Friday, October 27, 2006

Pioneer Press endorses Patty Wetterling

Posted by Craig Westover | 3:54 PM |  

Eva Young gloats today in a comment thread

“The Pioneer Press endorsed Patty Wetterling. Will you be highlighting that editorial?”
When I get around to it – like now.

The editorial is a pretty harsh criticism of Bachmann, and I’m not talking out of school when I say I disagreed with the endorsement. But the editorial is a consensus piece, and while I didn’t write it, I did contribute to it – I suggested tempering some criticisms of Bachmann and sharpening some others that I agreed with. Some of my suggestions were taken, some weren’t.

Again, I didn’t write it, but for the internal hashing it went through, I think it is a well-done piece of work on a difficult endorsement. The piece is logically consistent and, frankly, does a pretty good job resolving a lot of conflicting opinion and discussion, which to go into would be talking out of school. If you accept the premise of the piece – that Bachmann pushes her faith-based politics too far – then the editorial makes a consistent case why she is not right for the district, for Congress and the country.

Unlike the Dump Bachmann crowd, the Pioneer Press doesn’t take cheap shots at Bachmann’s beliefs. It quotes her only where her comments are relevant to the election, ignoring comments pertinent only to her personal faith. The editorial objects not that she believes, but that she builds political support by claiming to know which side God is on, which the board says is unknowable.

It’s hard to ignore the contrast of backgrounds in the race. There’s no denying Wetterling the admiration she deserves for as the editorial states emerging from the kidnapping of her son “undefeated by the worst life can deliver.” The editorial notes that presidents and governors wanted her at their bill signings – indeed it’s tough to say no to a mother who’s lost a child.

This is the only place I think the editorial waffles a bit – it never really distances itself from Patty the mom to be truly critical of Wetterling the politician. By the same token, and this is my opinion, the board couldn’t get past Bachmann’s “policies from God” image to critically look at her as a politician. Indeed, the last lines of the editorial ties the two personas of each woman tightly together expressing the hope that voters will “find themselves, as we did, far more comfortable with the inspiring life story and effective advocacy of Patty Wetterling than with the crusading, divisive career of Michele Bachmann.”

My rhetorical question, which was acknowledged as fair but remained rhetorical (as I intended) was, if Bachamnn believed what she does but didn’t express it, would we be endorsing her? That’s a much tougher call.

Bottom line, and why I admire Michele Bachmann, is she is courageous enough to say what she said about her faith, doesn’t back off it, and to borrow form from Patrick Henry, if that be divisive, then make the most of it. The PiPress called her on comments, and made its case, a pretty good case, that the way she expresses her faith matters in the race.

The philosophy behind PiPress endorsements is they are not to be read as “this is whom you should vote for,” but they provide more data points for readers to consider. They aren’t ideological – in the two competitive races today, the PiPress endorsed Democrat Wetterling and Republican John Kline, who are clearly on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Admittedly, it’s tough to put aside bias and make a case for a candidate in a context beyond what they can do for one party or another, but that’s the task of an institutional endorsement as opposed to a personal endorsement – or an individual vote.

Unlike the vitriolic spewing against Bachmann on the Internet where it’s tough to find a reasoned argument, the PiPress makes a logically consistent case against Michele Bachmann and for Patty Wetterling. Readers can buy it or not – I don’t think, and I don’t think Michele Bachmann thinks (but I’m not too sure what the Eva Young thinks), that a vote either way sends a person to hell.