State Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton took the political low road again this week, calling DFL Gov. Mark Dayton "a bored dilettante'' whose recent behavior has been "erratic.''That's right, dammit. To paraphrase any number of advertising campaigns over the years, if you're going to have a dilettante, make mine Mr. Dilettante! Accept no substitutes.
While I appreciate the Star Tribune's efforts to protect my brand, which would be irreparably damaged if it ever became associated with the governor, the editorial itself is baked wind. Consider this cavalcade of dubious assertions:
Sutton's obvious allusion to Dayton's past mental health issues only solidifies the GOP hit man's reputation for tiresome personal attacks.I suspect the luminaries at the Star Tribune editorial board know that one of the roles of a party chairman is to attack the other party. That's pretty high up on the list of duties in the job description. And if Dayton's past mental health problems are not fair game, why is that? Of course, the Strib is just getting warmed up:
The "dilettante" reference was cheap campaign rhetoric, but not nearly as objectionable as alleging that "madness'' is driving the governor's decisionmaking.I suppose you could ascribe other factors to what is driving the governor's decisionmaking. I might ascribe factors like stupidity, willful blindness to the way the world actually works and slack jawed fealty to the public employee unions. But listing those factors, which add up to a version of madness if you think about the matter, wouldn't be likely to gain agreement in the office suite on Portland Avenue. But getting the vapors about rough language is part of this game. Continuing the litany of GOP sins, the editorialists aver:
A GOP news release on the website launch also said that party leaders were concerned that the governor is in "professional and personal shutdown mode.'' And party Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb got in on the act by dredging up Dayton's regrettable 2004 decision to shut down his U.S. Senate office in the face of terror warnings.Oh, that nasty Brodkorb. The nerve of the guy, dredging up regrettable decisions. We have a narrative to control, people, and we can't have anything regrettable mentioned.
Of course, the governor doesn't always follow Marquess of Queensbury rules either, a point that the editorial grudgingly makes:
Although it should be noted that Dayton came close to a personal attack in calling the GOP's Tea Party legislators "radical" and "intransigent" earlier this week, he has done nothing to suggest that the pressure of the budget stalemate is too much to handle.
In other words, it's okay because it's always better to attack entire groups than individuals, which is why everyone was totally cool with Bradlee Dean's comments in the legislature last week. And there's an excellent reason that Dayton hasn't suggested that the pressure of the budget stalemate is too much to handle -- it would be a ludicrous assertion. Everyone knew this moment was coming. It's been on the docket since the moment Dayton took the oath of office.
Still, we should give the Star Tribune editorialists credit for their deep concern about GOP well-being:
Before launching his next scud, Sutton should consider the risks. The Star Tribune's letters to the editor mailbox has been overflowing since the end of the session, with a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction with both the governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature.Angry letters to the editor? Gasp! Anything but that! Obviously the Star Tribune is correct -- the best thing the GOP apparat could do is cede control of the narrative to the Star Tribune, WCCO, KARE, MPR and the rest of the MSM. They'll be sure to give the GOP message the appropriate framing to ensure a successful resolution of the dispute. You'll know that it's true because Real Minnesota Republicans like Arne Carlson and David Durenberger will give the Strib-endorsed endgame their blessing. It'll be tidy.
Sutton's methods could help tilt the balance of public opinion in the governor's favor at a time the GOP majority can ill-afford to lose support.
Still, there's the nasty little matter of dealing with Sutton's impertinence. How best to do this? The Strib editorialists have a solution, of course, if only the GOP has the wit to choose it:
And here's a suggestion to House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, who must ultimately find some way to work with the governor: Get Sutton in a room, lock the door, and make it clear that his own erratic behavior isn't helping.
Those Strib editorialists. They are helpers. They just want to help.