Wellstone and the War. (Comment)

By Nichols, John | The Nation, October 14, 2002 | Go to article overview

Wellstone and the War. (Comment)


Nichols, John, The Nation


Even as Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone announced his opposition to George W. Bush's call for Congressional authorization to "use all means" against Iraq, White House political director Karl Rove was busy unleashing the dogs of political war. Retired Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Denny Schulstad, a veteran Republican, appeared at a rally in support of Norm Coleman, Wellstone's opponent in a tight November race, and labeled Wellstone one of "the worst enemies of America's defense." Joseph Repya, a Veterans of Foreign Wars post commander, dutifully characterized Wellstone as a "sixties radical who has never recognized there is good and evil in this world." Coleman said it was time to "rally around the President," while Rove plotted a pre-election visit by Bush, and GOP strategists prepped a new round of TV attack ads.

The battering came as no surprise. The "regime change" Rove is most focused on is not in Iraq but in the Senate, where the defeat of a single Democrat would give Republicans control. And defeating Wellstone has always been a top priority for Bush and Rove, who recruited Coleman to make the race and attached the party's fundraising spigots to the challenger's treasury. Now that the White House has shifted the agenda from corporate crime and economic instability--issues that favored the Democrats--to war, with House and Senate votes on the President's war resolution scheduled to take place before the November election, Rove is gearing up for the Minnesota mission he hopes will nuke his top-targeted senator.

Wellstone, who has decried the resolution as "a blank check for unilateral action," and other dissenting Democrats will get little cover from party leaders. Majority leader Tom Daschle clings to the failed strategy of letting Bush lead the discussion while Democrats tinker around the edges. Count on Daschle to push Wellstone and other Democrats to back a gently reworked resolution that, for all the talk of restraints, will still be viewed by the Administration as carte blanche.

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