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In the cutthroat world of politics, there seems to be an endless supply of conspiracy theories, from the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy to the mysterious death of Vince Foster.

Now the name of Sen. Paul Wellstone can be added to the list.


Late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.

With control of the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance, political junkies, talk-radio hosts, journalism professors and Internet websites are promoting wild speculation that there’s more to last week’s plane crash than meets the eye.

“Some Democrats and progressive Americans are asking the unthinkable about an administration they increasingly believe to be ruled by thugs and renegades,” writes nationally syndicated cartoonist and commentator Ted Rall. “Did government gangsters murder the United States’ most liberal legislator?”

Wellstone’s plane crashed Oct. 25 in freezing rain and light snow on approach near the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, about 175 miles north of Minneapolis. A pilot who witnessed the incident said the twin-engine craft seemed to veer away from the usual approach to the runway.

Two years ago, just several weeks before election day, another Democratic senator, Mel Carnahan of Missouri, was killed in a small plane crash in heavy weather. His family has maintained a failed vacuum pump and manifold system are to blame.

“The fact that we’re having this discussion at all is a symptom of the polarizing effect that Bush and his top dogs have had on the United States since assuming office and even more so in the hard-right free-for-all that followed the Sept. 11 attacks,” writes Rall in his column:

 

    Ronald Reagan may have been a hard-line conservative, but had Wellstone died during his watch you wouldn’t have heard liberals asking whether the Gipper had had him offed. Bush is different. Asking mailmen to spy on ordinary Americans, creating military tribunals for anyone deemed an “enemy combatant,” locking prisoners of war in dog cages, spending a decade’s worth of savings in six months, allowing journalists to die rather than provide them with help in a war zone, smearing Democratic politicians as anti-American, invading sovereign nations without excuse – these are acts that transgress essential American reasonableness. A man capable of these things seems, by definition, capable of anything.

Talk-show hosts including unabashed liberal Mike Webb of Seattle’s KIRO-AM spent Saturday on the air entertaining the possibility of an assassination, explaining his gut reaction was that the crash was no accident. At least one caller who had just returned from a local anti-war rally said she had felt the same.

Questions of an assassination plot have also reached the halls of academia, where some professors are openly discussing the possibility.

“We need to confront these rumors,” says Dr. Michael Niman, professor of journalism and media studies at Buffalo State College. “What I’m looking for is closure.”

In a partisan commentary entitled “Was Paul Wellstone Murdered?,” Niman wrote his initial reaction to the news of the senator’s death was “surprise that Wellstone had lived this long.”

 

    There is no indication today that Wellstone’s death was the result of foul play. What we do know, however, is that Wellstone emerged as the most visible obstacle standing in the way of a draconian political agenda by an unelected government. And now he is conveniently gone. For our government to maintain its credibility at this time, we need an open and accountable independent investigation involving international participation into the death of Paul Wellstone. Hopefully we will find out, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this was indeed an untimely accident. For the sake of our country, we need to know this.

While Niman’s comments evince an anti-Bush stance, the professor says politics is not his motive.

“It’s not a left [versus] right issue,” he told WorldNetDaily. “Supporters of the Bush administration should want to see this put to bed also.”

He suggests asking aviation officials from Canada to investigate the crash as an independent third party in lieu of the Federal Aviation Administration.

“People aren’t going to accept [the FAA] as an impartial board,” said Niman.

Meanwhile, the anti-Bush website voxnyc.com is claiming that not only is the president tied to Wellstone’s death, but that it had predicted in May 2001 that another Democratic senator would soon be killed, with a plane crash as a likely scenario.

 

    The death will appear to be either a plane “accident” or by “natural causes” – whichever is most easily accomplished. …

    If the death occurs just prior to the midterm senatorial elections, expect it to be in a state with a close race. Expect a Mel Carnahan-style hit. …

    The mission to eliminate one or more of these senators is assuredly under way this very moment. It is now the single most critical mission of the current Bush administration.

Neither the White House nor Wellstone’s office returned calls for comment on the assassination theory, but the Republican National Committee calls the accusation “bizarre.”

There [are] theories aliens walk among us, that UFOs fly above our heads,” RNC spokesman Jim Dyke told WorldNetDaily. “To me, it takes away some of the serious advances the Internet has made.”

Conspiracy theorists aren’t just targeting Republicans in this matter. Some suggest that Democrats themselves could be the perpetrators, fearing Wellstone would lose Tuesday’s election to Republican challenger Norm Coleman and give control of the Senate back to the GOP.

Similar questions of foul play were raised during the Clinton administration, after Commerce Secretary Ron Brown died in a plane crash in Croatia in 1996.

Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell, a medical doctor, forensic pathologist and deputy medical examiner with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, released photos and x-rays which purported to show that Brown had a gunshot wound in his head.

No autopsy was ever performed on the secretary, and as WorldNetDaily reported, Cogswell and other military officials who publicly questioned the investigation subsequently had their careers jeopardized with transfers and bad reviews.


Paul Wellstone trading card

If accusations of murder weren’t enough, some Americans are now cashing in on Sen. Wellstone’s death, courtesy of eBay.

The online auctioneer is posting a wide variety of Wellstone-related goods. Some include photographs of the senator with other well-known figures, campaign buttons, pins and road signs, an autographed biography, Wellstone trading cards, bar coasters, and even a program from Tuesday night’s memorial service/political rally.


Paul Wellstone bar coaster

“I’m surprised that they would do this so soon,” said Rick Frese, a government professor at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., quoted in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

“I can see some loyal supporters wanting to save their posters or lawn signs,” said Frese, himself an avid collector of political memorabilia. “But I’m a little surprised that people would try to exploit this ‘instant market.’”

 


Related stories:

Taxpayers on hook for Wellstone rally

Ron Brown whistleblowers pay price

 

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