An apology at the U, and a visit from the president

Monday begins with an apology. The apologizer is the University’s vice president for university relations, Karen Himle, and as the Associated Press reports, the subject of the apology is Himle’s recent attempt to block the broadcast of “Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story.” As you may recall, the film details the agriculture industry’s culpability for pollution in the Mississippi, and Himle pulled the plug after charges that the film was unbalanced. Himle has issued a statement, conceding she made a mistake. In the same statement, University President Robert Bruininks expresses particular disappointment, in that the University has a commitment to academic freedom.

Fortunately, new cycles are abbreviated and the public’s memory is short, and so this little contretemps over academic freedom will soon be overshadowed by a prestigious visitor to the University. As the Star Tribune explains, the U will soon be host to President Barack Obama, who will headline a rally in support of DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton. Presidential visits to the University are decidedly uncommon — according to FOX9, the last one was back in 1911, when William Howard Taft visited.

It will be interesting to see what this rally does for Dayton in the polls. Of course, it would have been more impressive if Dayton could have gotten Taft — who was, after all, a Republican president who supported income taxes — but there are limits to what can be accomplished in politics. Obama is certainly a heavyweight to have in your corner — although his general approval rate has slipped considerably, it’s still higher than Reagan’s was at this time in his presidency and, in March, Obama still enjoyed an 85 percent job approval among Democrats. And while Obama’s favorability rating has slid to 51 percent, it’s considerably higher than the favorability rating of Sarah Palin, who clocks in at 22 percent. Palin is, of course, the highest-profile supporter of Tom Emmer, the GOP candidate for governor.

Additionally, it seems that if Obama’s stimulus package was publicly pilloried by conservatives, privately it was pretty popular. As John Solomon and Aaron Mehta of Center for Public Integrity write on MinnPost, many conservatives who were publicly condemning the stimulus were privately requesting funds from it, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has repeatedly pilloried the bill. MinnPost’s Derek Wallbank further examines Bachmann’s, er, let us say, mercurial relationship with the stimulus package. “I continue to oppose the so-called stimulus package because it has been a failure,” Bachmann declared, adding that “[i]t has failed at job creation.” Yet she herself requested $300 million for the replacement-bridge project crossing the St. Croix River, citing a MnDOT estimate that the project would create about 3,000 jobs.

You’d think this would the sort of thing that would hurt Bachmann, but American voters have a long track record of only being offended by government spending that goes to somebody else. There’s a heck of a fight for her seat going on, but it’s not certain she can be beat — the AP points out that many political observers don’t even consider her district to be a competitive one, and others list it as “likely Republican.” This, despite the fact that Bachmann’s DFL opponent, Tarryl Clark, has likely raised more money than any other Democratic congressional candidate — according to the Pioneer Press’ Jason Hoppin, it’s close to $4 million.

In the meanwhile, back at the gubernatorial race, IP candidate Tom Horner may be behind Dayton and Emmer, but he’s quietly chugging away. He recently garnered endorsements from a number of local dailies, according to the AP. And Tom Emmer has a supporter in former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, also reported by the AP. Emmer also can claim the support of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, while Dayton can claim Bill Clinton and Joe Biden. So let’s sum this up: This month, Dayton will have Obama speak on his behalf, while Emmer has Romney. Horner has gotten some local papers.

Horner better get on the horn and see if Taft is available.

In arts: Sometimes bad news comes faster through blogs and social media than mainstream news sources. So it was that Sunday morning, this message was posted on Facebook: “It is with fantastic sorrow and sadness that I tell my son Mikey (Eyedea) has died.” For those unfamiliar with Michael Larsen, aka Eyedea, the 28-year old rapper was on the Rhymesayers label, and samples of his work, which was often politically charged and philosophical, can be found on his webpage. He was popular — his MySpace page has more than 54,000 followers, while most local musicians are lucky to manage 5,000, and his Facebook page has become host to hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of condolence messages. A search for his name on Twitter produces similar results. Most impressively, Eydea was a genuine underground phenomenon: The local press down not cover hip-hop very much, and so local hip-hop artists often must built their audiences for themselves, through freestyle battles and street teams and Twitter announcements.

Eyedea did occasionally attract the attention of the media, though, so let us mark his passing with two stories, the first from the start of career, by City Pages scribe Peter Scholtes, written when Eyedea was just 18: “Like most teenagers, he’s unsure how his own story will play out, or where he fits into it,” Scholtes wrote. The second story is from today, written by the Star Tribune’s Chris Riemenschneider, written upon news of the rapper’s passing: “He had one of the most rapid deliveries and fastest minds of any rapper in town, and now Micheal Larsen will be known for leaving us way too quickly.” As of this moment, his cause of death is unknown.

In sports: While it is possible to be a PR person at the University of Minnesota and create a PR disaster, it isn’t possible to be a football coach and lose six games in a row. And so, according to the Associated Press, as of Sunday, after the Gophers were once again defeated, coach Tim Brewster was fired.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/18/2010 - 10:06 am.

    Much as the Morrill Hall Gang, Max, would like to see “this little contretemps over academic freedom” go away, I don’t think it’s going to happen…

    Readers interested in more than this short blow-off might want to do a little Googling, some background being:

    Internal University of Minnesota Documents About Troubled Waters
    Warning – It’s Ugly…


    Given the involvement of the Morrill Hall Gang in the attempt at censorship, what is a possible way to right the Good Ship Gopher?

    A Call For An Independent Investigation of Troubled Watersgate at the University of Minnesota


  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/18/2010 - 11:28 am.

    You’ve convinced me, Bill.

    Let’s say we start with a 30% across the board cut in public financing; that’ll take the starch out of the UofM’s ugly elitists.

  3. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/18/2010 - 12:24 pm.

    A cut will not harm the elitists in Morrill Hall.

    They’ll just raise tuition…

  4. Submitted by Joseph Skar on 10/18/2010 - 12:28 pm.

    Not sure why this story wasn’t in the “cream”?

  5. Submitted by Curtis Loewe on 10/18/2010 - 01:02 pm.

    Karen Himle needs to go. The University of Minnesota is a great institution and she tarnished it reputation.

  6. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/18/2010 - 03:12 pm.

    Karen Himle did not act unilaterally by any stretch of the imagination. President Bruininks and the Provost have a lot to answer for:

    Smoking Gun: “Karen viewed the film and called TPT to cancel it – the President is aware of this.” #UMN for shame

    I [Himle] was very direct with him about the complicity of Dean Levine and the Provost What is THIS about? #UMN

    “urged him to provide safe haven for [Weller] as I believe she was muted under pressure from Provost and Levine #UMN

    “[Weller]…has been threatened in some way by the Provost and/or Dean Levine” following REDACTED #UMN

    An independent investigation of the disgraceful situation is clearly in order:

    Community Voices Post on Star-Tribune Website:

    A Call For An Independent Investigation of Troubled Watersgate at the University of Minnesota


  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/18/2010 - 03:14 pm.

    Some mistakes betray an unacceptable level of incompetence and/or mindset. Himle’s actions constitute just a mistake. This corporate tactic of saying: “I take responsibility” and then going back to work is unacceptable. You take responsibility by DOING something to remedy the damage you’ve caused, and an apology remedies nothing. If she doesn’t have the integrity to tender her resignation then she needs to be fired.

    Not only did Himle attempt to trample on academic freedom, but she did so without integrity sending several different bogus excuses up the flagpole before backing off. At the end of the day she ended up creating a public relations nightmare for the U. Any public relations executive that actually creates the nightmares they are supposed avoid needs to either be fired or resign. One thing it is to handle a public relations nightmare better or worse, but there’s not excuse for actually creating one. How could she not anticipate this reaction at a institute of higher learning? I wish the best but this isn’t about her, she’s embarrassed our University.

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