Speaking as a trial lawyer, let me give you a little free advice (probably worth every penny you’re paying for it):
STOP THINKING LIKE A LAWYER!
Al, I have no doubt that you have a topflight legal team. And as to all legal issues in the post-election litigation in Minnesota, you should follow their advice.
But — and this is one big-assed doozy of a but — when it comes to the politics of the situation, please take any advice a lawyer gives you with a whole wheelbarrow full of grains of salt. They’re the legal experts: but you and your political advisers are the political experts.
I mention this because, well, to be frank, I think you’ve been seriously fu*king up the politics of this thing lately. You need to remember that at the end of the day, this is a political, not a legal, issue. Whatever the courts end up doing in Minnesota, ultimately the Senate gets to decide who to seat, if anyone. And don’t underestimate the willingness of the Republicans to filibuster in order to try to force a special election, as once happened in a razor-close Senate race in New Hampshire back in 1974.
By the same token, if the courts end up surprising everyone by somehow unfairly swinging this thing back to Norm Coleman, it may turn out to be you who will want to take the fight on to the Senate.
Either way, you don’t just need to win the lawsuit: you need to win it in a way that will allow you to head to Washington with the wind of popular opinion at your back. And, happily, the early signs out of Minnesota are very encouraging on this, what with poll results showing most people opposed to Coleman’s decision to go forward with litigation. And the longer Norm pushes this, the less popular he is likely to become.
And may I say for everyone that it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
But remember — public opinion is fickle and can change in the flash of a light bulb. So while, of course, you need to fight like hell for your seat, you also need to do it in a politically smart way. And to be honest with you, Al, your recent attempts to shortcut the process by asking the Governor and now the Supreme Court to declare you the winner, at least on a provisional basis, haven’t been all that smart politically.
For one thing, you never stood a flea’s chance in a wrestling match with an elephant of winning. I mean seriously, Al, what was the likelihood the Republican Governor would grant you that relief? And as for the Minnesota Supreme Court, it isn’t like the justices have been falling all over themselves trying to intercede in this process. Remember that odd ruling where they held that wrongfully rejected absentee votes could be counted, BUT ONLY if both candidates agreed? Friend, that’s not the action of a court that’s chomping at the bit to shortcut the process. And now comes word you probably won’t even get a hearing before the Supreme Court until February.
I understand the thinking behind this: if you can get in, even on a provisional basis, it will be damn hard to get you out. But as nice as that would be, where was there the slightest indication that going to the governor or the Surpreme Court would actually work?
What’s the gain here to make up for the PR damage this may cause you? Because my sense is, rightly or wrongly, a lot of people will regard this as overreaching on your part: and that’s the last thing you need right now. (The fact that more people than not favor putting you in provisionally doesn’t mean they’ll favor this approach.)
I know, I know — many of my fellow lefties will scream that I must be just another one of those gutless liberal wimps who are afraid of a street fight. And I agree with them on one thing: our side does need to fight harder in disputes like this (as your legal team has done brilliantly for the most part). Election 2000 taught us that. But fighting hard doesn’t mean fighting stupid.
My advice? Take a deep breath. Remember that being a United States Senator is a pretty swell thing even if it comes a few months later than it should. Then continue to fight like hell — just do it smartly.