Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fisking* Dayton's Humphrey School Lecture

Recently Gov. Dayton gave a Lecture to the Policy Fellows of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs of which local media have agreed amongst themselves to release only the audio to date. Getting the video into the public domain, where it manifestly belongs, is an ongoing story about which more later.

For now, I wanted to Fisk* the address that the Governor gave. I asked the Governor's Office if the speech existed in written form and was told it did not. In fact, no written record of any of the Governor's speeches since taking office can be found because none exist. He has no speech writer. He writes his own speeches, his communications office told me, and it shows. That he can't be bothered with a writer to craft speeches with vision and substance is telling. To be fair, he gives the same, tired, intellectually fossilized speech just about everywhere. We don't really have a full time fully functioning Governor, do we?

What follows is my best understanding of what the Gov. said Sept. 12 based on the audio provided by MPR. It can be found by clicking here.

Dayton begins by thanking Vice President Mondale who is in the audience, remembers he was hired by him for then Senator Mondale's staff in 1975. He learned about keeping his commitments & integrity then, you see, in that land of Jurassic Park liberalism. To change one's mind is tantamount, in this man's fixed-in-amber mentality, to betrayal of integrity. He learned everything--once--decades ago under vastly different circumstances and he's good for life, thanks.

What he means is: being dipped in stupid long ago means he doesn't need to keep up with new ideas in or out of government. This epistemic closure will soon be championed by Dayton later in his speech.

The day before his Lecture was 9/11 and the Governor told the audience he realized that on that day in 2001: "we were in for a rough ride." Well, yes, thanks so much for noticing. "Nothing will be the same after this." Right again.

He then applies the dread of post 9/11 to the current situation in our state. Why didn't we think of that? Because when I think of a budget short fall or a bloated anachronistic state bureaucracy closed for a mere 20 days, it puts me immediately in mind of the Trade Towers smoldering with the ashes of more than three thousand of my countrymen.

Apropos of nothing, Dayton brings up the recent 1988 book by Paul Kennedy: The Rise & Fall of the Great Powers. Dayton appears to be smitten by this tired, dated, middlebrow work of alarm. Nothing he says in the speech indicates he's read anything more current.

After oversimplifying the book, Dayton says national collapse is what we have to guard against. I'm in. I'm expecting to hear the alarm bells of a 16 trillion dollar national debt but it never comes.

Instead, Dayton jumps back in time (leaving the present to reminisce about the past is a disturbing feature of this Lecture) to the Clinton years to praise a budget balanced two years in a row. He fails to note that such only happened after republicans gained control of Congress. The previous two years were full of deficit, to use an inelegant phrase. I wouldn't be surprised if the the Policy Fellows themselves didn't know this. They're not exactly an impressive lot, nor, one gathers from the current state of academe, could they be.

Next? We're in the senate with Dayton again. Um, ok! Doing my best to follow, sir, because none of this hangs together and you're not yet five minutes into the speech. The senate scenes are a mashup of Bush bashing but weirdly mostly of when Dayton and Bush were at Yale undergraduate together. What happened to 9/11? Don't know, don't ask. Dayton tells one of his few W. jokes and the trained seals all laugh. There must be some comfort in life.

Dick Cheney is also thrown into the Yale Memory Mix.™ We should start a Gov. Dayton store. We could stock it with the most interesting inventory.

Continuing to recall things in ways that no other can, Dayton channelled Bush, saying the latter looked at President Ronald Reagan taking us down "a path of fiscal irresponsibility and getting away with it" and W approved. What on earth is this man talking about? Fiscal irresponsibility? "Getting away with it" from whom? Where do you locate the slight? "Getting away with it?" Sounds punitive to me. Tell us more about what makes you angry, Governor. The Humphrey School is a safe place.

Oblivious to the economic boom under Reagan (how is that even possible?), Dayton lurches toward President George H.W. Bush's political suicide of raising taxes. Naturally he praises it but that's to be expected of a liberal. So far, so good.

Incredibly, Dayton then says this "got us back on that track to economic growth and he paid the price politically for doing so." This is simply delusional but because it involved a tax increase it was a per se good. We had more economic growth under Bush One than Reagan? Anyone who believes that should not be a governor of any state nor, for that matter, in politics in a serious way.

The thinking isn't even simplistic. There isn't any thinking. This is a series, so far, of emotional associations interspersed with improvisational remarks.

At this point in the Lecture, we're not listening, we're observing the performer.

And what one sees is not reassuring: a basic, profound misunderstanding of the most simplistic economic principles, eg, tax cuts "cost" the state because all of your money (except his & his family's) belong to the state in the first instance. This is so ingrained that when you bring it to liberals' attention they really don't know what you're talking about for some time.

Dayton's memories of annual family meetings "up north" to discuss & decide wealth management issues is fascinating and as such is nowhere to be found mentioned by the Pioneer Press, StarTribune, MPR, AP or any local television station of which I'm aware. Why not? It's like he's an out of touch rich white guy: that meme is right in the media's wheelhouse. But no, nothing. It's almost as if they are covering for this appalling performance. That can't be though: local media talk truth to power and everything!

That Bruce Dayton guy made a big impression on little Marky and he's lived to please that impression his whole life, with substantial collateral damage to the public good.

Dayton travels furthest back in time in the first half of the speech when he quotes approvingly from Walter Heller. Doubtless most local media had to Google the name. I had to catch my breath: Heller is from the Kennedy Administration! Dayton is an intellectual mummy. Could he hold a sustained conversation with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? No and we all know it. Forget running again in 2014; I worry he won't make it until then even with the media's complicity.

Why is the Governor sharing these political ink blots with us? He goes on to bemoan tax cuts in Minnesota which has set us on a downward spiral. This man is planning a revision of our state tax code after the November election. Could anything be scarier?

He sees the tax code as helping to "reward innovation and success." No thank you, sir. That's the function of the private market. Is it possible for you to stay out of it in any meaningful way?

The next disassociative moment came shortly after when he "shared" a memory from youth: his "one summer job" at Target. Oh dear. This must have been worse than the two year compulsory military service for men and women in Israel, no? Marky was tasked with inventory and all that counting made him bored! He didn't know how to handle boredom then and he doesn't still, only now we get that inability to shake boredom expressed as antiquated public policy notions foisted upon us in a speech the media won't release on video.

When he spoke about the national debt he only got it wrong by two trillion dollars: 14 instead of 16 (which, Guv, was set during the DNC if you were awake for any of it).  No, you may not have elemental competence in your Chief Executive Officer. Dayton governs so poorly he gets the debt wrong before policy fellows. This isn't even mailing it in.

Citizens can make up their own minds simply by listening to the speech. It's only 25 minutes long. But audio is a good way for media to pretend to transparency while knowing full well the images are what do the damage in such situations. One tee vee station aired 20 seconds and even that was painful. No wonder the public has not seen the video of the speech, yet.

Disjointed. Incoherent. Devoid of leadership or ideas for the next few years. Keep in mind the title of this Lecture was:

"Minnesota's Future: Opportunities & Challenges"

All Dayton offers going forward is a listening tour. Original! He says he expects to hear "some" about taxes in a sort of "see how I suffer for you" attitude. Taxpayers are a bother, you see.

Near the conclusion of this train wreck of a Lecture, Father Bruce Dayton makes another appearance for, you see, he told young Marky, older Mark Dayton informs his audience, that "if you're going to put all your eggs in one basket, you better take mighty good care of that basket."

Just what the hell is the Governor talking about? What basket? Why would we put them all in just one anyway? What has this got to do with our state's future? He then gets off a few sentences about the University of Minnesota (if we can just identify and support its essential missions then economic prosperity will return to the state) and abruptly concludes.

This was the Lecture to the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs Policy Fellows before Vice-President Walter F. Mondale and current University President Eric Kaler?

No goals are outlined. No detailed synthesis of his first two years in office is provided. No mention of why republicans believe what they do and what, if anything, he can do to move toward the majority party in the legislature. He reveals his profound misunderstanding of Obamacare in saying that because "they" couldn't raise taxes enough on millionaires "they" had to shift the tax to medical devices. Does Governor Dayton mean "they" as in the democrats who alone passed Obamacare? That they? What if in his own mind Dayton associates "they" with republicans? It's entirely possible; entirely that unwell.

Dayton is as economically ignorant as Obama but for different reasons. How lucky for Minnesotans to have failed executives on both the national and local level, together with a national and local media that seeks to protect them at all costs. Strange days.
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