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October 29, 2003
Second guesses follow Wellstone memorial

As part of a fortnight-long retrospective on Paul Wellstone's death, the Star Tribune today features a story about the controversial Wellstone memorial and its impact on state and national politics. Unfortunately, it's also the cause of some blame-shifting as well:

In a gathering counterattack aimed at revising the conventional views of the memorial, liberal commentator and comedian Al Franken in his recent book castigates state and national conservatives for their take on the memorial.

Franken blasts Republicans from Rush Limbaugh to Peggy Noonan to former Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber for claiming that a Jumbotron screen prompted the audience (the words on the screen were closed captioning for the hearing impaired); claiming that "20,000 people" booed Majority Leader Trent Lott (only some jeered), and constantly alleging that the event was scripted. ... Nonsense, responds Weber, a key adviser to Coleman whose immediate denunciation of the event as a "complete, total, absolute sham" set the tone for negative reaction.

Broad public disapproval of the event, on the street and in the media, was heard from independents, moderates and even some Democrats, Weber noted. "Franken would have us believe that what we all saw never really happened. . . . The phone lines were jammed with spontaneous, massive outcry."

Franken's attempt to rewrite history aside, the organizers of the event all say that they were alarmed almost from the very start of the memorial when portions of the crowd started booing Republicans who arrived to pay their respects:

Democrats such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jesse Jackson and Edward Kennedy were greeted by thunderous ovations. Republicans, especially Mississippi Sen. Lott, were met with silence or boos. "When you put 20,000 people into a room, it's pretty hard to tell them how to react to things," Richman said.

It's a good article, one that tends to accept too quickly the notion that Rick Kahn's and Tom Harkin's speeches were wholly unanticipated, but places the blame for the political debacle on the naivete of the memorial organizers, who failed to put safeguards on content to avoid exactly the kind of thing that happened.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 29, 2003 5:32 AM

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