Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Minnesota…A Battleground

Putting aside personal feelings, the battle for the Senate seat currently occupied by Tina Smith is going to emerge as one of the most hotly contested races in the nation. Klobuchar will have an easy ride thus allowing both parties to focus on the Housley, Painter, and Smith competition.

Overall, Democrats may feel comfortable with a seven point lead in the generic ballot when respondents are asked which party they would prefer to control Congress. Unfortunately, that number does not factor in the effects of gerrymandering which heavily favors the GOP and will have an effect on control of the House.

But that seven point lead does clearly help the Democrats on the Senate side. One element that could be key is the level of enthusiasm. Karin Housley, a strong Trump supporter, will benefit because the election could well be seen as a referendum on the impeachment of Trump thereby exciting the Trump base. Richard Painter, if he is the DFL primary winner, will also have it because he has long been a key anti-Trump figure on the national level and that will turn out the Democrat base.

The real question mark is Tina Smith who scores poorly in the enthusiasm contest. Worse still is the fact that she currently trails Housley in at least one credible internal poll. That has created considerable nervousness among national Democratic leaders who very much want control of the Senate. Their interest in Richard Painter is increasing.

All three candidates are relatively unknown to the voters and all these current impressions could easily change. However, for the incumbent to be in this position bodes poorly for her.

Elections tend to be about the incumbent’s record and, in this case, that is largely unknown. Richard Painter, a highly skilled attorney, is already raising questions about the role of foreign interests in the proposed copper mining controversy in northern Minnesota. Governor Dayton has publicly wondered aloud about the conflict of interests involved. What precisely is he referring to? Regardless, Smith, as the incumbent, is going to have to play a more public role in this budding controversy. The environmental vote could be pivotal. 

And the public monies that have been poured into the U.S. Bank stadium while shortchanging education is certainly a rising concern. This will become more visible as Tina Smith’s negotiating role on behalf of the Governor is examined.

Further complicating her mission is that there still is some bitterness over the departure of Al Franken and the lack of due process. Many Minnesotans feel that the Governor should have appointed a placeholder and thereby allow an open and competitive process to take place. And the role of New York Senator Schumer in “advising” the Governor remains a concern. In this instance, being an insider and a benefactor may not be an asset.

How quickly she gets out in front of these issues may well be key to her survival. But the bottom line is simple:  That Senate seat is up for grabs. All candidates would be well advised to bring all their concerns out early and deal with them in robust public debates. Good public policy requires openness and full disclosure so we, the public, can be properly informed.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Scribes…. we can do better.

Leadership that moves man towards betterment is always aspirational. It is not only the foundation of religion but of all human endeavors.

Those of us who lived through World War II so well remember the inspiration of our leaders, Roosevelt and Churchill. Students of American history can recite the Gettysburg Address. And we all recognize that our human struggle for equal acceptance and opportunity is based on the words of Martin Luther King.

The Women’s March of January 2017 raised expectations of a younger generation and brought to all of us a new sense of duty in the world of Trump.

But much of last night’s Correspondence Dinner featuring comedian Michelle Wolf was a step backward. We, the public, had a right to expect the best in humor and satire reflecting appropriate standards. Instead, a divided nation received mean-spirited digs and unadulterated filth masquerading as humor.

There can be no doubt that there is anger towards President Trump and that is totally understandable. However, the answer cannot be to replicate the unacceptable but rather to reach upward as Michelle Obama has advised and take the high road. Let’s showcase the best in America.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Barbara Bush – the First Lady of America

Today we said goodbye to Barbara Bush. In this age of the scripted message, her candor and humor was refreshing.

How well I remember the Presidential campaign of 1992 when Barbara Bush came to Minnesota to promote her husband’s candidacy. After several appearances marked by a high level of candor and wit, we found ourselves in an unoccupied room and enjoyed in a memorable conversation. Almost before we started, she blurted, “Oh, sometimes I wish George would lose.” We both laughed. She was simply expressing an honest thought felt by every political spouse.

Looking back, I was struck by two elements of her being. The first was her remarkable ability to make people feel at ease. She was so comfortable in her own skin that it radiated a comfort to others. There was no pretense. You got what you saw and that was truly wonderful.

The second aspect was her interest in you. She never boasted about herself or her family. Rather, the conversation was about you and your thoughts. The older I become, the more I realize the rarity of that quality.

During our chat, I shared with her my thoughts on historical transitions. She was clearly interested. That evening, I received a call from the President wanting to know more about these transitions. Clearly, they were a sharing and caring couple.

Barbara Bush set a standard for us regarding truth and our obligation to the future. The best way for us to demonstrate our affection for this splendid lady is to put the truth and the wellbeing of others before self.

Thank you, Barbara….

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Richard Painter – A Quick Draw

Part of growing up is learning to be very selective when engaging in combat. Hugh Hewitt, a national conservative talk show host, learned his lesson. Monday night (April 2), Hewitt, not only defended the rather limited ethics of EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, but also went on to suggest that Richard Painter, his adversary on the show, was in Minnesota because he could not cut it in Washington. Painter, who served President George W. Bush as chief counsel in charge of ethics and is currently a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, quickly shot back with “Excuse me! I am fed up with people being attacked in Minnesota, in my state! We are sick and tired of K Street Lobbyists who look down on us!”

Wow! There are very few hamlets in America who look to Washington for advice on how to govern.

And who better to voice that message than our own Richard Painter. His independent and articulate voice will be a highlight in the Senate contest to fill Al Franken’s seat. Anyone who takes Painter lightly may suffer the same fate as Hugh Hewitt.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Money in professional sports - a question of priorities

Below is a copy of a letter that was sent to the Star Tribune but not published. The central issue of shining the light on the enormous sums of money we pour into professional sports and the wealthy owners is vital because it drains public monies from more essential services. We truly need some leadership on the issue of priorities.

To the Editor:

Nancy Jost’s column on the high costs of daycare (Star Tribune, February 2) at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere raises valid questions and warrants full public attention. As background, I authored the state’s first daycare law and am familiar with the costs involved. However, it is more about priorities than money.

For instance, the University of Minnesota pours millions of dollars into revenue sports coaches’ salaries and other excesses but yet pleads poverty when it comes to funding $500,000 for day care. Likewise we cut school budgets while subsidizing wealthy pro sports team owners with millions each year. How about full disclosure of all these costs and truly engage the public?

Arne H. Carlson
Governor Minnesota (1991-1999)
Minneapolis, Minnesota


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Another Minnesota Treasure…Sally Pillsbury

For decades we celebrated the delightful energy of “Holly Dolly” not always recognizing that we had one here in Minnesota:  Sally Pillsbury. With enthusiasm and dogged determination she pushed aside the impossible and made it a reality. To her “No” was simply a longer path to “yes”. She even led the Women’s Movement before there was one.

With her position and financial well being she could easily have cloaked herself in respectable silence and enjoyed her status.

But Sally came out of the Theodore Roosevelt school of involvement and decided to build a better Minnesota for all. With her husband, George, and her brother, Wheelock Whitney, they evolved into what may likely be the most influential trio in Minnesota history. From the 1950’s on, there was rarely a positive development that did not have their fingerprints on it. The University of Minnesota, the Symphony Orchestra, the attraction of professional sports, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, funding of the arts, and on and on all are testaments to the involvement of this extraordinary partnership.

Barely 30 years old, Sally immersed herself in the Eisenhower movement and from there on helped shape and develop the moderate wing of the Republican Party. Elmer L. Andersen, Doug Head, Bill Frenzel, Dave Durenberger, Al Quie and a multitude of other Republican leaders all were benefactors of Sally’s involvement.

I can say without hesitation that there never would have been a Carlson administration without the constant and committed leadership of Wheelock, Sally, George, Lars (my brother) and my wife Susan.

So potent was this force of moderate Republicanism that it produced majority control of the Minneapolis City Council. But they also remained active on the national scene starting with Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 all the way through President George H.W. Bush, who was also a personal friend of the Pillsbury’s and Wheelock Whitney.


But this is not about past accomplishments. Rather it represents hope: a very strong hope that all of us will get into the arena, take on controversy and do all we can to preserve and enhance democracy. If we admire Sally, George and Wheelock there is no greater tribute than to continue their willingness to always be involved for the greater good.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

True Grit…the Gophers have it.

As fans, we celebrate the big wins and moan the losses. But this season we are learning the vital importance of resilience and the simple refusal to quit. Maybe we should call it grit.

Saturday’s Gopher men’s basketball game at Michigan was a study in true grit. Without a center and lacking reserve strength, the Gophers took the home team into over time with the game only settled in the final three seconds. Rest assured, not one Michigan fan walked out not thanking their lucky stars.

What I saw was excellent coaching featuring a variety of different rotations and styles that kept Michigan off guard and the defense was excellent.

But I also saw an offense that moved the ball swiftly, found the relatively open man and committed few turnovers.

If I were a recruit or looking for a great place to play next fall, it would be with the Gophers and my favorite arena – the Barn. Pitino has superbly brought his young talent around and they are emerging as solid big time players. Washington, from my childhood area of the Bronx, Harris, Hurt, and Fitzgerald are proving their potential but also showing that they have the character to win. And Mason, the departing senior, is not only the top player but also as good a floor leader as there is in basketball.

As one who was skeptical of the selection of Richard Pitino as coach, I am now a full convert. When the going got tough, he showed me he is ready to take on the big boys and win.

No, this team is my kind of team – playing unselfishly, playing smart and refusing to give up.


That is true grit – thanks guys.

Minnesota…A Battleground

Putting aside personal feelings, the battle for the Senate seat currently occupied by Tina Smith is going to emerge as one of the most hotl...