Revisiting the Wellstone memorial service


Next Thursday, I was reminded today, is the 6th anniversary of the infamous memorial service for Paul Wellstone that some think put Sen. Norm Coleman into office. The memorial service ended up being — the narrative goes — a political rally after Coleman Wellstone campaign official Rick Kahn gave a speech that called for Republicans to support Wellstone’s successor on the ballot, Walter Mondale.

wellstone4.jpgSix years later, Kahn, who few had ever heard of before that night, is still villified for the speech. In 19 minutes, he changed Minnesota’s political history.

From all accounts, he was a campaign friend overcome with grief. It was actually Tom Harkin of Iowa who gave the real stemwinder that night. Kahn introduced the “stand up” theme of the evening, but it was Harkin who brought it home.

The old audio from that night is RealAudio, so I’ve reprocessed Harkin’s speech into an MP3.

  1. Listen Sen. Tom Harkin speech at Wellstone memorial service

One other missing piece of trivia in the aftermath of the speech: It was only after the service that Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed Dean Barkley, who is now running for the seat against Coleman and Al Franken, to fill out Wellstone’s term. Prior to that, according to Ventura, he had intended to appoint a DFLer .

  • bsimon

    Uh… Wasn’t Kahn a Wellstone campaign person?

  • Ollie Ox

    What a classy thing to post the day before the sixth anniversary of the plane crash itself. Thanks, dude!

  • Lynnea Forness

    I remember watching Kahn speak and being amazed by the raw grief that he was expressing. It was painful to watch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that on television. Usually grief that is shown publically is quiet and dignified (ala Jackie Kennedy). It was very powerful and a pity that it was used for partisan purposes.

  • Sue Engel

    Passion and grief may have created a message that was too political – but it was not a funeral it was memorial service. Much like when Kirby Pucket died — people talked about baseball – because that was his life and gift. Politics were Paul and Sheila’s passion – it was not out of place – it was a young man hurting and honoring his mentor the best way he knew or could do at that time.

    Jesse Ventura – please – he has been and continues to be all about himself — he used it as just another opporutunity to get attention. Walking out – saying it was in poor taste – from the King of Poor Taste — and the media bought into it and gave him the attention he always seeks. Thankfully we don’t have to put up with him any more.

    I still miss Paul – and think how he could have made a difference in the last 6 years — calling Bush and Cheny to task for their actions and perhaps lead the way to changes.

  • Bonnie

    This is so painful. I just read Brauer’s piece about the haunted Latimer over on MNPost. Whatever happened to Rick Kahn?

    Watch or read Wellstone’s speech on the floor of the Senate in the leadup to the war on Iraq, if you want to really feel sad and angry. He was right, right, and right some more. In that speech he outlines what he thinks will happen if we attack Iraq, and he was absolutely right.

    The guy had vision. Wonder if this financial meltdown would be happening if we still had him.

  • Bob Collins

    I think it was Doug Grow that wrote the piece, but it let Latimer off the hook to some degree. Perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not, Latimer helped set the tone for the evening in his opening remarks that night when he quoted Robert Frost and referred to “war and the absence of common sense,” which drew a huge reaction from the ground.

    It got political long before Rick Kahn.

  • I was there

    But it took Rick Kahn to put it over the top. Harkin in contrast wasn’t accusatory like Kahn was with his utterly crass calling out of other politicians in the crowd, but stuck to praising Wellstone’s political legacy. Latimer in no way set up Kahn or in any way gave him the necessary rope with which Kahn hung himself either.

  • Bob Collins

    Kahn spoke before Harkin, I believe. And I don’t believe Latimer gave the rope, but neither was he blameless in setting a partisan tone as Doug Grow would have us believe.