9:45 a.m. Republican Senator Norm Coleman will be speaking on energy and politics at 10 am today at the Humphrey’s Cowles Auditorium. Coleman’s speech is entitled: “Building from the Center: Getting the Job Done on Renewable Energy.” This is the 4th in a series of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance’s “Connecting with Government” series — previous speakers from April include Senator Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Betty McCollum, and Rep. Tim Walz. One of Coleman’s potential DFL challengers in Election 2008, Al Franken, was seen at two of those events. Will he show up to take in Senator Coleman’s speech today?”
10:05 a.m. Several other bloggers are present today — Jeff Fecke from Minnesota Monitor, Michael Brodkorb from Minnesota Democrats Exposed, and Edward Morrissey from Captain’s Quarters.
10:10 a.m. Senator Coleman has taken the stage, starting out with a few jokes — also acknowledging the bloggers in the first few rows, as a sign of how times have changed. Coleman states he still has optimism about the world – and the world of politics. “Politics of happiness, politics of purpose, and politics of joy” – Coleman says he wants to bring happiness, purpose, and joy back into the presidential and congressional races.
10:18 a.m. Coleman explains that the issue of renewable fuels is tied to two other important issues: energy independence and environmental climate change. He says all the money we’re spending on fossil fuels is going into the hands of dictators, like Hugo Chavez. Coleman jokes that he knows what E-85 is (a dig at the 2006 Mike Hatch campaign).
10:20 a.m. Coleman subtly touts his independent credentials — and there is some evidence to back up his claim. National Journal’s 2007 rankings of U.S. Senators found Coleman to by the 4th closest Senator to the center, based on its 2006 vote ratings. Only Republican Mike DeWine of Ohio (voted out of office in 2006), popular Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter, and Republican Susan Collins of Maine (up for election in 2008), had more centrist ratings than Coleman.
10:25 a.m. Coleman explains how, as mayor, he would take advice from Democrats, although acknowledging, “I’m no Lincoln,” in reference to more prominent historical figures who have worked with both sides of the aisle. Coleman gives a civics lesson to the students in the audience, explaining the difference between the House (majority rules) and the Senate, where legislation has to get to 60 votes to avoid filibusters. The Senate, he says, thus has a ‘cooling effect’ on policy.
10:30 a.m. Coleman, by the way, still remains a fairly popular figure in Minnesota politics. His latest approval ratings in mid-April in SurveyUSA’s monthly poll were 53 percent, with 41 percent disapproving of his performance. Coleman’s emphatically states the U.S. Senate “will get something done this session” on renewable energy. Coleman says he and junior DFL Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar will work together on energy policy and will “be in agreement more often than not” on this issue. Coleman states he is also working with Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama on setting new CAFE standards, which could save billions of gallons of gas over several years.
10:35 a.m. Coleman says, “we need to unleash the power of green energy.” Coleman reassures the audience as to whether or not there is a man-on-the-moon commitment to renewable energy: “There is a clear bipartisan vision that there are national security implications to energy policy.”
10:40 a.m. Coleman is now taking questions from moderator Dr. Lawrence Jacobs, Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. Coleman states he doesn’t wake up and say, “today I’m going to be a centrist,” but that he is a pragmatist and, though he is a conservative, he does not believe it is good to have 100 percent of nothing. Therefore, he tries to find common ground, with Senators like Mark Prior of Arkansas. He says he recognizes if he wants to get something done, he will have to listen to the other side.
10:45 a.m. Coleman says nuclear energy will need to be a part of the U.S. becoming less dependent on foreign oil. His best line of the morning: “The French aren’t braver than us, and they’re not afraid of nuclear energy.” Coleman says he was a firm believer in Yucca Mountain as a means to dispose of nuclear waste – a problem, the Senator recognizes, as the Majority Leader (Harry Reid) of the Senate hails from Nevada.
10:50 a.m. Coleman says, “The debate as to whether or not there is global warming is over – it’s happening.” Coleman is in favor of deep water offshore oil drilling. He points to the Katrina disaster, and how not one drop of oil was spilled in the rigs offshore of Louisiana during that hurricane.
10:55 a.m. Coleman states the U.S. can win in Iraq and defines winning as a) a stable Iraqi democratic government, b) a long-term U.S. peacekeeping commitment like the U.S. presence in Kosovo, and c) prevent Al-Qaeda from having a presence in Iraq like it did in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.
11:00 a.m. Coleman acknowledges, “We will be in Iraq for a long time,” but that he doubts the U.S. will be in the center of the bloodshed by sometime next year. U.S. troops will leave, he says, either because the Iraqi government has stabilized the situation or, if not, U.S. troops will leave Baghdad and “There will be a bloodletting.”
11:05 a.m. In order to pay for the war and national security Coleman says he would not rule out supporting the raises of taxes, but that he doesn’t think that will be necessary. He thinks Bush’s tax cuts have helped the economy, not hurt it. But, he says, Americans need to make sacrifices to face great challenges.
11:07 a.m. On the issue of abortion, Coleman says he is “pro-life” and has a “deep and profound valuing of life.” Despite this, he says he would “absolutely” support Rudy Giuliani (who is pro-choice) if he were the Republican nominee, “Without any doubt or hesitation.”
11:10 a.m. Coleman closes by acknowledging that “The Republican Party is hurting.” He says the GOP needs to better communicate its issues to the public.