Minnesota's First Political Podcast Exclusive interviews with political newsmakers, shakers, and grassroots volunteers. Hosted by veteran broadcaster Wendy Wilde.
Repya's View: Winning In Iraq Is About Avenging Vietnam
Say it ain't so Joe. All those U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam, died in vain. So says Joe Repya, the man who wanted to be Minnesota's Republican Party Chair and in the past has tried to quiet any questioning of the occupation in Iraq by questioning the questioners' patriotism. Thursday on WCCO's Don Shelby show, Repya said: "I want to see victory for the Iraqi people. I want to see a safe nation. Because there's 4,000 of my brothers and sisters who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. And I don't want to see them die in vain , much like the 58,000 that served with me in Vietnam died in vain." Listen here Really? Giving your life for your country is dying in vain? For the moment, let's take Joe at his word and accept that in his mind, this is true. That means his argument for staying in Iraq is somehow tied to avenging the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq and Vietnam. Joe, I can understand your anger over having lost friends in that war. But your anger clouds your logic. Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat the mistakes. Vietnam taught us you can't fight for a country where its people are against you. Every poll in Iraq shows that the general population doesn't want us there. When the people are against you, the enemy is given shelter and can easily blend in. It's hard to fight a force you can't see. In the same WCCO interview, Joe admits mistakes were made in how the Iraq war was conceived and executed. Why did those mistakes happen? Because "patriotism" was used as a rhetorical shield against serious questioning of what the Bush administration was doing. It's a tactic Joe and his party has employed liberally in the past. I witnessed this myself when Joe questioned the patriotism of peace supporters for not applauding when the mother of a fallen soldier she said her son would have died in vain if we do not win the "war" in Iraq. What are we fighting for in Iraq? There's no consensus on what that is. Is it to find those elusive WMDs, bring democracy or for the sake of those who have already died? It's hard to have "victory," which Joe has said "there is no substitute for," when you don't know what victory looks like. But I know what defeat looks like. Defeat is when our US Constitution is shredded, our liberties curtailed, and our economy collapses under a huge war debt. If we're looking for a clear-cut definition of victory, returning our constitution, our liberties and our good economic (and diplomatic) standing in the world would seem to be something we can all agree on. As Will Rodgers once said, the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. I suggest we do it before we reach 58,000 lives lost.
NTSB Chair Backs Off Assertion That Design Flaw Was "Critical Factor" in 35W Bridge Collapse
Whoops. That rust on bridge and lack of maintenance might have had something to do with the 35W bridge collapse after all. NTSB Chair Mark Rosenker is backing off from his earlier statement that a design flaw in the gusset plates was the "critical factor" in the collapse of the bridge. As reported here earlier, Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar took him to task for that statement. Rosenker writes back to Oberstar in an apologetic tone, saying "Please be assured that it was not my intent to get ahead of the ongoing NTSB investigation or to hypothesize about the root and contributing causes of the bridge collapse. "It was not my intent to characterize this single conclusion as the possible probable cause determination of the Board." What he MEANT to say was corrosion was not found on the gusset plates where the collapse likely started. So while the gusset plate design flaw may not have stopped the bridge from collapsing, it may not be in Rosenker's words "the straw or straws that broke the camels back." You can read a pdf of Rosenker's letter here.
Oberstar Blasts NTSB Chair For 35W Bridge Comments
The National Transportation Safety Board usually follows a strict policy of not announcing the cause of an accident until the investigation is completed. Yet last week even though the NTSB reported it had not determined the probable cause of the 35W bridge collapse, NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said a design flaw in the bridge's gusset plates "tells us why the bridge collapsed." Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar is taking Rosenker to task for his remarks, calling them "unfortunate" and suggesting that they could compromise the NTSB's investigation. In a letter sent to Rosenker today, Oberstar writes: "I consider it highly inappropriate for you to have stated as you did in the press conference, that the poor design of the plates 'tells us why the bridge collapsed.' Although you admitted you do not have complete information on corrosion, you nonetheless insisted that poor design was the 'critical factor.' "Such announcements undermine the process and create the potential for committing the board to conclusions that will be difficult to change if the subsequent investigation suggests other conclusions. "I strongly urge you to adhere to the Board's established process of not announcing the cause of an accident until the investigation is completed." In the letter Oberstar indicated that holding the press conference was the right thing to do since other bridges may have the same design flaw. A pdf of the letter is here
Soldier Sarvi Files To Run Against Rep. Kline
Steve Sarvi filed the papers today to run for Congressman John Kline's seat in the 2nd Congressional District. Sarvi is seeking the DFL endorsement. If he runs again, Kline , a Republican, will be seeking his 4th house term. For new listeners and readers I'm repeating an interview I did in May with Steve Sarvi while he was still in Iraq. Listen to the podcast here. Runs 10:27 Just as it takes courage to jump out of a plane or serve in Iraq, it takes courage to leap into politics. Steve Sarvi has done both and has been mentioned as a possible DFL candidate to face Congressman John Kline (R- MN02) in 2008. Steve has been in the Army for nearly 20 years and is on track to be part of the longest deployed Minnesota National Guard unit in Iraq. He's been there since March of 2006 and is hoping to return home in late July or early August. He's also the former Mayor of Watertown, MN. Inside Minnesota Politics has an exclusive audio interview with Steve you can listen to here. Since he's on active duty in Iraq, he really can't talk much about running for office, but we did get to talk about how he's helping local governments get started in Iraq and how the City of Victoria, Minnesota (his employer) has been very supportive of him and his family while he's been in Iraq. On his website, Steve describes his political leanings. "Simply put, I am a Democrat. That my ideas and values spread from center to left of center, speaks to the strength of the Party. I appreciate the willingness of Democrats to embrace the things that bind us together, rather than focus on that which sets us apart". Here are some text excerpts from the interview. The entire interview is in the podcast audio. Why are you in the military? Why do you take this type of dangerous work to do? Steve Sarvi: I've been in the military since I was 17, other than a break in service when I got off of active duty. I felt like I needed to give something to my country at a young age and found I was good at it. I guess I've really never had that question asked of me... why do you do it? I guess someone needs to do it. I'm good at it. I'm good at working with my soldiers and I get a lot of satisfaction for the work that I do. It certainly is not an easy thing to do, obviously, to volunteer for something like this. To say good bye to my family, my friends, to work... and have to come over to an environment like this. But I don't think I could have looked my soldiers in the eye and watched them go off and stayed behind. That's just not the kind of person I am. What are you doing in Iraq? Steve Sarvi: I'm what's called a Civil Military Affairs Officer. And what we're doing is helping the local Iraqis with reconstruction projects. My main focus is in rural villages ...they're in some very bad shape as you can imagine. Infrastructure wise they're in need of just about everything. So what we do is we go into these areas and we do an assessment. We meet the people. Find out what their needs are. And then we work through with the local leaders either the Sheik or the village Mayor. And we work through with them the process of doing projects for them. But what we really want them to do is learn how to do it themselves. So it's a real mentorship process to get the locals to figure out ways to identify projects that are needed and then go to their own government and get approval. What the military does then is come in with funding for smaller level projects. So we're able to provide the funding while they end up doing all the heavy lifting and getting approvals through their government. It sounds like you're helping people learn how to run a local government. Steve Sarvi: Yes, to a certain extent. It's different than the work I was doing in Kosovo, where I was actually working and helping to mentor a small village government. Here the local governments are almost non-existent. So we're not reall
Showdown time: Legislators invite Governor to show up and explain where the money went
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has a tough choice to make on Monday. Legislators have sent him a letter indicating he can either show up to tell a legislative committee how the money he said he had for the 35W bridge disappeared just as suddenly as the bridge did, or he faces delaying other transportation projects. The "Transportation Contingent Appropriations Group" is the legislative commission that must approve Governor Pawlenty's request to use money from the state's reserves to cover costs for the 35W bridge rebuilding. Earlier this month, Governor Pawlenty convinced legislative leaders that a special session on transportation was not needed because the Federal Government was paying for the 35W bridge reconstruction and the state had plenty of funds to cover its obligations. Since then, President George Bush has threatened to veto the legislation that contains the funding for the 35W bridge. Also, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has said it needs to use the state's reserve funds to pay for the 35W bridge or it will need to delay other construction projects. Before the special session Lt. Governor Carol Molnau, who is also the head of the Department of Transportation testified that the funds were there. This is a portion of her testimony to the Joint House and Senate Transportation Committee: Senator Steve Murphy: Lt. Governor, I believe the question is: are there going to be other projects delayed because of this delay in payments from the Federal government? Molnau: I’m hoping that there will not be. I don’t believe so. I think we do have some resources that we can, can move to if we have a project we’re going to let, we can bond rather than pay out in full right now, if we have to do that, and then reimburse the bonds using those Federal dollars. So, I think we can pretty much take care of what we need to take care of on this project, if that’s what you’re asking for, with not, hopefully not a lot of negative impact to other projects or delays. Murphy: The bonding authority that you’re talking about, where is that from? Molnau: I’m assuming… now I think we can bond for something, that we do have some authority to do some additional bonding. So I think we can do that…ah... on some of it. Knowing that it would be short term, or we can do short-term borrowing from other accounts, and we can do that. Murphy: the (undecipherable) funds? Molnau – We could use some of those, yes but we also have opportunities, at least from what we’ve heard …as we’ve talked to the department of finance of being able to… and we’ve done this before knowing there are dollars coming in behind it to do some short term borrowing. The commission has sent the Governor a letter asking him to appear before it on Monday to explain why the financial information he and the Lt. Governor gave lawmakers last month turned out to be wrong. Because of the unprecedented nature of the request, we believe it will be to the public’s benefit for a full discussion of the request made by your administration. It is our hope that you, and your representatives, will attend the meeting to provide insight into the reasons behind the request and the delay in federal funding promised to the state to meet the reconstruction needs of the I-35W bridge. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss this matter during this important public meeting. The commission meets Monday at 11 AM in room 15 of the State Capitol. If Governor Pawlenty shows up, he will face some rather pointed questions such as, "how did the money you said we had disappear?". If he doesn't show up, it is very likely the Department of Transportation will need to delay construction projects, which will cost taxpayers even more money.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar on condemning moveon.org ad
US Senator Amy Klobachar (D - Minnesota) has made a couple a votes that have upset some progressives. In this interview I did for AM950, she talks about her vote on the Foreign Intelligence Security Act also known as FISA and a resolution condemning a newspaper ad that said General Petraeus was “cooking the books for the white house” when he gave his report on Iraq. We also talk with her about the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan that she supported, but President Bush has threatened to veto and legislation she sponsoring to protect consumers against questionable cell phone charges. Listen here.