Second District congressional candidate John Kline is making war against Iraq a campaign issue. The Bush administration has been laying out the case for a possible war with Iraq in recent weeks. On Monday Vice President Dick Cheney said there are compelling reasons to carry out a pre-emptive strike with Iraq, and that those who argue against an attack are guilty of weak and wishful thinking. Republican Kline agrees. The incumbent he's challenging - DFLer Bill Luther - says he supports the war on terror, but doesn't think the Bush administration has yet made a case for invading Iraq.
Politics at Minnesota's Great Get Together usually comes down to simple campaigning. Candidates shake hands, answer simple questions from voters and ask for their votes.
But this year, candidates in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District are also fielding questions regarding a possible war on Iraq.
Republican John Kline is at the Minnesota State Fair to meet with voters. But he's also using his time to get his name and message out through the large number of radio stations broadcasting from the fairgrounds.
Kline, a retired Marine colonel, told hosts on three radio stations that he supports an invasion of Iraq and the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He says he believes Hussein is harboring terrorists in Iraq and is developing weapons of mass destruction.
"He is a great threat and it's not a threat that we can put off for years. It's not a threat that we can put off for years. It's not like that if we do anything we can get around to getting him in 2007 or 2008. So I think that we are going to go, I believe that we are going to go and I believe that we must go," Kline said.
Kline says he supports President Bush's war on terrorism and believes Bush administration officials will make a strong case to the public when they think it's appropriate.
Kline says he thinks the country should invade Iraq even if the international community objects to such plans.
"It's not a matter of how many allies we have or whether Middle Eastern countries want us to go in there or not. The point that I believe is absolutely true is that we're in danger. We here in America are in peril and we have to take the steps necessary to protect ourselves. That's what this war on terrorism is about. It's about protecting Americans."
Kline's opponent, DFL Congressman Bill Luther, says he doesn't think there's enough evidence to support an invasion of Iraq at this time. Luther says he's been a strong supporter of America's war on terrorism but doesn't believe the Bush administration has made a strong enough case on why there should be an invasion. He also says the Bush administration needs to gain the support of its international allies, especially in the Middle East, before any invasion should start.
"You have to develop linkage with the activities of that particular country and that's the kind of case that needs to be developed. It needs to be developed to a greater extent then what has been the case or we will not be able to develop the international support and that's critical that we do this," Luther said.
Gustavus Aldolphus political science chair Chris Gilbert says military action against Iraq is becoming a central issue in congressional races throughout the country. He says the issue doesn't split along party lines. He notes that there have been disputes in both parties on the matter.
Gilbert says this election may be a nationwide referendum on what the voters want from their political leaders.
"George Bush is not on the ballot this year, but people who have important things to say and decisions to make that will either assist or hamper or retard the president in what he wants to do - they are on the ballot. And so what kind of Congress we elect will say a lot about just what George W. Bush can get done in the next two years, not just with Iraq, although I think that's a question that will continue to press more and more," according to Gilbert.
Gilbert says he's not sure how voters in the 2nd District will react to the candidates's stances regarding military action against Iraq. He says Kline's stance is a good way to remind voters about his military resume. But Luther's cautious approach also sits well with many voters who aren't sure if war on Iraq is a good thing at this time.More from MPR