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Joke or not, Collin Peterson has a good point

The following editorial appeared in the St. Cloud Times on Aug. 3. It is reprinted with permission.

Amid all the serious discussions about health care, Cash for Clunkers and that suds-aided White House summit last week, Central Minnesotans got at least one chance to chuckle thanks to 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson.

In the Beltway-based Politico, a report about the so-called “birthers movement” quoted the moderate Democrat as saying he doesn’t hold town meetings because “25 percent of my people believe the Pentagon and (then-Defense Secretary) Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the Twin Towers down” on Sept. 11, 2001.

True cynics and wannabe comedians might respond with “really, only 25 percent?” Most Central and western Minnesota voters, though, get his point — people wedded to extremist views can ruin much more than a politician’s public forum.

In fact, that was the context of the Politico report. It addressed how for Republican lawmakers “there’s no easy way to deal with the small but vocal crowd of right-wing activists who refuse to believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

Also worth noting is the report was spawned in part by a “birther” questioning GOP Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware about the issue at a town meeting. Having seen credible evidence to the contrary, Castle did not accept her view and said so. The town meeting quickly deteriorated as more “birthers” booed and, well, the result is available on YouTube. (Pushing 800,000 views last count.)

As Politico pointed out, with Congress headed toward summer recess, Republican lawmakers and their strategists are busily scripting and memorizing more politically appropriate responses. Peterson, a conservative Democrat and 10-term House member who has won easily every election, took a more direct approach.

Still, if he offended you, please note that he did soften his words the next day, stating there “are people in the 7th District who freely identify themselves as outside the mainstream — on the left and on the right — who try to hijack public forums like town hall meetings.”

Really, though, the worst out of all this is the state Republican Party’s attempt to turn his comment into a campaign issue. It plans to run advertisements about it across the district this week.

“Really, Collin, 25 percent of your constituents are so out of touch they believe the U.S. government caused 9/11?” the commercial says. “So you won’t hold town meetings? They’re not out of touch. You are.”

Then what about Peterson’s neighbor, the GOP’s own 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann?

Except for one tightly controlled forum at which she barely spoke, we don’t recall any town meetings she’s held in this area since elected. But, hey, you can call and take part in her tele-town meeting. (Then again, that probably makes it easier to screen those extremist calls.)

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Tim Walker on 08/05/2009 - 10:29 am.

    So, the GOP thinks that the 25% of 7th district voters with insane beliefs about 9/11 are the ones who are IN TOUCH?

    Wow. That’s just stupid on so many levels.

    But, I guess the GOP needs the crazy vote, or its base will shrink even more.

    What a sad, pathetic spectacle this is to watch.

  2. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/05/2009 - 12:07 pm.

    Rep. Peterson has an opportunity to turn this kerfuffle around. He could do so by getting serious about farm subsidies and how they represent an opportunity for some fiscal and economic restraint. Sugar, corn/ethanol,and corporate farming to name a few. A real opportunity to provide some leadership.

  3. Submitted by DeeAnn Christensen on 08/05/2009 - 12:40 pm.

    I have signed up on the website of 3rd Congressional District Rep. Paulsen to be included in the teleconferences that he calls his town hall meetings. I have never been included. On the other hand, a Republican friend of mine has been solicited to attend these teleconferences even though he has never asked to be part of the meetings. Another friend, who did listen in on a teleconference, found the attendees to be gratuitous sycophants gushing over Rep. Paulsen’s decision making and votes. In this case Shaw was right when he declared, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

    Who is it that is out of touch and carefully calculates to remain so?

  4. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 08/06/2009 - 02:17 pm.

    Agreed. 2nd District Congressman John Kline also only hold teleconferences for his sycophants and can cut off anyone who wants to ask a question he doesn’t want to answer. And he calls this “communitcation”??

  5. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/06/2009 - 03:34 pm.

    Good editorial and comments. There are troubling signs I hope police protection is beefed up. The chatter factor seems high in this momentous summer.

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