations and policy is the traditional area where the party holding the executive also holds the contiunity of the State and Defense Departments. Despite the earlier neocon takeover, Rice is not Rumsfeld and there still is professional staff worldwide.

The biggest differences, and those that should hinge the MN 6 election, are domestic policy - where Bachmann wants a theocracy and promises to cut taxes without any spending cuts noted and with record trade and budget deficits now at play. On stem cells, Plan B and all else, there is cause to doubt Bachmann's positions and her track record for effectiveness on a smaller stage, in St. Paul and not DC, is "unimpressive," to put it mildly.

Bipartisanship is not even a question; she failed at unipartisanship, having been dumped by leadership of her own party from a GOP senate leadership position.