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Pawlenty’s two talking points: state shutdown and Bachmann

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Even more Pawlenty news; and, of course, shutdown views; and good news on farm exports.
Read Monday Morning Edition


With little to no direct negotiating going on here, national attention, vis a vis Minnesota, has momentarily turned to how the impasse affects T-Paw. Michael Fletcher of The Washington Post writes: “Citing his experience in Minnesota, Pawlenty also has called on congressional Republicans not to accept any deal to raise the debt ceiling that involves spending or tax increases. Any deal that ‘might include tax increases or more spending … doesn’t really fix the finances of our country and is unacceptable,’ Pawlenty said Friday. ‘This fits into a new norm where ungovernability becomes a political selling point,’ said Larry Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political scientist who has followed Pawlenty’s career. ‘Winning the Republican presidential nomination means winning the backing of some pretty conservative tea party supporters. In that context, shutting the government down demonstrates authenticity.’ Although Pawlenty has cast himself as a budget hawk, he has also been blamed by some critics for leaving behind a $6.2 billion projected deficit when he left office in January. Like many state leaders, Pawlenty balanced his last budget by relying heavily on one-time federal stimulus money. He also slowed dispersal of state aid to local school districts and used other accounting gimmicks.”

And if not The Shutdown, the press is enjoying The Smackdown, specifically T-Paw v. Bachmann. Michael Crowley on TIME’s “Swampland” blog writes: “ Tim Pawlenty didn’t have much choice: He had to go after Michele Bachmann sooner or later. The Minnesota congresswoman has completely overshadowed Pawlenty’s campaign, and appears on track to finish first or second in Iowa’s caucuses, where Pawlenty had banked on a splash-making strong showing that could vault him into subsequent primaries. (His advisers insist that Iowa is not make-or-break for him, although that may be wishful thinking. Right now it’s not clear that Pawlenty can survive losing next month’s Ames straw poll. Going on the offensive against Bachmann could pose a risk, in that it might undermine a core component of Pawlenty’s image as a decent, likeable, nice guy. But he’s hardly taking a vicious approach. Pawlenty is saying something pretty obvious, which is that Bachmann gives appealing speeches but doesn’t have much of a legislative record (“nonexistent,” he calls it). This is something virtually every Republican said about Barack Obama in 2008. And there’s a more ad hominem (or feminem, as the case may be) angle of attack on Bachmann’s judgment and management skills, one which Pawlenty has thus far left to others.”

T-Paw was on the public affairs powerhouse “Fox and Friends” this morning. Alexander Burns of Politico’s “Burns and Haberman” blog writes: “Pawlenty kept up his criticism of Michele Bachmann in a morning appearance on ‘Fox and Friends,’ repeating his charge that she’s unprepared to be president and her record of accomplishment in Congress is ‘nonexistent.’ ‘It’s not a stretch to say that we need somebody in the Oval Office, who’s going to be president of the United States and commander in chief, who has executive experience leading a large enterprise in a public setting, getting results and balancing budgets, cutting taxes, doing health care reform the right way — no mandates, no takeovers,’ Pawlenty said, getting in a dig at Mitt Romney. ‘Not just talking about it, not just giving speeches at rallies, but leading as an executive.’ … Brian Kilmeade pointed out that Pawlenty took 9 percent in the just-published Iowa Republican poll and asked if he needed to take first or second in the Ames straw poll next month. Pawlenty responded by immediately lowering expectations. ‘I think I’m in sixth or seventh according to the Des Moines Register poll,’ he said. ‘I don’t know that we need to win it, but we do need to show some good progress.’ “

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic looks at T-Paw’s charge and says Pawlenty has a point: “I suppose a campaign barb is newsworthy. But the bigger story here is the fact that Bachmann, who is rising in the Iowa polls, does in fact have a resume that’s absurdly thin for someone seeking the White House. Ponder its shortcomings: she has no foreign policy experience, no executive experience, has never sponsored or co-sponsored a bill that became law, has never chaired a committee or subcommittee, and cannot even claim notable success outside the public sector like Mitt Romney. Why this doesn’t bother her supporters? … What makes them think she’s qualified? Surely the media is a big part of the answer. I don’t mean the way that it covers Bachmann, so much as the way it covers all politics. Watching cable news, or listening to talk radio, or reading Politico, you’d think that the qualities most important to a politician’s success are charisma, an ability to win news cycles, adeptness at formulating sound bytes, and success zinging rivals. In comparison, ability to do the job is seldom discussed.” Silly man. If the media were to get into candidate qualifications, they’d have to make value judgments, which would require assessing truthfulness and accuracy.

Mark Thiessen, “opinion writer” at The Washington Post, had a chance to talk with T-Paw about a number of topics. This one is good: “Pawlenty argues that the characteristics that made him a successful conservative governor of a blue state are the same ones that would make him a strong leader of the free world. When I asked Pawlenty recently to define his foreign policy philosophy, his answer could apply to foreign tyrants and big-spending Democrats alike: ‘You may have learned this in a bar, you may have learned it in a back alley, you may have learned it in business, but it’s always true: When you’re dealing with thugs and bullies, they only respect strength; they don’t respect weakness. So it is important that we project clarity and strength — and the vigilance to back it up,’ Pawlenty says.”   

Mark Guarino of The Christian Science Monitor asks the question “With 63% of Minnesotans in favor of taxing the rich, why hasn’t Mark Dayton taken his message directly to the media/public?”  Guarino writes: “Dayton has not taken his case to the media, unlike his predecessor, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was seen as much more of a media star. Dayton has also acted differently from President Obama, who held a news conference on Monday to discuss the impasse in federal debt talks. ‘Pawlenty was very adept at using the media to put a real hurt on Democrats who defied him,’ Mr. [Larry] Jacobs says. ‘The bully pulpit is a unique advantage of a governor or a president.’ So what will it take for the Minnesota government to open its doors again? The exit strategy for the shutdown, some say, appears to be in the hands of moderates in both parties. … Jacobs is less sure that moderates will help steer the conflict into a resolution, saying ‘it is a political death wish’ in the current climate for legislators on either side to break with their parties. At this point, he says, the Republicans are ‘being smarter politicians by sitting it out and making the governor come closer to them.’ He adds, ‘And why not? They’re sitting on the sidelines, and he keeps giving them things. They’re being rewarded by sitting out.’ ”

Tom Blumer of the NewsBusters site (“Exposing & Combating Liberal Media Bias”) is upset with the AP. He says: “In their Sunday evening coverage of the Minnesota government shutdown, Associated Press reporters Steve Karnowski and Amy Forliti failed to mention any form of the word ‘tax,’ failed to mention ‘spending’ in the context of government outlays, and fretted that a prolonged shutdown might cause a ‘brain drain’ from state government. The failure to bring up taxes is clearly the item’s most egregious oversight, since the shutdown is all about taxes, specifically Democratic Governor Mark Dayton’s refusal to sign a state budget that doesn’t contain tax increases on high income-earners. On the plus side, though it took an (sic) one of the people interviewed to say it and the disclosure didn’t appear until the end, the wire service has acknowledged that ‘Dayton vetoed all major state agency funding bills Republicans passed at the end of the session.’ In other words, it is inarguably the case that Dayton chose to shut down the government when he could have kept it running.”

Randy Krebs of the St. Cloud Times doesn’t believe much of what he’s hearing from either side: “I wonder how many other DFL legislators who embrace ‘tax the rich’ would do so if it was defined more as a matter of realistic perspective than ‘the top 2 percent’ or ‘millionaire’ status. I don’t know about you, but I generally define ‘rich’ as people who make significantly more than I make. While I can’t tell you if I technically know any millionaires, I can tell you that I know a lot of people who make more than I do. To me, they are rich — including even some DFL legislators. So if they are going to champion ‘tax the rich,’ by my perspective, they should see a tax increase before I do. Admittedly, those making less than I do could be saying the same thing about me. Of course, I also am not standing before throngs of Minnesotans and telling them they should ‘live within our means’ and/or ‘tax the rich.’ ”

Last year was a very good one for Minnesota farm exports, says a report from the Echo Press In Alexandria. “Minnesota exported $5 billion in agricultural products last year, according to figures released by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). This is an increase of more than $900 million from the 2009 total of $4.1 billion. It’s the second time since 2008 ag exports have reached or exceeded $5 billion in Minnesota. Soybeans, corn, wheat, red meat, dairy and poultry were the top export commodities, accounting for 90 percent of the state’s total agricultural exports. Minnesota again outpaced the nation in agricultural export growth at 22 percent, compared to 13 percent for the U.S. from 2009 to 2010.” I wonder, is there an international market for our delusional politics?