T-Paw and Rove: Let the speculation resume

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

The twin headliners of today’s closing session of the state Republican Party convention, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former White House master strategist Karl Rove, broke bread together this morning before the proceedings got underway.

Seated in a corner booth in the restaurant at the downtown Radisson, they conferred intently, interrupted intermittantly by cell phone calls and party functionaries seeking a handshake.

Rove, who famously steered Pawlenty toward running for governor six years ago, has been an informal, unofficial adviser to presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain, who, in turn, has reportedly penciled Pawlenty in on his short list of vice-presidential possibilities. Pawlenty, a national co-chairman of the Arizona senator’s campaign, has repeatedly brushed aside speculation that he’s angling for the job.

The noise level in the restaurant made it impossible to eavesdrop effectively on their conversation, so speculate at will on what they were schmoozing about.

GOP delegates send McCain backers to the convention in St. Paul

Friday, May 30th, 2008

The leadership of the Minnesota Republican Party decisively beat back an insurgent challenge this afternoon by supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul, dashing their hopes of sending Paul delegates to the national convention in St. Paul three months from now.

With 14 delegates up for grabs, Republicans backing de-facto nominee John McCain took all of them, after several hours of sometimes-bitter arguments and confrontations on the floor of the GOP’s state convention.

Boos, shouted protests and parliamentary maneuvers consumed several hours of the convention’s first day, delaying the formal endorsement of Sen. Norm Coleman. At one point, a shoving match broke out between a McCain supporter and a Paul backer.

Marianne Stebbins, a longtime party activist who headed Paul’s campaign in Minnesota, failed to be named a national convention delegate. Taking the podium before voting began, she implored her fellow Republicans: “We do think the party is losing its way … it’s strayed from its core principles. We’re hoping to recreate the 1964 Goldwater movement – he lost, but won the Republican Party back.”

Some Paul backers complained party officials unfairly stacked its slate of preferred candidates, a vetting process defended by party chairman Ron Carey. Serving as a national convention delegate “is not an entry-level job,” he said. “We looked at people who truly had quality, not just people who raised their hand at the last minute.”

Despite the raw emotions on display today, it wasn’t immediately clear how long the obvious fissures in the party will persist.

Not surprisingly, among the GOP heavyweights elected as national delegates were Coleman, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Minority Leader Marty Seifert.

A post-mortem on Ron Paul’s apparent setback at GOP convention

Friday, May 30th, 2008

With Minnesota’s Republicans on the verge of choosing their delegates to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, party chairman Ron Carey this afternoon defended the party’s treatment of presidential candidate Ron Paul and his supporters.

Party officials banned Paul from addressing their state convention today, a move Carey called “consistent with our party’s rules. “We have our presumptive nominee” in John McCain, he added.

Paul’s backers, who Carey estimated represent no more than a quarter of the delegates at the convention, were easily turned back in their attempt to change the convention rules, which would have made it easier to win some of the 14 national delegates that will be chosen later today.

Paul supporters in other states have been able to win delegate spots in an attempt to win Paul a speaking role at the national convention. “In other states, they fought tooth and nail,” Carey said. “Here, it was over and done with in five minutes.”

Even so, the convention was slowed to a crawl this morning with endless bouts of parliamentary wrangling. “They’ve had endless points of order that were not true points of order,” Carey said. “It was an intentional slowing of the process.”

He was somewhat conciliatory toward Paul’s supporters. “We want the Ron Paul people to be part of the party – they are part of the party. But the game’s been played and it was won by McCain.”

Wrangling over the Republican rules in Rochester

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul lost an initial parliamentary round at the state party convention late this morning, potentially making it less likely they will be able to elect delegates to the national convention in St. Paul.

The Paulites were unable to muster enough votes to change the convention rules that would have allowed delegates to be chosen with a plurality of votes, instead of an outright majority.

Although a few hundred Paul supporters rallied with their candidate this morning before the convention began, once it got underway, it was obvious they’re outnumbered by party regulars who support the candidacy of presumptive GOP nominee John McCain.

State convention delegates are scheduled to pick 14 national convention delegates later today. Two slates are being circulated in the convention hall, one supporting McCain and the other calling itself the “Conservative Conscience Coalition,” which includes several Paul supporters.

The convention has ground to a crawl, with delegates wrangling over several arcane procedural items, with some delegates bridling over party officials’ attempts to move the process along.

Quentin Reece, a delegate from Sherburne County, complained from the floor that party officials were ordering delegates on how to vote on items. “This is not a dictatorship,” he said. “People are telling people how to vote. This is not Zimbabwe.”

Ron Paul’s presidential campaign comes to Rochester

Friday, May 30th, 2008

The curtain was raised on the state Republican Party convention this morning on the lawn outside the Mayo Civic Center before the convention was even gaveled to order inside.

Presidential candidate Ron Paul told a few hundred of his supporters that his longshot candidacy will ultimately fall short to John Mc Cain’s, but he still hopes they will be able to play a part at the party’s national convention in St. Paul.

“If the votes aren’t there, we still have a role to play,” said Paul, a 10-term congressman from Texas. “We want to change this country. We want to change this party. Some we win, some we lose, but we may just have a grand presence in Minneapolis on Sept. 2nd.”

Even as Paul has lagged far back in the race against McCain, his backers have been accumulating national convention delegates in several states with a goal of securing him a speaking spot at the national convention. In Minnesota, they’ve already secured at least six delegates and hoped this morning to snag some of the 14 that will be awarded at the state convention.

Conceding “we don’t have the votes,” Paul said his campaign “for the freedom revolution will continue for a long time to come. We have the rightness on our side. We have the issues.”

Paul’s issues, a libertarian mix of anti-war, anti-tax, anti-big government stands, has attracted substantial grassroots support nationwide, which has allowed him to raise a substantial amount of campaign funds, mostly by way of the Internet.

His supporters, disenchanted with McCain’s supposed lack of conservative bonafides, are devoted to Paul’s cause, win or lose. “It ain’t gonna happen this time, but we’ve planted a seed and are going to keep at this revolution election cycle after cycle,” said Colin Wilkinson, a convention alternate from St. Paul. “I won’t be chattel – we either own the government or the government owns us.”

Paul staged the outdoor rally because Republican officials didn’t invite him to address the convention. But he worked the lobby of the convention hall, shaking hands, posing for pictures and autographing copies of his most recent best-selling book.

The delegate fight is expected to unfold later this morning.

A great Obama moment you won’t see on the highlight reel

Monday, January 7th, 2008

tice.jpgBarack Obama is riding high, largely on a wave of enthusiasm for his charisma, eloquence, and youth and his startling defiance of the race barrier.

Obama embodies “change” — the longing of the season — whichobama2.jpg at its deepest is a yearning for the feeling of change.

When Hillary Clinton keeps emphasizing her superior proven effectiveness at making change, meaning policy change, she isn’t so much wrong as simply missing the point.

But to give Obama his due, he at times demonstrates a difference that goes beyond the atmospheric and inspirational. At times he demonstrates the kind of understanding and candor about complex issues that shouldn’t be as unusual as it is.

There was a instance of this higher sort of “change” in Saturday night’s New Hampshire debate. The exchange (excerpted from the New York Times’ full transcript) went like this:


Is it ever okay to consider the cost of health care?

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

tice.jpgSaturday night’s New Hampshire debates were among the more substantive of the campaign.

Health care got a fair bit of discussion, and along the way moderator Charlie Gibson asked ahealthcare.jpg crucial question. Isn’t it true, he wanted to know, that significantly controlling health care costs will ultimately require limiting Americans’ access to some kinds of treatment?

He didn’t get any candid answers. But during a separate portion of the debate, John Edwardsjohn_edwards.jpg invoked a story that illustrates the hard choices Gibson’s question alluded to.

By way of (what else?) denouncing corporate greed, Edwards cited the death last month of 17-year old Nataline Sarkisyan, a California teenager. Suffering from leukemia, Sarkisyan needed a liver transplant after complications from a bone marrow transplant. Her insurance company refused to pay for what it considered, in her condition, an experimental procedure.

The company changed its mind in the face of protest and publicity, but the teen died before the procedure could be performed.

One can find a great deal of red-faced commentary on this case echoing the family’s view that the insurance company murdered the sick girl. Here, though, is a thoughtful report from the LA Times business section.

The essence of the situation appears to be that the transplant promised Sarkisyan a two-out-of-three chance of living six more months. The experts quoted by the Times seem to view its merits as a close call.

This website puts the cost of a liver transplant at between $100,000 and $400,000.


Is it perfectly clear that under these circumstances the costs of a liver transplant are justified?

What are the prospects for controlling the growth of health care spending if questions about the reasonableness of this kind of expenditure cannot be raised?

Clinton on Social Security: Is That A Fact?

Friday, October 26th, 2007

tice.jpgWe recently examined the GOP presidential candidates’ positions on Social Security, as revealed in a recent debate, and found them less than wholly impressive, although Fred Thompson scored a few points for candor.

The Democrats have been debating Social Security’s problems, too.

At a September 20 debate in Davenport, Iowa on Health Care and Financial Security, five Democrats (not including Barack Obama) took on the entitlements challenge.

One of the more provocative moments came when frontrunner Hillary Clinton charged that the Bush administration’s fiscal irresponsibility has cost Social Security 14 years of solvency — that is, brought the date when the Social Security Trust Fund is expected to be exhausted 14 years nearer.

Here’s the clip:

Watch the whole debate here. The Clinton statement is at 39:00 if you’d like to see it in context.

It’s a very strong claim — that Bush and congressional Republicans have shortened the life of the Social Security Trust Fund through irresponsibility and taking money out of the fund to finance the Iraq war and tax cuts for the rich.

Trouble is, it’s misleading at best.


Minnesotans of two minds, and haven’t fully made up either one

Monday, October 8th, 2007

tice.jpgWith today’s report from Kevin Diaz on Minnesotans’ latest thinking about Iraq, it becomes possible to assess the overall mood of the state as measured in the new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.

The mood is mixed, to say the least.

  • Pessimism about the war is running high, as is displeasure with President Bush and Congress, and the belief that America has gotten off on the wrong track. Those findings seem linked.
  • Meantime, Minnesotans are notably more at their ease about the way things are going in the state. They’re well satisfied with the performance of Gov. Pawlenty – especially in his handling for the bridge collapse. The Legislature gets good marks on the bridge, too.
  • There is surprisingly little alarm over the condition of Minnesota bridges, and no strong sentiment for hurrying to raise gas taxes to generate more>
  • Troubles in the mortgage industry have Minnesotans worried — about harm to the economy overall. But they don’t seem fearful about direct damage to their own situations.
  • Minnesotans aren’t that crazy about any of their U.S. Senate candidates.
  • The political moral heading into ’08 is surely the unsurprising one that the war and Bush — the quality of other candidates’ anti-Bush credentials or Bush-accomplice liabilities — are the pivotal issues on which the election will turn. On most other things, Minnesotans seem sanguine or uncertain.

    Obviously, this is not good news for Republicans. But events could complicate the analysis. Today’s numbers suggest that expectations for success in Iraq are now despairingly low. As a result, even very modest signs of improvement in Iraq could change the mood disproportionately, at least for a candidate who has put some distance between himself and Bush.

    Minnesotans are clearly unhappy and unhopeful about Iraq, but they’re not sure what to do about it. Respondents are evenly split on Bush’s current plan to return to pre-surge troop levels. Forty-six percent think it doesn’t go far enough, while 43 percent think it’s about right or goes too far — a difference well within the margin of error.

    All in all, Minnesota’s mixed mood is not an easy political putt to read. A politician probably wants to disconnect from Bush. He or she probably wants to strongly favor, well, some kind of change for the better in Iraq that reduces U.S. casualties and gets troops started on their way home. Beyond that, it gets tricky.

    As for the rest, Minnesotans don’t seem eager to be frightened. Fact is, we served up in this poll a battery of questions inviting respondents to fret about subjects that have received a lot of handwringing coverage. They didn’t join in, for the most part.

    The Myth of Red and Blue, revisited

    Thursday, October 4th, 2007

    tice.jpgHas Minnesota, like the rest of America, been torn into two alien and hostile cultures by an intense political polariziation without compare in recent times?

    That’s more or less the theory of respected politicalrednblue.jpg analyst Larry Jacobs in response to today’s Star Tribune Minnesota Poll story published on Politically Connected.

    The poll numbers show, among other things, a chasm between Minnesota Democrats and Republicans in their views of President Bush and their sense of how things are going in America.

    Says Jacobs:

    larry jacobs_1.jpg

    “This shows a hyperpolarization we haven’t seen in this state before. You didn’t see this kind of a gap between the parties even going back to the Vietnam war. This level of polarization is just historically extraordinary.”

    Rather than the purple amalgam of those who find themselves in the middle on most issues, Jacobs said, Minnesota may be evolving into more of a true red-blue state. On a map, he said, “it would look more like polka dots of hard-core Democrats and Republicans, living in parallel universes.”

    The parallel universes theory of modern America has been around for a few years now. Lots of smart people ascribe to it, and maybe they’re right. Anyhow, its resurfacing today puts me in mind of a project the Star Tribune published in 2004, written by founding Big Questioner Eric Black and former Star Tribune political reporter Dane Smith, with polling guided by former Minnesota Poll director Rob Daves. Your humble servant was the project editor.

    We conducted a special poll and studied other evidence and came away somewhat skeptical about the depth of the Red-Blue divide across modern America. As the story put it:

    “The good news is that the chasm isn’t as deep, as new or as scary as all that…. The political center is not disappearing…. And most of us dislike … partisan all-or-nothing-ism.”

    I think it is safe to say that all of us involved with that project have on occasion wondered in the three years since whether our soothing contrarianism was justified.


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