Monday, April 12, 2004

Musings on the Molnau and Yecke Confirmations, plus a New Feature Announcement

This is the first in a series of posts that will be looking to see if the Minneapolis Star Tribune actually practices the civility it often asks for in it's editorials. My suspicion is that they more than occasionally fail, as witnessed by this editorial from the Easter Sunday OpEx section, where the editors are urging the state Senate to reject the governor's choices for Transportation commissioner (Carol Molnau) and commissioner of education (Cheri Pierson Yecke).

The Star Tribune concedes both women are qualified for their jobs. The Star Tribune also considers them competent to hold the jobs. However, the Star Tribune has decided these women should be rejected because in the Trib's words:
While each is clearly qualified, Yecke's views and policies on education and Molnau's on transportation lie well outside the mainstream. Nothing in Pawlenty's campaign led voters to expect the extreme course these commissioners have steered.

So how does the Trib define mainstream?
Start by understanding that the Senate has legitimate advice-and-consent powers meant to check a governor's excesses. To a wide range of Minnesotans, not just to Democrats, the policies of these commissioners are excessive. Few imagined that Pawlenty would select an education commissioner whose views and management style would so thoroughly antagonize teachers, administrators, parents and educational experts. Few knew he would hand the transportation portfolio to his lieutenant governor, who for years led the Legislature against any long-term commitment to a balanced roads/transit solution to metro traffic congestion. Pawlenty's thin mandate -- 44 percent -- allows for a right-of-center administration, certainly, but not a radical one. Properly seen, this is not a Democratic-Republican confirmation battle but one that pits pragmatic, mainstream Minnesotans of both parties against the ideological right.

Apparently, out of the mainstream is defined as advocating policy the Star Tribune and the special interest groups of like mind disagree with. However, these are differences of policy, and these nominees have been nominated by a governor who supports those policy positions. The editorial board needs a reminder of following facts: the Republican party controls the governorship, holds a large majority in the state House of Representatives, are within 3 votes of controlling the state Senate, and hold all state elected constitutional offices except Attorney General. Unless the Strib's position is that the people were too stupid to know what kind of politicians they were voting for, the notion that the GOP sold Minnesotans a bill of goods is ridiculous. If the people of Minnesota don't like these policies, they will have opportunity to have their say on it in 2004 and 2006, by deciding to retain or replace the current Republican office holders. In the meantime, those Republican office holders mostly represent the majority view of Minnesotans. If they hadn't, they would not have been elected.
After airing their complaints about Yecke and Molnau, the Star Tribune went on to opine:
Only when civic-minded Republicans disavow their own Taliban can a civil debate proceed.

This is a disgusting, offensive comparison. To compare what right now is arguably the majority party in this state, placed in elected office by a free, fair democratic process to a bunch of civilization hating religious fanatics is truly beyond the bounds of the civilized argument as well as showing a level of intolerance and pettiness that (according to the Star Tribune) is only shown by conservatives. Hence the start of a repeating item - the Star Tribune Civility Watch. The "Newspaper of the Twin Cities" has on many occasions called for a more civil political discourse here in Minnesota. The purpose of this feature will be to point out when the Star Tribune fails to meet its own standards. Unfortunately, I expect a lot of examples.

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