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Tom Fiebiger, Published March 16 2012

Rep. Rick Berg’s behavior shows anything but ‘North Dakota way’

One of the quotes I like on leadership is “Leadership is the ability to disappoint people at the rate they are able to absorb it.” Congressman Rick Berg, who wants to be Sen. Berg, has disappointed many of his constituents at a much greater rate than they can now absorb.

His recent campaign ads typify this underlying problem. His first ad has his mom saying nice things about him. As a lawyer, the standing line for many of us when one of our clients want his/her mom to testify for them as a character witness is “Well, if your mom won’t say nice things about you, than who will?”

Berg’s second campaign ad has his supporters touting his bringing the “North Dakota way” to Washington. They tell us we need to send Berg to the Senate “to end gridlock.” Ironically, that is followed almost immediately by someone else telling us we need him to “fight the Obama administration.” Ending “gridlock” by “fighting” the Obama administration? Really?

The best evidence of future behavior is past behavior. Our congressman has signed a pledge to a group dedicated to not raising taxes, even for the very wealthy or as part of a compromise to help solve our country’s huge debt problem. He walks lock step with his fellow party members in Congress. He has not shown a willingness to compromise, to be a good listener. Compromise is not a four letter word – it is necessary to get work done, the people’s work. His past behavior in the North Dakota Legislature and Congress does not predict a “North Dakota way” in the Senate that the vast majority of North Dakotans are familiar with, that being working together and compromising to solve serious problems. It predicts, unfortunately, more of the same dysfunction and gridlock.

I’m reminded of my wife’s comment when she asks if I am interested in being right or being in relationship. We are all citizens of the same great country that now more than ever desperately needs leaders who have the skill set to listen, compromise and be in relationship, and who value that over being right. We need leaders in the Senate capable of real change and real leadership.

Fiebiger is a Fargo attorney and a former state senator.