Minnesota's Shame
                            by Garrison Keillor

                      The hoots and cackles of Republicans reacting to my screed against Norman
                      Coleman, the ex-radical, former Democratic, now compassionate conservative
                      senator-elect from Minnesota, was all to be expected, given the state of the
                      Republican Party today. Its entire ideology, top to bottom, is We-are-not-Democrats,
                      We-are-the-unClinton, and if it can elect an empty suit like Coleman, on a campaign
                      as cheap and cynical and unpatriotic as what he waged right up to the moment Paul
                      Wellstone's plane hit the ground, then Republicans are perfectly content. They are
                      Republicans first and Americans second. The old GOP of fiscal responsibility and
                      principled conservatism and bedrock Main Street values is gone, my dear, and
                      something cynical has taken its place.

                      Thus the use of Iraq as an election ploy, openly, brazenly, from the president
                      and Karl Rove all the way down to Norman Coleman, who came within an
                      inch of accusing Wellstone of being an agent of al-Qaida. To do that one day
                      and then, two days later, to feign grief and claim the dead Wellstone's mantle
                      and carry on his "passion and commitment" is simply too much for a decent
                      person to stomach. It goes beyond the ordinary roughhouse of politics. To
                      accept it and grin and shake the son of a bitch's hand is to ignore what cannot
                      be ignored if you want your grandchildren to grow up in a country like the one
                      that nurtured and inspired you.

                      I would rather go down to defeat with the Democrats I know than go oiling
                      around with opportunists of Coleman's stripe, and you can take that to the bank.

                      I've run into plenty of Coleman supporters since the election and they see me
                      and smirk and turn away and that's par for the course. I know those people. To
                      my own shame, I know them. I'm ashamed of Minnesota for electing this cheap
                      fraud, and I'm ashamed of myself for sitting on my hands, tending to my hoop-stitching,
                      confident that Wellstone would win and that Coleman would wind up with an
                      undersecretaryship in the Commerce Department. Instead, he will sit in the highest
                      council in the land, and move in powerful circles, and enjoy the perks of his office,
                      which includes all the sycophancy and bootlicking a person could ever hope for.
                      So he can do with one old St. Paulite standing up and saying,
                      "Shame.Repent. The End is Near."

                      The Republican exploitation of 9/11 for political gain is the sort of foulness
                      that turns young people against the whole business, and for good reason. All
                      sorts of people went down in the World Trade Center, execs and secretaries and
                      bond traders and also the dishwashers in Windows on the World and secretaries
                      and cleaning ladies. Think of all those portraits of the victims that ran daily
                      week after week in the Times that we read, read tearfully, saw ourselves in
                      those lives, and the wave of patriotic tenderness that followed was genuine and
                      included us all. For a cynic like Norman Coleman to hitch his trailer to that
                      tragedy is evil -- call it by the right name. To exploit 9/11 and the deaths of
                      those innocent people on that beautiful day in Manhattan -- to appropriate that
                      day and infer so clearly that there is a Republican and a Democratic side to
                      it, is offensive to our national memory and obscenely evil, and it was rewarded
                      by the voters of Minnesota.

                      Ordinarily, there should be a period of good feeling after an election, of
                      relief, or relaxation, when we join hands and become one people again, but
                      Norman Coleman doesn't deserve any Democrat's hand. We had come together
                      as one people already -- the precious gift of 9/11 -- and he used that as a campaign
                      ploy against us, suggesting that Democrats are unpatriotic, and he is not to be
                      forgiven for it.

                      I personally don't believe he had anything to do with the crash of Paul's plane.
                      Plenty of people suspect he did. I don't. But I do think he is a cynical politician
                      who should make himself scarce for the next few years until people start to
                      forget his campaign.

                      Lord, America does love a winner. When you're riding high, people can't do
                      enough for you, and when you fall down low, they don't want to be around to
                      see. I know something about that -- every performer does -- and you quickly
                      recognize your false friends, the people who clutch your hand and grab your
                      elbow and give you a gigantic smile and tell you how much they love your work
                      but they get the name of the show wrong, or the day of the week, or they
                      mispronounce your name, and you see them clear for the phonies they are. Norman
                      Coleman is that very person, the false knight upon the road, and he always has
                      been and always will be.

                      Paul Wellstone was a real person who led an authentic life. The contrast couldn't
                      be clearer.  All you had to do was look at Coleman's face, that weird smile, the
                      pleading eyes, the anger in the forehead. Or see how poorly his L.A. wife played
                      the part of Mrs. Coleman, posing for pictures with him, standing apart, stiff, angry.

                      Or listen to his artful dodging on the stump, his mastery of that old Republican dance,
                      of employing some Everyguy gestures in the drive to make the world safe for the privileged.
                      What a contrivance this guy is.

                      Paul Wellstone identified passionately with people at the bottom, people in trouble,
                      people in the rough. He was an old-fashioned Democrat who felt more at home with the
                      rank and file than with the rich and famous. (Bill Clinton, examine your conscience.)
                      He loved stories and of course people on the edge tend to have better stories than
                      the rich, whose stories are mostly about decor and amenities.

                      Paul walked the walk. He was a wonder. Everyone who ever met him knew that he
                      lived a whole life and that he and Sheila were crazy about each other. To be in
                      love with one person for 38 years is nothing you can fake: Even the casual
                      passerby can see it. To die at 58, having lived so well and so truthfully, is
                      enviable, compared to the longevity of a man who invents his own life in order
                      to achieve the desired effect and advance himself.

                      To gain the whole world and lose your own soul is not a course that Scripture
                      recommends. You can do it so long as God doesn't notice, but God has a way of
                      returning and straightening these things out. Sinner beware.

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