Anti-war groups step up pressure on Coleman

Unveiling the ad
Kevin Fehy (left) and Donald McFarland (right) of Americans United for Change. The group unveiled a TV ad campaign to pressure Sen. Norm Coleman to rethink his support for President Bush's Iraq policy.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

Three influential Republican senators announced recently they can no longer support President Bush's Iraq strategy. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio and Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico also called on the president to start reducing the military's role there.

In Minnesota, a group called Americans United for Change is trying to add another name to the list of GOP dissenters. The war opponents are spending more than $100,000 on television ads in the Twin Cities aimed at Sen. Norm Coleman.

"Norm coleman is still standing with President Bush on Iraq, voting time and again against bringing our troops home. Tell Norm Coleman that after four years it's time to end the war," the ad says.

Donald McFarland, the Minnesota director of Americans United for Change, says the ads are tied to this week's scheduled debate on Iraq policy.

"He (Coleman) can continue to stand with a failed policy and an isolated and discredited president, which the vast majority of Americans and Minnesotans oppose. Or he can do the right thing and join his own constituents and a bipartisan majority in Congress and force a change of course in Iraq which gets American forces out of the cross hairs of a civil war," he said.

Nationwide, the group is targeting 40 moderate Republicans who are up for reelection next year in the House and Senate.

Attempts to contact Sen. Coleman and his spokesman were unsuccessful. But state GOP officials were quick to criticize Americans United for Change.

"This group is a partisan as you can get," said Minnesota Republican Party spokesman Mark Drake. "They hide behind the nonpartisan label, but by their own admission they're not targeting a single Democrat. Last time I checked, Joe Lieberman was still a Democrat. So, it's ridiculous, and I think people will recognize it for what it is: partisan mudslinging."

Lieberman, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 2000, is now an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats. For now, the attention is on Coleman. But Donald McFarland said the Americans United for Change campaign is also serving notice to two other members of the Minnesota congressional delegation, Republicans Jim Ramstad and Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann just returned from her first congressional trip to Iraq. And the visit seems to have only reinforced her support of the president.

"The one thing that I see is that Al Qaeda doesn't show any signs of letting up. And that's something that we have to keep in mind," she said.

Bachmann described her visit with military and government officials in Baghdad during a conference call with reporters, but she only answered a few questions. Bachmann said she's confident with the efforts underway and suggested more time is needed for the troop surge to work. Bachmann also wants the news media to do a better job reporting on what she views as the larger war on terror.

"For instance, the day after I left Baghdad, 26 people were killed in one suicide bombing, 130 in another. And sometimes it's reported as though almost it's America's fault when this goes off. It's not America's fault, It's Al Qaeda's fault. They are the ones who are encouraging the suicide bombings," she said. Senate Democrats are trying to turn up the heat on the Bush administration this week with floor votes on several anti-war proposals. M

Minnesota's junior senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, says she favors legislation that sets deadlines. She's also encouraged that Senators Lugar, Domenici and other Republicans are now opposing the president.

"It's very difficult to talk to a mom of a kid that's lying in a hospital bed and say, 'well, we need 60 votes,' or 'we really only have 40 strong votes on the war.' It just doesn't cut it, and this is the time that we have to pass this," she said.

President Bush vetoed legislation earlier this year that would have set a deadline for troop withdrawals. But Klobuchar says she's pleased the Senate is taking up the debate again.

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