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Fired-up Franken holds DL rally

Fresh from being endorsed in the first-round at the DFL state convention this weekend in Rochester, Al Franken said he's ready to take on Republican Norm Coleman for the Senate seat once held by Paul Wellstone.

"Norm Coleman has not brought people together to get things done -- he has sold people out to get ahead," Franken told a crowd of supporters at the Brewed Awakening coffee shop in downtown Detroit Lakes Tuesday.

He accused Coleman of working on behalf of special interests rather than the people of Minnesota.

"Coleman worked for the oil companies -- he voted for billions of dollars in subsidies for oil companies that they don't need and we can't afford," he told the crowd.

"Coleman works for the pharmaceutical companies," guaranteeing them fat profits by refusing to let the government negotiate for lower drug prices for its Medicare Part D program, Franken added.

When Republicans controlled Congress, Coleman repeatedly voted against increased aid to veterans -- only changing his tune when Democrats won a majority, Franken said.

When first elected, Coleman marched in lockstep with President Bush, Franken said. Now the tide has turned and he's become a moderate.

"Tip O'Neil had a phrase for moderates like Norm," Franken said. "They're always there when you don't need them."

And Coleman has done nothing to contain the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, Franken added. "College students need to graduate without a crushing burden of debt."

For its part, the Coleman campaign says Coleman "played a lead role in passing the first-ever Renewable Fuels Standard as part of the 2005 Energy Bill, spurring a boom in ethanol and biodiesel production and bringing millions of dollars in economic development to communities in Greater Minnesota."

Furthermore, he has "supported tax incentives to spur development of wind energy, has led the effort to ensure local ownership of ethanol plants and, most recently, helped paved the way for a drastic increase in renewable fuel requirements over the next 20 years with the energy bill recently signed into law."

Coleman also "authored and passed into law the Veteran's Benefits Outreach Act, requiring the Veterans Administration to reach out to all veterans to ensure they are aware of the benefits they've earned. And Coleman successfully led efforts to establish the national reintegration program, based on Minnesota's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program for returning troops, by working together with legislators from both parties to pass the provision into law."

In an interview, Franken said he would end the oil subsidies and use those dollars to pay for a major national "Apollo program" initiative to develop renewable energy sources. "Global warming is an urgent threat ... We need to use coal, but coal with carbon sequestration (in which carbon dioxide is pumped back into the ground)."

The technology doesn't yet exist, but "that's the technology we need to develop," he added.

Nurturing renewable energy, like wind and solar, also tends to help employment and development in rural areas, Franken said.

"We are behind," he said. "Opportunities have been lost" by a Bush Administration that actually suppressed science concerning global warming.

As a senator, Franken said he would support a law making it illegal for a government official to change a scientific report without the consent of the scientist who wrote it.

Franken said his key goals are to improve health care. In fact, he'd like to provide universal health care; education, particularly early childhood education; good jobs, which means reviving the moribund labor movement; and retirement issues.

That's why he hopes to land a seat on the Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions -- though he also would like to sit on the foreign affairs committee, veteran's affairs, or Indian affairs committees.

"I have a real emotional attachment to veteran's affairs," he added. Franken didn't serve in the military, but he has done seven USO tours for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Franken said he recently talked to college students, and they have a whole different perspective on national affairs.

"College freshmen don't realize that the government is even supposed to work," he said. "They've seen Republicans run saying government doesn't work, then they get elected and prove it."

Students who were only 11 when Bush first took office "don't remember when America was the most respected country in the world," he said.

"We're a great country," Franken added, "we're a great country -- but only when we're a good country. We're not a great country when we're invading other countries under false pretenses. We're not a great country when we're torturing people. We're not a great country when we have a president who claims powers for himself he doesn't have under the Constitution ... it's not enough that George Bush is going Jan. 20. His enablers have to go, too -- and on top of that list is Norm Coleman."