Minnesota Has Seen This Movie

rotten_tomatoes_8290As I watched the dramatic collapse of Trumpcare today, I was reminded that Minnesotans have seen this Happy Gilmoresque movie before: Before there was “Trump: The President” there was “Ventura: The Governor.”

For those younger than me – approximately all of you – you might not remember that in 1998, sober, sane, proud-of-our-good-government-instincts Minnesota elected a former professional wrestler – surely the forerunners of today’s reality stars – and bit-player actor (“I ain’t got time to bleed.”) as its governor. While this decision looks positively brilliant next to Mr. Trump’s election – Ventura had at least served in the military and had held elective office – it was an electoral exercise in “what-the-fuck” voting as two uninspiring mainstream candidates drove down their turnout and allowed a third party candidate to eke out a narrow victory.

Two things saved Mr. Ventura’s tenure from immediately becoming the smoldering crater that is the Trump Administration after just 64 days. First, and most obviously, is the fact that we elected a buffoon to the Governor’s Office instead of the Oval Office thus limiting the damage that even the most inept office holder can do (though one should never underestimate what a motivated governor can do – I’m looking at you Scott Lets-Gut-Public-Unions Walker and you Rick Let-Them-Drink-Lead Snyder). Second, as MPR notes, Jesse “The Body” Ventura was lucky enough to come into office with a $4 billion tax surplus (which it also notes he turned into a $4.5 billion deficit) and a blessedly quiet period in Minnesota when the most difficult public policy questions consisted of everyone asking, “What should we do with all this extra money?” Even Jesse Ventura – who had the not-very-original-or-smart- but-defensible position of rebating the surplus to taxpayers – could manage not to screw things up too bad in a political environment that marshmallowly.

As an aside, while I was reading the MPR story mentioned above to refresh my memory of what happened – and didn’t – during The Body’s time in office, I was struck by this passage:

Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum says Ventura’s relationship with key lawmakers was hot and cold.

“There are times he just charmed you tremendously. You know, just very, very charming,” Sviggum said. “And in the next minute, you’ll be shaking your head and saying, ‘you know, I don’t want anything to do with the individual.'”

Gee, who does that remind me of? Wait, wait…it’ll come to me.

Unfortunately, shit got real for Minnesota in the last year or so of Governor Ventura’s term when the money ran out and actually governing and legislating had to be done. Mr. Ventura, after making some nominal efforts to participate in the process, checked out and left it to the legislature to work it out. I seem to recall he spent his time – while in office – being the MC for something called the XFL, junketing to China and Cuba and feuding with the media (the more things change…).

This trip down memory lane is more than just an old fart’s reminiscences; it bears on today’s debacle – and that’s an insult to the other debacles – in terms of what happened today and – more importantly – what’s going to happen next.

Today, Mr. Trump’s efforts at playing the role of President were exposed as the fraud many of us have believed it would be and is. The master negotiator got rolled by two dozen guys in $200 Men’s Wearhouse poly-blend suits. The “closer” discovered he’s a “c” short. The Great Leader turned around and discovered the parade was a bit shorter than he’d promised and that nobody seems terribly worried about crossing him. In short, he got the shit kicked out of him and even if he can’t admit it, looked hopelessly out his depth.

Who knew health care was so complicated? I mean, gee Wally, I guess being a grown up is harder than it looks.

My prediction is that Mr. Trump – who is so thin-skinned he makes Mr. Ventura look positively indifferent to criticism – will do exactly what the governor did back in 2001; he’ll pull back from all this “governing stuff” and leave it to the Congress – and maybe his cabinet members – to deal with. Having suffered a body-blow of a loss, Mr. Trump will retreat to what he likes best – ceremonial photo ops with truckers, bikers, CEOs who announce jobs (real or not), rallies (though I’ll be interested to see how those crowds hold up for a guy who lent his name to a bill supported by 17 percent of voters), Mar-a-Lago and Twitter. The billionaire president is going to be positively cheap when it comes to spending whatever political capital he has left.

We’ll be able to assess the accuracy of my prediction in short order because in just a few weeks Congress will have to vote to increase the debt limit or risk a default by the U.S. government. The adults in the room – reported to be Mnuchin and Cohn when it comes to economics – will start issuing warnings. Speaker Ryan, cindered up to his well-toned biceps from the last 18 days, will be as firm as Jello and mostly ignored. Mitch McConnell will say…something. The Freedom Caucus will announce its unalterable opposition to raising the debt limit (but will back-channel that it can be bought for some draconian price), the Democrats will take the understandable (albeit not very grown up) position that since it’s the Republicans who control both both houses and the White House, it’s their responsibility to lead on the issue.

My guess – based on what I know of Mr. Trump and what the lesson of Jesse Ventura tells me – is  that while the risk of default builds, President Trump will hit the links, meet with Bill Gates (again), Kanye, the border patrol union, seventeen guys in the construction business and a collection of country-and-western stars. He’ll Tweet out stream-of-consciousness thoughts as he watches Fox & Friends and let Congress and his surrogates work it out (though he will never, ever again own their actions). If they’re able to work out a deal, then – and only then – will he show up for work. I suspect he’ll re-create the boardroom set from The Apprentice and make Ryan, McConnell and a player to be named later have to come pitch him to save the country’s credit rating. He’ll do it live. Steve Bannon will get a producer’s credit. The other Steve – the one with the bulging eyes and the spittle – will do the script.

What a profile in courage. What a change agent.  And it’s only two months in. Forty-six more to go.

  • Austin

 

 

GOP Front Runner in Iowa Too Liberal For Democrats

In some ways, it makes perfect sense that Republican activists would be attracted to a candidate like Congressman Ron Paul. After all, Paul wants to get rid of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and eliminate most protections for consumers, the vulnerable and the environment. Ten years ago, those outrageous positions would have horrified Republicans. Amazingly, today they are much closer to mainstream Republicanism.

But other Ron Paul positions simply do not fit the Republican mold. In fact, they’re much too liberal for the Democratic Party. You’d never know it from much of the news media coverage, but Congressman Paul also:

• Opposes most military involvement (including the bin Laden raid);
• Wants to slash military spending;
• Wants to legalize prostitution;
• Opposes federal laws to ban gay marriage and abortion; and
• Wants to legalize marijuana, cocaine, heroin and all other drugs.

THAT is going to be the choice of the hawkish evangelical patriots that are the backbone of the Republican Party? A war hatin’, Pentagon slashin’, prostitution promotin’, gay toleratin’, baby killin’, coddler of drug dealers?

I can’t see it. But if it happens, it will spark the mother of all GOP Party civil wars, pitting the libertarian wing versus the religious right wing, the military industrial complex wing, the flag waving wing and the moderate wing. I don’t like Paul’s odds in that fight.

Ron Paul’s current appeal reminds me of Jesse Ventura’s appeal in 1998. He represents a cathartic middle finger to the establishment. But as many a disgruntled Ventura supporter can tell you, the problem with voting for the middle finger is that you’re buying the whole body, not just that one finger.

– Loveland

‘We are extremely reserved right up until we walk up to the ballot box’

On the heels of Al Franken’s Minnesota State Supreme Court victory, David Carr has a great piece in the Times attempting to explain how Franken’s just-odd-enough persona fits well into the realm of Minnesota politics.

Yes, Minnesotans vote like crazy. At 77.8 percent, the state had the highest turnout in last year’s very busy presidential election. But yes, sometimes Minnesotans’ votes seem just plain crazy as well.

Other states, other voters, express alienation by staying home on Election Day. But Minnesotans take a more civic approach to their estrangement, showing up at the polls and replacing the bums with some choices that scan as odd from a distance. (We might mention that the Minnesota state bird is actually a loon, but there is other less avian evidence of Minnesotans’ idiosyncrasy.)

In Minnesota, there is a kind of populist approach that is less progressive than a reflex, a notion that politics belongs to citizens, and politicians only rent their positions.

The rest here.

If we’re as politically engaged as we seem to be, won’t the potential loss of a seat in Congress be devastating? I’m not excited about the prospect of less representation, but watching the cross-district battles that would ensue if we turned it down to seven would be a blast.

Mullet-Americans Rally Around Pawlenty

Mullet-Americans are “cautiously optimistic” about rumors that mulleted Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty may soon be named Senator John McCain’s vice presidential running mate.

“It would obviously be historic, and it could really balance the ticket, what with McCain’s embarassing lack of hair below the cervical vertebrae,” said mullet-American activist Billy Rae Cyrus.

Still reeling from the political demise of skullet-American Jesse Ventura and fem-mullet-American Hillary Clinton, mulleteers continue to claim Pawlenty as one of their own, despite allegations that he has recently scaled back on the party side of his do.

“Look, we understand that candidates have to ‘run to the middle’ in the general election,” said actress Florence Henderson. “Even I’ve had to moderate under pressure from the mainstream manes running the major studios. But we know Pawlenty will do the right thing once he gets in the White House.”

Mullet-Americans were once a proud and influential group in the 1980s, led by the likes of Ziggy Stardust, MacGyver, Michael Bolton, and Luke from General Hospital. But more recently, an ugly wave of mulletism pushed them into the margins of society.

“Great Clips has actually refused me service, and the ACLU just laughed about it,” said one mullet-American, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, due to fear for his safety. “It’s very emotional to think that some day I might see someone who looks like me attending obscure funerals and being appointed to toothless commissions.”

To understand the tremendous obstacles Pawlenty faces as he attempts to break through what many say is the highest and hardest glass ceiling, consider the hate speech directed at the mulleted minority: “Hockey hair, ten ninety, helmet hair, coupe Longueuil, haircut o’ death, neckwarmer, shorty longback, the 10-90, the Kentucky waterfall, the bi-level, the faded glory, the Ben Franklin, the Missouri Compromise, the Louisiana Purchase, the Camaro crash helmut, the business cut (business in front, party in the back), the LPGA, the soccer flip, the convertible, the Tennessee top hat, the Mississippi mudflap, the Canadian passport, the New Jersey neckwarmer, the Chattanooga choo choo, and the neck blanket.” In perhaps the ultimate insult to Minnesota’s Governor, the proud mullet is sometimes even referred to as “the Wisconsin waterfall.”

Though fossil records prove that homo sapiens with primative mullets have walked the Earth for at least 130,000 years, it was 2001 before the word “mullet” even appeared in dictionaries. The historical implications of a Pawlenty candidacy are not lost on beleaguered ape drape advocates.

“I do get emotional about it,” said Cyrus, whose own hind-heavy tresses have been referred to by mulletist hate groups as The Achy-Breaky Mistakie. “They can call us what they want, but come January, let’s just say there is going to be Pawlenty of hair facing east on the inaugural stage.”

– Loveland

The Powerless Puppeteer

I had to wait until Governor Jesse Ventura’s sidekick Dean Barkley formally filed his papers to run for the Senate before I could post this, lest I be the one accused of prompting Jesse to enter Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.

Well, it now looks like the deed is done. Barkley will seek the Senate, while Ventura will seek the surf.

There are so many ironies swirling around Governor Ventura, but perhaps the foremost one is this: The entity he whines about most incessantly — the news media — may very well be the entity he controls more completely than any elected official I’ve ever seen.

Last night was a classic case in point. What other politician gets a spot on prime time national TV to announce that they’re NOT running for office in a small flyover state? What other politician gets saturation media coverage both before and after the announcement? What other politician gets fawned over though the entire process by people he continually complains are vicious “jackals?”

But that’s just the latest chapter of Jesse controlling the news media like a heel in the ring.

Chapter 1. Has there ever been a modern Minnesota Governor who has won election with less news media scrutiny during the campaign? Granted, that happened because no one thought he could win until the very end. But it also happened because the media was head-over-heels in love with his steady stream of colorful quotes. Compared to his campaign rivals, Ventura clearly got a free ride from Minnesota reporters on the campaign trail.

Chapter 2. Has there ever been a modern Minnesota Governor who was at the outset of his Administration been given a more powerful bully pulpit by the news media? Reporters bestowed unto Ventura the media Midas touch. Most everything he uttered was front page, above the fold.

Sure, Governor Ventura faced media questions, just like any elected official faces questions. It wasn’t quite as scripted as wrestling. But let’s face it, when you say things like religious people can’t think for themselves, you want to be a 38dd bra when you’re reincarnated, and you support legalizing prostitution, you run a distinct risk of getting media questions.

But make no mistake, every political success Jesse Ventura has enjoyed is because he has had the news media in the verbal version of an inverted body vise. Last night when I heard Jesse blaming the media for being too mean to allow a Senate run, it was like hearing a puppeteer griping that his marionette is running roughshod over him.

Jesse’s bizarre conspiracy theories and egomaniacal ways prevent me from supporting him for any public office. But as a newly minted blogger who sometimes run low on material, I must admit I’m a little misty about the fact that the circus will not be coming to town after all.

– Loveland

Full disclosure: I have worked for a) one of Ventura’s opponents, Attroney General Skip Humphrey, though I left for a position in a PR agency a year before the election and b) the Ventura Administration, as a political appointee in the Minnesota Department of Health.

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