Al Franken's Final Obstacle?

With the unexpected departure of Michael Cerisi from the Minnesota DFL primary race to select a challenger for Norm Coleman’s seat, everyone assumed that Al Franken has the nomination by default. Another candidate remains in the race, one with whom I have a brief personal connection. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, a University of St. Thomas professor, plans to challenge Franken from the left, and that may be putting it mildly, as John McCormack notes at the Weekly Standard:

Yet Franken still has one obstacle to winning the Democratic nomination: Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, a little-known professor of “Justice and Peace Studies” at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Nelson-Pallmeyer has raised less than $300,000, while Franken has banked more than $7 million. In this video, Nelson-Pallmeyer says that climate change is “the gravest security threat to this country in the world.” He adds: “I read the intergovernmental panel on climate change report last spring. I cried for an hour [and] went for a long walk.”

It’s not the only crying Nelson-Pallmeyer can do, either. In September 2006, I participated in a debate at Macalester College in St. Paul, not far from St. Thomas, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I was the lone conservative on the panel, although to be fair, the organizers had asked others, who declined the honor. Nelson-Pallmeyer was also on the panel, as well as Phil Steger of Friends for a Nonviolent World director; and Lou Ellingson, a former Swift Boat captain who opposed the war. I had posted my opening remarks earlier in the day, and the after-action report can be found here.

The evening went better than I expected. While the crowd was certainly hostile to my point of view, they treated me politely and respectfully, and didn’t demonstrate during the debate. Steger in particular I found interesting; he had been to Iraq a few times, and although we disagreed strongly on the issue of the Iraq War, I found his insight interesting and useful. He was also very kind, and we hoped to connect later for an interview on my Saturday show, which unfortunately never happened. Ellingson was polite and friendly as well.

Nelson-Pallmeyer, however, was barely civil, both during and after the debate. He spun every conspiracy fantasy known to the blogosphere about the Bush administration, and then added a couple original theories to boot. He seemed very self-satisfied in the manner of academics who just know they know everything. Nelson-Pallmeyer offered hysterics to an audience clearly receptive to them.

He could make Al Franken look serious. John McCormack need not worry, and neither should Franken. All it would take is one debate to get Nelson-Pallmeyer to reveal his inner conspiracy nut. The Republicans wish they could get this lucky in Minnesota.