Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Missing The Zeitgeist: Vin Weber & Tom Emmer at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Part Two: Tom Emmer

Tom Emmer's appearance was both a revelation and a confirmation for me. The odious, Soros funded cretin Mark Ritchie, former Minnesota Secretary of State, and far left state representative for life Phyllis Kahn, took time to attend. Also in the audience was former Senator David Durenburger. They all share a lack of ethics so their presence made sense. Emmer's desire to obtain the approval of these types was evident from every word he said. To be fair, it wasn't quite as debasing as his appearance at the MinnPost Roast earlier in the year.

Before questions from Prof. Jacobs, Emmer sketched his public life, detailing his rise from small town lawyer to Delano city council to Minnesota House of Representatives, then as the man who failed to defeat the flawed and damaged Mark Dayton for governor in a republican wave election. No mention of his rejection by his party for a seat on the Republican National Committee.

Tellingly, he omitted his stint as a morning drive radio host with Bob Davis on KTLK. He also failed to note his promoting for money any scheme, plan or idea that he could get his hands on. Shilling for National Popular Vote, designed to eviscerate the Electoral College, naturally went unmentioned.

He did emphasize his love of family and he & his wife Jacquie seem to be loving and wonderful parents to their many children. This is to their credit. As my friend Sue Jeffers once said to me, early on when I wandered into local and state politics, family first and always, politics a distinct second.

Emmer quickly came to the leitmotif he established shortly after being sworn into office: relationships are everything, relations are key. What this means no one quite knows and this is by design. Schmoozing requires little conviction or courage, attributes Emmer has never possessed and shows little interest in developing.

The most amazing thing, said Tom, about being in Congress was the amazing quality of the people he served with. I was amazed. I'm not sure how low one's bar has to be in order to consider the kind of people we send to Congress--from both parties--as amazing. To the political class, of course, this is simple common sense, one it's good to know the Congressman shares. How else is he going to be sent abroad on useless but expensive foreign junkets? Relationships are the new sucking up; cause and effect remain the same, however. Like Obama, Emmer seems primarily interested in the perks of the office rather than doing anything substantive with it.

"We all want the same things," declared Congressman Tom Emmer. From this category error many wrongheaded and ridiculous things flow.

One of his staffers had spotted me on the side before the event began and turned white. I assured him I was there to listen to Tom on his own terms and I was. I submitted no questions. Afterwords, I told him that this notion that everyone wants the same thing was absurd, only partially true and even then only at times well qualified. Yet if you want to know and understand Tom Emmer, "we all want the same things" is his mantra, with which he'll bleed out conviction, principles and ideas from the political arena in the hopes that talking such nonsense endears him to the liberal political, cultural and media elites in Minnesota and nationally.

It has, it does and it will continue to do so.

Consistent with this desire for approval, Emmer spoke highly of himself visiting the island gulag of Cuba. He spoke of the people, as if he were somehow their champion while being shepherded around the island by totalitarian minders. He told of a waitress who served him who cried when he asked her what she wanted: she wanted to travel. Yes, the imprisoned want to be free.

I kept waiting for Emmer to explain how lifting the US embargo would grant that women her wish. It never came because it never will. Emmer was slightly embarrassing in suggesting that it was the US embargo that kept Cuba impoverished. Does he not know the rest of the world trades with Cuba and it's still a dismal, impoverished fiefdom of the Castro brothers? But we all want the same thing.

Emmer said that his main role as a member of Congress was "constituent service." By this I took him to mean more efficiently delivering government "services" to those who contact his office. The idea that certain principles would be advanced because he--and not another republican candidate vying from the Sixth--was in that body never seemed to have crossed his mind; indeed this idea is negated by the juvenile "we all want the same things" bromide.

Mark Steyn is right: democrats, whether in or out of the majority, consistently deliver more of the kind of world their base wants to live in than do republicans, who crow about having won record numbers of offices since 2010. Emmer serves as a shorthand to that phenomenon: your check is consistently late? We'll be right on it. Defund Planned Parenthood with no government shut down? Crazy talk.

Professor Jacobs asked Emmer the same sort of limp, incurious questions that I had heard him ask Vin Weber a few days prior. I was amused that he asked about Bachmann's "PR heavy staff," not realizing that Emmer kept most of her staff when he moved in. Plus ça change & all that.

Emmer held forth on the need for personal relationships, gave lip service to some sort of "renaissance of federalism" without ever explaining how that would come about, and said Congress wasn't trained to compromise. This comes as something of a surprise given the spineless leadership of Boehner and McConnell.

Emmer has schlepped around the world as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and has changed his mind on foreign aid: it constitutes less than 1% of the budget. If that's the metric, then very few things could or should be cut. But we all want the same things so that analysis doesn't need to be engaged in. See how that works?

Emmer was supremely comfortable and condescending when asked about the Minnesota Tea Party. He said the founders were good guys and that at one contentious meeting he spoke for two hours and later got a standing ovation, which apparently meant "servant leadership" was still effective.

He correctly stated that the electorate was frustrated (but if we all want the same things, how can that be?) while fatuously suggesting that people's desire to "punch someone in the mouth" was unhelpful. He sounded like a liberal describing an imaginary conservative but given the company he's been keeping, I suppose he can be forgiven.

Emmer answered a few topic specific questions: Ex-Im Bank not coming back (it is; a discharge petition in House has succeeded), climate change is not a yes or no issue (news to the alarmists), coal can be good & the EPA is out of control, Syria is a mess & we have to be cautious about those whom we allow in. He's against term limits. Quelle surprise.

Tom Emmer is congressman for life should he wish it & I got the clear sense that he does. He will be relatively inconsequential and unimportant in that role as, to be fair, will most members of Congress. His goal is to be liked by not his base (shades of Jeb Bush) but by those whose opinions matter most to him: the center left and, at times, even far left. Relationships, you know.

Michele Bachmann is said to be actively trying to find someone to run against Emmer in the primary. Like so much of her career, this strikes me as a fool's errand. Tom is going to continue to suck up to the liberal establishment and get stroked in public for it. He practically purrs out loud. He'll turn to his voters in the district and bully them into another term. And another and another.

When he appeared at the MinnPost Roast earlier this year he disparaged his Tea Party critics to the hoots and hollers of the assembled brain dead liberals. I attempted to procure the video of that portion of his appearance but it was wisely not released by that so called media outlet.

Yet respect is key, he told his Humphrey School audience. Understanding the other is crucial, he held forth. Except when it comes to what should be considered his own. Then true feelings of contempt emerge and he gets applauded by those who think and act toward his base with relentless viciousness. Emmer is a useful idiot at the service of the professional left.

Can you imagine Keith Ellison mocking the riff raff of Take Action? Of course not. Or of Ken Martin mocking the ghoulish supporters of late term abortion? Never.

Emmer still has his supporters outside of his district, the types who think Alpha News is a problem. Whenever I wonder why Minnesota republicans can't win a statewide office, I think of them. The Stupid Party finds fertile ground here; indeed for many it's a chosen career of inconsequence with a paycheck.

In December Emmer will join Keith Ellison in a fund raiser to support MinnPost. If you're a republican and you don't find that remarkable then I can't help you. The putative topic is "Finding Common Ground." The event is pretentiously titled a MinnPost "salon." Please. Click here to find out more. It promises to be one of those gatherings in which liberals, as South Park once showed it, enjoy inhaling their own flatulence. Breathe deep, Tom.

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Vin Weber & Tom Emmer, each in their unique and yet similar way, embody what is wrong with Minnesota republican politics and politics nationally. I don't blame either men for being of limited vision or intellect, creatures of their time trying to get as much for themselves in the here and now as possible. It's the passing themselves off as statesmen that's nauseating.

I do blame their enablers who profess to want something more and better. Where is the evidence of that? In a state with an organized and sophisticated opposition, abetted by a local media of astonishing bias, republicans seem not to believe strongly and consistently enough in anything to change.

Image: "Natura Morta" by Paulette Tavormina


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Missing The Zeitgeist: Vin Weber & Tom Emmer at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Part One: Vin Weber 

Last month I attended public appearances of both Vin Weber, well known lobbyist and disgraced former Congressman, and Rep. Tom Emmer, newly elected to the House of Representatives from Michele Bachmann's old district, Minnesota's Sixth.

I wanted to see what each had to say at this particularly interesting moment in political time. Weber appeared over the noon hour on a Thursday and Emmer did the same the following Monday. Neither appearance was linked to the other but I thought the scheduling by the Humphrey School allowed me an opportunity to see what each man had to say and to reflect upon their presentations, mostly Q & A after they made short introductory remarks.

It must be said that Professor Larry R. Jacobs, who heads up the Humphrey School and its annual roster of mediocrities known as Humphrey Fellows, is even more unimpressive in person than he is on television and in print. That local media routinely uses him as one of their two go to guys for political analysis is an indictment of them both. His questioning of both men was shockingly poor and incurious. Remember, he teaches students about politics and people wonder why the U of M is held in low regard academically?

* * * *

Vin Weber's remarks were, on balance, remarkably banal. Perhaps I was mistaken in having any expectation that he would be astute, deep or insightful. He's a lobbyist, after all, who left Congress rather than run for reelection after he passed 253 bad checks in the infamous House banking scandal. One of his current clients is Vladimir Putin's Gazprom. Weber is not synonymous with ethics. I had thought, though, that he might be with political insight. Not so.

A friend asked me, several days after his appearance, if my assessment of him changed. I responded honestly and said that I realized I had made him a caricature instead of a real person. That's not nothing but, at the end of the day, it didn't alter my fundamental view of Weber as a creature of his time, his milieu. " The vision thing" would never be his thing, even as a political prop.

Weber professed to being concerned that more than 70% of Americans think the system is corrupt and that the right track/wrong track numbers have been heavily underwater for years. He then blithely proceeded to predict that, the hoi polloi notwithstanding, Americans would have a robust choice between Jeb & Hillary. No wonder GOPe hasn't the faintest clue. 

The phenomenon of Trump, he held forth, was nothing more than a message being sent by the American people. How that message could possibly be answered with a dynasty ticket Weber left unsaid and Jacobs' mind doesn't work fast enough to ask that question.

He had little use for Trump, lest anyone in the audience be in doubt. And use is what lobbyists deal in, no? Weber said, accurately in my view, that people are very engaged at this early stage. He marveled that the kind of large audiences in various states that Trump was already generating is most usually found toward the end of general election campaigns. That Trump, on any number of levels, was already running a general election campaign was a possibility that never crossed Mr. K Street's mind. 

Remarkably, he said that Trump's support wasn't ideological. Except that it manifestly is, albeit in a form heretofore unknown, and hence unrecognizable, to Weber. He did make one of the few astute observations in his appearance when he said Bernie Sanders' supporters supported him for what he was saying; that Sanders' support was not merely derivative of Hillary antipathy. I think this is true and was glad to hear it said out loud. Several of the most astute Minnesota progressives that I follow on Twitter have long been for Bernie. Hillary who? He won't win, of course, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. 

Jacobs asked Weber what he thought was the source of the widespread alienation of the American people from their elected officials and the political system writ large. 

I was astounded at Weber's answer: new technology. 

"How do we talk about politics?" he plaintively asked. In Weber's insulated view, new technology gave rise to only "extreme" views. He gave no evidence for this except to state the country is polarized, the parties included. Welcome to 1776 and forward. 

What new technology does, of course, is arm and inform the American citizenry, on both the Left & the Right. Weber never expressed an understanding that the contempt many on both sides of the political aisle feel is revulsion toward an unresponsive, parasitic political class and its handmaidens, of which he is a corpulently successful one. 

Media, said Vin Weber, is the problem. One that needed to be "solved." Somehow I didn't think he meant the New York Times. That Larry Jacobs didn't immediately pounce and ask him what he really meant is a testament to his stupidity. Then again, Weber is on the Dean's Advisory Counsel of the Humphrey School so abject deference was the name of the game that day. It wasn't Kabuki but you knew you were taking part in a play. The lines were delivered flawlessly. 

Weber had watched the GOP presidential debate the night before and he felt confident enough to say: "People don't watch reruns of reality tv." True but do you really think that this is that? Because few others do. Or is that simply an indication of the low thought processes that occurs among your sleazy and not very bright profession?

Weber's remarks were made September 17th, which politically seems so long ago as to not be remembered. How many weeks in a row has Trump been leading since the moment he first announced? I understand the resentment from the ancien régime but have they no appreciation for the astonishment of it all? What are they, joyless liberals?

People aren't watching reality TV, they're changing political reality by supporting Trump. The smart set shouldn't have been surprised by this development save for the fact that they aren't smart. The usual reaction has been to savage Trump's supporters. That's a new, corrosive and consultant driven development in republican party politics.

And you wonder why they hate you?

* * * * 

Image: "Natura Morta" by Paulette Tavormina