An Early Halloween For Senator Mark Dayton

by on October 15, 2004

in Politics

Senator Mark Dayton continued to explain himself on Friday on Minnesota Public Radio’s Midday program, where he took calls and defended his decision to close his office due to potential terrorist attack.

My first reaction to the news that Dayton would close his DC office, was that he had just provided supporting evidence for those who are already inclined to believe that Democrats are weenies. My second reaction was to search for a political angle. I’m still looking.

If you set aside the fact that Dayton is a US Senator, his actions are eminently reasonable and prudent. Fact: DC has been attacked by terrorists before, so the threat is not unprecedented. Fact: It is not merely reasonable, but the responsibility of any employer to take steps to remove their employees from any known or reasonably likely danger.

But when you put the fact that Dayton is a US Senator back into the equation, you have to account for the fact that his actions have the potential to be symbolic. Oh, yeah, and add to all of this the fact that not another senator or representative have closed their office–not one–and you’re left with a big ?!?

On Thursday, the editorialists at the Star Tribune took Dayton to task for the office closing. They seem to think that Dayton is trying to make a political point, saying:

"Take it as political theater, it is farcical — and counterproductive" and If
Dayton’s purpose was to underscore a legitimate issue of national security —
how much remains to be done to ensure Americans’ safety from terrorist attack —
he could have chosen many a better way of making the point…Instead of pointing
out the emperor’s startling nakedness, Dayton has cast himself as the lone
little chicken who claims the sky is falling."

But if this were simple political theater, wouldn’t Dayton be anxious to make his political point? He hasn’t. The Strib is just guessing. Dayton’s sticking to his story that it would be irresponsible for him, knowing what he knows, to return to Minnesota while his staff members faced the danger he believes they could face in DC.

The stories about the Dayton’s office closing mention that the Senator is upset with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for failing to discuss with all the senators the threat they face. The implication, then, seems to be that Dayton is trying to make a point with Frist. But if that’s the case, why hasn’t Senator Dayton explicitly connected the two? To make such a political point, you must be overt.

So I’m left with the only logical conclusion: Dayton is not trying to make a political point and actually is only concerned about his staff’s safety. It’s a rather stunning conclusion when you consider that Dayton had to have thought about the political ramifications yet disregarded them.

I’ve said it for years and I’ll say it again: Reality is nine-tenths perception. The reality is that Senator Dayton is the only member of Congress to close his office due to the threat of terrorism. The perception is that he cut and ran.

Two years is an eternity in politics, but still, this is the stuff of which political advertising is made.

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