Posted by: mutantpoodle | July 3, 2009


Norm, from CheersWe can finally say goodbye to Norm Coleman – a man, who, but for a tragic plane crash in 2002, would be a footnote in Minnesota political history.

Instead, he kept his Senate seat warm for six years and lost, by a mere 312 votes, to a comedian I saw perform at Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop when I was in high school. He won’t be missed.

While I suppose one could give him credit for conceding after a 5-0 shellacking by the Minnesota Supreme Court, One could also point out that his appeals have been a fools errand, and that no one with blood flow to the brain thought there were any legal issues upon which Coleman could prevail. Instead, Coleman and the GOP worked to block Franken as long as they could, denying Minnesotans the Senator they elected eight months ago.

Just because I am that kind of guy, I’ll leave Garrison Keillor the final words on the ex-Senator from Minnesota – words he penned just two days after Coleman defeated Walter Mondale, Paul Wellstone’s last-minute replacement, in 2002. Keillor, normally a gentle writer, was, in this case, not so much (subscription required):

Norm is a slick retail campaigner, the grabbiest and touchingest and feelingest politician in Minnesota history, a hugger and baby-kisser, and he’s a genuine boomer candidate who reinvents himself at will. The guy is a Brooklyn boy who became a left-wing student radical at Hofstra University with hair down to his shoulders, organized antiwar marches, said vile things about Richard Nixon, etc. Then he came west, went to law school, changed his look, went to work in the attorney general’s office in Minnesota. Was elected mayor of St. Paul as a moderate Democrat, then swung comfortably over to the Republican side. There was no dazzling light on the road to Damascus, no soul-searching: Norm switched parties as you’d change sport coats.

Norm is glib. I once organized a dinner at the Minnesota Club to celebrate F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday and Norm came, at the suggestion of his office, and spoke, at some length and with quite some fervor, about how much Fitzgerald means to all of us in St. Paul, and it was soon clear to anyone who has ever graded 9th grade book reports that the mayor had never read Fitzgerald. Nonetheless, he spoke at great length, with great feeling. Last month, when Bush came to sprinkle water on his campaign, Norm introduced him by saying, “God bless America is a prayer, and I believe that this man is God’s answer to that prayer.” Same guy….

Norm finessed Wellstone’s death beautifully. The Democrats stood up in raw grief and yelled and shook their fists and offended people. Norm played his violin. He sorrowed well in public, he was expertly nuanced. The mostly negative campaign he ran against Wellstone was forgotten immediately. He backpedaled in the one debate, cruised home a victor. It was a dreadful low moment for the Minnesota voters. To choose Coleman over Walter Mondale is one of those dumb low-rent mistakes, like going to a great steakhouse and ordering the tuna sandwich. But I don’t envy someone who’s sold his soul. He’s condemned to a life of small arrangements. There will be no passion, no joy, no heroism, for him. He is a hollow man. The next six years are not going to be kind to Norm.

Kind or not, they’re over.


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