Posted: 12/31/08 02:05
by Dave Mindeman
Here we go again. Time for the 3rd annual, Top Ten Worst Persons in 2008 Minnesota Politics. 2008 was a banner year for "worsts" and we got 10 of the best for your perusal. Whether you agree or disagree, you have to admit that this group had a major effect on Minnesota politics. Here we go:
#10. That Lizard People Guy. (aka, Lucas Davenport) Harmless joke? Maybe. But its more of a sign of disrespect. Disrespect for a process that is worth revering even if the choices of the people you vote for are not worthy of that reverence. This guy thought it was funny, and when the the media picked up on it, he was proud to come forward and own up to it. Sorry, buddy, but I don't get it. Maybe a comparison of the Lizard People to today's candidates might be, in some way, appropriate, but it is not appropriate for the process. Too many people have given a lot of time and energy to campaigns and too many people have died to protect the right to pull those levers to make a mockery of it. Of course, no one would be the wiser if this Senate race hadn't come down to a razor thin margin. Nobody would care about Lizard People or Flying Spaghetti Monsters under normal circumstances, but now that all of it is getting that 15 minutes of fame, you can rest assured that more of this disrespect will be filling the valuable time of local election officials in the future. In the end, the Lizard People guy's vote didn't even count because the canvassing board was afraid that somebody named Lizard People might exist. Well, Mr. Davenport, you might just as well have stayed home on election day and spared us all the lame joke.
#9. Betty McCollum/Patricia Lord Faris. If I really and truly thought that Betty McCollum's criticism of Al Franken's writings was based on some moral principle, then she would not be on this list. But I don't think that. Betty's objection was a callous attempt at an eleventh hour influence of the endorsement process. As a supporter of Mike Ciresi, she would not get on board in support of Al Franken...and even after the endorsement, her support was lukewarm at best. It was the type of criticism that turns a simple partisan GOP attack into a relevant media storyline with bi-partisan angles. McCollum has been around long enough to be well aware of that, yet just as the convention is about to render its decision, she is willing to risk such a divisive tactic. As we sit here and watch Minnesota try to determine its next Senator through a laborious recount process, you have to wonder how much of this was affected by McCollum's meddling. I think it was enough to warrant her inclusion on this list. As an extension of McCollum's interference, the candidacy of Priscilla Lord Faris was the coup de grace. With a campaign mantra that simply said "Franken Can't Win" (which would be ironic if he ends up winning anyway), Faris invested a tidy sum of her own money into anti-Franken commercials that would have made any GOPer proud. Here's hoping her brief candidacy was a one shot deal.
#8. Star Tribune Editorial Board/Avista Partners: Although more a commentary on media than politics, it is hard not to mention the contribution of the Star Tribune to the political scene in 2008. The Tribune is not the same anymore. A corporate coup d' etat has relegated the Star Tribune into another corporate mouthpiece and will probably simply hasten the demise of a once great newspaper. From memos that cut the knees out from under investigative reporting to editorial opinions that protect Avista Partners corporate interests, the paper has become a tool of its ownership. And as the profit dollars dwindle furthur, their answer is to slash any meaningful opinion columns so that we are left with a skeleton of a media entity....the bones picked clean. The last bastions of journalism have left the Star Tribune and now all we can do is watch the painfully slow disintegration of the remnants of Twin City newspapers. The only question left to answer is what will emerge from the ashes?
#7. Bob Anderson. Who? You probably know somebody named Bob Anderson, but I am talking about a particular one. The one who put his name on the primary ballot in the 6th District Independent Party race. The guy who made sure Michele Bachmann got re-elected. Now, normally, just simply running for the Independent Party primary endorsement wouldn't make you a candidate for the worst persons list. But these were special circumstances. The Independent Party had an endorsing convention and they chose the person that they would support. That was El Tinklenburg who also happened to be the endorsed DFL candidate. Since Tinklenburg could not appear as a candidate in more than one party election, the Independent Party would have no candidate -- until Bob Anderson showed up. Now Anderson probably had good intentions.... he had some good points on issues....but he had virtually no money or volunteer support and as often happens in Minnesota, the Anderson name still captures votes. Of course, there is no certainty that Tinklenburg could have won if Bob Anderson had kept his name off the ballot...no way to know. However, Mr. Anderson's little ego trip really gummed up the works. And in reality, if it was anywhere else besides the 6th District, it probably wouldn't be so noticeable. But as Michele Bachmann heads back to Washington, that 10% Anderson vote looms pretty large.
#6. Susan Gaertner. I don't know how involved Gaertner was in the preparations for the Republican National Convention, but she clearly has defended and condoned the overzealous police tactics that were in evidence before and during the convention. The wholesale roundup of people on the streets and the ridiculously elevated charges are hard to understand. Susan Gaertner has announced an early bid for the DFL endorsement for governor in 2010. But I am not certain who she is trying to impress with the tactics surrounding her office actions. Does she think she is touting some hard core, law and order personna? If so, it doesn't seem to be working. As Ramsey county attorney, she could have reigned in the borderline repressive tactics coming out of Sheriff Fletcher's office, but instead she has pushed forward with legal proceedings that have questionable merit. Maintaining order is one thing, but Gaertner's legal support of this type of policing has put her credentials as a viable governor candidate in question. Word of advice.....Better skip the convention and head for the primary.
#5. Marty Seifert. The golden tongued House minority leader had some great moments in 2008. He managed his job as obstructionist quite well and I am sure we can expect more of it in the future. Relishing his role as Governor Pawlenty's "firewall" in the legislature, Marty got a little overzealous in control of his troops. The break by the "override six" on the transportation bill caused one of the more unusual legislative retributions that anyone can remember. Doling out committee sanctions against those who would dare break with his wall of obstruction, he managed to fuel a conservative backlash that savaged these members of his own party. One retired and two others will not be coming back. In the 2008 election, the House lost two more seats and a reflective Seifert has said that type of tactic will be dispensed with in the future. Still, with the Senate in veto-proof DFL control, Rep. Seifert will be looking for "automaton-like" control of the remainder of his troops. Governor Pawlenty is counting on it.
#4. Norm Coleman. Our possibly soon to be ex-Senator Coleman had a banner year in Norm Speak. From domestic commercials at his house to possible money laundering from his "friend with a plane", Norm affected the 2008 political scene constantly. Norm and his cohorts set the negative tone for this race very early on. Targeting Al Franken from almost the beginning, the commercials got uglier and uglier. Little attention was paid to the issues or Norm's record as the obvious tactic was to make Franken the focus of the campaign. Norm also tried to twist attention away from his own little foibles. Whether it was dumping on Mark Olson to pulling back his commercials during the final phase (while the RNSC upped their own ante) to brushing aside the terms of his living arrangements to minimizing Kazeminy's lawsuit problems, Norm was the picture of political opportunism. The consummate politician without a conscience, Norm manipulated his voting record away from Bush when he needed to and took credit for everything from the Xcel Center to the I-35 Bridge rebuilding. And then as the topper, Norm called on Al to "do the right thing" and withdraw from pursuing a recount which Franken now has the lead in. And as an exclamation point, now that Norm is behind, he has called on court action and cherry picking absentee ballots to save his posterior. Norm has had quite a year....and you know what, in the end it is just Norm being Norm.
#3. Michael Brodkorb. The blogger of Minnesota Democrats Exposed always rates highly on this list. And this year is no exception. The master of negative campaign tactics, Brodkorb surged to new heights with the US Senate election. Pouring over an extensive array of Al Franken's past writings, Brodkorb would portray decades old commentary or writings and re-publish them as "breaking news" evidence of Franken's supposed character flaws. If Franken wrote it, it must be what Franken believes. And to Brodkorb's delight, people began to buy into it -- media, gleeful Republicans, and even some dubious Democrats. As Brodkorb continued the slide into the gutter, Coleman managed to hide behind that focus on Franken. Nobody discussed the Coleman voting record. Nobody examined his record on the war, his record on tax cutting for the wealthy, and the money coming in from big donors and interest groups. Nobody focused on his "friend with the plane". His ties to, and arrangements with, Jeff Larson. Brodkorb set up the perfect smokescreens and did the most to bring ugly to the ugliest campaign in recent memory. Brodkorb has become a folk hero to the GOP faithful, especially those who like that down and dirty style. And Brodkorb has been rewarded in a sense, getting a job with the State Senate minority caucus. Which means we will probably have more of that tactic in our future. The deep opposition research.... the character assassination.... the off topic maneuvering. So, you will probably see Brodkorb high on this list for the foreseeable future. UPDATE: Brodkorb has added a new partisan wrinkle by claiming that a live feed of the canvassing board deliberations by The Uptake is a coordination of the SOS with a "liberal blog". Even though the Uptake only shows video without commentary. Perhaps Brodkorb would like to go back to smoke filled rooms? You got cajones, Brodkorb.
#2. Tim Pawlenty. Now how in the world could a governor with a 55+% approval rating be on this list? Well, let's see. He has overseen Minnesota's worst economic performance in recent memory, with thousands of jobs lost. He had a major bridge fall down on his watch. He has had 2 commissioners removed, either by resignation or the State Senate. The legislative auditor has criticized his JOBZ program. The DNR partied on the state dole. An employee in charge of dealing with disasters is AWOL on the biggest one. And he will soon be dealing with the largest per capita state deficit in the nation. Pawlenty always has a good excuse for all that negative stuff. It is always somebody or something else's fault. From high taxes to gusset plates to DFL irresponsibilty to local government largesse to an economy out of his control. Governor Pawlenty has done a "great" job....he just has had too many others messing it all up. For years we have heard the excuses. And for years we have watched Minnesota decline. Pawlenty almost parlayed that "aw shucks" style into a Vice Presidential bid...but he got outgunned by Sarah Palin. Maybe that speaks volumes by itself.
#1. Michele Bachmann. Topping this stellar list is one of our "worst" favorites. She was tied for first with Carol Molnau last year, but in 2008 she has left all comers in the dust. She has done some great "worst" things in the past but 2008 has to be considered one of her "best" worst years. You know, some Congressional representatives would be satisfied with holding onto their seat and staying on top of constituent service. Not Ms. Bachmann. She wants bigger things. Like having oil companies drilling in every conceivable place. Protection of endangered species.....no, not animals....the incandescent light bulb. And investigating Congress for "unAmerican" activities. I don't doubt that Ms. Bachmann had to spend a lot of prayer time fending off the continuous "persecution" that she was beseiged with. But she did get noticed. After her "infamous" appearance on Hardball with Chris Mathews, Michele set all sorts of records for El Tinklenburg's fundraising. Amazing how a Joe McCarthy impersonation can stimulate the electorate. Fortunately (or unfortunately), Michele Bachmann managed to overcome herself and squeak out re-election in her 2008 race. It looks like her chances of staying on top of her "worst" game look pretty good for at least another two years.
That's all for 2008....have a happy New Year and let's hope 2009 has better things in store.