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Pawlenty calls Obama’s Egypt remarks ‘nearly incoherent’

MORNING EDITION ALSO: CPAC up close; a costly “road trip”; nervous legislators; differing Capitol views on unions; psychoanalyzing Hecker; city inspections; and more.
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Fresh off his 4 percent polling in the CPAC presidential straw vote, Tim Pawlenty ripped into President Obama, says Kevin Diaz of the Strib on its “Hot Dish Politics” blog: “Pawlenty slammed … Obama’s handling of the largely peaceful revolution, faulting the White House for its ‘nearly incoherent’ pronouncements on events. Appearing Sunday on ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Pawlenty spoke of a ‘Tower of Babel’ (or did he say babble?) of conflicting statements from a notably cautions Obama administration trying to keep abreast of developments during the 18-day uprising. Pawlenty, coming off of a sixth-place finish in a conservative presidential straw poll on Saturday, also faulted the administration for cutting aid to democracy organizations in Egypt, and for failing to take a strong public stand against the danger of a takeover by the influential Muslim Brotherhood (a prospect that was surprisingly downplayed by Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak earlier in the show).”

John Hinderaker of Power Line attended CPAC (he even brought his 14-year-old daughter — lucky kid). He is giddy over being in physical proximity to Andrew Breitbart (the guy who notoriously edited Shirley Sherrod to make her sound like a racist and has stage-managed the pranksters — who heavily edited their punking of ACORN): “I was with Andrew for a while after his speech; it was like trailing after a rock star. Every few seconds someone would congratulate him, hand him a business card, ask for his autograph, etc. In the 19th century, Andrew would have been an impresario. He brings a desperately needed sense of showmanship, along with an appetite for combat, to the conservative cause.” And then he gets to the GOP’s presidential field: “The GOP has, in my opinion, a deep field of candidates for 2012. Pay no attention to the straw poll — the Paul-bots make a point of turning out their students, most of whom will come around as they get older, and balloting was closed before prospective candidates like Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels and Haley Barbour had even appeared before the group. The dominant impressions had nothing to do with the merits of individual candidates: the tremendous vigor and energy we are seeing in the conservative movement; the influx of a new generation of freedom-loving, highly talented youngsters; and a pervasive sense of confidence and good humor. We’ve had three-day periods when we’ve laughed more, but not many.” Hey, I only read about it and I was laughing a lot, too.

MPR’s Mark Zdechlik posts on its Capitol View blog: “Washington University Political Science Professor Steve Smith called the poll a popularity contest and probably not a good measure of fitness for the presidency. Still Smith said it’s a contest potential presidential candidates want look good in. Even though Pawlenty has been positioning himself for a presidential campaign for a lot longer than Bachmann, Smith says the outspoken congresswoman poses a tactical problem to Pawlenty’s effort to attract attention. ‘She’s on some counts a mile behind. She’s not nearly as well organized as Pawlenty is for the effort,’ said Smith. ‘On the other hand, she has a lot more money in her bank account and a greater capacity to raise money and attract attention than does Pawlenty. And there are going to be quite a few folks who are thinking we only need one candidate from Minnesota.’ Some CPAC attendees think there’s less of a gap between the two candidates. ‘I think they are both equally viable,’ said Diana Banister of Falls Church, Virginia. ‘I think that [Bachmann] has potential because she’s been on television, because people know her especially with the tea party movement. I think people could follow her.’ “

Intriguing story by Tony Leys of the Des Moines Register about the tab Iowans are running up traveling north to the Mayo Clinic when their health takes a bad turn: “Wellmark [Blue Cross Blue Shield] said an increasing number of members — more than half of Iowans with private coverage — are needlessly heading north for medical care, raising everyone’s insurance bills. Many Iowa patients go to Mayo for relatively routine services, Wellmark said. Others who go there for specialized diagnoses could return to hometown hospitals for treatments. ‘When an Iowan seeks care at Mayo for something that could be provided here in Iowa, it costs twice as much,’ said Laura Jackson, a Wellmark vice president. That’s because Wellmark lacks bargaining leverage to negotiate down Mayo’s prices, she said. Iowa hospitals are much more dependent on Wellmark customers, so they are more willing to accept the insurer’s payment offers.”

The AP offers a story on Gov. Dayton’s budget, due Tuesday. Apprehension abounds. “Some legislative Democrats are nervous. ‘I haven’t yet heard the governor articulate where those cuts are coming from. And so I am concerned because I can’t imagine in this first pass where the cuts will be,’ said Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka. Minnesota’s forecasted deficit represents 16 percent of projected spending for fiscal years 2012-13, a period that starts July 1. Dayton’s proposal will probably fall in the $35 billion range, give or take a billion. Republicans argue that Minnesota will spend more for the next two years than it does now thanks to a rise in tax collections. That’s true, but the state has reached the end of its federal stimulus money, is sitting on a pile of IOUs and is facing higher school and public health program enrollments.”

If you just arrived from Neptune or Pluto, maybe you’ll be shocked to hear Dayton and his GOP counterparts have a much different view of the value of unions. Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib reminds the rest of us: “In addition to breakfast meetings with Republicans, Dayton has made a point of meeting informally with union leaders at the governor’s residence. Republicans, meanwhile, say they are just trying to save the state’s money. ‘I have tried really, really hard to avoid demagoguery,’ said Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina. He proposed a pay freeze, pay cut and mandating a comparison between public sector and private wages. He proposed — and then pulled — right-to-work language in a bill after hundreds of union members, from nurses to police officers, showed up to oppose that measure, which lives on in other legislation. The Minnesota AFL-CIO plans to bring masses to the Capitol again this month and Teamsters Local 320 plans a $100,000 ad campaign against what they see as anti-union moves afoot at the Legislature.”
You haven’t read all of the Denny Hecker wrap-up stories unless you’ve read MaryJo Webster’s in the PiPress. A more or less chronological history of Hecker’s career, with Denny himself responding from jail to written questions, the piece includes moments like this: “The behavior that drew the ire of [bankruptcy trustee Randall] Seaver and prosecutors is common among white-collar criminals, says Jan Schwartz, a forensic behavioral scientist and president of Forensic Fraud Research, an Ohio company. She said such criminals often show no remorse or guilt, accept no responsibility for their actions, have a sense of entitlement and are often pathological liars who are exceptionally proud of this skill. The lack of empathy noted by Hecker’s former employee and the reluctance to accept responsibility are hallmarks of a psychopath, she said. While the public generally associates the term ‘psychopath’ with serial killers, not all are violent. Insensitivity, charm, domineering behavior and a preoccupation with greed — all traits of psychopaths — can be beneficial if a person’s end goal is making a lot of money. ‘They do not perceive themselves as criminals’,” Schwartz said. ‘They just want their own way.’ “

Under the budget-cutting blade, a lot of cities may be asking themselves if they spend too much time piddling over mostly diligent citizens, leaving too little time for real miscreants. The PiPress’s Frederick Melo files a story off a meeting last week of 30 landlords and the new head of St. Paul’s apartment inspectors: “[L]andlords said St. Paul’s buildings standards are as tough as any city’s, if not the toughest around, and they should be applauded for doing their best to comply. Sometimes, they said, they felt like property owners are treated by city inspectors like the enemy. The property owners threw out a wide range of concerns and suggestions. Some said the city’s checklist of items that building owners need to keep aware of before inspection was barebones and needed to be fleshed out, so owners aren’t caught off guard during walk-throughs. Others questioned why complaints are kept anonymous, and they said inspections were inconsistent — what might get flagged by one city employee might bring a shrug from another. ‘Show some faith. We’re good building owners,’ said John Starr, another St. Paul landlord. ‘If it’s less than five piddly items, walk away.’ “

In the vein of that essay about life under the laws of Leviticus for all the Bible-literalists out there, Hamline professor Dave Schultz pops up in with an essay for Constitution-hugging Tea Partiers (who, it seems to suggest, haven’t really committed it to memory like they say they have). “The original Constitution didn’t include a Bill of Rights. Alexander Hamilton, one of the framers and authors of the Federalist Papers, argued against it. The Bill of Rights protects many rights the Tea Party considers hallowed, such as the freedom of speech and assembly and a right to bear arms. Lacking a Bill of Rights, these freedoms wouldn’t be protected against limitation by the national government. Moreover, the Tenth Amendment, which declares that ‘powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the states,’ would not be the law of the land; thus, there would potentially be no limits on what the national government could do.” And then there’s that constitutional provision to keep gummint out of Medicare.

Speaking of First Amendment rights, Katrina Styx of the Hastings Star-Gazette reports on a counter-protest to Fred Phelps and his — oh hell, lunatic — anti-homosexuality campaigns: “[H]undreds of people lined up Sunday afternoon with signs and voices to send a message: Hastings and Minnesota do not tolerate hate. The gathering was a counter-protest organized in response to a press release published by Westboro Baptist Church that designated Hastings High School as one of its picketing locations. … WBC chose Hastings Sunday afternoon to protest the showing of the school’s winter play, ‘The Laramie Projec,t, which is a collection of interviews conducted in Laramie, Wyo., where Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die.” Which reminds me, has anyone ever figured out where Phelps gets his money?