Date: April 9, 2004
Subject: Shocked!

In the film classic Casablanca, Claude Rains as Captain Renault says, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" — immediately before his tirade is interrupted so he can receive his roulette winnings.

In an April 8 editorial, the PiPress is shocked, shocked that the Republicans in Saint Paul are calling DFL opposition to two Pawlenty appointees, Carol Molnau as Commissioner of Transportation and Cheri Pierson Yecke as Commissioner of Education, "gender bias." The editorial says that "Arguments about gender bias are a ridiculous foil" and "absurd."

Well, duh!

Ridiculous foils and absurd charges are the currency (small change if you will) of Capitol discourse. My personal favorite example is House Minority Leader Rep. Matt Entenza's press conference announcing that the Taxpayers League of Minnesota is Minnesota's "shadow government." They held the press conference with the twin towers of Carlson Center in the background (the Taxpayer's League actually shares some modest office space in a low-profile building down the street), and at least one TV station brought cameras inside the office to find TLM president (shadow governor?) David Strom at his windowless office desk. It was great political theatre. Hats off to Rep. Entenza, he made his point, but we all know how serious he was (not).

If you can get past the PiPress's mock shock, you'll find some actual insight in the editorial:
A better discussion centers on the benefits of having a deliberate confirmation process. If its initial purpose was to prevent cronyism in government appointments at the highest level, it appears to be working...Pawlenty is correct that his appointees are charged first with carrying out his wishes...Consequently, the debate from Democrats has as much to do with the governor's policies as it has to do with the commissioners who embrace those policies...Pawlenty has the right to name commissioners who will carry forward his vision for the state. If Yecke, Stanek or Molnau are forced out, there are 30 more like them waiting in the wings. Democrats know that. [Emphasis added.]
The DFL is calling Pawlenty's hand and raising the stakes by opposing some of Pawlenty's commissioner appointments and passing a bill that would dismiss 38 of his assistant commissioners. Don't be shocked that there's gambling going on in here. It's how the game is played.

The Senate Education Committee holds its second and final hearing on the confirmation of Cheri Pierson Yecke as Commissioner of Education next Tuesday, April 13, 3:30 p.m., in the circular Room 15 Capitol.