COLLEGEVILLE — Sen. Amy Klobuchar paid tribute to a political icon of Minnesota's past by referencing a current political figure from Alaska.

Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., spoke Monday night at the Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture at St. John's University.

McCarthy, a St. John's alum and U.S. senator from Minnesota, rose to national prominence in 1968 as an anti-war challenger to then-President and fellow Democrat Lyndon Johnson.

McCarthy's independence and willingness to buck his party sets him apart from most of today's politicians, Klobuchar told an audience of students, faculty and university boosters.

"He went rogue before Sarah Palin had even shot her first moose," Klobuchar said of McCarthy.

Klobuchar likened today's economic uncertainty and political acrimony to the Vietnam War-era turmoil of 1968, the moment in history with which Klobuchar said McCarthy is most commonly associated.

She suggested now is an ideal time for the U.S. to revisit two causes McCarthy championed: boosting educational standards and increasing U.S. engagement in the international community.

Those causes offer a prescription for the U.S. to retain its world stature in the face of increasing competition from rival countries, such as China and India, Klobuchar said.

The U.S. must boost manufacturing exports, better educate its work force and allow more international students to stay in the U.S. after they graduate, Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar also offered suggestions to reduce partisan gridlock in the U.S. Senate. She called for new limits on use of the Senate filibuster, and for ending a practice where Klobuchar said senators can secretly delay votes on bills.
McCarthy served in a time of ideological diversity within America's two major political parties, Klobuchar said.

Throughout the years bipartisan coalitions in Congress have passed sweeping legislation to create Medicare and reform welfare programs, Klobuchar said.
Klobuchar said such two-party coalitions are far tougher to assemble today, in a political climate dominated by a 24-hour cable-news cycle.

"Today a politician who bucks the party line is risking his political life," Klobuchar said.

The lecture was sponsored by the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement, which serves students at St. John's and the College of St. Benedict. Past speakers at the McCarthy Lecture were former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.

By Mark Sommerhauser  August 31, 2010