Sixth District Congressional Race: Bachmann Raising the Next Brood of Chicken Hawks?
There are three "name" candidates running for the Sixth District Congressional seat here in Minnesota--State Senator Michele Bachmann (Republican), Patty Wetterling (DFL) and John Binkowski (Independence Party.) Wetterling and Binkowski have gone on record opposing the war in Iraq. Bachmann is the only major candidate in this race who openly supports the President's current Iraq policy, right?
On August 7, 2006, I called the three candidates and asked them questions about their position on the Iraq war and whether members of their campaign staff had served in the US Armed Forces.
I spoke to Independence Party candidate John Binkowski by telephone. He indicated that he supported a pullout of US troops from Iraq as soon as possible. He also told me that his campaign manager’s wife was serving in the US military.
I called Patty Wetterling’s campaign office and put similar questions to a campaign volunteer. She said that she would have someone call back with the answers.
Finally I called Bachmann campaign headquarters and asked to speak to someone about Senator Bachmann’s views on the war in Iraq. I was connected to Andy Parrish, who is Senator Bachmann’s campaign manager.
This was the most interesting phone call. I had always assumed that Senator Bachmann was a supporter of the President’s Iraq war policy, but her campaign manager would not confirm this over the telephone.
I asked Mr. Parrish if it was true that Senator Bachmann supports the President on the war in Iraq. Mr. Parrish said that the answer to this question was on the campaign website. When I asked him if he knew personally what the Senator’s stand was on the Iraq war, he once again directed me to the campaign website.
I asked Mr. Parrish whether any members of the Bachmann campaign staff had volunteered for or done active military duty in Iraq. He said he would rather not answer that, since it was a question about the campaign staff. He indicated that he would rather not answer on behalf of the campaign staff.
I asked him if any members of the Bachmann campaign staff were veterans of foreign wars. Once again, he indicated that he would not answer a question about the campaign staff.
I asked him if he’d ever volunteered to serve in the American armed forces and he said that he’d rather not say, that this was a personal question that he’d rather not answer.
I asked Mr. Parrish his age. I told Mr. Parrish that I had been informed by the local army recruiting office that the Army accepts volunteers between the ages of seventeen and forty-two to serve in Iraq. I asked him how many members of the Bachmann campaign personnel are between the ages of seventeen and forty-two?
He said that I would have to ask them that. Mr. Parrish told me that I might ask Bachmann staff members at public events and Bachmann appearances.
I asked him whether it would help if I came down to Bachmann campaign headquarters and asked staff members for answers to these questions in person. Mr. Parrish said that he didn’t know, but he added that he kept busy and the campaign staff kept busy.
After I hung up, I took Mr. Parrish’s suggestion and I went to the Bachmann campaign website to get the answer to one of my questions (“Does Senator Bachmann support the President on the war in Iraq?”). Unfortunately, the information there is not very clear and did not answer the question I put to Mr. Parrish. On her campaign website, Bachmann writes: “…we must remain continually vigilant and ready with a broad based strategy that includes military action when necessary but also enhanced overseas intelligence capabilities, strengthened coalitions with willing partners and more effective and efficient homeland security.”
If this is Bachmann's entire word on the subject, I don't see how her postion differs from that of most Democrats. She doesn’t say whether (if elected to Congress) she would use her office to support a continued US presence in Iraq, as recommended by the President. Bachmann’s reluctance to express open support for the President’s war policy surprised me, since she has been courting and receiving the help of prominent and vociferous Iraq war advocates (Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, for example.)
I don't doubt that Bachmann's a hawk (she's recommended keeping the nuclear option on the table when it comes to dealing with Iran.) What surprised me is that she that she's so non-committal about the subject on her website. To summarize: I asked her campaign manager for a position statement on the war in Iraq; he referred me to her website--and her policy statement doesn't include any support for continuing the war in Iraq.
It's also surprising that Bachmann's campaign staff doesn't want to talk about their military service, or lack of same. If they support the war and our troops, you would think that some of these young people (between ages seventeen and forty two) would be champing at the bit to get over there; take the place of some Army Reserve member or regular GI who's already done a tour of duty--or two or three.
Surely staying here at home to campaign for a candidate is not the best way these people can support the American mission in Iraq. Perhaps medical conditions prevent Bachmann's team from volunteering for duty in our Armed Forces. We will probably never know why they are still here, since Mr. Parrish is reluctant to comment on the facts.
And if (as her campaign manager asserted) Bachmann's website is her official position on this issue--why are these people campaigning for a candidate who DOESN'T express official and explicit support for the President's war policy in Iraq? Bachmann expresses explicit support for the President's "tax cuts" on her website--where is her explicit support for the President's war policy?
An email was sent to Mr. Parrish and to the Bachmann campaign so that they could confirm or deny the accuracy of the information I obtained during my telephone interview with Mr. Parrish. They haven't written back. If the Bachmann campaign ever writes back to clarify Mr. Parrish’s remarks, correct any inaccuracy, or clarify her official position on the war, I will post these corrections and clarifications on this blog.