Largely because of his experience working in the White House, carrying the famed “nuclear football” (the case with the codes needed to launch a nuclear counter-strike in the event the U.S. is attacked) for two U.S. Presidents (“Both were tremendous people, but Jimmy Carter was not a strong President while Ronald Reagan was a great one”), Col. John Kline became interested in politics. After he retired from the U.S. Marine Corps following a lifetime of service that included three tours of duty in Vietnam, he settled in Minnesota to farm, and then did some volunteer work in Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996. Two years later, he decided to run for Congress and waged two close, but unsuccessful, challenges to Democratic Rep. Bill Luther.
“But, one thing I learned in the Marine Corps was that if you think you’re going to make a difference, don’t give up—keep trying.” He did. On his third try in ’02, Kline finally unseated Luther. Now in his second term in Congress, the Gopher State lawmaker is focused heavily on two issues especially important to him: reducing taxes and restoring America’s defenses. Kline believes that “Bill Clinton did so much damage to our defenses by decommissioning ships and whole squadrons of airplanes, cutting defense spending, so that instead of a Cold War average of two million men and women in uniform, we have only 1.4 million.”
Kline’s Democratic opponent this year has celebrity status. Recently retired from the FBI, Coleen Rowley was on the cover of Time in December 2002 as one of three “Persons of the Year.” The former counsel at the FBI’s Minneapolis office had made headlines for exposing her superiors’ failure to encourage and support a Minnesota investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui in the two weeks before 9/11. Her fame has propelled her to the Democratic nomination in the 2nd District.
But that fame may be carrying some tarnish. According to a newly released, 120-page Justice Department report, Rowley “gave fellow FBI agents in Minneapolis bad or incomplete legal advice as they frantically tried to persuade bosses in Washington to approve seeking a search warrant for Moussaoui’s computer and personal belongings.” Specifically, the inspector general said that Rowley failed to anticipate that the agents would be hindered by the statutory requirement that the target of a FISA warrant be a “foreign power or agent of a foreign power.” She was also criticized in the report for failing, once the FISA request was shot down, to then seek a criminal search warrant.”
Beyond the “whistleblower” status and the Time cover, Rowley is little different from any far-left, anti-Iraq War Democrat running for office this year: She has met with anti-war demonstrator Cindy Sheehan, accepted $10,000 from left-wing satirist Al Franken, and once even displayed opponent Kline dressed in a Nazi uniform on her website.
At a time when the ranks of veterans in Congress are at an all-time low, the experience and record of John Kline and the actions of his opponent not only make a case for conservatives to rally to him—they demand it.