Repubublicans Dave Durenberger and Rudy Boschwitz were elected to the Senate from Minnesota in 1978, the year of the “Minnesota massacre” of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Republican Al Quie was elected governor as well, knocking off incumbent Rudy Perpich.
As senators, Durenberger and Boschwitz were a study in contrasts. Boschwitz was a party-builder and gregarious battler for Republican causes. With the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, Boschwitz was perfectly positioned to contribute his personal background as a refugee and his business background as a successful entrepreneur to the advancement of the Reagan revolution.
Durenberger, on the other hand, established himself as a quirky maverick who loved making himself a thorn in the side of the Reagan administration. Despite his independence from the party, the Minneapolis Star Tribune (and its predecessors) frquently dogged Durenberger and made a special contribution to the revelation of the ethical tribulations that resulted in his censure by the Senate in 1990. Durenberger stood down for reelection at the conclusion of his third term in 1995.
This week the Star Tribune hauled Durenberger out of mothballs to publish his endorsement of John Kerry for president: “For health care security, Kerry has the better plan.” Durenberger addresses the subject of health care in this column as America’s primary national security issue; the column rings more than a little hollow the day after the airing of Osama bin Laden’s nauseating video. Moreover, although Durenberger is genuinely knowledgeable on the subject of health care, virtually everything he says on the subject is tripe.
I served as Rudy Boschwitz’s treasurer when he ran against then-Senator Paul Wellstone in 1996. He’s a friend and the person I admire most in public life in Minnesota. Yesterday Rudy emailed me the response to Durenberger’s column that he had submitted to the Star Tribune, but that the Star Tribune declined to run in the form submitted. The Strib demanded that Rudy revise the column to confine the subject to health care; the revised column runs in Sunday’s Star Tribune. Here’s the unexpurgated Boschwitz:
Senator Dave Durenberger may prefer John Kerry’s health plan to the President’s, but I do not. Nor in my mind is health-care the defining issue of the 2004 campaign.
First, a word about health care. If 45 million Americans are uninsured, that means 246 million or 85% of Americans are insured. While it is important to find a way to cover the uninsured, it is equally or more important to not jeopardize the status of the overwhelming majority that are insured. Furthermore, a significant number of the uninsured are eligible for Medicaid, particularly children. Also, I understand that 60% of the uninsured work for small businesses. I know from experience that small groups are very expensive to insure. The President’s plan to allow many small businesses to get together and pool their numbers is an excellent approach in my opinion. It will surely meaningfully decrease the number of uninsured Americans.
So I prefer President Bush’s plan of building on the private sector system that has been so successful for the vast majority of Americans. It has given us the world’s finest health care — particularly here in Minnesota. The Kerry idea of expensively expanding the government’s role is not nearly as appealing.
Incidentally, I never joined the Senators’ Health Plan. Our company plan was better and cheaper as well.
The world looked far different when Dave Durenberger and I arrived in Washington together as Senators in the winter of 1978. The Soviet Union was ascendant. From 1974-78 ten countries had joined the Communist bloc. Brezhnev had announced his Doctrine that a nation once Communist would always remain so. 750,000 American service men and women and their dependents qualified for food stamps. Iran fell under the control of the Ayatollah who was to capture and hold our embassy staff in Teheran for a year. The Soviet Union, with thousands of nuclear tipped missiles aimed our way, was poised to invade Afghanistan.
Then in 1980 Ronald Reagan challenged the status quo, rearmed America — a path I endorsed and voted for — declared the Soviet Union an “evil empire”
and stated early on that the days of the Soviet Union were numbered and that its epitaph was even then being written. Frankly I did not see things as clearly as he (nor did other Senators). I expected to live my lifetime with the Soviet Communism in opposition to Western democracy and freedom.
Since 1980 not a single country has turned from democracy to tyranny, but dozens have turned from tyranny to become open societies and that trend continues. The election in Afghanistan — the first ever in that country — was a truly remarkable event. If it can happen in Afghanistan, it will surely happen in Iraq and taken together, a profound change will occur in the Middle East that will change the course of events there.
Tyranny has been commonplace throughout my life. I was born in Germany two years before the advent of Adolph Hitler as Reich Chancellor on January 30,
1933. On that day my Dad came home and told my Mom we would leave Germany forever. Six months later we were gone. Of my family that remained on the continent of Europe, only one survived Nazism.
During my lifetime, few leaders or so called statesmen looked tyranny and evil in the eye and said: you can’t do that and if you persist we’re going to act and take you out. Most sought to negotiate, appease, buy off or not confront the evil-doer. But there were exceptions and those leaders made the world a better and safer place. Included among them were Churchill, Harry Truman, John Kennedy who appeared on that path based on both his inaugural address and subsequent actions, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and now George W. Bush.
If George Bush is granted another term, there is little doubt in my mind that we will win the war on terrorism, change the face of the Middle East in a very positive way and head that area of the world toward peace. That is why I am so strongly supportive of President Bush. The world will become a better place.
Terrorism has to be put in some perspective. It is not the enormous threat to the world that we faced in the 40’s with Nazism combined with Japanese militarism. Nor is terrorism the same scope of threat that the Soviet Empire posed with its thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at us.
That is not to underestimate terrorism and its fanaticism particularly in a day of weapons of mass destruction that include not only nuclear, but chemical and biological weapons as well. But these are people who must operate out of caves, without the legitimacy and security of a government, a capital as a base of operations, a consistent cash flow or the ability to easily move money about. They have to constantly be hiding and on the run. As I know and understand our government, how it works and functions, I believe in our ability to find the terrorists and root them out.
I very much believe in President George Bush’s capabilities in leading this nation and the world in this fight, whether in concert with the full array of nations or without them — and leadership by definition is sometimes a
In his message to me Rudy adds an optimistic personal note: “If MN & Hawaii are in play, we will surely watch George W. Bush get re-elected Tuesday evening.”