Thursday, January 31, 2008
Governor to Stay Put
One of the most popular indoor sports in this political town of Lansing is the, "Where are they going next?" game. When he was governor, Bill Milliken was mentioned as a Vice Presidential candidate as was ex-governor John Engler. There was speculation that former Gov. Jim Blanchard would end-up in the Bill Clinton administration and he did. Which brings us to the current occupant. The Detroit Free Press and scribe Dawson Bell offered the latest installment centering on speculation that if somebody named Clinton got to the White House, somebody named Granholm might follow her there. "I laughed. Laughed loudly," reveals First Gentleman Dan Mulhern when he read the piece. Hubby Mulhern noted that the aforementioned Mr. Bell and his spouse are not exactly buds. He "has not been a great cheerleader for the governor and (it's not like he and ) the governor talk all the time and he got some inside scoop." This is not the first time this issue has come up regarding a spot for Granholm in a Clinton White House number two. She addressed it head on last October on Michigan Public TV. Asked, "Will you serve out your term?" Pressed for more than a yes, she offered, "I don't want to go to Washington. I'm not interested in Washington. I'm not a quitter." "She's a finisher. She likes to get the job done and there's a lot to do here," he picks up where she left off. To be governor now, as he warms to he subject, is a "tremendous opportunity and obligation so she's going to see it out." So she won't go to Washington? "Maybe in four or six years, but she's here…She's going to see it out." Guess that puts it to rest. But there's a funny thing about this "Where are they going next?" game: The more denials, the more the speculation.
Care to play?
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Head Nodding Time
Even if you can't stand Governor Jennifer Granholm, and you know you are, suck it in and give her a pat on the head for pulling off one of her best State of the State messages, yet. You can quibble with some of what she said, but you can't argue with the way she went about saying it. Look it. Most SOS's are easily forgotten. What is remembered is the symbolism and on that front the governor had one objective: To turn the page on 2007 when she and the legislature created one negative headline after another as they squabbled over tax hikes and budget cuts. It was more than ugly. It was disgraceful, and she as much said so. She acknowledged that folks like you were angry. She said she was too but she hoped on board the Straight Talk Express and made this concession, "But let's be honest---that anger is aimed at us, too." What the people got was "partisan rancor…." Even if you can't stand Jennifer Granholm, your head should be nodding. She finished that line and drew another one in the sand. "I'm calling on you to join me in an era of unprecedented cooperation for historic progress." And then she stared beyond the TV lights into the eyes of the 148 lawmakers sitting in front of her and delivered this penetrating line, "Will you join me?" As if surprised at the directness of her question, everyone sat there for a second and then, realizing they had no choice, they jumped to their feet in an affirmation of her question. They would join her--- both democrats and republicans. And then in a masterful bit of showmanship, she put a point on the challenge by shaking the hand of Senate GOP Leader Mike Bishop of Oakland County; then the hand of Lt. Gov. John Cherry and she rounded out the symbolism by grabbing the hand of House Democratic Speaker Andy Dillon. Her message was clear. Even if you can't stand Jennifer Granholm, your head should be nodding. And then she highlighted one issue after another that had universal appeal. Republicans had no choice but to stand up on most of them. She wanted a bi-partisan picture for the folks in TV land and she got it. Finally, she had one more challenge. "This is not a time for procrastination or for partisan nonsense. It's a time for just one thing: for us to fight for Michigan's future. "Partisan nonsense." A rough line but, given what she and the legislature gave he state last year, it was dead on.
Your head is nodding, right?
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Tuesday Jan 29 Blog
Gov. Jennifer Granholm wades into the Michigan House later today (Tuesday) to deliver her sixth State of the State assessment. (See it on WTVS-TV at 7 p.m.) Traditionally the sitting governor always makes a declaration that the State of the State is (fill in the blank.) But in recent years she has avoided the tradition for obvious reasons, the State of the State stinks, and the always rosy-eyed governor just can't bring herself to admit it. She should. Even though she is not John McCain, citizens deserve a little straight talk on the economy. In a pre-emptive strike the senate republicans, lead by Oakland County's own native son Mike Bishop, trotted out the senate GOP agenda for 2008 last Thursday. It was pretty much a rehash of what they've wanted for years including more alternative energy, less government, more jobs, bla, bla, bla. The real story however had nothing to do with content in the news conference. The fascinating twist, unreported by the MSM, was who was not there i.e. Rep. Craig DeRoche a fellow Oakland Countian and leader of the GOP caucus in the Michigan House. There's another tradition in this town that when the governor does his or her thing, the party not in power is always given a chance to stand united and offer the loyal opposition's assessment on where the state is headed. But Bishop and company were standing without DeRoche. Maybe his invite got lost in the mail? Baloney. He was left out on purpose. DeRoche is politically out of step with Bishop and frankly Mr. B. wants very little to do with Mr. D. right now. Ever since DeRoche and his fellow R's lost control of the Michigan House last year, he has been on a mission to regain control and has framed virtually all of his legislative moves with that in mind. Give him credit from a crass political standpoint, Roche is relentless in his pursuit but many folks in town believe he has marginalized himself by focusing on his political agenda all the time while giving only lip service to doing the people's business first. He would staunchly disagree with the observation, but others would whisper it's true but never to his face. Of course, nobody in the Bishop inner circle will publicly admit this for fear of bursting the myth that republicans are all on the same page. So when it came time for the GOP news conference on the New Year agenda, there was Bishop while DeRoche was off doing something else. And when it came time for the GOP to put together a video statement that will follow the governor's SOS tonight on public TV, DeRoche was left out of that, too. Bishop will do the honors all by his lonesome. Both of these guys have aspirations for higher office, but have obviously reached different conclusions on how to get there. For the time being, the Bishop camp is sending every signal that it is willing to work with the democratic governor to move the state forward. "I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts," Bishop confided the other day as he basked in a new atmosphere of bi-partisan camaraderie with the front office. DeRoche, who by the way was not invited to a private sit down dinner with the governor, Speaker Andy Dillon and Bishop recently, is on a different path and apparently the phrase bi-partisan cooperation is not part of his lexicon.
Monday Jan 28 Blog
God bless the Blogosphere which is the electronic equivalent of the town hall meeting without the town or the hall. But not so fast with the blessing for those who show up to play fast and loose with the facts just because it fits their political agenda. And that applies to practitioners from both the right and the left of the political spectrum. Case in point. The conservative blog known as RightMichigan, had a field day recently with one of its favorite whipping boys, the democratic Speaker of the Michigan House Rep. Andy Dillon from Redford. Dillon was on a panel recently in front of a bunch of road builders and others who want to get their hands on your wallet to build and repair the highway system. There's been some chatter at the state capitol recently about raising the gas tax to do it. Dillon was asked if he would allow a vote on boosting the gas tax in the Lame Duck session of the Michigan House. Lame Duck is held after the November election when everyone is safely reelected and there is little fear of a voter's revolt. Dillon volunteered that such a vote was "probable." Note that he didn't say there would be a vote nor did he say he supported a gas tax hike. All he said was there might be a vote. But moments later, when it sunk in that what he said might be misinterpreted, he tacked this on, "The probability is not necessarily on one particular tax, but it's the desire to get the funding necessary to address the problem." So putting his two statements together, you got the feeling that Dillon wanted to vote on some form of revenue for the roads but not the gas tax per se. RightMichigan, somehow, got a hold of the Dillon comments but it did not run both statements. Instead writer Nick DeLeeuw took to the blogasphere with a lead paragraph that boldly stated the Dillon "was going to take a vote" on the gas tax in the Lame Duck. The statement was patently not true, but there it was for unsuspecting folks to read including Oakland County Commissioner Eileen Kowall of White Lake. After she read the bog, she hurriedly dashed off a nasty press release denouncing Dillon for telling the gathering that "his caucus WAS (emphasis added) going to take a vote on raising the gas tax but not until after the general election in November…." Later on she pointed out that Dillon did say the vote was "probable" and RightMichigan reported the same thing. Maybe these guys flunked dictionary, but "probable" does not mean there will be a vote. Did RightMichigan or Kowall call Dillon to get his side of the story? Did RightMichigan or Kowall call the group that sponsored the event to get its take? Did Right Michigan or Lowell call the moderator of the panel discussion to get his observations? Look it. If anyone has a beef with Mr. Dillon, they certainly have a right to air it, but just because you don't embrace somebody's political leanings, that is not an excuse to print misleading statements without at least giving the poor slug a chance to defend him or herself. Is there an amen from anybody out there? Tried to get one from Mr. DeLeeuw, but he is totally comfy with not presenting all sides of the story as he argues Dillon was only attempting to "muddy the waters" with his clarification statement. "If anyone in the blogosphere tells you that he doesn't have a bias or that his bias doesn't affect what he writes about, then he's lying to you. But there's nothing wrong with having a bias either. The blogosphere is a different place than the realm of traditional journalism," he suggests. This blogging stuff is a revolutionary way to stimulate public discourse, and boost participation in the democracy, but let's be blunt, this is the Wild Wild West. If you've got a P.C. you're an instant journalist.
Welcome to the club but with admission comes some responsibility to try to get the story right. Trying to get it right may sound old fashion, but without that standard some readers may be mislead and that does a disservice to our democracy. For bloggers who adhere to the philosophy, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story, go to your room.
Tell Us How You Really Feel
You're a state lawmaker who voted for a tax increase. You knew it would not be popular back home, but in your heart, you concluded it was the right thing to do. You also knew it might cost you your job in Lansing, yet you did it. Welcome to the world of about a dozen state legislators who fit that profile and now, indeed, they could be bounced from office. Maybe. Let's put a face on one of those who is targeted for recall. His name is Steve Bieda a democrat from Warren. He chairs the House Tax Policy committee and has compiled quite an impressive record for having only five years on the job. Bieda forged a coalition of house democrats and republicans to rewrite the state's antiquated and much maligned Single Business Tax. It was not an easy assignment but through thick "Their leader of this group is somebody who likes to run his mouth a lot, and has been a lot of bluster on this, but I don't take threats lightly. I've always been a fighter (who) was not sent here and thin, he helped to get the job done. Next came the hotly contested battle last year over the income tax and sales tax. Bieda put up a yes vote and the leader of the recall movement put Bieda's name on the list. Up until recently, Bieda has kept his mouth closed, but then out of nowhere the other day, with the frustration apparently building inside, he unloaded on recallers and former Rep. Leon Drolet who is now a Macomb County Commissioner. The comments were startling coming from a rather mild-mannered, Clark Kent kinda guy, minus the cheaters and the phone booth. The interview did not take long. It started innocently with Bieda boldly predicting he would not be removed from office and then, without prompting, he added this: "And we have these clowns on the side, and I call them clowns and no insult to clowns intended, because they are people largely…they are on the fringes of American politics, of American society, and frankly, I think they're on the fringes of humanity. I don't like them, though," he concluded. Then he sort of smiled, as he warmed to the subject seemingly pleased that he finally had a chance to speak his mind. "Their leader of this group is somebody who likes to run his mouth a lot, and has been a lot of bluster on this, but I don't take threats lightly. I've always been a fighter (who) was not sent here to sit on my hands or hide under the desk." Drolet was amused and added his own commentary when he heard the Bieda broadside. "If those who oppose unchecked growth in government spending are clowns, send in the clowns," he argues. So who is the clown here? Bieda or Drolet?