March 31, 2014

Sivarajah, Clark to speak at Politics & A Pint at CSB on Thursday

Collegeville, MN -- The Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement is pleased to announce that Anoka County Commissioner and 6th District congressional candidate Rhonda Sivarajah and Former MN Senator Tarryl Clark will be the special guests at this Thursday's Politics & A Pint.

Sivarajah and Clark will be joined by CSBSJU political organization chairs Bridget Cummings (College Democrats), Ashley Bukowski (College Republicans), and Katherine Zuroski (Students Fostering Conservative Thought) to discuss the challenges women face in politics.

CSBSJU Political Science professor Dr. Claire Haeg will moderate the discussion.

These six women will join the CSBSJU community on Thursday, April 3 at 5pm in O'Connell's at the College of Saint Benedict in Saint Joseph, MN.

The bi-monthly conversation series is sponsored by the McCarthy Center.



March 19, 2014

President Hemesath, Dr. Hayes Discuss Ukraine at Politics & A Pint

SJU President Dr. Michael Hemesath with CSBSJU Professor Christi Siver
and student Bridget Cummings after "Politics & A Pint: Ukraine on the Brink " on Thursday.
Collegeville, MN – Last Thursday, Saint John’s University President Dr. Michael Hemesath and Dr. Nick Hayes joined CSBSJU students and community members in Brother Willie’s Pub to lead a discussion about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

At the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement’s “Politics & A Pint: Ukraine On The Brink,” President Hemesath and Dr. Hayes shared their insights on Ukrainian history and the current crisis.  

CSBSJU students Melissa DeOrio and McKensie Diver had the privilege to moderate the interview with our distinguished guests. “I thought it was a lot of fun.” DeOrio said. “It was awesome to see two really bright individuals share their insights and talents of the region with all of us.”

Remarkable turnout
According to last week’s attendance tally, the Politics & A Pint attracted 130 engaged citizens. This high attendance has now become a pattern.

Since the conversation series’ birth in the spring of 2008, its student and community participation has grown exponentially. McCarthy Center Director and CSBSJU Professor Matt Lindstrom attributes this success to the Center’s impressive presence on campus.

“Since we have started Politics & A Pint, the branding of the event has increased dramatically,” explained Lindstrom. “Students know that it’s by students and for students.”

In the future, the McCarthy Center hopes to attract even more students to its events. SJU President Hemesath shares this desire and encourages everyone to participate in a Politics & A Pint at their time here at CSBSJU.

“It’s important to have these discussions in class, but I think it is also great that our future engaged citizens get a chance to talk about these things in an extra-curricular setting,” Hemesath said. “That’s what Politics & A Pint is all about.”

Practical utility
And this unique environment comes with powerful benefits. Not only do students learn the value of continually being informed on the issues of today, but students also acquire invaluable skills like constructing arguments, articulating probing questions, and expanding one’s outlook.

Despite coming from different academic perspectives, President Hemesath enjoyed participating in civil-discourse and discussion with Dr. Hayes.

“It was fun to go back and forth with Dr. Hayes a little bit to see how a historian and an economist might view the world a little differently,” President Hemesath said after the event. “It was great to show students that we can disagree with each other and come to completely different conclusions by looking at the same set of facts.”

The importance of being internationally aware
Dr. Hayes echoed the President’s appreciation for the opportunity to speak in front of so many students and community members. Hayes’ also hoped his appearance showed students the importance of thinking globally.

“If you are not intellectually aware, if you don’t have a consciousness that is global and international, you will fall hopelessly behind,” says Dr. Hayes. That’s why he encourages students to be global citizens: to get ahead.

“When you get engaged internationally, it’s not just that you master a topic, it’s that you develop into a different person. You will have greater self-confidence. You will have greater knowledge of us and our encounters in the international world. Ultimately, it teaches you a lot about America.”

Learning these skills in the low-stake, informal environment in Brother Willie’s Pub is helping mold countless CSBSJU students into the kind of future leaders our current world so desperately needs.

“Given that we want to train engaged citizens for the 21st century, I think everyone here should take a chance and stop by a Politics & A Pint,” said President Hemesath.

To view the full "Politics & A Pint: Ukraine on the Brink" event on YouTube, click here.

President Hemesath graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics from Saint John’s University in 1981 and received his master's and doctoral degrees in economics from Harvard University.

Dr. Hayes holds his MA and Ph.D in History from the University of Chicago where he specialized in 20th Century Russia and Europe. Currently, Hayes is a CSBSJU Professor of History and University Chair in Critical Thinking.

The Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement, founded in 2006, sponsors the bi-monthly conversation series on issues relating to politics, public policy and community involvement.

The next Politics & A Pint is scheduled for April 3rd at 5:00 PM in O’Connell’s Coffee House at the College of Saint Benedict and will focus on about the challenges facing women entering politics and the ways in which this generation can close the gender gap in public office.


February 12, 2014

McCarthy Center Director Matt Lindstrom Participates in Local Sartell Debate

Feb 7, 2014

A debate from the "Sartell Says: Town Hall Debate" series, on the motion "Chickens should be able to roost in residential areas." The debate touched on issues related to urban and rural life, local food, personal rights, property values, and more. Moderated by Patty Candella.

Debate Guests:
  • YES: Matt Lindstrom: Professor of political science at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict. Director of the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.
  • YES: Jean Lavigne: Professor and chair, Environmental Studies department, St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict.
  • NO: King Banaian: Professor of economics, St. Cloud State University. Former State Representative.
  • NO: Lisa Schriefels: St. Cloud Health Director.
  • Patty Candella: Moderator, "Sartell Says: Town Hall Debates."

  • To listen to the full debate, click here

    January 15, 2014

    McCarthy Center Hosts Economic Talk With Louis Johnston and Chris Farrell

    A Year End Look at the Economy

    December 19, 2013
    Saint John's University

    Digital Commons @CSBSJU  
    Picture Courtesy of MPR News

    Two economists looked back on 2013 and predicted what's ahead economically for 2014 during a live radio taping for Minnesota Public Radio at noon Thursday, Dec. 19 at the Lecture Hall (room 102), Saint John's University Art Center, Collegeville.

    "MPR News Presents: A Year-End Look at the Economy" featured Louis Johnston, associate professor of economics at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University who holds the Joseph P. Farry Professorship at SJU, and Chris Farrell, MPR's economics correspondent. The discussion was hosted by MPR Editor at Large Gary Eichten.

    "Chris and I will look at the economic scene from state, national and international perspectives," Johnston said. "Gary Eichten and audience members will ask questions that will push us to talk about where we've been, where we are and where we're likely going."

    Johnston writes a twice-monthly column on economics called Macro, Micro, Minnesota for, reporting on economic developments in the news and what those developments mean to Minnesota. He is a frequent contributor on economic issues on MPR and WCCO Radio.
    Johnston, who has taught at CSB and SJU since 1997, specializes in macroeconomics and economic history.

    Farrell is economics editor of "Marketplace Money," a nationally syndicated one-hour personal finance show produced by American Public Media. He is also an economics correspondent for "Marketplace," the largest business program in broadcasting and chief economics correspondent for American RadioWorks.

    The award-winning journalist and author of two books, Farrell is a graduate of Stanford University and the London School of Economics.

    Eichten, an award-winning broadcaster who hosted the "Midday" program on MPR for over 20 years before retiring from that position in January 2012, is a 1969 graduate of SJU. Eichten began his career at MPR as a student announcer at KSJR in Collegeville (MPR's first station).

    The event was sponsored by the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement at Saint John's University, serving the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University.

    To watch the full interview, click here.

    November 19, 2013

    Central Minnesota experts take academic perspective to political bickering and society

    Central Minnesota experts take academic perspective to political bickering and society

    Saint Cloud Times

    By Stephanie Dickrell

    Little compromise is seen in Washington, experts say, but it's rare in daily conversation although debate in Washington seems to have calmed down for the time being, it’s left many wondering whether compromise is a lost art.


    Attendees gather around economics professors and moderators King Banaian from St. Cloud State University and Louis Johnston from St. John's University on Thursday for the McCarthy Center-sponsored Politics and a Pint discussion on the debt ceiling. / Kimm Anderson,

    The struggle to effectively compromise also can be seen in the Minnesota Legislature, which itself triggered a state government shutdown in 2011. And a local professor said he has seen students who think they can argue a point by simply stating an opinion, not realizing they need to back it up with fact. It can even be seen at the dinner table where friends and relatives call for compromise then deride a politician for taking a moderate stand.

    The causes of the shutdown deal with political realities, but also how Americans argue and disagree with each other and how groups work through conflicts.

    Local experts examined the shutdown from their academic perspectives, suggesting factors that contribute to gridlock in Washington, whether it can be fixed and what it says about American culture.

    The answer? It’s complicated, and no, there’s no silver bullet.

    Matt Lindstrom, a political science professor and director of the McCarthy Center at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, said it’s hard to say whether a “culture of no compromise” at the national level trickles down to state and local politics, but he said it would be an intriguing research project.

    He regularly has group discussions on contentious issues, such as the Politics and a Pint discussion last week where local experts discussed the debt ceiling debate with students and the public.
    “Most people don’t like the bickering and no compromise; they see the dysfunctionality of the shutdown,” he said. “But at the same time, they go to their dinner tables and Facebook and continue zero-sum dialogue.”

    “There’s a cognitive dissonance in our culture ... I see it over and over again,” he said. Lindstrom said it’s common to hear assertions that compromise is beneficial, followed by, for instance, labeling an anti-abortion Democrat a sellout or some Republicans RINOs — “Republican in name only,” he said
    “That whole definition of RINO is a deadly word. ... It’s a destructive acronym ... it’s driven by the underlying assumption that compromise is bad,” he said.

    It reminded him of a Ronald Reagan quote, he said: “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.”

    He harkened back to the oft-cited relationship between Reagan, a Republican president, and Tip O’Neill, a Democratic speaker of the House, one where they disagreed over policy but got along personally.

    “At least they were talking and respecting one another,” he said. “We need a lot more of that these days.”

    Lindstrom attributed the crisis in Congress largely to two facts: the lack of cross-party socialization between members of Congress, and electorally “safe” legislative districts. In safe districts, candidates and office-holders don’t have to worry about appealing to the middle. Instead, they worry about losing a primary to someone with a more extreme position to the right or left.

    Can't they all just get along?

    Arik Putnam is an associate professor of communications at St. Ben’s and St. John’s. He regularly teaches students the dynamics of debate and how to debate to resolve conflict.

    He said the knee-jerk reaction to crises like those in Congress is “can’t they just get along?”
    Humans incorrectly believe we’re good at dealing with conflict, he said, but we’re not. Simply asking Congress members to put aside personal interests won’t work.

    “It won’t work. That’s an insane expectation for a human being,” he said. “The notion to put aside differences and come together is so naive and ahistorical and a bad idea.”

    “The idea is not to get rid of difference but to find better ways of dealing with it.”

    And the fact we complain about their inability to compromise means we’re implicated in that culture, and that it’s part of a larger cultural trend.

    “We like to feel judgmental. There’s a lot of pleasure in judgment,” he said.

    He likens it to obsession with the foibles of celebrities, because we can say to ourselves at least we’re not like that.
    “It’s the same kind of titillation in scandal, conflict and disagreement,” he said. “Conflict itself is good, but the titillation around it is not.”

    The blame game

    Putnam contends much of the rhetoric around the shutdown wasn’t focused on resolving the conflict, but rather to blame the other side.

    “I think appearing to disagree is more profitable. In the contemporary debate about shutdown ... it has everything to do with blame,” Putnam said. “Blame is a really profitable thing to do. ... Accusing other people is really useful.”

    “By posturing, you put off loss,” he said. “We need to find better of ways dealing with not winning everything we want.”

    St. Cloud State University Professor of Political Science Steve Frank said accepting loss as part of the political process informs how he approaches another of his roles: that of a St. Joseph City Council member.

    And when you do things incrementally, it’s sometimes easier to get consensus.
    “You don’t have to change everything at once.”

    Putnam high worries events such as the shutdown and debt ceiling deadline could make students less politically engaged and more cynical.

    He said he is now seeing students who fail to realize the need for evidence to support an opinion.
    “People don’t even tend to justify things anymore,” he said, behaving as though an opinion and an argument carry equal weight.

    “The process of justification ... is more important than the assertion itself,” he said.

    Work with the 'enemy'

    Lindstrom said the lack of socialization between Congress members “dehumanizes the opposition.”
    “When you don’t know the other person as a human being, but just as a ‘D’ and an ‘R,’ that incentivizes the culture of no compromise because you’re working with the enemy,” he said.

    To get his students to humanize another position, Frank encourages students to change their media habits.

    To students who primarily watch Fox News, he suggests reading New York Times editorials. Students who watch MSNBC are encouraged to check out The Wall Street Journal’s editorials.

    “That doesn’t mean you accept those ideas,” Frank said, but “if you get a better understanding of where people are coming from, you see where the common areas of understanding are.”

    Opening minds

    “In order to engage in genuine debate, you have to prepare to be wrong,” Lindstrom said. “You have to be open to what they have to say to you.”

    That’s a trait that isn’t widely encouraged.

    “We’re more committed to assertiveness and conquest,” he said.

    How do we fix this? Experts agree: There’s no quick fix.

    Making legislative districts more “purple” — less dominantly Democrat or Republican — could lead to political moderation, Lindstrom said.

    But redrawing of legislative districts is years away and in some ideological strongholds probably wouldn’t change much.

    House seats, with their shorter terms, were designed to be in touch with the political winds of the day, Lindstrom said. “However ... because of the safe seats, the political winds are not as impactful,” he said.

    As for an open mind?

    “Both parties are guilty of that bunker mentality,” Lindstrom said, because interest groups are watching closely and scoring votes.

    “If you see 360 degrees, that doesn’t mean you’re selling out,” Lindstrom said. “It means you’re talking to other sides.”Central Minnesota experts take academic perspective to political bickering and society

    Cokie Roberts Promotes Conscience and Courage in Public Life at McCarthy Lecture

    Cokie Roberts Promotes Conscience and Courage in Public Life at McCarthy Lecture

    The Record


    Cokie Roberts addressed the CSB/SJU community Wednesday night for the seventh annual Eugene J. McCarthy lecture | Evan Gruenes
    The crowds overflowed Wednesday night as one of America’s leading political commentators and journalists spoke to the CSB/SJU community.

    ABC News broadcaster and NPR contributor Cokie Roberts delivered the seventh installment of the Eugene J. McCarthy Center lecture series at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater. Roberts’ lecture was entitled “Conscience and Courage in Public Life.”

    Upon graduating from Wellesley College in Mass., Roberts went on to become a nationally-known journalist and commentator. She co-anchored ABC’s “This Week” with Sam Donaldson from 1996-2002. She has reported for World News Tonight, other ABC shows and served as a correspondent for CBS.

    In addition to television broadcasting, Roberts is a political contributor to NPR, where she was the congressional correspondent for more than 10 years. Roberts and her husband publish a weekly column for newspapers around the nation.

    Roberts has also been heavily involved in civic engagement, an area of importance for the McCarthy Center at SJU. She has served on the board of the Kaiser Family foundation and on the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation under George W. Bush.

    Roberts focused on the need for progression in society and specifically on the role that women and minorities can take. Roberts described her beliefs on the roles of religious leaders in society.
    Nuns are “historically more involved as citizens than any of us realized,” Roberts said.

    She shared a special connection with the community of CSB, attending an all-female liberal arts college herself.

    “The nuns don’t give up,” Roberts said in reference to a long history of religious women taking positions of leadership.

    Roberts went on to say the role of religious women in society has not only been a gift to the church, but also the country.

    She mentioned the yearlong centennial celebrations at CSB, and encouraged the Bennies in the audience to “be the agents of change in society,” and to “give voice to the powerless.”

    “We need you to do that kind of work as a public servant,” Roberts said.

    Roberts’s education at an entirely female institution hit home for some CSB students.

    “I think it’s fantastic,” sophomore Diana Elhard said. “Being a Bennie, it’s important to realize that in (Roberts’) first months after college on the job market, it was legal for people to say ‘I am sorry we don’t let women do that job,’ and that was impressive being that was her first experience in the job world, and it’s important because that wasn’t that long ago.”

    Roberts also spoke about the world of changing journalism and the role that younger generations play in new media, making references to Twitter.

    “Media plays a very important part in how people view politics and for that reason Cokie Roberts is very influential. She uses media to bring politics to everyone,” SJU Sophomore Edwin Torres said. “She starts debates and talks about how we can bring Congress together and not be so polarized.”
    Roberts stressed the importance of looking back at the history of the country and the institutions of CSB/SJU, and stressed the importance of continuing forward with the work that has already been done in the world of civil and social rights.

    We need to have “the conscience and courage to go into public life and make a difference,” Roberts said.

    November 18, 2013

    New drinking laws prompt civic action by college students

    New drinking laws prompt civic action by college students

    Minnesota Public Radio
    College students in central Minnesota are learning a few life lessons on how government works. The subject at hand -- three new ordinances designed to control underage drinking in the city of St. Joseph. 
    Students were caught off guard by the new rules and now they're getting more active in city lawmaking. Will Moore, a graduating senior at St. John's University, has the latest installment in our Young Reporters series.  
    By Will Moore
    St. Joseph is home to the College of St. Benedict, with a concentrated population of students from St. Ben's and St. John's University. In fact, college students make up more than a third of St. Joseph's population -- 2,380 students live in the city, which has a total population of 6,534, according to census figures.
    The three new laws went into effect in March. The first requires landlords to sign a keg permit acknowledging beer will be served on their property. The second allows police to charge people who are drunk with a misdemeanor if they're uncooperative with police.
    The third ordinance holds hosts responsible if any minors drink alcohol at their social gatherings. The social host law is getting a lot of attention from students 21 and over because they fear the repercussions of socializing with mixed-age groups.
    Shane Schiavo, 22, is a senior at St. John's. Schiavo is originally from Marshall, but now lives in St. Joseph, and he believes the punishment for violating the social host ordinance is too severe.
    "One silly mistake and you get a misdemeanor, mandatory court appearance, possible jail time, up to a $1,000 fine that sticks with you for the rest of your life and can haunt you in your job search, can haunt you in anything," he said. "The punishment does not match the crime."

    Neither city nor school officials informed students about the new ordinances until after they were passed in January. After several weeks of growing confusion, students organized a special meeting to get more information.

    A meeting of the school's "Politics and a Pint" series focused solely on this topic. The series, which is hosted by students and focuses on a variety of issues, allows alcohol to be consumed by attendees who are 21 and older. Political science professor Matt Lindstrom moderates the series.

    "We're going to hear all about kegs and social host ordinance, what that means, and also -- pay attention -- what it doesn't mean. And that's, I think, just as important," said Lindstrom.

    A few hundred students packed Brother Willie's, the on-campus pub at St. John's, to hear public officials speak, including the mayor of St. Joseph, a council member and Police Chief Pete Jansky. Jansky told the students they're not the only ones concerned about the social host ordinance.
    "Many of the cities, especially the ones with college communities in them, have the social host (law)," Jansky said. "We're the community that's probably one of the late bloomers coming through. Why did we do that? Because we wanted to do it right."
    The Twin Cities suburb of Chaska passed the state's first social host ordinance in 2007, after a 19-year-old man who had attended a party in the city froze to death walking home while drunk. Now, more than 80 Minnesota cities and towns have passed some sort of social host law, and they cover more than half the state's population.

    St. Cloud is one of those cities, and is home to a large student population from two schools in the area. Since St. Cloud's law went into effect three years ago, the city has seen a decline in public drunkenness, noise violations, and alcohol-related emergency room admissions.
    Noise violations dropped from 418 in 2008 to 188 last year, according to data provided by St. Cloud City Attorney Matthew Staehling. Violations for disruptive intoxication declined from 14 in 2010 to three last year. And social host violations dropped from 90 three years ago to 30 last year. St. Joseph used St. Cloud's law as a template for its own.
    Chief Jansky said St. John's and St. Ben's have had their own alcohol-related problems.
    "Every year that I've been here for the past 12 years we've come very close to losing students because of alcohol poisoning. I think I can unequivocally say all of them were underage," said Jansky.
    Even so, some students are not convinced the ordinance will stop underage drinking.
    "I don't know of anyone who's underage who is going to stop drinking because of these ordinances," said Katie Zuroski, 20, a junior at St. Ben's. "I think that they're going to be sneakier about it and maybe more cautious, but I don't think that's going to change anything."
    Larger view Many other students are using social media to call for better communication and more student involvement in city and school decisions. A Facebook group set up for that purpose attracted more than 1,000 members in its first three days. Even the mayor of St. Joseph joined the online discussion.
    Since then, several students have been meeting with city officials regularly to voice their opinions. Senior Jenny Kunkel, 22, of Roseville, says the students who live in St. Joseph are ready to get involved if they're shown how.
    "To even consider going to a council meeting ... that would be talking about school levies for the middle school or something -- that wouldn't be something I'd instinctively go to," she said. "But if they said, 'Hey, we're talking about something that's going to influence you,' I think people would show up."
    And they did.
    Despite a freak spring snowstorm, dozens of students attended a St. Joseph City Council meeting on April 18, where lawmakers asked them to present ideas. That meeting had a larger student presence than Police Chief Jansky said he'd seen in his decade as chief, and he thinks it's a good sign that students are getting more involved.
    Students say they hope to reduce the punishment for social hosts. They're working with St. Joseph to put city news in the campus newspaper. And they want to create a program where students work directly with the council so they're more aware of city issues that could have an impact on them. New drinking laws prompt civic action by college students

    February 15, 2013

    In St. Joseph, Dayton says he supports state-level checks for guns

    In St. Joseph, Dayton says he supports state-level checks for guns

    Governor also defended his tax proposals in Wednesday question-and-answer session

    ST. JOSEPH — Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he supports requiring universal background checks for gun sales in Minnesota, one of several high-profile gun proposals now before the Legislature.

    Dayton also vigorously defended his proposal to overhaul the state tax code, decrying as “dishonest” those who say his plan would cost middle-class taxpayers as well as the wealthy.

    The governor’s remarks came at a question-and-answer session with moderator Gary Eichten and College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University students, sponsored by the university’s McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.

    Eichten asked Dayton if he backs efforts to extend background checks to gun sales between private individuals and other sales now exempt from such checks.

    “From the standpoint of common sense, that’s something I hope they’ll advance in the Legislature, and I’ll certainly support it,” Dayton said.

    After the session, Dayton said he supported a federal requirement for universal background checks on gun sales when he served in the U.S. Senate. He said he now supports such a requirement at the state level.

    A bill to address that issue was one of several gun proposals discussed in highly charged public hearings last week in the Minnesota House.

    When asked if he would sign one of the bills implementing the universal-background-check requirement, Dayton said: “I won’t sign anything until I’ve read it, but again, I support the principle.”

    President Barack Obama called for a federal requirement for universal background checks during his visit to Minneapolis last week.

    Dayton also rejected suggestions that his budget proposal, released last month, would hurt the middle class. His plan to overhaul the tax code would hike tobacco taxes and income tax rates on the wealthy, broaden the sales tax to many services and some clothing purchases while lowering the rate, and give property-tax rebates of as much as $500 to homeowners.

    “My tax proposals have always been specifically targeted at those who can most afford to pay more,” Dayton said.

    January 9, 2013

    Chuck Hagel's Afghanistan Positions Align Closely To Obama's, Despite War Critic Reputation

    In this June 26, 2008 file photo, then-Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) speaks on foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington. President Barack Obama may round out his new national security leadership team next week, with a nomination for defense secretary expected and a pick to lead the CIA possible. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)

    President Barack Obama is reportedly set to nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, as his secretary of defense on Monday.

    Hagel, a Republican who represented the state of Nebraska for two terms, famously broke with his party in the mid 2000s over the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror and its military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But while Hagel has built a solid reputation -- decried by the right and hailed by the left -- for being a no-nonsense war critic and foreign policy realist, he has also emerged as a quiet partner of President Obama on foreign policy, a relationship that dates back to their shared time on Capitol Hill and extending into Hagel's retirement.

    That relationship is no better exemplified than in the debate over Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan, about which Hagel had been publicly skeptical but in the end a tactic he largely avoided criticizing as he had done previously with the surge in Iraq.

    In 2006, as Congress debated supporting President Bush's troop surge into Iraq, Hagel fiercely opposed the plan, calling it "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

    Similarly, he often charged that a surge into Afghanistan would be a mistake if there was not a better-articulated overall strategy.

    "I'm not sure we know what the hell we are doing in Afghanistan," Hagel told The National Journal's Michael Hirsh in 2010. "It's not sustainable at all. I think we're marking time as we slaughter more young people."

    But his message on the Afghanistan troop surge was always more complex. In the summer of 2009, as the Obama administration studied the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and prepared for a possible surge of troops into that war, Hagel offered surprisingly high praise for the president's deliberation process.

    "It's a tough call -- I think it's going to be his toughest call in his first four years," said Hagel in a September 2009 speech at St. John's University in Minnesota. "Whatever he says, he's going to get hit politically ... You're going to have one hell of a shootout here. This guy Obama's smart enough, he's tough enough, he'll do what he thinks is right for the country."

    In addition to praising the president, Hagel's own position has come more in line with that of Obama, whose thoughts on the surge were in evidence when the president was just a candidate calling for a renewed focus on Afghanistan.

    "We are stretched too thin in Afghanistan, in my opinion, with manpower," Obama said on "Face the Nation" in July 2008, at a time when Hagel had still refused to endorse John McCain for president and was already fielding questions about whether he might take a cabinet position in an Obama administration. "We are going to have to put some additional troops in there."

    By the summer of 2009, when General Stanley McChrystal delivered his Afghanistan troop assessment that called for tens of thousands of new forces, Hagel had gone from anti-war gadfly to an instrumental part of the Obama foreign policy machine, including positions on Secretary of Defense Bob Gates' defense policy board and Obama's intelligence advisory board.

    "I've had some input on this," he said, during the 2009 speech, in response to a question about the surge. "I'm on the secretary of defense's policy advisory board, and I spent a day and a half last week with the national security adviser [James] Jones last weekend. So I have some ways in. Doesn't mean they listen to me, but I do have some sense of what's ahead here."

    The speech, part of the Eugene J. McCarthy lecture series (which honors the famous senator-turned-Vietnam war critic), would have been an ideal environment for Hagel to express any strong misgivings about the ultimate plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Instead, Hagel tempered his critique.

    "I think the president is approaching this very carefully, listening to all sides," he said. "I've talked to McChrystal, Admiral [Mike] Mullen. I've told them my thoughts on this because they've asked me. They've got to figure it out what is our strategic purpose, our doctrine, and then match the resources."

    Posted: 01/07/2013 11:18 am EST

    Updated: 01/07/2013 11:31 am EST
    Joshua Hersh

    October 15, 2012

    Political Science Professor Jim Read Writes Op-Ed for Saint Cloud Times on the Proposed Voter ID Amendment

    Voter ID doesn't prevent fraud

    Proposed amendment will negatively affect students


    Students at my university come from many cities and towns in Minnesota and other states. Many will be voting for the first time Nov. 6. They will not all vote the same way. They differ politically like the rest of us. What brings them together is that their college campus has become their new home for four years, the community where they emerge as adults and full participants in our democracy.
    On the ballot in Minnesota this year is a proposed constitutional amendment that may significantly affect the voting opportunities of college students, renters who move frequently, and others who for one reason or another lack the prescribed documents. At first it seems reasonable to require that you show a government-issued photo ID to prove who you are when you show up to vote. But proving who you are is only part of it. Proving where you live using government-issued ID is often the more difficult part.

    Few college students have a driver’s license listing the college campus as their official residence. Instead it still lists their parents’ address in Duluth, Minneapolis, International Falls and so on. Of course students can apply for absentee ballots, or travel to their parents’ home on Election Day, or pay for a new driver’s license with new address before the old one has expired. But few will realize this until it is too late. Voting rates among college students would plummet if on Election Day they had to produce government-issued photo ID listing the address of their college residence.

    Minnesota election law does not require this. Instead students living on campus can use university-issued photo IDs to vote if their university has provided the county with student residency information. Students living off-campus may use utility bills to prove residency or have someone registered in the district personally vouch for where they live.

    What will happen to college students and others in comparable circumstances if the Voter ID amendment passes?

    Everything depends on how the legislation implementing the amendment is written. Nothing in the actual text of the amendment rules out multiple types of photo identification and multiple methods of documenting residency, as under current law.

    Voter impersonation could be prevented without burdening legitimate voters.

    But many advocates of the proposed amendment push legislation that would impose significant new obstacles for college students and others with new addresses.

    The Voter ID bill vetoed last year by Gov. Mark Dayton would have required government-issued photo ID with birth date and current address in the precinct — all on the same card. The bill specifically prohibited the use of student photo ID cards. A valid driver’s license showing a different address was invalid documentation for voting. Individuals could apply in advance for special Voter ID cards issued free of charge, but would have to apply for new cards every time they moved — perhaps even from one dormitory to another.

    The real costs here are time costs: a bureaucratic obstacle course that imposes far-greater burdens on some voters than others.

    Advocates claim such measures are necessary to prevent voter fraud. Yet a 2012 Carnegie-Knight investigation found only 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud nationwide since 2000, and none in Minnesota. How many thousands of legitimate voters are we willing to burden to prevent one rare (or nonexistent) case of impersonation?

    Real election fraud — the kind that changes outcomes — happens when ballot boxes disappear, vote counts are falsely reported or voters of a certain race or political persuasion are prevented from voting. Fraud of that type has occurred often in U.S. history. Voter ID does nothing to prevent it.

    I will vote “no” on this amendment. But the amendment itself is only Round One. If it passes, Round Two — how elected officials write the implementing legislation — immediately begins. Those who value the equal right of all citizens to vote should contact elected officials and candidates in both parties to insist that our election laws safeguard that right.