By Jeff Fecke | November 5, 2006
(Crossposted from MinMon)
The Minnesota Republican party made a startling allegation in the waning days of the 2006 campaign. According to Republican operatives, Tim Walz, the Democratic candidate for the first Congressional district, had faked an award. Not only had he claimed he won an award he didn’t, but he claimed that he’d won an award that didn’t even exist. It was asserted this would destroy Walz’s credibility, and hand the too-close-to-call first district to Rep. Gil Gutknecht.There was only one problem. The award does exist. Walz has, indeed, won it. The Republicans who advanced the story knew it, hanging their entire allegation on one omitted word. And in order to press the story, they turned to a man with an axe to grind who was willing to play his part.
This is a story of the politics of personal destruction—the desperation of a sputtering party in the waning moments of the 2006 election to put up a smear, however tendentious, in desperate hopes it will be enough to win.
The claim that Walz falsified his resume first appeared on the GOP clearinghouse for attacks, Minnesota Democrats Exposed. The site, run by GOP operative Michael Brodkorb, has become well-known as a proving ground for potential Republican attacks. (Brodkorb declined to be interviewed for this story.) In the breathless style Brodkorb has made familiar to Minnesotans, he leveled the first salvo.
“According to Tim Walz’s website,” Brodkorb wrote, “‘In 1993, [Tim] Walz was named the Outstanding Young Nebraskan by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce for his service in the education, military, and small business communities.’ But a representative of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce informed me late this afternoon that they have no record of Walz receiving this award, nor have they every given out such an award.”
This was, of course, shocking. Immediately the obvious questions formed in the back of every politico’s mind: How could Walz be that stupid? How could he think he could make up an award? And for those familiar with Brodkorb, one more: what does Google say about this?
Indeed, the second commenter on Brodkorb’s initial thread noted that if you searched on “Outstanding Young Nebraskan” you would indeed find the award, given out by the Nebraska Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Brodkorb ignored the comments, however, and simply moved on, noting once more that, “The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce said they have never given out this award. I’ll be contacting Walz’s campaign for comment, but I doubt I will get a response.
“Why can’t Walz and his campaign tell the truth?”
When pressed by commenters on his site, Brodkorb showed no interest in clarifying that the award existed, albeit given out by the Jaycees, not the Chamber itself.
“According to two people at the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, Tim Walz never received ‘the Outstanding Young Nebraskan Award’ from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce. I’m not making stuff out of nothing. Based on the reaction from liberal bloggers, I struck a nerve.”
Enter the Pig Man
This became Brodkorb’s mantra; while many noted that Walz was at most guilty of omitting the word “Junior” from an award he’d won thirteen years ago, Brodkorb steadfastly refused to even acknowledge that anyone had issued the award.
Instead, Brodkorb turned to Barry “Pig Man” Kennedy, a former Jaycee and current President of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, who wrote a blistering letter to Walz:
“It has came to my attention that as part of your campaign for U.S. Congress, you have posted your biography on your website that claims you received an award from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce for your service to the business community.
“I have been the President of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce since 2000 and a professional staff person of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce for aver 20 years. We researched this matter and can confirm that you have not been the recipient of any award from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce.”
Kennedy, like Brodkorb, did not claim that Walz had not been named Outstanding Young Nebraskan by the Jaycees in 1993. He only noted that he had not received any award from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce. The Jaycees are never mentioned.
But why would a President of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce choose to obfuscate in the same manner as the GOP? While the Chamber had endorsed Gil Gutknecht, that still seemed like a thin reason for Kennedy to play rhetorical games.
But Barry Kennedy has plenty of reason to despise Minnesota. It goes back to his time with the Jaycees, almost thirty years ago, when Kennedy was President of the U.S. Jaycees. Kennedy was a strong opponent to allowing women into the organization, and in 1978 he ordered the 120 Jaycee chapters that had admitted women to purge them from their ranks.
The Saint Paul and Minneapolis chapters of the Jaycees were two of the chapters nationwide that refused to comply with Kennedy’s order. Instead, they filed a complaint with the Minnesota Human Rights Department. The fight was bitter, but eventually Kennedy’s forces lost, and women were allowed to stay in the Jaycees.
It is perhaps unsurprising that a man who thought women unfit for the corporate world sees Walz as a threat worth dissembling over.
After Kennedy’s letter was released, the Gutknecht campaign engaged in its own rhetorical chest-thumping.
“Honestly, this raises the question of whether we can trust Tim Walz,” said Gutknecht spokesman Bryan Anderson in a statement released on Brodkorb’s site. “Whether misleading the public about his arrest record or claims that he won an award from the Nebraska Chamber, Tim Walz has a pattern of embellishment and obfuscation.”
After Kennedy’s letter reached the Walz campaign, they responded as anyone sane would; they added the word “Junior” to Walz’s biography, correcting the one-word omission that started the whole affair. Brodkorb declared victory.
“Four days after I broke this story , Tim Walz’s campaign has changed their website and removed references of Walz being ‘named the Outstanding Young Nebraskan by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce,’” Brodkorb crowed. But that wasn’t true, as Walz had removed nothing. One word had been added, but you never would have known that from reading Brodkorb’s site. Indeed, Brodkorb still refuses to acknowledge that Walz won any award at all.
The politics of personal destruction are played by those who believe that winning at all costs is all that matters. Does it matter that Tim Walz attributed an award to the Chamber of Commerce that actually came from the Junior Chamber of Commerce? Doubtless almost 100% of Minnesotans would say no. But the GOP this year is in dire straits, and sometimes all you can do is try to tear your opponent down.
- BREAKING: MICHAEL BRODKORB IS AN IDIOT
- Walz Outraises Gutknecht
- Mutally Assured Destruction
- Politics Abhors a Vacuum
Comments are closed.