Where credit is due

FARGO, N.D. -- My mother-in-law had an old German expression that she told half-jokingly that I paraphrase something like this: "He who doesn't brag about himself, goes unbragged."...

FARGO, N.D. -- My mother-in-law had an old German expression that she told half-jokingly that I paraphrase something like this: "He who doesn't brag about himself, goes unbragged."

Some close supporters of Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., seem to take that expression to heart.

One of the persistent ones recently sent out a second e-mail, continuing to promote the fact that Conrad had a more prominent role in the farm bill negotiations than Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the agriculture committee.

Among other things, the individual for the second time sent out an article that appeared on April 7 in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, which details Conrad's position. Some passages:

"Even as Baucus and Grassley demand influence by virtue of their finance roles, Conrad, who is second in seniority to Harkin on Agriculture, essentially has been acting as de facto chairman of the agriculture panel, senators and aides said."


"'Conrad knows the issues better than the chairman of the Agriculture Committee,' said one senior Senate Democratic aide. 'He's also on finance. So, he can deal with Baucus.'"

"Another Senate Democratic source said Conrad, who also took over the reins of the 2002 farm bill from Harkin at the behest of then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), appears more willing to compromise, whereas Harkin's style has been described as stubborn and uncompromising."

"'Conrad is not trying to push his own agenda at the expense of other committee members,' the source said. The source added that Conrad has taken over in part because of his ability and willingness to catch bipartisan deals. 'He's very competent, all business and doesn't have much patience for inaction,' the source said."

Taking credit

Conrad recently got himself a bit crosswise over credit-taking with Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., when they both appeared with Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., on a homecoming "rally" on farm bill accomplishments. The rally was largely nonfarmers, as most were in the fields.

Conrad and Peterson both were relieved about passage of the bill, even though the now infamous clerical error was discovered. (I think we can all forgive Peterson on that one, even though it is a cautionary tale for future legislation.)

The minor testiness occurred over whether Conrad or Peterson had a bigger role in passing the farm bill.

Peterson finally grew tired of Conrad's preening and announced to the crowd the senator shouldn't have had such a tough time passing the bill considering the political firepower within the Senate Agriculture Committee. The unweildly House was a bigger challenge, Peterson said. Conrad, seeing how this was developing, finally said something like, "Right, Collin, it was a piece of cake in the Senate." People laughed, a bit uncomfortably.


The truth is both of these people had enormous roles in this process, as did Pomeroy.

We've all said it.

They've all said it. We get it.

I wonder if it's useful to keep saying it when it comes to people like Harkin. These all are proud people whose good will is important in the future.

Here's where one of my family expressions probably is worth reviewing. My parents advised me that if what I was doing was worthwhile, someone else will notice it. They can do the bragging, if it's warranted. Our family produced fewer politicians than my mother-in-law's.

Speaking of the farm bill, I was intrigued to see Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., delivering his "bringing-it-home" news conference on the farm bill at American Crystal Sugar Co. headquarters. Coleman has at times infuriated his sugar and other ag constituents over his earlier allegiance to President Bush.

I asked Coleman, given Sen. John McCain's in-your-face opposition to agricultural supports, why any farmer would vote for him. Coleman said that farmers will support McCain on his integrity and heroic military record, even though it might be against their personal financial interests. I guess the Republicans will be asking farmers to trade one sort of security for another.

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