Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Walz Calls for Town Hall Meetings - So should Kline

Being honest with the public is the best policy. Sometimes the subject can be contentious and the public ill-informed … that’s why members of Congress need to reach out to their constituents and educate them.

First District Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN) has never shied away from engaging with his constituents … long before this summer’s Town Hall hysterics, Representative Walz had open forums discussing Veterans issues, Senior issues, Agriculture issues, etc. … issues that directly affected his constituents. During the current health care debate, Representative Walz has held private meetings with interested groups as well as tele-town hall meetings and open meetings in Mankato and Rochester.

Second District Congressman John Kline (R-MN) has shied away from open meetings only holding one during his first three terms and finally after the August recess, Representative Kline held his only public meeting to present his opposition to the HR 3200 healthcare legislation at Lakeville South High School on September 18th.

Healthcare reform is not the only critical question facing the country … and not the only one that has long-term financial impacts.

Representative Walz appeared on MPR’s Midday program stating that Americans should be as engaged in the discussion about the war in Afghanistan as they are in health care reform.
Further Representative Walz put it in perspective of dollars, families and our future : “We spent $900 billion in the last eight years, we've sent over 4,000 of our warriors that didn't return, we've got another 20,000 severely wounded and this is a choice that this nation's going to have to think very carefully about."

Representative Walz wants to hold a Town Hall meeting to discuss Afghanistan … possibly in Winona in October.
That’s why I like Congressman Walz. He wants our input.

Representative Walz will not be coming into the meeting as a partisian blind supporter of the Department of Defense’s viewpoint. Walz has had on-the-ground vantage of seeing operations in action (and without a kelvar vest). At the invitation of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Walz, who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee, inspected Special Forces training operations in Mali, Kenya, Djibouti, and Afghanistan, from August 27 to September 3rd.
Representative Walz will be able to educate us and also be able to react to our concerns.

Regardless of the party of the President, this time it is not going to be a partisain issue. Now that Bush’s War has turned into Obama’s War, I suspect that some of the fiscal conservatives that opposed the military involvement in Kosova during the Clinton Administration, will take a harder look today. Former Congressman Gil Gutknecht opposed Kosova and after his visit to Iraq expressed concern of that mission. Columnist George Will has called to pull out of Afghanistan. (On that suggestion, I agree with Representative Walz who has expressed doubt that anti-terrorist operations can be conducted solely by remote controlled Predator drones and spy planes.)

Let’s commend Congressman Walz … but he is not the only member of the Minnesota delegation that has responsibility for military oversight.

According to his bio, Representative Kline considers himself to have “established himself as one of Congress’s foremost experts on defense and veterans issues.” Representative Kline serves on the House Armed Services Committee and in April, 2009, he made his third trip to Afghanistan.

While Representative Walz has maintained an open mind, Representative Kline, in a radio interview on the AM 1170 KOWZ, expressed his staunch commitment for the engagement in Afghanistan. But Representative Kline has failed to address the financial impacts of the ongoing war. On a previous program, Representative Kline defended his support for an earmark for funding additional F-22A planes as a “jobs program” … without acknowledging that the plane has not been used in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflict … and that the Department of Defense does not feel any more need to be built.
Representative Kline has been a vocal critic of earmarks … but his words do not match his vote. The DOD authorization is chockfull of projects that DOD does not want … including VH-71 presidential helicopter, an alternative engine program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, extra C-17 transport planes and F-18 jets, as well as the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, a missile defense program.

It’s time that Representative Kline holds a Town Hall meeting to discuss Afghanistan and why he voted for these earmarks. Kline needs to educate the voters and get his constituents’ input.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Tim Pawlenty Heeds Advice from Don Draper

” If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.”
~ Don Draper - Mad Men- Episode 29 “Love Among the Ruins”

The tide has turned in the emails that I get from people outside of Minnesota asking about Minnesota politicians.

No longer do I have to explain that nothing Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06) says surprises me. From her days in the Minnesota State Legislature when she effectively shutdown the Senate by inciting people to demonstrate at Senators’ legislative offices until there would be a vote on same-sex legislation, to her caucus packing to get the Republican nomination for Congress and her election victories with the assistance of Minnesota’s Independence Party, Bachmann’s history is well known.

No, the current questions are about our Minnesota Governor. Typically, they want to know what happened to him with such comments as “he seemed to be someone that seemed normal”.
The latest questions are a result of Pawlenty’s comments about President Obama’s address to students which Pawlenty states that it could be disruptive and raises concerns "about the content and the motive." The Republican governor also said on his WCCO radio program that the speech is "uninvited."

While some may view Pawlenty’s remarks as just another Republican politician taking a potshot at the President, my view is that Pawlenty is listening to Don Draper. Draper has worked on behalf of Republican candidates for President before (pro bono work with Nixon. Draper says: "Kennedy? Nouveau riche, a recent immigrant who bought his way into Harvard. Nixon is from nothing. Abe Lincoln of California, a self-made man. Kennedy, I see a silver spoon. Nixon, I see myself.")
Draper’s 2012 campaign would pit Harvard Obama versus Pawlenty "the son of a truck driver and a housewife from a meatpacking town who wants to provide a better quality of life for ordinary folks without growing government." … a PR dream candidate … and Pawlenty plays hockey !

Draper knows PR.
When a prospective client from Madison Square Garden expressed concerns of what is termed a “vocal minority” opposed to tearing down Penn Station to build the new arena, Draper’s advice was to ”change the conversation”.

Pawlenty’s goal is to promote a national profile for himself while hiding his Minnesota performance. It’s the Minnesota problems that ”If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation” lead to his attack on Obama for speaking to children.

On Tuesday, when Obama is addressing schoolchildren, Pawlenty will be facing a “leadership” question.
On that day, three former governors, nine former leaders of the state House and Senate, the state economist and state demographer will hold a Leadership Summit. The meeting was a suggested by former Governor Arne Carlson, a Republican, and former Congressman Tim Penny (D-MN) to consider balanced-budget solutions which will be necessary after Pawlenty unilaterally cut important state programs and pushed a $6-7 billion budget deficit off onto the next period.

Pawlenty’s radio attack on Obama was less than 48 hours after Carlson was on Minnesota Public Radio previewing the Summit. Carlson was blunt in his comments – Pawlenty has reduced reserves and relied on borrowing to push the problems beyond his term. Carlson faulted Pawlenty on his leadership.

And as far as the summit goes, Pawlenty has declined to participate. Instead he will join other Republicans at Eaton Corp. in Eden Prairie to discuss GOP strategy.

Carlson comments are not new … similar concerns have been expressed by former Republican Governor Al Quie … both who experienced significant budget problems during their tenures. But both engaged with the legislature and showed leadership … leadership that they still exhibit today.

Too much commentary will be made about Pawlenty’s comments that parents don’t have to submit their children to Obama’s message, but the parents should be more concerned about Pawlenty’s message to schools … telling them “see ya next year” … as he is shifting school payments from one year to the next --- a move that Pawlenty says will save $1.8 billion on the current budget. This “accounting shift” will result in school boards having to take unwise financial actions … such as the Bemidji School Board which has authorized the borrowing of $9 million to cover the funding shift. The School District will also have to pay interest fees from the borrowed money.

Don Draper is a fictional character; Tim Pawlenty is playing with our real money and leaving Minnesota in a financial mess.
So, I will respond to those emails telling them that Pawlenty may make a nice appearance on television, but he is not a leader. Rather Pawlenty is someone, like Bachmann, who can attribute his election victories to the impact of the three party system in Minnesota where minority rules.

In closing, another quote from Don Draper may be appropriate for the wannabe Presidential candidate Pawlenty. Followers of Mad Men know that Don Draper is the persona assumed by Dick Whitman ... who throughout his new life preaches that whatever failings that may be attributed with the past, can be ignored ... so Governor Pawlenty wants to ignore the financial implications of his tenure.

"Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened."