Wellstone, Coleman let loose frustrations

By Brian Bakst

Associated Press

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. -- Often speaking over a boisterous, partisan crowd and each other, Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone and Republican challenger Norm Coleman let loose pent-up frustrations in a debate Friday at the Minnesota State Fair.

The debate also involved the Independence Party's Jim Moore and the Green Party's Ed McGaa, but Wellstone and Coleman, who have been at it since winter, focused squarely on one another. Supporters of each cheered and jeered the candidates throughout.

"Be polite," moderator and Minnesota Public Radio talk show host Gary Eichten admonished the crowd at one point.


He could have been talking to Wellstone and Coleman, who found reason to squabble even when they appeared to agree. On a strategy dealing with Iraq, for instance, Wellstone and Coleman agreed that President Bush should consult Congress and address the nation before any military strikes.

Moore and McGaa said likewise.

Wellstone, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, said he's concerned about undercutting the war on terrorism because of uneasiness with U.S. allies. He also wants firmer answers on logistics and costs.

"There are so many questions that have not been answered," he said.

Once Bush decides, Coleman said, leaders need to back the president, noting Wellstone's opposition to the 1991 Gulf War.

"When he makes his case, we've got to be there. The senator was wrong, wrong, wrong in the first Gulf War when he opposed U.S. involvement and he opposed going after Saddam Hussein. It was a mistake," Coleman said.

On prescription drugs, Coleman raised doubts that federal regulators would approve a Wellstone-backed measure allowing more access to cheaper drugs in Canada.

Wellstone said Coleman couldn't be trusted to get the best deal for Minnesotans, noting that Coleman has taken campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.


"Those companies can't count on me, because I'm a senator from Minnesota, so they're putting their money somewhere else," Wellstone said.

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