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Emmer searches for distortions -- and finds lame examples

Presumptive Repub Guv Nominee Tom Emmer of Delano feels people (his opponents and members of the media) are saying untrue things about him, so on, he has launched a feature called "EmmerTruth," in which he will set the record straight about distortions of his record, position and statements.

The first couple of entries, though, are pretty weak. In one, he complains that MPR reporter Tom Scheck said that Emmer would cut $20 billion in state spending. But Emmer says he never said he would cut $20 billion, only that he could.

Just on the face of it, this one seems to be slicing the baloney kinda thin. Even in trying to slap down the Scheck piece, EmmerTruth doesn't say that Emmer won't cut that much, just that he didn't say he would.

EmmerTruth also doesn't link to the actual piece it is criticizing, which costs more points for intellectual honesty. In the online evnironment, if we want credibility, we make it easy to check our work. But it's gotta be this piece, a very strong piece of reporting by Scheck, that contains several devastating knockdowns of Emmer claims. And EmmerTruth doesn't take any of them on.

But it gets worse. The Scheck piece doesn't even commit the one arguable word-choice problem that Emmer alleges. Scheck's piece actually uses Emmer's preferred word — could —  not "will" to describe the cuts that Emmer has talked about making. Maybe MPR changed the text after getting pushback from Team Emmer, although I doubt it. But I did listen to the audio, which is available on the same MPR file, and Scheck went with Emmer's "could" language.

Looking at the Scheck piece and the EmmerTruth knockdown, I've about convinced myself that Emmer owes Scheck an apology. And he owes the voters of Minnesota some straighter talk, not about what he could do, but what he would do to balance the budget. (Not to say that all the other guv candidates have been clear abut how they would do it. They haven't.)

Round two

EmmerTruth has a second example of alleged unfairness committed by unnamed bloggers and twitterers in taking an Emmer quote out of context.

Emmer did say, to the Marshall Independent:

"I don't think you can call yourself a freedom-loving American and be a Democrat," Emmer said. "I don't think that's a grassroots Democrat who says now 'That's not what I voted for, this isn't the America I want.' It's the leaders of the Democrat party."

I wrote about that one myself a couple of weeks ago, as an example of how conservatives and Republicans sometimes claim to be the only ones who care about freedom. The Emmer remark, as reproduced above, is the full quote, as least far as the Marshall paper used it. And when I used it, I went out of my way to note the second sentence and to gig DFLers who were using only the first sentence. It's reasonable to assume that Emmer recognized that his first Democrats-don't-love-freedom remark was over the top, so he tried to amend it on the fly so that it applied only to Democratic "leaders."

In Chapter Two of EmmerTruth, Team Emmer suggests that those who use the first sentence without the second are committing a major distortion. I have some sympathy here (although strangely, Emmer didn't cite a single specific instance of anyone doing this; my own reference to the out-of-context use of the quote was pinned on a DFL press release, not the media).

But then, dang it, EmmerTruth practically confirms that Emmer actually said what he meant to say in the out-of-context first sentence. EmmerTruth clarifies that:

"Freedom-loving Minnesotans of all political parties — Republicans, Independents, and those who in the past have considered themselves to be Democrats — are fed up with a government that doesn’t listen and takes away freedoms."

Cheese Louise, EmmerTruth, so instead of meaning to say that no Democrats can consider themselves freedom-loving, Rep. Emmer meant to insult only those who still consider themselves to be Democrats.

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Comments (41)

Almost anybody can tear down a house, it takes skills to build one. Great first piece on this Emmer machine. But I think I read somewhere that the truth doesn't matter anymore when it comes to parts of electoral politics. There's probably 30% or more who believe Emmer's side

Thanks for the referral to the Emmer site.

For those who want a balanced view of what Emmer has to say, I suggest you follow the referral EB gives and read the ENTIRE site comments.

Tom "no plan" Emmer and his campaign have been defined. Whether he will be able to push back and turn that narrative around remains to be seen.

Clearly, what we would get with Emmer is a reprise of the Pawlenty agenda, without the boyish good looks. Frankly, I have had enough of this "no tax" nonesense, and we have to look at candidates who can balance our budget using all the tools available, move the state forward from its stagnant recent past, restore our previous Star of the North reputation, and deal with reality not slogans

Rep. Emmer continues to follow the Tea Party strategy: gin up anger and hatred; offer no solutions. Anger and hatred are visceral and FAST. How many voters have the time to consider the complexity of modern society and how best to govern it in a manner that benefits all citizens? It is easier to hate.

If Emmer is slicing the baloney thin, Eric, you've proved beyond a doubt that he's playing a losing game with the left.

If he thinks he's going to out-obfuscate a crew that sold the American public a national policy whose articulated details consisted solely of "Hope and Change", he's got another thing coming.

I am confused. Did Emmer say (or mean) in the original interview that he would cut the budget by 20 billion dollars? Or did he say what he usually says, that he would cut the budget by 20%, roughly the amount of the deficit?

Emmer makes a simple, direct statement (about Democrats), and then tries to say that that's not what he means.
Leaves some question as to what he DOES mean about anything.

Directly from the MPR piece: "In late April, he suggested he could eliminate a third of overall state spending, roughly $20 billion..."

My frustration is that he's spending all of his time talking about combining and eliminating agencies, and no time talking about programs that he wants to eliminate. If all you do is merge functions of one department into one or many others, you might save a bit on overhead, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the budget deficit. As the MPR piece mentions, merging the functions of the Dept of Employee Relations into other departments saved a bit more than $100k.

So the question remains unanswered: What programs and functions of government is Emmer proposing to eliminate in order to fix the deficit?

I hate to follow Mr. Swift down this diversionary wormhole, but seriously, "a national policy whose articulated details consisted solely of 'Hope and Change'" ? As I recall, Obama ran upon, and is currently engaged in conducting, the following: Health care for all Americans. A foreign policy based upon engaging with the rest of the world. Winding down the war in Iraq. Stepping up the fight against al qaeda in afghanistan. Getting lobbyists out of agencies that regulate industry and getting people with expertise in. Close down Guantanamo. Ending torture. Climate change. Green economy. Etc etc etc.

If Rep. Emmer wants to be a straight shooter, he'll have to start shooting straight.

"In late April, he suggested he could eliminate a third of overall state spending, roughly $20 billion..."

That's even more confusing, although it seems to fit with what says if not much else. The state budget for the next biennium is 38 billion dollars roughly, with a 7 billion dollar deficit. Is Emmer saying he can cut 20 billion dollars from the next budget, reducing it to 18 billion turning a 7 billion dollar deficit into a 13 billion dollar surplus. I would like to see some specifics on that.

I have also heard it said that Emmer wants to cut 20% over four years, which is roughly ten percent per biennium. That isn't enough to balance the budget next biennium as the constitution requires without new revenue.

Paul, I never suggested the left didn't assign its own meanings to the "Hopey/Changey" vacuum.

I have no doubt that's what you heard, but none of that describes the vacuous nonsense candidate Obama was strapping on a gullible electorate on the campaign trail.

And I'm not sure it's really something a leftist wants to argue since, with the exception of engaging the rest of the world via his bowing skills, Obama has made none of those leftist dreams come true.

I dunno, Erik. I think you and Scheck got it very, very wrong:

And those of you - Erik and the various commenters above - who ask "where's Emmer's plan?" Why does Emmer get dinged for not having all his details out there, when the DFLers (Dayton, Horner and the other two) just get a " be fair..."?

Why should Emmer release a detailed plan before he has an opponent, much less before we see the opponent's plan?

(I know - so the DFL/Media can get in two months of preparatory bombardment before the DFL even has to take the field. Right?)

Margaret has repeatedly proposed and voted for budgets. Emmer has done neither. In response to direct questions from Miller, he did nothing more than confuse matters. And clarity is one thing that has been missing from what his various supporters have said in his defense.

"Why should Emmer release a detailed plan before he has an opponent, much less before we see the opponent's plan?"

Because he is running for governor.

"Because he is running for governor."

Right. And as opposed to MAK, Dayton and Entenza who are running for ______________?

Mitch Berg asks:

==Why should Emmer release a detailed plan before he has an opponent, much less before we see the opponent's plan?==

Um, to give voters a chance to see how he'll govern?

Or is this high-stakes poker? Raise with hidden cards until someone calls?

Is there a formal unveiling date?

Between Emmertruth (yes, I did check that Eric described it correctly) and the MPR interview, it;s almost as if Emmer's trying to make the DFL's ads for them. I can't believe I used to buy into the idea he at least meant what he said. He must have made a strategic decision to start talking around things and not answering questions.

Does it come down to semantics? Remember the truth may not matter anymore (internet and all) except to journalists, philosophers and the few john q. publics who give a damn. How's this "Emmer for Dystopia" since he seems to be such a fan of Rand's philosophy. Business can do it better all the time (thanks BP and wall street for your excellent examples). Make it lean and mean and if a few thousand and more get hurt so much the better!! I got a bunch of hockey kids and we dish it out honey!

Emmer is accused of slicing the baloney thin, while Obama gets away with hopey-changey...

"It's not fair!" said Tom darkly.

What if Emmer flames out ala Grundhoffer? How about Horner or Seifert?

==Why should Emmer release a detailed plan before he has an opponent, much less before we see the opponent's plan?==

Saying in effect that I can't tell you what I will do if elected governor because then you will vote for someone else, isn't one of the stronger arguments when you think about it.

It's probably a little early in the campaign for Rep. Emmer supporters to be "squirting tears" and portraying their candidate as a martyr... A victim to "liberal media" no less.

The next big deal will probably be to see who is meeting their fund-raising numbers and where the financial support is coming from.

It will be a long summer and the media will have plenty of opportunity to examine policy and crunch budget numbers from all the candidates. By the time early fall rolls around we'll see who has the momentum and who is not meeting expectations.

OK guys get this straight, facts don't matter. Google it!

Emmer doesn't have to release the equivalent of a proposed state budget to inicate, at the very least, which areas of state government he would cut, e.g., K-12 education, aid for the disabled, eldery and poor, local government aid, etc. Emmer's choice is not between saying nothing or setting forth a 200 page list of proposals.

As usual, it appears we're out of the campaign gates with more theater than substance. My advice is to settle in, grab some popcorn...maybe a cold beverage and watch the issue avoidance and reality deflection show.

Emmer isn't the only one to participate in the program, just the latest. I probably shouldn't spend too much time wondering when we'll be treated to more substantial political debate and honesty, but hey it's gotta be coming soon right?

Oh I suppose we could probably say we have this sort of campaign season coming because we're just a lazy electorate, immersed in cable infotainment and AM radio demagogues. Nah, its easier to blame the other guy, especially if that other guy is the "biased" media. I like it.

But somehow you'd think smart campaign guys could come up with something better than thinly sliced bologna as Eric put it, but hey if we're being honest about it, no campaign seems to have a lock on "smart" here. I think that's what I like about them all, they're just as prone to stupidity as I am.

In the spirit of full disclosure, it really is their human frailties that I identify with the most. After all it brings the candidate down to my level. It makes them seem way more human when I know they spend as much time as I do avoiding my issues. It's like watching my personal life played out on a political reality show.

Yeah, yeah I know there's too much at stake, blah, blah, blah and I suppose you're probably right. It's just that the political theater is so much more fun than the reality, you can't really expect a candidate to resist that can you?

"It's probably a little early in the campaign for Rep. Emmer supporters to be "squirting tears" and portraying their candidate as a martyr... A victim to "liberal media" no less."

For one thing, there is nothing early about this point in the campaign. November isn't that far away, and there won't be that many unrestricted interviews with Emmer. Surely, after his disastrous encounter with Miller, Emmer's handlers make sure he is a lot better prepared going forward.

When you get through the bluster, Emmer is a very inexperienced guy. He has never had a leadership position in the legislature. His party has been mostly out of power during his tenure. He is really not much more than a guy who sat in the back row, making loud and frequent speeches concerning matters about which he knows little. Emmer has always substituted charm and glibness for a real depth of understanding. That's what makes him a good trial lawyer, and quite possibly a bad politician.

I don't think the media will ever crunch the numbers in a way that will ever have an effect. They will cover what the candidates say once in a while, and everyone's eyes will glaze over. And that's intentional. One of the interesting things I find about this is how deliberately confusing it is. Asked one question, Emmer gave an incomplete and confusing answer to another. The responses of his defenders seem carefully drafted to avoid shedding any light at all on the underlying issues. I believe the intent of this kind of discussion is to confuse voters, so they decide who to vote based on whom they would like to have a beer with.

I am hardly the sharpest knife in the box especially where budgetary matters are concerned, but it seems to me the issues can be expressed in a straightforward manner.

The state budget for the next biennium is 38 billion dollars, revenues are 32 billion dollars creating a 6 billion dollar deficit. The constitution says the budget must be balanced, so the legislature must come up with some combination of 6 billion dollars in cuts and revenue.

How are the candidates going to do that?

Ugh. First, the reason to hold Emmer's feet to the fire over his budget plans (as opposed to anyone else) is that he is making very large claims about what he COULD do to reduce the deficit. If it's possible to do as he says, than why not ask him, "Oh yeah? How?" It seems to me that Dayton has been out there making claims and, when called on it, asserting his silly ideas in a fairly clear fashion.

Second, as for taking away freedoms - what freedoms are the Democrats taking away, the freedom to be denied health care coverage? Have I missed something? As far as I can recall, the last piece of legislation that actually took away real freedoms was the Patriot Act.

The DFL has yet to nominate a candidate and will not do so until August. Either the campaign is still "early", or the DFL is behind schedule.

From the 'errors and ommissions' dept:

I should have stated: The DFL has yet to get behind one individual candidate (flag bearer). Nominating one is an entirely different thing. I suspect that the three hopeful DFL candidates also believe that it's still early in the campaign.

Tom, if you are seriously not embarrassed to cop a line from Sarah Palin, this might be a waste of time, but the Obama agenda I outlined above was not simply something read into his rhetoric but clearly and directly stated throughout the campaign. Surely there is an Obama 2008 website cached somewhere if you wanted your proof. The only "vacuous nonsense" is the idea that "hopey changey" is somehow a clever riposte to a presidency trying to undertake the largest repair in the safety net since the first half of last century. As for its progress, everything I mentioned has been either carried out or initiated, which will make the next campaign quite an easy sell, despite the economy, in my view. You will have sarcasm, cynicism, misdirection and apocalypticism pitted against a track record that includes energy bill, an immigration bill, and health care. There surely are legitimate counter-arguments to progressive politics, but for some reason, you don't seem interested in them.

I wouldn't let Obama off the hook for making "hope" and "change" the centerpiece of his campaign. It distracted from his concrete examples.

I just wonder what relevance it has to the governor's campaign to say "Obama did it, too!" It's a child's excuse and it's pathetic. Tom Emmer got caught in the act of using deceptive numbers. He was asked what he "would" do and responded with what he "could" do. This left a false impression with almost everyone listening for obvious reasons.

Instead of asking the paper to print a clarification of his statement, he then falsely accused them of spreading myths on his website.

Emmer's handling of the media is looking worse than Ventura's right now.

"Either the campaign is still "early", or the DFL is behind schedule."

And the answer is, of course, the DFL is behind, way behind, schedule.

Minnesota Democrats remind me of the great scene in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", where one of the characters learns to his detriment that in knife fights, there are no rules, and you can't wait for somebody to say start. Republicans campaign constantly. Since they have little interest in actually governing, they don't have much else to do, Emmer being a prime example of that. Democrats seem to feel that it is indelicate, and not quite the thing really to start campaigning before Labor Day, or possibly Halloween. It's one of the several reasons they consistently lose statewide elections.

How can Democrats lose elections to a bunch of folks who are against hope and change? And how can people who deride hope and change claim to have a plan? And how can people who lie about having a plan claim to be the champions of integrity?

At any rate, I haven't seen any intellectual integrity from Republicans since Bush senior admitted he needed to raise taxes. If you're expecting anything but disingenuous high school debate from Emmer I can tell you right now, you're going to be disappointed.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Democrats can snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory... again.

Emmer has two problems. First, he's a true believer in magic plans and the myth of the republican/moral majority. Despite the fact Pawlenty never won an election with even a simple majority these guys seem to think all they have to do is play to their base- they don't realize how small their base actually is.

The other problem Emmer has is the Republican small government magic plan has run out of rope. The only way Republicans could win moderates in the past was to lie about the real agenda. They would promise better government, more responsive government, more efficient government, under the guise of smaller government. They could pull this off by avoiding any detailed talk of cutting services, they implied that they could cut government without cutting services. After ten years of budget crises and decreasing services, with Katrina, bridge collapses, and oil spills to show for it people are getting nervous about cutting government services. The lie has been exposed, turns out these guys really don't believe in government and they really do want to dismantle it. At this point even Emmer can't pretend he's gonna balance budgets with cost savings, he's got to admit he wants to eliminate services and actually dismantle government. This is great for his base, but it will alienate everyone else are finally waking up to the realities of "small government".

We know for a fact, several surveys tell us, that less than one third of Minnesotan's support a cuts-only approach to the deficit. Our problem is since 1998 it looks like a guy can win an election in this state with 34% of the vote. Pawlenty got what last time 39%? In some ways the Republicans are in a similar situation to the Democrats after Clinton. The Democrats mistakenly concluded that Clinton was a genius simply because he won, when in fact he won because (not that he wasn't a talented politician) because the Republicans ran lame candidates against him.

So it comes down to the Democrats, will they get their act together or not? The only real choice that's left is between Kelliher and Dayton. We're stuck with this since they already ruled out what I think were stronger candidates- Rybak and Rukavina.

With any luck Emmer will keep imploding until Dayton or Kelliher get organized.

The sense I get in talking to people is that the Pawlenty mode of government is played out, that he and by extension, Republicans, have lost the mandate of heaven. I think the high relatively uniform poll numbers all the DFL candidate have reflect that general sense, rather than personal reaction to any of the candidates on both sides, who are still largely unknown, with the exception of Dayton.

//Republicans campaign constantly. Since they have little interest in actually governing, they don't have much else to do,

That's a really nice way of putting it Jon. Of course Bachmann is another great example. And Palin actually leaving her job as a Governor in order to campaign...

Bill drives a gas-hog two year old SUV. Bill and Mary were doing o.k. until Bill lost his job and the family now survives on his unemployment and her lesser income. Mary suggests they sit down to discuss how they will make it.

Mary wonders whether it would not be a good idea to trade in the SUV for a Honda, noting that the reduced car payments and better gas mileage would help a lot.

Bill suggests that they cut back on eating out, watch the grocery buy more carefully, and cut back on the electric bill. He challenges Mary to come up with specific cuts she would make.

When Mary again mentions the SUV, it becomes clear that Bill LOVES that SUV, and won't even discuss getting rid of it. He complains that Mary "refuses to come up with specific cuts they could make."

I put Emmer in the place of Mary, and dems in the place of Bill. So long as Bill refuses to even hear Mary's ideas -- which involve Bill losing a favorite thing -- there is little hope for a meaningful discussion with him.

Yes John, Democrats are spoiled brats who don't want to give up their toys and Republicans are thrifty adults. Most realistic world view I've seen all day. You forgot to mention how Mary and Bill tighten their belts and deliberately decrease their income in order to make ends meet.