Wellstone Memorial: Do Timely Funerals Help Democrats Control the Senate?

November 3, 2002

by Mary Mostert, Analyst - Banner of Liberty

The Wellstone memorial, ( http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/4404751.htm ) which was televised on Minnesota TV stations for its entire 3 1/2 hours, became so offensive to Governor Jesse Ventura, an Independent, and Senator Trent Lott, a Republican that they got up and left. Ventura had warned his wife, Terry, to “be prepared, this will be political. However, he noted that "speeches made on behalf of Sheila Wellstone and other victims” were not political.

"Then Rick Kahn got up. I tried as hard as I could, because I wanted to hear the sons speak. But I couldn’t make it. I said, I can’t put up with this. And I’ll tell you what else I found just abominable - when they booed Trent Lott." Vice-President Dick Cheney also had planned to attend, but was asked not to attend by the highly partisan Wellstone group. 

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Rick Kahn, a political ally and friend of Wellstone, “…shifted the tone ( http://www.startribune.com/stories/1752/3398117.html) of the event from memorial service to full-throated, foot-stomping, fist-pumping political rally.” Kahn said, “If Paul Wellstone’s legacy comes to an end, then our spirits will be crushed and we will drown in a river of tears. We are begging you, do not let that happen. We are begging you to help us win this Senate election for Paul Wellstone."

It was when Kahn used the memorial to urge Republicans to “drop their partisanship and work for Wellstone’s replacement” that Ventura and Senator Lott got up and left.

"It’s like booing someone at a funeral," Ventura said. Actually, it WAS booing someone at a funeral. Ventura went on to say, "It wasn’t an easy thing to do ... but I thought, I’m not going to sit through this. It’s ridiculous." He said his wife, Terry, "gave me the go-ahead. She said, ’When you’re ready, I’m ready.’ ... I listened for a couple more and said, ’I can’t take this any more.’ I said, ’I’m out of here.’"

He said his wife cried on the way home, upset about the way the ceremony might have affected the families of the victims. Ventura said he would never attend another such memorial if it occurs during an election year.

Before the Wellstone Memorial event, or rally, Ventura had said he would appoint a Democrat as interim Senator between now and the January when the new 108th congress will be sworn in. However, after the memorial turned political rally he said he would not pick a Democrat or a Republican.  “I’ve thought about going out and just picking a citizen," somebody who has no political background. Somebody with a clean slate. Somebody who’s intelligent. See if there’s a citizen out there.

"I’m starting to look at, just John Q. Citizen," Ventura said. "Let’s put someone in there who has no political aspiration whatsoever ... I might look around and find someone who I trust, and who has no political leanings, whatsoever, and ask, would you do me a favor and be a senator for a few weeks?"

This could be a rather remarkable turn of events for the U.S. Senate in its lame duck session. An ordinary, intelligent citizen, with a clean slate would hold the balance of power between the Republicans and the Democrats. Quite possibly no one would really know how that powerful senator would vote. Would he vote with Democrats to block Bush judicial appointments, many of which have not even had a hearing in spite of being appointed in early to mid-2001? The Democrats have blocked many Bush appointments in hopes of regaining complete control over the Senate and the House.

Or, would that short-term senator vote with the Republicans, and push through some of those stalled Bush judicial appointments? George W. Bush actually has not had a friendly Senate since he was elected, even though it appeared that he did for a short time. Several liberal Republican senators never supportd the new president.

And, just how will this turn of events affect the Minnesota voters? Will voters be disgusted with the Democrats for turning a memorial service for the Wellstones and others who died in the plane crash from a program to comfort the bereaved into a crude, 3 hour program political campaign ad, televised free on all Minnesota channels?

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the political-rally memorial may well have activated the Republican base: “‘The speech provoked scores of calls to GOP headquarters and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Norm Coleman’s campaign,’ said Bill Walsh, the state party’s deputy executive director.

"‘They overplayed their hand, and our phones are ringing off the hook,’ he said. Many callers were offering to contribute money. However, perhaps the most telling exchange that took place between the media and the Republicans were when he got a call from a reporter "who wanted some Republican response to the memorial.”

Walsh responded, “Do you realize what you just said?"

As of this writing, the over-whelming majority of the people responding to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll asking: “What’s your reaction to the Wellstone memorial service?” didn’t think much of it. Sixty-one percent chose as their response: “It wasn’t a memorial; it was a political rally.” Only 6% responding felt that Paul Wellstone himself would have approved, 14% felt that Republican Norm Coleman now deserves a three and a half hour free TV show to respond and a mere 11% loved it.

If the Wellstone memorial political rally backfires and Walter Mondale is defeated, hopefully that would end this new Democrat technique of using the death of a politician to con voters into voting for his or her replacement. It worked well in the 2000 campaign to defeat Republican Senator John Ashcroft and elect Democrat Jean Carnahan after her husband was killed in an airplane crash.

I’d hate to see this become a trend. I’ve known some political hacks that would be capable of planning a timely funeral if they thought a candidate’s funeral could keep that seat in their party’s hands.


http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/4404751.htm  - Pioneer Press - October 30, 2002 - Ventura says he might appoint an independent to fill Wellstone seat

http://www.startribune.com/stories/1752/3398117.html - Minneapolis Star-Tribune - October 30, 2002 – A Politically Partisan Memorial



Mary Mostert was writing professionally on political issues as a teen-ager in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1940s. In the 1960s, she wrote a weekly column for the Rochester Times Union, a Gannett paper and was one of 52 American women who attended the 17 Nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland to ban testing of nuclear bombs in the atmosphere. She was a licensed building contractor for 29 years, as she raised her six children. She served an 18 month mission as Public Affairs Director for the Africa Area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1990-91. In the 1990s she wrote a book, Coming Home, Families Can Stop the Unraveling of America, edited the Reagan Monthly Monitor and talk show host Michael Reagan’s Information Interchange for seven years. She now operates the website, Banner of Liberty.

Send the author an E mail at Mostert@ConservativeTruth.org.

For more of Mary's articles, visit her archives.

Site Meter

To comment on this article, please send us an e mail.

To send this article to a friend, click here.

For a full issue of Conservative Truth, available only to our subscribers,
please join our list! To subscribe click here.
Conservative Truth Home Page OpinioNet Home Page
Home Tom Barrett About Us Aldrich Alert Humor
Subscribe Contact Us Links Search Archives