In the 5 1/2 years I've been blogging, this blog has been a very polite place. We don't typically do too many cheap shots here and most times we've been respectful of people, even those who don't really deserve a lot of respect. And therein lies a tale.
This morning, as part of my ongoing series on the Vikings stadium debate, I took a bit of a cheap shot at two individuals involved in a meeting yesterday at the State Capitol. Both the owner of the Vikings, Zygmunt Wilf, and the governor of the State of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, are notable for being (a) wealthier than King Canute and (b) notoriously ill at ease when public speaking is required. In fact, both tend to stammer rather a lot in their public pronouncements. And I made a joke about that in the headline of the piece and in the link to the Star Tribune article I quoted.
My pieces are regularly reposted on True North and occasionally reposted on MinnPost. As it happened, MinnPost picked up my piece and ran it in their "Blog Cabin" feature. Most days when an article of mine appears there, it doesn't even register a comment, but today's piece garnered a couple of angry responses from readers there, who thought mentioning Dayton's stammer was a cheap shot. Perhaps it was, but I've always assumed a politician could take a little ankle-biting. The ferocity of the response was striking -- one of the commenters suggested that if the Vikings leave town, I should go with them.
You could chalk the ferocity of the response up to the standard issue dyspepsia of liberal internet commenters, but I think there's something else going on. I've lived in Minnesota for nearly 20 years now and have been able to watch Mark Dayton for nearly all of that time. One thing that's been striking about his career is that a lot of people are extraordinarily protective of him. If you were to watch Dayton's appearances on the local newscasts, you would never know he stammers at all because the sound bites generally last only a few seconds. When you watched Dayton's regular campaign ads in the last cycle, you rarely heard his voice. He had others speak for him, including his sons and various voiceover announcers. His greatest troubles have come when he's been forced to speak for himself. It's an odd problem for a man who has chosen to live his life in the arena, as Teddy Roosevelt described the political scene.
Dayton today asked a Ramsey County court to appoint a mediator to help him negotiate with the Legislature, which is a singularly weird thing for the most powerful man in the state to do. He can end the impasse with the Lege tomorrow if he wants to, but he's calling in a third party. While there might be a tactical advantage in this move in the short term, it's a sign of weakness. Here's a hint to Dayton's defenders -- his speech patterns aren't the primary concern here. I'd worry a lot more about Dayton's thought patterns.