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My Point of View: Hagedorn, Feehan responses show distinctions

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson


With our country in an unpredictable standoff with Iran, we see new distinctions between two candidates in the 1st District race.

Dan Feehan, who enlisted in the military after 9/11 and served in the Army Rangers during two tours in Iraq, wrote in a Facebook post on his campaign page on Jan. 9, “Because of my experience, I take the compounding reality of endless wars seriously.”

He stated, “If we’re going to send our fellow Minnesotans to war, we must make sure it is with the consent of the American people — supported by the Constitution, a Constitution that vests in Congress the power and responsibility to declare war.”

Jim Hagedorn, on the other hand, voted against the Iran War Powers Resolution in the House last week. Sponsored by former CIA and senior Defense Department official Elise Slotkin, it requires the president to stop using U.S. armed forces “to engage in hostilities in or against Iran” unless Congress gives specific authorization. It makes an exception for using military forces to defend the U.S. against imminent attack.

What that signals is that Hagedorn would mute his constituents’ voices — ceding his Constitutional authority as a member of Congress — in decisions about entering yet another debt-exploding war in the Middle East. Besides losing nearly 7,000 American lives there since 2002, we’ve already blown several trillion dollars and counting, mainly to the benefit of defense contractors and their shareholders.

Like other loyal servants of the president, Hagedorn is demeaning anybody who questions Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian commander Qasam Soleimani. On a Facebook post on Jan. 4, he wrote, “A huge chunk of the Democrat[ic] Party hates our country and blames America first and always.”

His repulsive, inflammatory remark is similar to that of Rep. Doug Collins, who said of his Democratic colleagues in an interview on FOX News, “They’re in love with terrorists.” (Collins later apologized.)

These Republicans are giving us textbook examples of nationalism, not patriotism. Nationalism is a knee-jerk response of “My country, right or wrong.” There is no room for dissent.

Patriotism is striving to make our country live up to the ideals we were founded on. Principled dissent is patriotic.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth made short work of Collins’ remarks. She stated, “I left parts of my body in Iraq fighting terrorists. I don’t need to justify myself to anyone.”

She’s right, and Dan Feehan understands the sacrifices that U.S. troops made as well. They didn’t serve in the military as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. Our troops do not belong to a party or a particular president; they swear an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

With the current president, there is no recognition of loyal opposition. There is not even loyalty to his party’s ideals. Trump only understands and rewards loyalty to himself.

Loyal followers like Hagedorn are using the same language Trump uses. Increasingly boxed in by developments in myriad investigations into his finances, business ties and abuses of power, Trump is growing increasingly belligerent and vulgar toward anyone who threatens his personal interests. At a rally in Toledo, Ohio, last week, he ranted that Democrats in Congress are “vicious, horrible people.”

Trump is afraid of justice, and his defensive crouch is hardly the only reason for concern. He has made dozens of bizarre claims divorced from facts. He makes wild threats, including committing war crimes against Iran’s cultural sites. Yet his support from right-wing media and Republican leaders barely wavers. (It wobbles at times, and then people either snap back in line or they announce their retirement.) This authoritarian slide may be fun and entertaining for some voters, but it only goes in one ultimate direction.

The damage is mounting, both in the thinning ranks of our civil service and in relationships with our traditional allies. Trump’s idea that the U.S. is more respected than ever is pure fiction. He has blown generations of accumulated trust and goodwill with our Western European allies and is enamored with dictators like Turkey’s Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s bin Salman. These autocrats are more than happy to see what they can get from massaging Trump’s easily-manipulated ego.

Now add to this a stand-off with Iran. Soleimani was a terrorist, no doubt, but killing him has already set off a high-cost chain reaction that has likely resulted in the deaths of 176 innocent civilians — including children and young adults who were Canadian citizens or residents aboard a Ukrainian plane shot down near Tehran last week. Despite this catastrophe, we will be lucky if Trump’s self-proclaimed “anti-Benghazi” is not a larger cataclysm.

We cannot move our country forward on resentment, lies and blind obedience to an erratic leader. We build a better future on truth, justice and equality. Hagedorn doesn’t understand this; Feehan does.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.