Pawlenty on offense as Obama readies for health rally

This is a tricky time for Republicans. There’s no longer any doubt that the health care system is somewhere between floundering, circling the drain, and just plain broken, and so even hard-line right-wingers are conceding the need for change. The trouble is, if Barack Obama is the fellow behind that change, the Republicans will have stood by while a Democrat takes credit for a necessary and epochal social transformation. And, if you’re Tim Pawlenty and you’re thinking about running against Obama in the election, that puts you in an especially tight place, especially when Obama is coming to Minneapolis to pitch his health care plan directly to your constituency.

It’s especially tricky when Minnesota Democrats are making the case that you haven’t done very much to improve health care in Minnesota, and they are, according to Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio. So what do you do? Well, first of all, you have a “pre-rebuttal” two days before the president arrives, critiquing his plan. Rachel E. Stassen-Berger of the Star Tribune offers some details of Pawlenty’s press conference, rather generously saying that Pawlenty was looking to “share a bit of the health-care spotlight” when “steal” might have been a more apt word choice.

Aside from an entirely expected criticism that health care needs to be “consumer-centric,” rather than “government-centric”, Pawlenty released a list titled “Welcome to Minnesota, President Obama”; the list consists of “Ten things to know about health care in Minnesota,” which FOX9 reprints. At the top of the list: “We can’t afford what we already have,” neglecting to mention that his line-item vetoes slashed spending on health care; it can be hard to afford what you refuse to fund, and it can be hard to fund things when you refuse to raise taxes.

But Pawlenty seems certain that what the market broke, the market can fix, and so his suggestions tend to be the sort that you can expect from him: Engage the private sector, enact tort reform, and, of course, “use market principals to hold down costs.” And if Obama isn’t prepared to do this, well, Pawlenty might not do what Obama wants, invoking states’ rights to prevent Minnesota from participating in Obama’s plan if Congress passes it.

MPR’s Tom Scheck quotes Pawlenty as saying “”Depending on what the federal government comes out with here, asserting the 10th Amendment may be a viable option.” Since he’s the guy who just went ahead and vetoed whatever he didn’t like in the last budget, it can be hard to tell whether Pawlenty is just blowing hot air or not, but it would be interesting to see how Minnesotans would react if Pawlenty, whose plan has no mechanism for covering the currently uninsured and has slashed health care to the poor in Minnesota, goes ahead and tries to block whatever plan is passed by Congress.

But how many uninsured could there be in Minnesota? About 450,000, according to an estimate released Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau, as reported by the Associated Press. Since Minnesota has a population of about 5 million, that means that roughly 8.7 percent of the state’s residents are uninsured. And that’s pretty good from a national standpoint, as the story points out: In Texas and New Mexico, about a quarter of the residents have no insurance at all.

The census also tells us that Minnesotans had a rough go of it in 2008, as the Pioneer Press’s Jeremy Olson explains: “Household median income in the state dropped from $59,900 in the two-year period ending in 2006 to $57,600 in the two-year period ending in 2008”; meanwhile, the state’s poverty rate “increased from 8.1 percent to 9.6 percent during those same periods.”

The Star Tribune reminds us that with Obama in town on Saturday, which coincides with games at the new Gopher Stadium and the Metrodome, it’s going to be a heck of a busy traffic day. Jim Foti, the author, interviews a traffic engineer, and she offers this sage advice: “Come early, stay late.”

In other health news, forer KARE11 anchor Rick Kupchella’s new web news site, Bring Me the News broke a story about Norm Coleman: He has been diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, which Web MD defines as “a paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of your face” caused by damage to the facial nerve that controls muscles on one side of the face.” “”It’s a big surprise when half your face is working — and the other half isn’t,” Coleman tells Bring Me the News. How did Kupchella manage this scoop? David Brauer has an idea: “Kupchella’s wife Leslie once worked as Norm’s press secretary.” S4xton on Twitter suggests exactly the same, asking “How easy is that when your wife is Coleman’s former aide?” He almost immediately gets a response from Tom Elko, who says “As News Dir of BringMeTheNews and a former UpTaker, I’ll answer that: Not very easy at all.” Veteran Minnesota journalist Nick Coleman tosses off an inevitable, but irresistible, joke: “If all politician’s had Bell’s Palsy, would they lie out of only one side of their mouths?”

Garrison Keillor has also had something of a health crisis. As CNN reports, the humorist checked himself into a hospital Monday and will be released today. Turns out he suffered a minor stroke. Star Tribune commenters lob their own jokes, but theirs are somewhat more resistible. Sample: “As the story states, he is ‘up and moving around, speaking sensibly’. Sensibly? Are they sure they have the right patient?” Hey-o!

In sports, the Vikings have cut wide receiver Bobby Wade, replacing him with Greg Lewis; also, it might be a big week for bowling, as the Lebowski Fest is in town. This festival, celebrating the Coen Brothers’ cult film “The Big Lebowski,” is going to involve a lot of 10-pin and a lot of White Russians.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/11/2009 - 10:00 am.

    I really don’t understand Pawlenty anybody out there with new ideas to enlighten me?

  2. Submitted by Burton'Jon Blackwell on 09/11/2009 - 10:38 am.

    Inkpahduhtah Fans and Reader’s…..
    The insurance industry spent millions to make Pawlenty a Minnesota Governor for only one reason. To have a profiteering collegue that would use this position to protect their 40% plus profit system. If seat belts reduce the number of vehicle accident casualties…Auto Insurance premiums should of went down when seat belts became state law. If our lawmaker’s are correct…auto insurer’s are now paying out less in accident claims and premium’s keep going up….this means that our lawmakers have substantially increased profits for these insurers and we the taxpayers are not getting the math benefit in return, even after footing the cost of enforcing seatbelt laws. Pawlenty is part of this “take-the-prople-for-all you-can-squeeze-out-of-them” profiteering philosophy. His supporting fellow GOP business owners do as they damn well please regardless of our state’s consumer laws…his administration always sides in with these white-collar swindlers. Under Pawlenty, thousands of commissioned sales people are having earned commissions embezzled and Pawlenty is on the side of these embezzelers. He uses his position to cover for them. I have documented proof to back-up my allegations. I can bring forth many witnesses. Paewlenty’s GOP philosophy is..you pay!….we play! you pay!…we play! and so on forever while I’m Governor. Inkpahduhtah

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/11/2009 - 10:53 am.

    It would appear that, despite over twenty years evidence to the contrary, our dear Governor still believes that the “Reagan Revolution” holds the solutions to all society’s ills.

    It seems that the Governor hopes to claim the Reagan approach and the Reagan mantle and rise triumphant from the ashes of a very divided Republican National Convention in 2012.

    Of course if he has to take Minnesota the rest of the way from the very prosperous and compassionate state we once were, down to the status of Mississippi (except with cold winters), that really won’t matter to him in the least, as long as he personally (and selfishly) comes up a winner.

    What he’s missing, of course, is that, if he manages to gain the Republican nod for 2012, Sarah Palin will take the far right and extreme evangelical folks out of the Republican party to start a third party run (but then he never foamed at the mouth enough to interest these folks, anyway) and the coalition of strange bed fellows cobbled together by St. Ronnie will come to a crashing end.

    In pursuing his current course at all costs (costs born mostly by the powerless and the poor), he may, indeed, win what seems to him to be everything, only to find out that he’s won nothing at all.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Edman on 09/11/2009 - 12:07 pm.

    What is TPaw’s idea of a democracy?

    “I’ll participate only if you do it my way.”

    And this Presidential?

  5. Submitted by Molly Redmond on 09/11/2009 - 05:22 pm.

    I absolutely do NOT understand why, every time Gov. Pawlenty makes a negative remark about expanding health care, or cuts coverage for another few thousand poor Minnesotans, we do not see a story detailing the specifics of the Governor’s own outstanding Minnesota Employee plan (which we taxpayers fund…)

    So, look at a few of these info sources, and dig around.
    http://www.doer.state.mn.us/insurance-a-wellness/96-96 to start.
    Then, see the highlights summary–be sure to see p.3, which gives actual costs to families.
    http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/doc/ins/adv-ee/highlights.pdf
    http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/doc/ins/adv-ee/benefits-schedule.pdf
    I’m not sure, but heard somewhere that anyone who’s been in elected MN state office can buy into this plan FOREVER (unlike ordinary state employees).
    If that’s true, the Gov is set for life for health insurance. And he–the beneficiary of an outstanding publicly-funded plan– thinks that public options, etc. are somehow evil? or un-American? or whatever?

    Why don’t we see these details constantly pointed out? Or, would pointing out factual information be regarded as “controversial” or biased…

  6. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/11/2009 - 08:36 pm.

    Dan, The governor needs to get the attention of the base in his party. They are the delegates and caucus goers. Therefore they have a huge voice in whom is allowed to advance in the primaries. As such the governor will need to make news worthy statements and make the base of the party more familiar with his “brand”.

    This is pretty much a standard tactic with both parties. It is not specific to the governor alone. As long as he is making news that is his goal. After accomplishing his goal of securing the base, he can then return to the middle and try to appeal to that large middle majority that does not exist at the fringes.

  7. Submitted by Dick Novack on 09/12/2009 - 10:03 am.

    Fascinating commentaries for a MinnPost article! However, Richard Schulze is right that Pawlenty needs to appeal to his “base” and “delegates”. The two are not always the same – but this year they are. Only delegates nominate and endorse a candidate to run, not others proclaiming to be members of a political party.

    The problem (we) republicans face is that in recent years a very well organized fringe of the republican party took over by organizing grassroots turnouts at caucuses and primaries that elect delegates – people with strong philosophies and dig in your heels attitudes. I talk with them all the time – it is fascinating. True most of them were there for “single issues” most often right to life – but their votes also elected people who have to vote on other issues too! It’s “we give no quarter” and “we’d rather lose (and not govern) than compromise to govern and get at least some of our belief in.”

    At first we won state and national elections because the majority of republicans and independents – mostly moderate citizens – voted republican like all used to and elected republicans including leaders like Bush and Pawlenty. The tide turned last year when moderates realized people they supported by name tag went farther than they wished.

    So going back to Schulze’s comment – Pawlenty’s “base” is that statistically minority fringe now in party power. Not enough to win any election unless you can again fool the moderates into thinking these people are really what they want. I genuinely doubt we’ll see moderates pour out to the caucuses and primaries next year either and “take back their party.”

    So like Pawlenty or not (and I don’t), Pawlenty is playing to those who have control – not the citizenry.

  8. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/13/2009 - 02:38 pm.

    I am not so sure (100%) about the above two ideas. I think the pro life movement has lost some traction and that some of the evangelicals are getting more concerned about pocketbook issues and/or some of the social justice failings/betrayals of the Bush/GOP years. But there are still solidly in the pocket for the republicans. What I can’t quite get about Pawlenty is his more extreme anti authoritatian/authoratative rhetoric. Still reading the tea leaves here.

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