It’s not easy being popular. Look at Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has been very much in demand lately, and has gotten heat for the amount of time he’s been on the road. Well, there is heat enough to go round: Now it is Rep. Michele Bachmann’s travels that have come under scrutiny.
“She’s off pursuing the celebrity status as opposed to actually doing the job,” says State Sen. Tarryl Clark, according to Minnesota Public Radio’s Mark Zdechlik. But Clark is running against Bachmann in the next election, and those sorts of contests can raise all sorts of unfair animadverts. So Bachmann is a big hit on the interview circuit? What does it matter if she’s doing her job?
Actually, according to Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent, Bachmann has missed more votes than anybody in Minnesota’s congressional delegation. Some of these missed votes happened when Bachmann was spending time with an ill family member, so Birkey subtracts those … and Bachmann has still missed more votes than anybody in Minnesota’s congressional delegation. She’s missed 114 votes, or 11 percent of the votes this session — although it drops to 47 after you subtract her absence because of a family member’s illness (which coincided with a marathon bill-passing session). Twenty of these remaining votes coincided with media appearances.
Speaking of which, Bachmann was on Larry King Wednesday night, ostensibly to argue health care with Florida Rep. Alan Grayson (you can watch the video here on MinnPost). As Hart Van Denburg of City Pages points out, the health care bill is pretty much a done deal, and so Bachmann had another agenda: She’s accusing the White House of corruption and calling for an independent investigation.
Her charge, as summed up by Eric Roper on the Star Tribune’s Hot Dish Politics Charge, is that Pres. Barack Obama offered a judgeship to the brother of Rep. Jim Matheson, who’s also experiencing some arm-twisting on the health care issue. “And now, the big question is, is the White House trading health care votes for judgeships?” Bachmann said on King, and, yes, if that’s happening, it is a big question.
According to Politico, a White House spokesman called the charge “absurd,” while Matheson’s people’s response can be boiled down to two words: “patently ridiculous.” But they would say that, wouldn’t they? The Salt Lake City Tribune offers its own response: “Scott Matheson’s name has been touted for this position since almost the day Obama walked into office, and is supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.”
While we’re discussing politicians throwing around accusations, let’s get back to Pawlenty. According to the Associated Press, Minnesota won’t be receiving any grant money from the “Race to the Top” program. What happened? According to Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota, the grant application was “underwhelming”: Dooher says the application was “long on bureaucracy while being short on innovation and ideas that truly helped children learn.” But Pawlenty’s office blames the state’s teachers union, which opposed the grant applicaion because it tied teachers’ pay to students’ test results.
Also in the Associated Press, Minnesota Democrats are pushing ahead with a revamped construction bill. Although they have revamped the bill to now cost $986 million, including half of the $89 million Pawlenty wanted to expand a sex offender treatment facility, they do not yet have any sort of deal with Pawlenty, who has been more than ready to exercise his veto lately when a bill displeases him.
If you’re like us here at the Daily Glean, you spent years obsessively playing Sim City, and it’s impossible not to think of it at times like this. Lift taxes in one area, howls of protest go up. Lower taxes and entire parts of the city start turning brown from neglect. Let’s say that Pawlenty has toggled down the budget for higher education — and he has. The University of Minnesota responds with a plan to require employees to take six unpaid furlough days before the end of 2010, as Tim Post of Minnesota Public Radio reports. And then, as WCCO reports, suddenly there are protesters marching down the street, waving signs, just like in Sim City. It would be nice to just fast-forward to when the city is taken over by towering arcologies that blast off into the sky, but we’re nowhere near that moment.
Instead, with everybody squabbling like this, we’re left wondering whatever happened to the fabled Minnesota Nice. Well, it’s still here, in Elk River, at least. According to Jim Adams of the Star Tribune, the city’s residents performed 1,300 random acts of kindness in February, and have now declared itself “the Kindest City in Minnesota.” They won’t get any competition from Ely. As MinnPost’s Joe Kimball reports, Ely is trying to be the “Coolest Small Town,” which leaves us with an image of the streets of Ely cluttered with goateed beatniks snapping their fingers to bongo and bass jazz pouring out from storefront coffee shops while Fonzi jumps a motorcycle along Main Street. We admit our notions of cool may be a bit outdated.
So, we have examples of Minnesota Nice and Minnesota Cool, but where might we find that indecisiveness that sometimes defines us? You know the sort: Minnesotans will never take food unless it’s offered a few times, and tend to malinger by a door saying farewells for hours rather than just leave. Well, thankfully, we have Brett Favre, who, when he’s not being a superlative football player, has come to embody hemming and hawing. He was on Jay Leno last night and, as the AP reports, was typically circumspect about his plans. When Leno asked about Favre returning to the Vikes next season, the quarterback responded, “I know now that I’m just not going to say anything anytime soon, just going to kind of sit back, relax, enjoy the offseason.”
One last note: This past weekend brought a useful reminder that there are real perils associated with schadenfreude. We’ve had some sport with Denny Hecker’s travails, but the former car sales mogul has been in the middle of a rough patch, and, as much as he may have brought it down upon his own head, there can’t be a meltdown as total as Hecker’s without others being caught in the fallout. On Thursday, Denny Hecker’s former father-in-law, William Prohofsky, who was deeply enmeshed in Hecker’s affairs, committed suicide. The AP has the story.