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Friday, March 17, 2006

Dean Johnson "Embellished" Conversation with Justice

Strib here.

'Mean-spirited group'

"I have no respect for professional clergy who conduct themselves in this manner," Johnson said Thursday night of the pastors who recorded his remarks.

Jeff Davis, leader of a group proposing the constitutional amendment, called Wednesday for Johnson to resign.

On Thursday night, Johnson dismissed the demand as "just another ploy by this mean-spirited group" to influence the Legislature.

Earlier Thursday in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Johnson said that he had met "some months ago" with an unnamed justice and that he'd had "a casual conversation."

In that conversation, Johnson said, "I asked one of the judges, 'What do you think about the Minnesota law regarding same-sex marriage, put in place in 1997?' The justice thought about it, said, 'I think the law is pretty good and probably something we're not going to take a look at.' And you know, kind of as a matter of fact, said, 'You know, we stand for election, too.' That was the extent of our conversation."

That is similar to my recollection of what Johnson said at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. He named the justice - former chief justice Kathleen Blatz. He also quoted her as saying "are you nuts, Dean, we stand for election too".

Ron and Mark from AM 1500 ripped on him big time yesterday about this on KSTP AM.

The strib's story also points out:

Marriage agenda

Groups advocating for the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage seemed less concerned Thursday with possible judicial or legislative improprieties than with simply advancing their proposal to a floor vote.

Chuck Darrell, communications director for Minnesota for Marriage, the group that released the tape Wednesday, said at a Thursday news conference that his group had collected petitions with the signatures of 81,000 Minnesotans who want the proposed amendment to appear on the November ballot.

It's clear that neither of the anti-gay activist groups are interested in the integrity of the courts. They are using Dean Johnson's self-inflicted wound to push their own agenda.

In an editorial the Strib calls for Dean Johnson to make more apologies:

Even if Johnson was only voicing his own inference from his acquaintance with several justices and a casual conversation with one of them, he was out of line. He called into question the impartiality of the court -- a serious blunder for which he apologized on Wednesday.

He also created an impression that was, at best, misleading to his audience -- a gathering of his fellow clergy in New London, Minn. Johnson, a Lutheran minister, owes his peers an apology. He owes one also to the thousands of Minnesotans who subsequently heard his words on tape.

His allies in the effort to keep a same-sex union ban out of the Constitution deserve to hear a mea culpa too. That effort is undercut when its Senate leader's veracity is in doubt.

But promoters of a constitutional ban on same-sex unions are overreaching when they accuse Johnson of tampering with the judicial process.

Nothing in Johnson's words in New London or any statements since, by Johnson or the justices, reveals such an attempt. Neither has Johnson's error in any way strengthened the case for permanently embedding discrimination into the state's legal foundation.

As journalists can attest, many politicians are given to speaking in a way that makes fact, speculation, inference and opinion difficult to parse.

After 30 years in public office, Johnson is fluent in that kind of rhetoric. But he used it inappropriately in New London, leaving an impression that stretched the truth.

As he should know better than most, confession and apology are good for the soul.

This is the money point of the strib editorial:

Neither has Johnson's error in any way strengthened the case for permanently embedding discrimination into the state's legal foundation.

Chuck Darrell, Jeff Davis and other anti-gay activists are trying to exploit this issue to push their anti-gay agenda. Dean Johnson deserves criticism on this one.

Also reported by the strib:

Promised fireworks on the Senate floor regarding the amendment never materialized Thursday. Proponents of the ban did not raise the issue on the floor and no senators referenced the flap over the tape.

From the Drama Queen:

I have just been informed by an unimpeachable source at the state captiol that Republicans are strongly considering filing an ethics complaint against Senator Dean Johnson.

Check back for updates.
Tags: Dean Johnson

posted by Minnesota Democrats Exposed at 4:29 PM

the party opposite said...

I will believe the ineffective and timid Senate GOP has the spine to do this the day before I believe a word Dean Johnson says.
4:42 PM

So the circus continues.