In the four days since Gov. Pawlenty announced he would unilaterally slice $3.2 billion of state spending rather than agree to DFL tax hikes, one word has not appeared in a Star Tribune editorial:
In the legislative session’s final days, the Strib editorial board has avoided the subject. Instead, it scrambled for safer ground, urging Minnesotans to buy pork and curb teen drinking. Never mind that policies the board has long upheld — aid to Minnesota cities, health care for the 30,000 of Minnesota’s poorest — will suffer unprecedented hits.
Maybe Chris Harte’s rejiggered editorial board is fine with TPaw’s nuclear option — though I kind of doubt it judging from individual edit board members’ tweets. But if the editorial board is OK with the governor’s ultimate solution, make the case and spur discussion.
Although some say newspaper editorials don’t matter any more, newspapers must think they do or they wouldn’t do them — would they? To remain institutionally silent day after day at this critical juncture is disheartening, and confirms every fear that Harte wanted toothlessness when he rejiggered the board’s leadership in late 2007.
As MPR’s Bob Collins noted, Monday’s opinion pages featured nothing — not even a letter — on the unallotment debate as we head into the final, crucial day. Is the editorial board now operating under the newsroom’s principle that opinionators should holster their guns in a campaign’s final days?
Look, I know things move fast at the end of session, and ace edit-board Capitol chronicler Lori Sturdevant has been on the case online. But there’s a reason newspapers place their institutional voice in the upper left corner of the page — it’s supposedly the biggest stick. One the Strib apparently fears to use either way, again signalling that politicians have less to fear from them.
Meanwhile, the PiPress — which admittedly, can hold editorial board meetings in a phone booth, if there are still any of those around — uttered the u-word Sunday, calling unallotment a “bad solution.” The editorial ultimately wimped its way out, calling for a negotiated deal. Would that it were so. The public needed to know what was off limits, and whether Pawlenty and veto-backing Republicans should be rebuked, or excused, if they pressed the nuclear button.
Should anyone lose their jobs over this major policy shift? Maybe one of the dailies will tell us tomorrow, once the chance to influence this year’s debate has passed.