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October 14, 2004
Senator Rabbit Gets Help From A Byrd

Senator Mark Dayton continued to defend his singular decision to shut his DC office down and evacuate the Capitol, even though no specific threat exists and no other Senate offices will close. CNN reports that Dayton claims his staff would have been little more than "human shields" had he kept his offices open:

Sen. Mark Dayton Wednesday defended his decision to close his Capitol Hill office until after the November 2 election, saying it would have been "immoral" to leave his staff members as "human shields" facing a possible terrorist attack while he returned home to Minnesota.

"I can't predict the future. I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that the safety and lives of my staff are my responsibility," Dayton told CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports." "And I'm not going to leave them there exposed to risks that I'm not there to take myself." ...

Elaborating on the reasoning behind his decision, Dayton also said "the report I read didn't identify specific location."

"But the 9/11 commission concluded that the fourth hijacked plane on that date that crashed in Pennsylvania was returning to destroy the Capitol. And al Qaeda has a history of going back to those places where it's unsuccessful and attempting again," he told Blitzer.

Rep. Peter King, R-NY, says he's not sure if he's overreacting or showboating, but that none of the other 534 members of Congress decided to bug out as a result of the same briefing. King comes to the same conclusion as I did -- that Dayton has set a terrible example, a precedent that when the pressure is on, Americans flee. Further, as King also notes, as long as terrorists remain alive to target America, DC and New York will remain their primary targets. If Dayton insists on running for the hills every time a major event is scheduled, such as an election, he and Minnesota will be better served if he resigned his seat and allowed Governor Tim Pawlenty to replace him with someone less hysterical.

Until this afternoon, no one rushed to Dayton's defense, underscoring the weird nature of his reaction to what everyone else characterizes as a routine threat briefing, at least these days. But now, the most experienced Senator has doddered into the spotlight to give his fellow Democrat a bit of half-hearted support:

"Senator Dayton took this precautionary step based on his conscience and his responsibility to his staff," said Sen. Robert Byrd, an eight-term Democratic senator from West Virginia. "I commend him."

Byrd, 86, said in a statement that law enforcement and intelligence experts have warned senators about increased threats to the Capitol in recent weeks.

"They have urged senators to be prepared to have their staffs work from alternate locations," Byrd said. "Senators ought not take these warnings lightly. And those senators who put in place prudent security measures should not be mocked."

Law enforcement officials have said this week that the threats did not specify the Capitol.

As the ranking Democrat, if Byrd thinks that Dayton exhibited prudence in his dash for the hills, then it would be incumbent upon Byrd to not only close his own office but move that all Congressional offices remain closed during the recess. However, it appears that Byrd, like 533 other members, has not closed down nor has called for others to follow Dayton's example.

Senator Robert Byrd can offer all the defenses he wants of Mark Dayton, but Minnesotans still see all of the other offices remaining open, while Dayton runs screeching back to the safety of St. Paul. Actions speak louder than Byrd's words, and Minnesotans now can see the stark differences in approach to terrorism that this election affords. Do we want to elect Senators and Presidents whose response to threats is to run away? Or do we want leaders who have courage and stamina that face down those who would attack and kill us?

Just remember this: if the Democrats win control of the Senate, Mark Dayton might just wind up with a committee chair. How would you like to wake up in January to find Dayton heading the Senate Armed Services Committee? Of course, he'd be running it from a bunker in Albert Lea ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 14, 2004 4:49 PM

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