Had the opportunity to attend a Minnesota Gubernatorial debate at my Synagogue on Sunday, a very exciting day for the local Shul. For me, a member of the congregation, it was a lot like the High Holidays at the Temple, the place was packed with people who I don’t know.
Ah.. I knew a few.
So uh, what were my impressions from the debate, glad you asked.
Any reader of this space knows of my leftie leanings. I’m an old liberal no question about it. I typically vote for Dems, and would so again EXCEPT..
Mark Dayton. I can’t fathom how this guy got to where he is. Then again, where is he? He’s a rich guy, He’s also a one term Senator who left the Senate with his tail between his legs. This debate only reinforced what I’ve been thinking about Mr. Dayton, he has issues. Like, issue issues. Yale? Really? The guy had a difficult time putting sentences together. If this is the best that the DFL can put up in Minnesota they should close up shop. His answers were all over the board, and at times incoherent as the stumbled through his words. Dude is a mess.
Policy wise, when I could understand him, Mark kept up with the tax the rich mantra, despite the fact that his plan still leaves a massive deficit in any state budget you could create. On fiscal responsibility, Dayton had nothing to say. Nada. He’s the worst example of politician out of touch with reality that I’ve ever seen. I mean, even we dyed in the wool liberals who pine for national health care and Gay marriage should realize that we have to prioritize our spending, there’s only so much money.. clearly we’re going to have to raise some taxes and we’re also going to have to make some really harsh cuts. It’s how things work. From a Liberal standpoint I’d protect different things than my conservative friends, early childhood education for example. But I know, we have to make some cuts.
Dayton came off Sunday looking stupid. I’m not being harsh, or pulling punches, he actually looked like he was stupid. I found his habit of referencing Paul Wellstone in many of his answers to be especially troublesome, didn’t the party learn ANYTHING at Wellstone’s funeral? Politicizing the dead is distasteful at best. The What Would Wellstone Do, especially so. I’d rather not vote than vote for him. Serious.
Nuff on Dayton.
Tom Emmer. I went into the debate filled with angst and vitriolic hate for Tom Emmer. I had him pegged as a neo-con who would be rounding up illegal’s and the indigent, shutting down NPR, the Guthrie and the University of Minnesota while making my kid learn the Lords Prayer in school.
In person, I actually found myself agreeing with many of Emmer’s points, especially around two things. I agree with him 100% that in these times, there has to be some dramatic cuts in government spending. We just don’t have the money to sustain what we’re doing. The revenues aren’t there.
I also agree with him, although I’m not as close to the numbers, that putting a hold on spending to current levels for a few years would seriously help to close the budget gap. He claimed some eye-popping growth rates in our spending, in some cases he said better than 30% annually. If true, he’s dead on. A very interesting point he made, just keeping the state government at the current size for 4 years would turn our deficit into a multi-billion dollar surplus. Interesting that Mark Dayton countered this with a statement that 200,000 people move to Minnesota every year, and we need to grow our budgets to account for them. That’s worth a fact check, I can’t imagine that many people coming here, especially these days.
He also claimed that every dollar cut hurts a real person. Nice but I have no patience for that “kill’n babies” argument.
I would suspect that Emmer had been coached to really down play the right wing rhetoric given the audience. He stuck to fiscal issues, he claimed not to want to “cut to the bone” he only wanted to curb growth and spend “ to our means”.. all which makes sense on the surface. Problem is, and this was the feeling in the Jewish section where I was sitting, which would be almost all 700 people in attendance, which Tom Emmer are we seeing here? Is real this the Tom, a compassionate conservative who is all about shrinking government in reasonable way? What happened to the Gay baiting, immigrant hating, school voucher supporting Christian conservative we saw in the endorsement process? I can’t help think he’s just under the skin.. A skin, not be caddy, that from my vantage point, looked an awful lot like Jay Leno, minus the gross chin.
One interesting point, when asked about his early support of the Arizona immigration laws, something the Jewish Community has been almost unified in their opposition too, Emmer made the statement that “we have all the laws we need to enforce immigration policy in Minnesota and we would not need an Arizona type law here”. He must have known, and if he didn’t on the drive over, when he heard our Rabbi’s opening remarks about all of us being immigrants and how our synagogue, which is 2 years older than the State of Minnesota, built and continues to support Neighborhood House, an organization supporting immigrants needs, he would have figured it out.
I suspect that Emmer was in fact, at some level playing to the audience. I will say he did a good job and I no longer think an Emmer victory would precipitate my family having to move, especially since we’re sort of running out of places to go, the Right is on the march and I’m scared..
Finally, Tom Horner. Bias aside, I thought Tom did the best out of all of them. For one thing, he had some pretty good humor and had clearly done his homework on the Jewish Community, although at times he was trying to hard. Reminding us to write 5771 on our checks and not 5770, that was sort of unnecessary.
Tom needs to portray himself as a choice between to party operatives with out coming off like a middle of the road no opinion piece of road kill. I thought he did a pretty good job in that respect. Many times he articulated opinions and policies that took the best from both parties and provided a clear choice. He avoided rhetoric and tried to stick to facts, which for the most part we’re accurate as far as I could tell.
On the issue of closing the budget gap he actually chastised both parties for their inability to even agree on the cause of our financial woe. He presented options that would raise some taxes, clothing for example, he was against Dayton’s “tax the rich” policy, correctly pointing out that raising personal income taxes in a recession is a mistake. He also was against Emmer’s idea that budget cuts alone could close the gap. In short, reasonable. I like reasonable.
One interesting issue/comment. When the candidates were asked, in a question clearly targeted at the audience, “Would you be in favor of continuing to expand trade with Israel?” This was a thinly veiled way to see of these guys were on the current divestment jag that we’re hearing from the anti-Israel folks. Compare Israel to South Africa and delegitimize their existence.
Dayton had the simple answer, “yes I would”. Thanks Mark, NEXT. Emmer went into a discussion about how we should “learn from Israel”. Apparently Tom is under the impression that Israel supports entrepreneurs by keeping taxes low and not trying to regulate business. “that’s the environment we need to create in Minnesota”. I’m sure that the Israeli’s in the audience were absolutely stunned to hear they pay low taxes and have no regulations. Israeli’s pay absorbent taxes, they have a huge defense budget and universal heath care. They’re also highly regulated in the European model, they regulate everything, including consumer prices. They basically come from a Socialist model. Emmer needs to go back and brush up on Israeli economic policy.
Horner, in contrast did a great job pointing out that the secret to success in Israel is really about education. They have one of the most highly educated work forces in the world and as such are a incubator for new ideas and new businesses. And, he also pointed out, they have strong early childhood programs, rigorous science and mathematics curriculums and outstanding higher education.
The debate reinforced my thoughts on Horner, and I’ll continue to support him. I’m no longer afraid of Emmer, and I still think Dayton is a moron. I would point out that collectively I’ve been very impressed the civility of these candidates. This was their 19th debate of the season. 19!!! My own congressman, John Kline refuses to debate his opponent, Shelley Madore. I also really appreciated that the three were very respectful of each other and seemed to sort of like each other, there was no bickering, stupid banter, it was all very civil. On the other hand, the I picked up two comments from the folks around me that probably captured the general feeling of the crowd.
From the older man to my right “How stupid to these guys think we are? They don’t answer anything?”
And, from the woman in the lobby, to her husband “If these are the best three candidates this state can come up with.. oy vey”