Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Obligatory Summer Respite for Norm Coleman

Ah, after all those long, grueling months of hard work, don’t you look forward to a little R&R time. For most of us, we look forward to time with the spouse, maybe taking the kids to a Twins game or the Zoo … and of course a round of golf with the buddies. Alas, we also must schedule in the Obligatory Trip to visit the in-laws. No disrespect for those wonderful members of my spouse’s family, but the thought of 500 miles on the road to spend a couple of days hearing the same old stories, is a haunting déjà vu experience that I don’t want to do again … but it’s a must do.

Poor Norm Coleman … he must feel the same way.
After months of traveling on Endangered Republican Fundraising Tour (potentially 30 joint fundraising events around the country for the four most vulnerable senators of 2008: Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon and John Sununu of New Hampshire) link , Norm needs a little R&R time, too.

But alas, he must first make hit the Minnesota State Fair for the radio interview circuit as his first Obligatory event.
Oh, sure some of the people are “Minnesota Nice”, but then there are always those callers that want to talk about Iraq, the bridge collapse and the floods.
Well, voters, Norm isn’t just going to “talk” about Iraq … he’s “going” to Iraq.

I believe that is another Obligatory Tour Event.

As The New York Times describes these trips are commonplace. A typical trip begins when Senators and Representatives ” boarded a military jet at Andrews Air Force Base. Three flights and a Black Hawk helicopter ride later, they were lunching on asparagus soup and lobster tortellini at the home of Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker in Baghdad.[Snip] Then There is the helicopter ride out of the Green Zone to an open-air market, maybe in Anbar Province, a staple of Congressional tours now that local tribal leaders are cooperating with Americans in the fight against the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. A meeting with sheiks, a local mayor, or perhaps the Kurdish deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, whose name some cannot seem to remember … [Snip] and the all-important photographs with hometown soldiers to show constituents at election time. Just another day in Baghdad in August, high season for Congressional travel to Iraq.

The impression from Coleman’s comments on the radio, it seems he is just going to reinforce his beliefs.

But does he need to go to get his beliefs reinforced ?
After Gil Gutknecht visited Iraq, his assessment was that a partial withdrawal of some American troops might be wise. How did Gutknecht come to this assessment … no doubt from visiting Iraq … but also from a private meeting with returning National Guard members in the First District. Gutknecht never discussed what was privately said but Coleman should read the August 19, 2007 Op-Ed by seven soldiers who are just finishing their fifteen month tour. And, Coleman should follow Gutknecht’s lead and have a “private” meeting with members of the Minnesota National Guard who have returned in the past few weeks.

The trip could have some value if he also visited other countries in the region.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with his own stated commitment to ”the need for an even-handed approach to Middle East peace”, a visit to Syria and Lebanon is a must. Both countries are critical to achieving peace. Iraqi Prime Minister al-Mailiki visited Syria last week to ask Syria to crack down on border crossings by alleged insurgents and Iraq is trying to reopen an oil pipeline that was bombed by U.S. fighters in the 2003 invasion that would connect the two countries economically. While the visit to Lebanon would be to pressure the government to stop allowing the training Shiite fighters from Iraq in advanced guerrilla warfare tactics.

Senator Coleman, if you are going on Obligatory Tours at least visit with people who can really tell you "the other side of the story."

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