With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Posts about President Obama

Rep. Nolan: US military help for Iraq would be a 'terrible mistake'

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: June 13, 2014 - 4:06 PM

With Allison Sherry

As President Obama reviews options on ways the United States might help the deteriorating situation in Iraq, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan said today that any American military re-intervention would be a “terrible mistake.”

Less than three years after pulling American forces out of Iraq, Obama is weighing a range of military options, including airstrikes, to quell an al-Qaida inspired insurgency that has seized control of two Iraqi cities.

With Obama and his closest advisors mulling their options to aid the besieged Iraqi government, Nolan said he has hand-delivered messages to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urging the U.S. to steer clear of the conflict. Obama has ruled out sending troops to Iraq.

“U.S. military re-intervention into Iraq, whether by supplying troops, weapons, or support by air or sea, would be a terrible mistake – exacerbating the conflict and drawing us back into a war that has already cost our nation trillions of dollars and thousands of precious lives,” Nolan said in a statement.

“At this critical point, it is the leaders and people of Iraq who must step forward and reclaim their nation. America cannot do it for them, and we should not once again attempt to try.”

The office of GOP Rep. John Kline, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and 25-year veteran of the Marine Corps, declined to comment on the situation. Members of both the Senate and House Armed Services committees have been briefed on the situation by national security officials, according to news reports.

GOP group blasts Dayton over health insurance overhaul

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: June 12, 2014 - 8:12 PM

A leading group opposing Minnesota Democrats has launched its first television advertisement attacking DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the state’s health insurance exchange.

The 30-second ad ties President Obama’s health insurance overhaul with the troubled launch of the state’s health insurance exchange, MNsure.

"Barack Obama and Mark Dayton promised Minnesotans that Obamacare would help make things better,” said Ben Golnik, chairman of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition. “MNsure remains a mess defined by missed goals, lost policies and bonuses for executives who failed in their jobs. Dayton is so out of touch with Minnesotans he even claimed Obamacare was working 'phenomenally well.'"

Dayton’s campaign dismissed the ad as misleading.

"The reality is that today more Minnesotans than ever have access to quality healthcare at the lowest rates in the nation – with MNsure reducing the number of uninsured Minnesotans by 40 percent in its first year,” said Dayton campaign manager Katharine Tinucci, citing a new University of Minnesota study.

The ad is part of a larger strategy in which Republicans nationally are blasting Democrats over the health insurance overhaul. Democrats are starting to punch back hard with stories of Americans who have been helped by the program. They are also highlighting that Republicans have not unveiled an alternative.

“This is a reminder of the Republican approach that would bring Minnesotans back to the days of out of control healthcare costs, discrimination against preexisting conditions, and lack of coverage for basic services like mammograms," Tinucci said.

Golnik said they will spend somewhere around $50,000 to run the ad statewide on cable and digital broadcast. That is generally not enough money to give the ad significant statewide reach.

The head of Alliance for a Better Minnesota, the main outside group attacking Republicans, would not say when they will launch their first ad.

"When it's strategically smart" said Carrie Lucking, executive director of Alliance for a Better Minnesota.

She also jabbed Golnik's group, however, saying that the group would not run "an ad attacking Obamacare the day after we learn that it's reduced our uninsured rate by 40 percent."

Here's the ad:

Rep. Kline, defense secretary tangle over Taliban prisoner swap

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: June 11, 2014 - 6:56 PM

The risks to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were growing as officials negotiated his release from Taliban captivity, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress on Wednesday in a public defense of the Obama administration's controversial prisoner swap.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Hagel faced tough questioning from lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. John Kline, who remain skeptical of the prisoner exchange.

“The United States did set a precedent, did break the policy of negotiating with terrorists,” Kline told Hagel during the hearing.

The decision to trade five Taliban leaders for the release of Bergdahl, who was held for five years, has come under intense criticism on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers were not notified of the deal in advance.

“Who specifically selected the particular detainees that were transferred?” Kline asked Hagel.

“We've had some tortuous legal responses to questions we're trying to get at ... we're just trying to find out the basics,” Kline later said.. “I hope you can see why there’s a lot of confusion here.”

Hagel described the negotiations for Bergdahl’s release as “imperfect” and “imprecise.”

“I know there are differences and I know there are questions and I get it,” Hagel said in response to Kline's questioning. “But we did get him back.”

McCollum, Paulsen latest lawmakers to oppose Obama’s pick for Norway ambassador

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: June 6, 2014 - 6:09 PM

The much-criticized nomination of businessman George Tsunis to be ambassador to Norway is facing even more opposition, now from the co-chairs of the congressional Friends of Norway Caucus.

The co-chairs – Minnesota U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Erik Paulsen -- are urging President Obama to withdraw Tsunis’ nomination.

“In Minnesota we have a vibrant Norwegian-American population with a rich appreciation for the culture and heritage of Norway,” McCollum said.

“We expect the next U.S. ambassador to possess both expertise and appreciation for Norway and its people. Unfortunately, the current nominee falls far short of this standard. I urge President Obama to withdraw his nomination immediately and instead find a new nominee who will make Norwegian-Americans proud.”

McCollum, a Democrat, and Paulsen, a Republican, join both U.S. senators from Minnesota, home to the United States’ largest Norwegian-American population, in opposing Tsunis.

Earlier this week, Sen. Al Franken announced he will vote against Tsunis if his nomination comes to the Senate floor. Sen. Amy Klobuchar made the same vow earlier this year.

Tsunis, who helped raise nearly $1 million for Obama’s 2012 campaign, was nominated for the diplomatic post nine months ago.

During an appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Tsunis bungled answers to questions and testified that he has never visited Norway. His performance drew a strong rebuke from Norwegian-Americans across the country.

Because the Senate has sole responsibility for confirming ambassadors, McCollum and Paulsen can’t cast votes against Tsunis.

"While ambassadorships are often tied to political support for the President, the answers provided by nominee George Tsunis clearly demonstrate that he is unqualified for this position and may damage an important international bond if confirmed,” Paulsen said.

“The President would serve the Norwegian-American community well by withdrawing Tsunis’s name and nominating somebody that will help our relationship continue to grow and thrive.”  

Obama to honor WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx at White House

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: June 6, 2014 - 2:03 PM

President Obama will host the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx at the White House on Thursday to celebrate the team’s 2013 championship. 

The event is scheduled for 12:50 p.m. Twin Cities time.

The Lynx swept through the 2013 playoffs without losing a game, claiming their second Women’s National Basketball Association championship in three years.

The squad visited the White House in September 2012 to celebrate their previous championship.

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