"He is a hollow man."
- Garrison Keillor -
Norm Coleman, Republican FORMER Senator from Minnesota, is indeed a very hollow man. He has a long history of molting to opportunistically benefit from the prevailing political tide, but, at long last, it looks like his political career may be drawing to a close. For a three judge panel hearing his attempt to overturn Democrat Al Franken's 312 vote victory in last November's Senate election has ruled against and rejected Coleman's arguments. They further stated that Franken should be certified as winner, and that they found no flaw in the way the state of Minnesota had conducted the election or its subsequent recount. As one who has been disgusted with the chameleon-like nature of Coleman's politics, I was delighted to see him defeated, and here is why.
Norm Coleman was born in 1949 and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He was an anti-war activist against the Vietnam War during his college days in the late 1960s-early 1970s. He had hair down to his shoulders and even organized anti-war marches. We could have been best buds back then.
Coleman studied law at Brooklyn Law College and then moved west, obtaining his law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law. At that point, he shed his first political skin by cutting his hair and moderating his politics, proclaiming himself a Democrat and moving to heavily-Democratic St. Paul, MN. Here, he worked for a time in the state Attorney General's office, before running for mayor as a moderate Democrat and winning in 1994. He was a good mayor, beginning a massively successful revitalization program for the city which greatly restored its lustre and prominence relative to its old competitor across the Mississippi River from it, Minneapolis. Coleman shed his second political skin in 1996, and declared himself a moderate Republican. The GOP had regained total control of Congress for the first time in 50 years two years before, and ol' Norm wanted to catch and ride that rising tide. He won re-election as mayor, and led a successful drive to return an NHL hockey franchise back to Minnesota and locating it in St. Paul. The Minnesota North Stars team had left for Dallas, TX a few years earlier, so Norm's success in attracting a new franchise, as well as his revitalization of St. Paul, gave him well-deserved accolades and statewide recognition. He used this as what he thought would be a springboard to the state governorship in 1998. But Coleman was mistaken. He ran an uninspiring and lackluster campaign and was defeated in a three-way race by Independent Jesse Ventura. He was deliberating about running for governor again in 2002, but then he once more shed his political skin to become a CONSERVATIVE Republican. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, hard core social and economic conservatives, had sucessfully stolen and were occupying the White House, and, on the heels of the 9/11 attacks, the nation seemed to be in a more conservative mood than it had for many years. So ol' Norm thought he'd hitch a ride on that wave too, and use it to propel himself into national office, namely the U.S. Senate. His opponent: Democratic incumbent Paul Wellstone, unabashed liberal and champion of the working man and average citizen. Wellstone was highly critical of the increasingly threatening Bush/Cheney language and posture concerning Iraq, so both they and the national Republican Party frantically wanted Wellstone defeated and out of the way. They lavished lots of money on Coleman and he began gaining ground on Wellstone.
On October 25, 2002, Paul Wellstone died in a mysterious plane crash in northern Minnesota. Local polls showed he had a 2 to 3 point lead over Coleman at the time of his death. Less than two weeks before the election, the Democrats had lost their incumbent Senator and had no ready replacement in the wings. After a short delay, the elderly and long-retired former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale came forward to try and save Wellstone's seat. But the younger, better financed, and more energetic-looking Norm Coleman won a narrow victory in the election, sneaking in by a squeaker.
It didn't take Coleman long to exhibit his new colors, marching in lock step with every Bush/Cheney economic, social, and foreign affairs initiative. He strongly supported Bush's ridiculous tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation efforts, increased subsidizing of corporations (including OIL COMPANIES, and the last time I checked, I never saw a single oil well in the entire state of Minnesota), and the invasion of Iraq. The very same Coleman who had lambasted the Nixon administration for its imperialistic war in Vietnam 30 years earler was now actively supporting Bush's carbon copy. He became such a suck-ass to the Bush administration that a website was set up about him called "Bush Boy" featuring him sitting as a dummy on Bush's knee. Yes, ambitious, opportunistic, ladder-climbing Coleman had come 180 degrees and was everything he had fought in college. Wellstone had not even been dead 6 months, when, in April of 2003, Coleman coldly declared he was "a 99% improvement" over Wellstone because he had a closer working relationship with the Bush White House than had Wellstone. Norm Coleman had finally emerged as a full-blown chameleon political lizard. But he wasn't done transforming himself and shedding political skin yet.
By 2006-2007, the nation was beginning to see how inept and corrupt the Bush administration had been. They were getting angry at the cost, duration, and lies surrounding the Iraq war. They were also sick of Republican favoritism for the rich and for corporations that were freezing wages and exporting jobs. Minnesotans saw that, during his tenure as Chairman of the powerful Senate Subcommittee on Investigations from 2003-2006, whose job is to investigate fraud and waste in government contracts, Coleman had not called even one hearing on the billions in cash that had supposedly gone into non-bid Iraq reconstruction projects that had actually never produced anything. Nor was a hearing called to examine whatever had happened to the pallets of bundled cash that mysteriously "disappeared" in Baghdad. Instead, ol' Norm held hearings on how federal employees were ripping off taxpayers by flying in business section instead of coach. Minnesotans also saw Coleman oppose a windfall profits tax to be placed on greedy oil companies at a time those oil companies were ripping the public off with $4.00 per gallon gas. As the economy tanked in the fall of 2008, people began losing their jobs and Coleman began to try to shed his political skin once more, to a more populist hue. But it didn't work.
On election night, November 4, 2008, it appeared Norm Coleman had squeaked out another very narrow (725 vote) victory (out of nearly 3.9 million votes cast) over his this-time Democratic opponent, Al Franken. The very next day, Coleman was out publicly shooting his mouth off urging Franken to concede defeat, saying "the prospects of overcoming 725 votes is extremely, extremely, extremely, extremely remote...if you ask me what I would do, I would step back...my hope is that we would begin the healing process today." But ol' slick Norm didn't know that in an election with a vote margin that close, Minnesota law mandates a recount. So the long, drawn-out recount-each-ballot-by-hand process began. After many weeks, it finally showed FRANKEN the victor, by 225 votes! Would Coleman accept defeat like a man, or fight it like a little boy? Would he do as he had said he would do, and "step back"? Not Normie. Instead, he shed political skin again and this time became "Crybaby Norm." He filed suit and challenged recount procedure and ballot-authenticity, and even paraded a very less-than-credible (even embarrassingly contradictory and laughable) group of voters who claimed their votes had been unfairly disallowed. The judges agreed to examine several hundred rejected ballots. They allowed some of those ballots to be counted and entered into the total. End result? Franken's margin of victory GREW from 225 to 312 votes! The judges unanimously declared Franken the winner. That's where the process stands at this moment. Coleman has 10 days to appeal, and says he will do so. Hard core far-right Republicans like Texas Senator John Cornyn are advising Coleman to sue on a federal level and even take the case to the national Supreme Court if he loses his state appeal. This is not out of benevolent concern for Norm Coleman, of course. It is just a thinly-veiled attempt by an obstruction-happy Cornyn to deny Democrats one more seat, which would put them closer to a 60 seat filibuster-proof number. John Cornyn should SHUT UP and mind his own damn business! We don't run elections up here the way they do down where he's from, thank God.
But meanwhile, the self-centered, hollow man named Norm Coleman is keeping the citizens of Minnesota in limbo, denying them full representation, and placing an unfair burden on Minnesota's other Senator, Amy Klobuchar. Nice job, Norm. Perhaps if you had paid more attention to the needs of real people and less attention to corporations, the wealthy, and the very UN-Minnesotan conservative Bush crowd, the state's voters would not have rejected you. But reject you they did, so it is now time to end this childish nonsense and foul play, and accept defeat like a man. HANG IT UP, NORM - YOU LOST!!!