Candidates as people

The blog, Wind Beneath the Right Wing reminded me of something I meant to post last night (but didn’t, it’s a long story having to do with building an airplane).

I thought Pat Kessler’s piece introducing people to who Mark Kennedy — the person — is was fabulous last night. As I noted a week or so ago when Gary Miller over at Kennedy vs. the Machine wrote one of the few posts there that’s actually about Mark Kennedy, that that’s what the campaign has been missing.

I think people are really into “issues,” I think they’re also into knowing the weaknesses of opponents, but I think people really want to have a sense of who the candidate is as a person.

You may remember a few months ago I wrote about the things I want a candidate to tell me and most of it was about their lives, more than their positions. I generally believe that most candidates are decent folks, not disciples of the devil.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons my favorite question at debates is, “what do you like about your opponent?” (BTW, they asked it last night in the 8th District debate, check it out)

Mark Kennedy seems like a likeable guy. I’ve always had very pleasant conversations with him even though I don’t think he had a clue who I was. But the campaign has spent so much time going after Amy Klobuchar, they didn’t tell the voters about Mark Kennedy, the person.

And they’re running out of time.

Kessler did them a huge favor.

  • Karl

    That’s why G.R. Anderson’s cover story on Michele Bachmann was such a breath of fresh air. I know it’s not the warm and fuzzy fluff that Bob may be looking for in candidate profiles. And there weren’t any 6-year-olds describing her as a rock star. But Anderson showed a side of Bachmann that the rest of the media has been afraid to expose.

    It doesn’t get much more up-close-and-personal than when a candidate’s own family members vow to vote for her opponent, as Bachmann’s stepbrother Michael LaFave did in the piece.

    Some of us have been trying to get the true story of Michele Bachmann into print for years. We’ve had to do it one letter to the editor or column at a time, one blog entry at a time, one fortune cookie at a time, one YouTube video at a time. Finally, the rest of the media is awakening from their deep slumber and taking notice of what’s behind the toothy grin and pearls of Michele Bachmann. Maybe some other media outlets will follow Anderson’s lead.

    Hopefully, it’s not too late, because we’re running out of time as well.

  • Bob Collins

    The point I was trying to make — and actually made — was campaigns do a lousy job of telling us about the candidate the person, thus leaving the task to the opposition to paint that picture.

  • Karl

    Well, Bachmann only has herself to blame for that. She refused to be interviewed for the article. If a politician refuses to defend their record, they shouldn’t expect the media or anyone else to do it for them. And before you ask why a politician would agree to be interviewed by “the opposition” (something many Republicans would call MPR, by the way), remember that Bachmann sat down to an interview with Lavendar a few years ago and they wrote a fairly puffy piece on her.

    The only reason the City Pages piece looked like “the opposition” wrote it is because Bachmann’s record and history is that bad. When you have very little positives to talk about, it’s hard to write a positive piece.

    Seriously, her legislative record is pathetic, whether you’re talking about relevance of bills or success rates. She was kicked out of Senate GOP leadership after one session. She refuses to play by the rules at the capitol, and has threatened to shut down the Senate when she doesn’t get her way. She and her ilk have alienated many Republicans in her own caucus, Senate District, and now the 6th CD (I’ve talked to them). She simply doesn’t respond to Democrats or anyone else in her district she doesn’t agree with. Unless you march lockstep with her extreme agenda, you don’t exist as a constituent.

    The sad part is, you could write a Part II to Anderson’s article without Bachmann’s participation, and it would be just as long, and just as negative.

  • Bob Collins

    Does she make dinner? What’s her specialty? What’s in her CD collection? What’s the inside of her house look like? Does she have a garden? What does she grow. Play a musical instrument?

    What kind of car does she drive? Her favorite TV show?

    I’ve got a buttload of information about what’s wrong with her and what’s right with her politically. Now I want to know what life is like.

    The “she” above can refer to either Wetterling or Bachmann.

  • And on that point I agree with you. I think voters are going to start wanting more unfiltered access to the candidates and elected officials so we stop having so many “surprises.”

  • “I think voters are going to start wanting more unfiltered access to the candidates and elected officials”

    Perhaps, ahem, that’s a role blogs could fill.

    I follow a certain race closely, and I think both candidates could’ve done a lot more with their websites.

    They could’ve put out the information Bob is talking about, and wouldn’t have had to wait for a reporter to come by to dig it out of them.

    Alternatively, the candidates could have used blogs to do that sort of thing.

  • Karl

    “Does she make dinner? What’s her specialty? What’s in her CD collection? What’s the inside of her house look like? Does she have a garden? What does she grow. Play a musical instrument?

    What kind of car does she drive? Her favorite TV show?”

    Bob, if you want that kind of story, go back and read the Strib fluff piece on Bachmann from a year or two ago. Remember–it was the one that showed her vacuuming in high heels.

    I think we know her favorite tv show–“Winner’s Way With Mac Hammond.” She probably won’t tell you what kind of car she drives because the last time that appeared in print the paranoid Bachmann accused people of stalking her (true story).

    And if you’ve got a “buttload of information about what’s wrong with her,” when is some of it going to find its way on air? MPR had one good interview with Bachmann earlier this year in which she talked about her secret desire to nuke Iran. Maybe it’s time to revisit her and ask some more tough questions about that buttload of information.

  • Bob Collins

    //Bob, if you want that kind of story, go back and read the Strib fluff piece on Bachmann from a year or two ago. Remember–it was the one that showed her vacuuming in high heels.

    Bingo! Now you’re with me. Precisely my point. I don’t NEED that story because I already HAVE that information.

    I know Michele Bachmann’s political record. I know what opponents think about her activities. I know what her supporters think about her activities. I know how she’s voted on bills (hint: go take a look at two votes on biodiesel…one in committee, one on the floor).

    But out of all that, the BEST insight I have into Michele Bachmann the person is the picture of her vacuuming in high heels.

    //about her secret desire to nuke Iran. Maybe it’s time to revisit her and ask some more tough questions about that buttload of information.

    This is why I generally take partisans’ characterizations of news coverage — or of allegations — with a grain of salt. I put that interview on her page and she never said any such thing. What she said was the nuclear option should not be taken off the table.

    She said “diplomacy is our option… we certainly don’t want to move toward a nuclear response anytime soon. We can’t remove any response from the table….”

    The audio is posted on the C2006 Michele Bachmann page.

    Now, people can disagree with that view, and perhaps a more intelligent course of action in the political arena is a debate on it as stated, not on an embellishment into a “secret desire to nuke Iran.”

    If you want to know why MSM doesn’t just accept your word for things and do the story you want, that’s why. You damage your credibility with embellishment.

  • bsimon

    Wasn’t there a recent TV piece on Bachmann that showed her waiting for her kids at the bus stop and putting a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner? I didn’t see it, but saw a reference somewhere on the web. I’m not sure if it was one of the Kessler pieces or not. I also haven’t heard of anything similar for the other candidates.

  • Bob Collins

    I’d sure be careful, if I were associated with a campaign, of anything that draws a distinction between using a microwave for dinner and being a bad parent.

    Better to focus on the whole “be submissive to your husband” thing.

  • rew

    I’m not sure if I agree with your position on the “personal” of candidates, Bob, for two reasons.

    1) I don’t necessarily want to like my candidate. I want to have a politician who is smarter than me, more knowledgeable than me, and is “superior” to me. When did these become bad things? That she likes milkduds or only drinks light beer doesn’t really matter to me.

    2) Thanks to Drinking Liberally, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of candidates. Of those candidates, I haven’t had a single one that I really personally liked both make it through the primary and stand a chance of winning their races. I’ve had some that I’ve really respected after their appearences, but I don’t consider them someone I’d likely go have a beer with after the show is done.

    I’d like the people I liked to win, but I really want to people I respect to win, and they aren’t necessarily the same person. So I think in some ways a more personal knowledge of the candidate just muddies the waters.

  • Bob Collins

    Important to keep in mind that I’m not advocating other people must want what I want or feel that we’re lacking what I feel we’re lacking in candidate knowledge at this point

    (aside to Andy Aplikoski: you’re kidding me with that knock on KvM “Seems some of the media types round these parts are reserving their coverage and that of the blogs in this race for what they think the race should be about, not the reality.” Let’s just say that translation is right up there with suggesting someone has a secret desire to nuke Iran. Dude: you drive with your eyes closed,don’t you? (g))

    I’m just saying it’s what ELSE *I* — personally — would like to see. Let’s face it: there’s a lot of phonies in politics with images carefully crafted by, well, image crafters.

    Being a fly on the wall in their home and finding out who they are when they’re not politicians is helpful *to me.*

    I’m not looking to like anybody. I’m looking to understand them, and if possible, try to relate to them,or not.

    OK, this is not a great example but I’ll give it anyway. You know what the big story in America was the day AFTER President Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford moved into the White House? A picture of Gerald Ford in the White House kitchen making some English muffins.

    Was it a carefully craft image? Hmmmmmm… maybe. Maybe not. Or maybe it was a glimpse into the differences between the two presidents. It sure told me that the Imperial Presidency was over. We just didn’t realize, yet, that the incompetent one has begun.

  • Karl

    If you don’t agree that Bachmann has a desire to nuke Iran–or somebody–why wasn’t there a follow-up question to a politician who, out of the clear blue sky with no prompting, brings up the “nuclear response” as an option to dealing with a country that has done nothing to us? That was a door left wide open to challenge Michele Bachmann on her extremist views, and MPR walked away from it.

    Then, you could have followed that up and asked her if we should reserve the nuclear response for Venezuela, and North Korea. Maybe you would have gotten a better picture of the Michele Bachmann who wants to go to Washington to make foreign policy. You certainly would have given people more information on which to base their vote than what her footwear is while she’s vacuuming.

    Here’s an idea: Ask each candidate in the 6th CD race what health care they provide their campaign employees, and the employees of any business they own or have owned. Then ask them why they provide the level of health benefits they do, or why they provide none, and how that would inform their decisions as a member of congress. That would give a glimpse into their personal lives and how that compares with their political image–something that might be useful for voters.

    I agree with REW. Let the campaigns tell you what wonderful human beings their candidates are. You guys need to spend more time telling the real story behind all those slick brochures and lying tv commercials.

  • Bob Collins

    You don’t get off that easy with me, Karl.

    YOU made an allegation that Bachmann has a “secret desire” to nuke Iran.

    I challenge you to prove it.

    Similarly, you are absolutely wrong when you say “without prompting.”

    The question was “if diplomacy should fail to stop ..Iran…what should be our option?”

    The question automatically took diplomacy off the table and left the candidaters — Esmay, Knoblach, and Bachmann — to talk about military action.

    In FACT, Bachmann answered the question by refusing to take diplomacy off the table.

    None of that has been mentioned whenever the anti-Bachmann folks talk about her “secret desire” to nuke Iran and wondering what’s wrong with MSM for not so reporting the “real story.” The real story is on this allegation, you have no proof and have gone above and beyond to ignore any data that conflicts with the portrait you wish to paint.

    The real story is you’ve mentioned it so many times as fact that you appear to hope people will accept it as such. You didn’t provide the context of the question because the context of the question does not serve your purpose, and then you wonder why MSM doesn’t report her position the way you do.

    You should stop wondering that.

    IF her views on handling Iran are abhorent, the reaction should be based on what is on record as her position, not the one you make up to be her position because you’re opposed to her.

    Your response to “letting the campaigns tell you about the wonderful human beings” both ignores the original point and reveals the arrogance of the rabidly partisan at this time of the year. It’s not either-or….it’s all. And where people are making up their minds, YOU don’t get to tell them what they will and won’t use to make up their mind.

    The voters get to decide that and I contend it absolutely is MSM’s role to give them that information…and whatever other information they MIGHT use. Clearly they’re not going to get to all of it, and they’re not — with good reason — going to define their work by what you think the story should be — as referenced the Iran embellishing.

    And you’ve ignored the point that I’m not asking to hear how wonderful people are. I’m interested in learning more about who they are as individuals leading everyday lives.

    The two are not the same thing and cannot logically be interpreted as the same thing.

    YOu see MSM’s role as being carrying out the task to destroyw hatever political opponent you have. I don’t. They’re job is to give the voter as a much information as possible, and letting the voter decide who’s a devil and who’s a saint.

  • Karlq

    Give me a break, Bob. No one in your interview mentioned a “nuclear response” except Bachmann. Anyone who mentions a “nuclear response” as a response to a country that doesn’t do what we tell them–a country that has done nothing to the U.S.–clearly has some kind of desire to use nuclear weapons to have their way with the world. But we’ll never know because the MPR interviewer failed to follow up on a very incendiary (pun intended) answer.

    Did the interviewer ask: Should we use nuclear weapons on a country as a first option after diplomacy? Was the nuclear option mentioned at all in the context of the question? If not, how were the candidates prompted to bring it up? In all the candidate interviews and forums I’ve read this election year from races all around the country, Michele Bachmann is the only one I’ve read who has suggested publicly we consider using nuclear weapons against anyone, anywhere.

    How about this, Bob. Next time you sit down with Bachmann, ask her this:

    Senator, you have been seen and heard saying that you follow God’s orders first above all others, and that you are submissive to your husband. What will you do if you have a vision from God, or your husband tells you, “Michele, we need to obliterate our Islamofascist enemies with nuclear weapons.” Will you listen to others, your congressional colleagues, your consituents? Or will you obey God’s and your husband’s word and push for a nuclear attack in the Middle East?

    That’s what really scares me about Bachmann, Bob, and it should scare voters. Mixing visions of God and orders from above with a proclivity to use nuclear weapons against a country that has not attacked us.

    But I don’t know why I’m wasting my time trying to change your mind. You’re not going to vote anyway are you?

  • Bob Collins

    It has nothing to do with whether I vote or not. It has to do with whether intelligent political debate in this country is enhanced or harmed through the technique you — and many others on both sides of the aisle — used in continually saying Bachmann has a ‘secret desire’ to nuke Iraq.

    She was led into a response that left her with ONLY a military option and then REFUSED to take diplomacy off the table. That’s simply a fact.

    But that’s an “inconvenient truth” when you’re trying to spread a fear that she has a “secret desire’ to nuke Iraq.

    And by the way, Jay Esmay — a military guy — outlined the parameters of military response.

    If Bachmann’s views are really scary to voters — and we’ll see if they are in November — her opponents shouldn’t have to make them up.

    By all means let her views be known, let her words be broadcast, and let the voters decide. But the democratic process is too valuable to be denigrated the way I think you have on this particular allegation.

    You should have no traction for it in MSM until you can prove it with facts.

  • Karl

    “She was led into a response that left her with ONLY a military option and then REFUSED to take diplomacy off the table. That’s simply a fact.”

    That’s not what we’re discussing, Bob. We’re discussing the fact that Bachmann REFUSED to take the “nuclear response” off the table as a first response. When diplomacy fails, Michele would consider going for the nukes. That’s called a “first-strike” nuclear policy, and it has been renounced by virtually every nuclear-armed country on earth, I think (hope) except for Israel, which has yet to even admit it has The Bomb. If Michele Bachmann comes out in support of a first-strike nuclear policy, as it sounds like she did, that’s a frightening response that merited further questioning.

    You still haven’t told me where she was prompted to talk about nukes in the interview. You said she was left only with a military option, but military option is one thing–the nuclear option is quite another.

    Despite my criticisms (Get tough with these candidates. Don’t let them off the hook. Don’t give them any wiggle room!), I still commend MPR for getting that interview out there. I doubt that Bachmann has broached that subject since then. The DFL should be using it in an ad. Minnesotans have tired of conventional war in Iraq. I don’t think they want to send someone to Washington who’s yapping about nuking Iran already.

  • Bob Collins

    What we’re discussing is your assertion that she has a secret desire to nuke Iran.

    The mistake Bachmann made was not using the euphemism “the military option” (which *includes* a nuclear response). Instead, she just came out and said it. No “wink wink” involved. She used the term “military option” and noted, “including the nuclear option.”

    She made clear that the first option and the most important option is diplomacy, just as Wetterling did.

    I think the situation arose primarily, frankly, because it was a sloppily asked question.

  • Bob Collins

    BTW, Karl, I thought your letter in the Woodbury Bulletin was well written.

  • Bob, Karl, if I may intrude?

    I remember hearing the program live and being alarmed. When a candidate flips from diplomacy to nukes, it sets my warning lights off. I can think of a number of intermediate positions that don’t necessarily include military action — and military action short of nuclear strikes — and I would hope a candidate could as well.

    Maybe “secret desire to bomb Iraq” is going too far in characterizing Bachmann’s answer, but pointing that out doesn’t negate her intemperance.

    Plus, Karl isn’t the one running for office.

  • Bob Collins

    The question SHOULD have been worded, “do you take the military option off the table IF diplomacy fails.” Or even better, “what should we do about Iran?”

    The candidates in this case were led to figure out for themselves what the hell the question was.

    Frankly, other than saying “including the nuclear option” (which granted is sobering to hear. It damned well should be rather than be couched in “the military option”), Bachmann’s answer didn’t strike me as being much different from just about every other candidate who’s been asked the question — in whatever form.

    Like I said, people certainly have the information to find Bachmann’s comments horrifying or not. But I haven’t yet heard a single candidate say she’s taking the nuclear option off the table.

    Bachmann’s crime was she answered the question honestly rather than danced around it like most other politicians.

    The answer should speak for itself; no need to embellish.

    In time, perhaps she’ll learn just to utter a bunch of political mouthwash (swirl it around and spit it out). If she’s eventually elected, she’ll need to if she wants to fit in.

    You know what answer I would’ve liked to have heard a candidate give for it’s sheer truthfulness? “Damned if I know.”

  • Karl

    Thanks, Bob. That letter was based on another great Bachmann admission (that she provides no health care for her employees) that only appeared on a blog (Eric Black’s Big Question), where it remained hidden from 99.9% of the voters. Great story, but it lies buried in a blog instead of in a real newspaper.