Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eric Black Grinds His Axe

Kurt Bills is the likely GOP standard-bearer to run against Amy Klobuchar for the Senate this year. And Eric Black is not happy about it, it would seem:

State Rep. Kurt Bills, the presumptive Repub nominee for the U.S. Senate, has begun giving interviews (although not to me, despite repeated requests, which I continue to send to his campaign), but Bills continues to avoid giving clear answers to basic questions about his issue positions.

Eric Black is not going to be ignored, you see. Note to Eric -- public whining won't help your cause.

Since Black can't get his "get," he's forced to rely on other people's questions, in this case the questions of Cathy Wurzer and the more fortunate Eric, Eric Eskola.

Bills is asked to discuss differences between himself and Ron Paul. Black finds the discussion wanting:

Rep. Kurt Bills: Yuh, I think you have to look at, again, you agree on fiscal and monetary policy. But you also have to look at foreign policy and be very thoughtful about it. But then also have to bring your own positions to the table as well. Having a strong national defense is very important to me. But then I think it also is to the congressman. And how do you look at foreign aid? And can we just cap foreign aid at some level like Senator Jim DeMint and Sen. Mike Lee and Senator Rand Paul put out? So it’s how can you work with people, stay at the table and keep discussing things.
Black starts a snarkin':

Let’s pause here. That’s a full paragraph answer. What differences between his views and Rep. Paul’s has he specified? I score zero. For a second there, it sounded like he was going to declare some difference on military spending, but he ended up with the utterly vacuous statement that a “strong national defense” is “very important” to both himself and Rep. Paul.
Thanks for keeping score, Mr. Black. Further on, we get this:

Eskola: He’s for changing the U.S. relationship with Israel. I wonder what your view is on the U.S. relationship with Israel.

Bills: I think we’re a strong supporter of Israel when we don’t fund their enemies. When we don’t send foreign aid to countries like Egypt, we just sent $1.3 billion and a load of military equipment to Egypt last month. And that’s where I think we have to more thoughtful.

Which brings on more snark:

OK, we get it. Bills favors thoughtfulness (you’ll find that word in his first answer as well). The question was: Should the United States change its relationship with Israel? Bills says that he would cut off (or perhaps just reduce) the aid Washington sends to Egypt, a step that, so far as I know, Israel does not favor. And he identifies as one of Israel’s “enemies” a country that broke the Pan-Arab ban on peace and diplomatic relations with Israel in 1979 and has maintained a cold peace and semi-cooperative relations ever since.

We're a long way past 1979 and you might want to ask the Muslim Brotherhood about that, but we'll leave that aside for the moment. Official Scorer Black must rule on the play:

For lack of an opportunity to ask a follow-up question, one might take this non-answer as an effort to avoid addressing the politically fraught issue of whether Bills would – as Ron Paul does – favor a dramatic reduction in U.S. aid to Israel despite the tremendous support on the Republican right for that relationship.

Anyway, in term of describing his position on how (or whether) the United States should change its bilateral relationship with Israel, I would have to score this one a nullity as well. But we did learn that he wants to cut off aid to Egypt.
Later on, Agent Black finds another answer wanting:

Now it seems that Bills, who said in April that he favors ending the Fed, has backed off. But, again, if you read it closely, Bills didn’t quite say that, only implied it. I don’t pretend to be reading Wurzer’s mind, but this seemed to be one area on which she was not willing to settle for an implicit answer, and it turns out to be a good thing she didn’t because when she sought final clarity…

Wurzer: So it sounds like you’ve changed your mind from that April forum to now. Sounds like that’s been a bit of a change for you?

Bills: No, I also think that you can have free market banking. We had a Suffolk system from 1824 till 1858 in this country that worked. It wasn’t actually a system, it was a free market bank that handled the same characteristics that the fed has now, and instead of being the lender of last resort, the Suffolk system used market discipline to handle our monetary policy so I think we see a huge diversity within our United States history of money and banking that we could meld into if that’s part of the process over the next six years.

Black snarks again, but then makes a telling admission:

Now, one could try to construct a clear answer out of all this on Bills’ views on the Fed. If I had to, I would say he favors abolishing the Fed, but not right away when the world financial system is fragile. So he would favor a change in the Fed’s mandate to eliminate the current language that asks the Fed to use its leverage over the money supply to promote lower unemployment. But in the long run, he would work as a senator to create a different set of circumstances that would make it possible to do away with the Fed entirely and go back to something that existed in the mid-19th century. (By the way, the “Suffolk system,” operated only in the New England states, which I guess could be reconciled with the sentence: “We had a Suffolk system from 1824 till 1858 in this country that worked.” But that’s just a detail. This monetary policy stuff is way above my comfort zone.)
Emphasis mine. So what to make of this? A few things, I think.

  • Bills will need to sharpen his game a little bit. He is talking about a lot of things in a short time and most people aren't going to have studied the Fed and its role very carefully. He can't assume that people will understand what he's saying, especially since most people are going to hear what he says through a Blackian filter.
  • If Bills is smart, he'll be able to use the animus he's going to face to his advantage. Black is a guy who has been covering politics for about 750 years and while he no longer enjoys his perch at the Star Tribune, he's still a pretty good representative of the sort of Praetorian Guard that will surround Amy Klobuchar. 
  • Now, I'm grateful to MinnPost, because they have been generous in publishing a fair amount of material from this blog over the past few years, but anyone who writes for MinnPost needs to understand this:  MinnPost don't reach a very big audience. Bills really doesn't gain much from talking to Eric Black, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he hasn't sat down for an interview yet.


Joel said...

Not your intent, I guess, but I find Black's commentary to be coherent and sensible and Bills' answers to be neither.

Mr. D said...


Thank you for your comment. My intent is twofold:

1) I'm giving Black a little mocking because his commentary strikes me as pretty self-important. He's not personally owed any explanations.

2) Having said that, I'm not satisfied with Bills' answers, either. He needs to do a better job of explaining his views. He also needs to understand that he is going to get very hostile treatment and needs to get a lot better. And quickly.