Cavlan’s brigade

(The following was sent to me by David Zingler, who writes for the Bleacher Bums blog at MPR, another blog I (and he) helped start last year. He still writes for it; I don’t)

It’s 3pm on Thursday, September 21 and I’m sitting in Ms. Harder’s room on the third floor of Patrick Henry High School in North Minneapolis. State Representative Keith Ellison is two rows over, picking at his finger nails, fidgeting. Businesswoman and former TV news reporter Tammy Lee is sitting across the room, calmly running through her mental notes.

The three of us are sitting in cramped desks as students file in, most of which are here to pick up some extra credit points. A few minutes later the room is full and Alan Fine, an author and businessman has arrived.

Ellison, Lee and Fine, of course, are the Democratic, Independent and Republican nominees for Martin Sabo’s vacated seat in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. The trio is at the high school for a “Political Forum on Education/Students’ issues.”

If the event was a fashion contest, Ellison would place a distant third. Fine and Lee are immaculately dressed in formal, business-like attire while Ellison dons a greenish, tweed sport coat and well-worn, brown shoes.

The highlight of the intro period came after Fine asked the students “Do any of you have a dream?” When one youngster said that he wanted “to be in the NBA”, the Republican nominee mistook the “N” for “M” and replied, “Oh, you want to be a businessman.”

About 10-15 minutes into the festivities, Michael Cavlan, the Green Party nominee for Mark Dayton’s Senate seat, ambles in. A registered nurse, Cavlan does not look nor act like a political candidate. Disheveled in appearance and lacking composure, he warns the students about the evils of military recruiters and calls for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

Cavlan’s radical views did attract the attention of the students however, and they pepper him with inquiries during the Q&A period. That unfortunately, means less face time for Ellison, Lee and Fine. The aggressive Ellison is quick to jump in first when students do not address a question directly to Cavlan.

It doesn’t take long to see why Ellison, despite his controversial past, had the support needed to bring home the Democratic nomination. A dynamic speaker, his personality casts a large shadow that Lee and Fine have a hard time escaping.

Lee is composed and appears very capable, but lacks the force to counteract Ellison’s charisma. Fine, while intelligent and articulate, seems out of his element and has trouble connecting with the students.

As the proceedings wrap up a female, African-American faculty member chimes in with a stern scolding of Fine for his criticism of Ellison’s ties with the Nation of Islam. Ellison tries to jump in first, but Fine eventually wins out and defends his earlier comment by labeling the organization a “hate group” and compares its leader Louis Farrakhan to David Duke.

The Democrat stood arms crossed, glaring at Fine as he wrapped up his comments. Then, at the urging of the previously identified faculty member, Ellison took the high road, and retorted, “Although he hasn’t asked me, I forgive Mr. Fine (for his comments).”

With the tension receding, class was adjourned. As Ms. Harder passes out bus tokens to the students, Ellison and Fine exchange a limp handshake. Fine and Lee quickly headed for the door and Ellison lingers in the classroom, chatting with some students for a few moments before exiting. Cavlan meanwhile stays put, he is surrounded by students and clearly basking in the attention.

  • I’m no fan of Michael Cavlan’s, but if that’s Zingler’s idea of reporting/blogging, you’d do well not to quote him again.

    Sorry, I have no patience for anyone who pretends they know what’s going on inside someone else’s head, and Zingler repeatedly does that with Cavlan.

    When Cavlan spoke at Drinking Liberally, we were all outside and the traffic was LOUD. He wanted to move inside but, like a good Democrat, I immediately said NO — let’s stay out here. Cavlan then began talking more loudly.

    Later, a drunk began hassling him and Cavlan dealt with the drunk with respect and no small amount of charm.

    Zingler says Cavlan lacked composure, but gives no examples of what he means. For all I know, Mr. Zingler doesn’t even know what the word means.

    Play editor for a moment Bob and tell us how many words you would cut from that Zingler post. As for me, I’d have to cut it in half to remove all of Zingler’s biases.

    Or was this supposed to be a biased post?

  • androooo

    Mark is overreacting to an inconsequential mention of a Green Party candidate. Smoke some greenleaf and relax. For the record, blogs aren’t held to the same level of scrutiny as other media venues such as, oh for example, the Seward Co-Op newsletter. The only individual remnants of the Green Party are aging hippies who didn’t serve in Vietnam and now need to justify their guilt by continuing to oppose the military. I hate the Green Party. Let’s kick ’em while their down!

  • Bob Collins

    You all are going to have to understand the point of a blog pretty soon. It’s one guy’s observation. That’s it. It’s not the friggin’ Magna Carta.

    Don’t make me keep referring you back to last January’s postings on the subject.

  • androooo

    i second that! all in favor?

    for the record, Zingler rocks the casbah! it takes dedication to go to a candidate forum at a public high school — i hope he has a permit for a concealed (constitutionaly protected) weapon in case the need for self defense arises.

  • Note: I’d rather not post this comment, but since you don’t have public email addresses at MPR, I guess I have to.

    Bob, I started my first blog in 1999: I know what a blog is. And I know what a news organization is. You’re quoting from another in-house blog, you’re both employed by a news organization, and this blog [Polinaut] purports to be about political news.

    If this blog was called On Writing, I could understand why you quoted from this fashion report, and if this was posted at your personal blog I’d certainly have no quibbles about this post on fingernail grooming, misheard questions, composure and dress codes, walking gaits, handshakes, unsubstantiated characterizations of candidate remarks as “radical,” and the fine art of “basking.”

    Maybe I’m just naive but I expect more from this blog. I hold you and Tom Scheck and the Strib’s Eric Black and the PiPress’s Tim Nelson to higher standards than I do the rest of us BECAUSE YOU GET PAID TO DO THIS and because you’re all JOURNALISTS.

    Zingler could have made each and every one of these points and still adhered to standard journalistic practices. Blogging, especially for journalists, doesn’t mean you get to skip the reporting and go straight to the opinionating.

    I’m testy about this because I expect more from you. I’m just an opinionated crank who doesn’t pretend to be a journalist or even a DFL activist and that’s fine because Norwegianity is my hobby, not part of my job description.

    It’s that hyphen that makes the difference. You’re not a blogger, you’re a journalist-blogger.

    You. Get. PAID. To. Do. This.

  • I like it that the folks here, and Eric Black, and maybe throw Lawrence Schumacher in the mix, can let their hair down a little, and as Bob said earlier, have a personality.

    I go into blogs, any blog, with my eyes wide open, knowing I’m hearing someone’s voice, someone’s opinions, and that’s ok.

    I wouldn’t want to hold blogs to the exact same standards as the more traditional media outlets.

  • Bob Collins

    Mark, I’ve posted my email address here many times and you can also find it in the directory on the front page.

    Other than the fact you read something you disagreed with, I can’t imagine why — 8 months after it started — you’re suddenly mistaking Polinaut for a new sstory from MPR, especially since I’ve posted about this about two dozen times since December.

    And you’re wrong about what blogging allows me to do or not to do…to skip or not to skip. Blogging is whatever the blogger wants and since I came up with the idea for Polinaut and since I am….well… Polinaut, I can only say it one more time: Polinaut is not reporting.

    and I’m sorry you expected more from me. I get that line a lot. “I expected more from MPR.”

    It almost always comes when someone reads something with which they disagree. and that’s fine. Blogging allows me to say it. Blogging allows you to comment on it.

    You might not like it, but there it is and if I find something interesting, I feel absolutely no responsibility to withhold it because it might disappoint someone.

    That’s just the way it is.

    and, for the record, I’ve commented on the fashion of several candidates in the last 8 months and you’ve not posted a criticism of it, not lectured me on my responsibilities in doing so.

    Relax. Read, don’t read. Your choice. Write. Don’t write. My choice.

  • daveZ

    Wow! I never thought this innocent little column would ignite such passion…..I’m flattered….thanks…..

  • Bob Collins

    Welcome to politics, David.