Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sideshows and substance

First we had Dean Johnson "sanding off" the truth. Now we have Gil Gutknecht in "Gettygate."

During a campaign appearance last week in Mankato, Gutknecht, a Rochester Republican, told a group of college students they could play as pivotal a role in defending Republican control of Congress as the 1st Minnesota did at Gettysburg, according to a report published Tuesday in the MSU Reporter, the Minnesota State University-Mankato student newspaper.

The 1st Minnesota saved the field for the Union forces July 2, 1863, by stepping into a breach in their line and repelling a Confederate assault. The unit lost 82 percent of its men in the process, the highest casualty rate of any Union regiment in any battle.

"To compare beating Democrats to defeating the Confederate Army is either an absurd display of historical ignorance or an insult to the intelligence of Minnesota," Melendez said in a news release under the headline "Gutknecht likens DFL Party to slaveholders." David Ruth, the party's communications director issued the release.

Oh, please.

There are times when both parties try to tar the other with racist associations. The most egregious is the use of "plantation" imagery, which Republicans often use to describe Democrat domination of the black vote, and which Hillary Clinton used to describe Republican control of the Senate.

But a reference to a pivotal battle in the Civil War hardly likens DFLers to slaveholders.

Personally, if I were one of the college students so addressed, I'd be a bit concerned by that 82 percent casualty rate. I didn't realize human-wave attacks were part of the Republican electoral strategy. And don't Democrats support gun control? I had no idea Dems could do so much damage with their bare hands.

While the parties distract everyone with sideshows like this, a state House committee approved a University of Minnesota stadium plan that includes a $50-per-year fee increase for students, and both the Senate and the House are considering bills to keep the identity of University presidential candidates secret, among all the other bills awaiting action this session.

Dustups are fun, but they're not important.

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