When it comes to Tea Party candidates, there’s a certain pattern that needs to be upheld. They are supposed to be political outsiders, running against the “establishment.”
There’s no better example than in the Minnesota Eighth district, where long-time Democratic Congressman Jim Oberstar is being challenged by newcomer Chip Cravaack. Cravaack claims to be within striking distance, based on his own internal polling, although he has refused to release what the actual polling questions used by his firm was. He has also won over endorsements from radical Right to Life groups, who feel that Oberstar, an anti-abortion Democrat, turned his back on them by voting for health care reform.
To boost his Tea Party mythology, Cravaack has created is own “call to action” story that epitomizes the corrupt, uncaring Goliath now being fought by the earnest, hard-working David of politics.
Sadly, it appears to simply be that. Myth.
Via press release:
Eighth District Congressional challenger Chip Cravaack has told the story many times. He was inspired to run for office by an incident in which Congressman Jim Oberstar refused to meet with Cravaack and his group to talk about health care reform, the political newcomer says.
“I went to his (Oberstar’s) office. There was (sic) about 20-25 people there, but at the end of the meeting they (the Congressman’s staff) said, ‘You know what, the Congressman is just too busy to meet with you.’ So, at the end of that meeting, when I walked out, I decided I had to do something, I had to get involved,” Cravaack said most recently in an interview on the Fox network. The story drew a sigh of disbelief from Fox host Gretchen Carlson.
However, the Oberstar staffer who met with Cravaack and company in Oberstar’s North Branch office in August, 2009, says the true story is not as the Republican candidate presents it.
“Congressman Oberstar could not meet with the group because he wasn’t in North Branch the day they came in,” says Blake Chaffee, an Oberstar staff assistant now on leave from the federal office to work on Oberstar’s reelection campaign. “They were pressing for a town hall meeting, and I told them that no decision had been made yet on scheduling town meetings. That was the honest truth. They couldn’t accept that.”
Oberstar eventually decided not to hold town meetings on health care reform when it became obvious that tea party activists would likely disrupt any such public forums and not permit a serious discussion of the issue. The chaotic atmosphere generated by protesters at such meetings held by other Members of Congress, and the unruly behavior of the Cravaack supporters at the Duluth debate this week, confirmed Oberstar’s suspicions.
Instead, Oberstar met with hospital administrators, doctors, and other health professionals to get their input on the pending health care bill. He also met with patients and victims of the broken health care system, and communicated with thousands of constituents via phone calls, letters, and e-mail.
Apparently it is hard for a candidate to separate myth from fact. Luckily, to many Tea Party supporters, fact is not something they value highly.
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