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TPaw takes a stand against partisan spin

I like to quote a made-up law that I first got from Brookings Scholar Stephen Hess. In a long-ago interview, he referred to it as Hess’s #1 law of the media, and it goes like this:

“No one notices what you say on television or what you wear on the radio.”

Tim Pawlenty went on the (revered) PBS Newshour last night as a Romney surrogate and, according to Hess’s Law, he did pretty good, which is to say that he looked young and winsome and his tie was on fairly straight although I would say that he wasn’t having his best hair day and a couple of his grins seemed a little lopsided.

But for someone like me, who hangs on every word, Pawlenty blew his credibility with the first words out of his mouth (not counting the obligatory “good to be with you, Judy, thanks for having me”) when his interrogator Judy Woodruff gave him an open shot to respond to Team Obama’s claim that the economy is on its way to full recovery. TPaw’s reply began with these words:

“Well, we can set aside the partisan spin and just look at the numbers, Judy.”

This is roughly like the Ford salesman offering to level with you about the relative values and features of Fords and Chevys. The former guv proceeded to cite several numbers but, surprisingly, the numbers amounted to pure partisan spin.

There are, of course, at least 100 different numbers you could use to assess the health and direction of the economy and there are 10 or more ways you could fit those numbers into variations of the history of how our economy got into its current predicament and the relative efficacy of the various things Pres. Obama has tried to do and how well they have worked and how well they might have worked if he had a more cooperative Congress and so forth.

If you were interested in setting aside partisan spin, you would probably at least acknowledge this complexity, for example the difficulty of assigning blame across the Bush-Obama transition and the issue of whether Romney’s proposals bear any similarities to the Bush policies that Obama and his surrogates say “got us into this mess in the first place.”

But no, to TPaw, the numbers worth mentioning and the history worth reciting all amount to a simple straightforward case that everything Obama has done has been wrong and that Obama and Obamaism are fundamentally to blame for any complaints that any American might have about the state of things.

This is not unusual. This is how partisan spin works. And, other than giving MinnPost readers any easy way to access TPaw’s recent appearance, I wouldn’t bother writing about it, if he had not chosen to start off with the ludicrous “set aside the partisan spin” claim. I crave a political discourse in which the level of partisan noise is less deafening and less insulting than the current level.

 If you watch the video (below), Pawlenty takes over a little bit after the 2:00 minute mark. If you would rather read the transcript, it’s available here.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/08/2012 - 01:28 pm.

    If Pawlenty believed in numbers

    like his own as Governor,
    he’d take a vow of silence.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 06/08/2012 - 01:51 pm.

    The republicans sweep George W. Bush under the carpet

    I would sweep that disasterous time under the carpet too given we would not be in near the trouble if it weren’t for Bush’s two wars, Bush’s tax cut for the wealthy, and Medicare Part D, all of which were NOT paid for. Remember the republicans stood SILENTLY by while Bush did his dasterly deeds. T=Paw would like to sweep a $6,000,000,000 mess under the carpet he kicked down the road for someone else to clean up. Fiscal conservative does not logically fit in the republican title because they are anything but. All the republicans do is repeat fiction in hopes it will someday become fact in the voters minds.

  3. Submitted by Fred Fuhldang on 06/08/2012 - 02:03 pm.


    How do you know when Tim Pawlenty is spewing partisan spin? His lips are moving.

  4. Submitted by James Hamilton on 06/08/2012 - 03:28 pm.

    Perspective is everything

    Take a look at GDP growth in the U.S. since January, 2000. The great slide that began in 2007, from about 3.5%, bottomed out at about -8% in 2009 and came back to almost 4% in early 2010. It’s fallen off since then, but Bush saw at least six such dips in his two terms in office, including in 2001, 2002, and 2003.

  5. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 06/08/2012 - 04:11 pm.

    I Can’t Hear You…lalalalalalalalalalalalala

    T-Paw exhibits the all the traits of a classic Repub: clueless to the end. Mired in his own delusions of grandeur and that of his derailed party, he somehow believes he can make rational, thinking people forget the train wreck he and his ilk gave this country, and want to continue.

    Like Fred Flintstone talking to his mother-in-law Pearle Slaghoople, all we hear when Repubs talk is blah blah, blahblah blah blah, blahblah, blah blah.

  6. Submitted by rolf westgard on 06/11/2012 - 03:29 am.

    Can you say

    has been?

  7. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 06/11/2012 - 04:51 pm.


    It’s absolutely correct to say that the economic picture is complex and that assigning blame is hard. But I can’t really fault Pawlenty for relying on as big a number as the unemployment. If Pawlenty was cherry picking bad numbers and trying to tie them together as some kind of misery index, that would be one thing but unemployment isn’t some small obscure thing. You could maybe argue that the ‘under-employment’ number is a bit more controversial but I don’t think that it should be excluded. Republicans should certainly be able to point out that there is a large number of people that would be working if they could. A much larger number than Obama said there would be.
    Woodruff is the one cherry picking when she wants to pivot to manufacturing and import/export numbers. I’m not saying they are unimportant but they are only a small slice of the bigger economic picture. One that happens to benefit team Obama. Let me put it this way, if manufacturing was down and overall employment was up, would anyone think we should see that as evidence of a weak economy?
    The numbers are very complicated and therefore more open to spin. Pawlenty is making a partisan argument but not an outrageous one. He’s trying to move from smaller specific numbers to larger, more general ones. That seems fair to me.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/12/2012 - 07:44 pm.


      “if manufacturing was down and overall employment was up, would anyone think we should see that as evidence of a weak economy?”

      That is exactly what some Paulista types say, on the assumption that the ONLY real employment is in the private sector. Since most manufacturing employment (which is what I assume you meant) is in the private sector, private employment could be down, total employment up, and by this argument the economy would be weak.

  8. Submitted by Lance Groth on 06/12/2012 - 05:30 pm.

    Don’t need to look backward

    We don’t really need to assign blame, although it’s quite clear who was in charge when the world melted down. When considering the question of which government actions are appropriate to address the financial/economic mess, we need only look at two realtime examples: The EU, and the U.S. The EU has tried the conservative-scripted approach of applying massive cuts and attempting to pay down the debt immediately, and we see the result: Europe is spiraling down ever faster, with Italy apparently next up for some kind of intervention. The U.S. tried stimulus, and the result is growth, albeit tepid growth. The only problem with the U.S. approach is that the stimulus wasn’t large enough, and we weren’t allowed to increase revenue by tapping those who can afford to pay in more.

    Obama has it right, we simply need to double down while there’s still time, and focus on paying down the debt later, when the economy is healthy again.

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