Archive for August, 2007

Jim Addison from Wizbang just emailed me to ask bloggers to pray for the blogger at Florida Masochist. Here’s what Jim wrote:

We’ve often depended upon The Florida Masochist for news and tips on developments in the Sunshine State. A registered Democrat, Bill also skewers the ridiculous of all political stripes with his “Knucklehead of the Day” feature, so his blog is always worth a read. Last week he underwent surgical tests. Sadly, today he is reporting some bad news on the personal front:

Going from no cancer for 12 years to having a recurrence is a big shock. Stage III melanoma stats aren’t bad but they are much more iffy than Stage II. Then that’s based if this is the only node with cancer, which we don’t know yet. Five year survival rates range from 25-65%.

I’m depressed right now, and not in the mood for blogging. I may take a rest from it for a few days, or permanently. Right now I don’t know.

Read it all at the link above. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Bill – and I’d ask the same of all our readers.

It’s always my policy that I’ll ask readers of this blog to rally around bloggers when they need prayer support. Thanks in advance for keeping Bill in your prayers.

AAH Chairman Joe Kaufman has issued a press release condemning the Civil Rights Coordinator of CAIR-Los Angeles (CAIR-California), Affad Shaikh, for calling “Senator Joe Lieberman, Vice President Dick Cheney, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, former head of the CIA James Woolsey, Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation, Lt. General Thomas McInerney, and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity and Sheppard Smith as ‘Extremist Right Wing Nut cases.'”

I’d never heard of Affad Shaikh before this morning but I don’t think he’ll be used as a spokesman for CAIR again anytime soon, especially if this is the quality of his work product. First of all, using the term “extremist right wing nut cases” isn’t the way to win friends and influence people. Secondly, calling Joe Lieberman, Sheppard Smith, Bill O’Reilly and Jim Woolsey extremist right wing nut cases is wildly inaccurate. I couldn’t tell you how O’Reilly or Sheppard Smith vote. I know that Joe Lieberman isn’t an extremist right wing nut case because he’s still part of the Democratic Party.

I strongly recommend that you read the entire press release.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

According to this article, the Thomas More Law Center has agreed to represent Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani in a civil suit against Rep. John Murtha if/when the charges against him are dropped. Here’s some of the details from the article:

The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center is representing Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani (USMC), who has been charged with not fully investigating the events at Haditha, Iraq, and failing to report a Law of War violation, in the aftermath of the November 19, 2005, incident that led to the death of 24 Iraqi civilians. Spokespersons for the legal group hope the convening officer in the investigation will throw out the charges as he already has for two of the six other men charged in the case. Chessani is the highest ranking officer charged in the case.

Congressman Murtha, a prominent war critic, last year accused U.S. Marines of shooting and killing unarmed civilians near the scene of an attack on a military convoy, then going into two homes and shooting others. According to Brian Rooney with the Law Center, Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, one of the other defendants in the investigation, is already suing Murtha for those comments. Rooney argues the Pennsylvania Democrat should be held accountable for taking the word of Iraqi insurgents and calling the Marines “cold-blooded murderers.”

“Staff Sergeant Wuterich’s attorneys are suing Congressman Murtha for liable for saying that the Marines were cold-blooded murderers, so that suit’s still ongoing,” the attorney explains, adding that the Law Center is considering taking similar action.

“We’re exploring our options…in that regard because Murtha said that officers covered this up, which is explicitly naming our client as covering it up,” says Rooney. “So once we get through with this court-martial, and hopefully it goes our way, then we’re going to look at whether or not we should take a hard look at Congressman Murtha as well.”

If charges are dropped against Lt. Col. Chessani and Sgt. Wuterich, Rep. Murtha could be looking at spending alot of time in a courtroom in the near future. John Murtha should be held to account for leveling these serious accusations against the Haditha Marines. Based on this timeline, it’s obvious that Rep. Murtha has a difficult time keeping his story straight. It isn’t a stretch to think that he’s having those troubles because he’s basing his opinions on ideology instead of verifiable facts.

Here’s one of the things I pointed out in the timeline:

GIBSON: Jonathan just mentioned, there’s no charges yet filed against any of the Marines that were in this outfit, but Jonathan mentioned a moment ago, defense lawyers are already saying, well, there’s drone video and there is actual radio traffic to higher-ups that will give a different picture than you have been talking about of this incident. What do you know about that?

MURTHA: I can only tell you this, Charles. This is what the Marine Corps told me at the highest level. The Commandant of the Marine Corps was in my office just last week, so you know, I know there was a cover-up someplace. They knew about this a few days afterwards and there’s no question the chain of command tried to stifle the story. I can understand why, but that doesn’t excuse it. Something like this has to be brought out to the public, and the people have to be punished.

This point was also mentioned in the article:

In comments during a June 2006 interview with ABC’s Charles Gibson, Murtha stated, after a meeting with high-level Marines: “I know there was a cover-up someplace. They knew about this a few days afterwards, and there’s no question the chain of command tried to stifle the story.”

The first time I read that sentence, I couldn’t believe my eyes. As I’ve said elsewhere, if you know that a coverup happened, you’d be able to state specifically where the coverup happened and who was involved in the coverup. You might even produce a timeline or flowchart showing who was involved in the alleged coverup.

It’s my opinion that, if you can’t produce such things, then you don’t really know that a coverup happened. You might suspect that a coverup happened but that isn’t the same as knowing it, is it? I haven’t seen anything in news articles or in my personal investigation that says Rep. Murtha has any verifiable proof of his allegations. That leads me to believe that Rep. Murtha’s allegations will never be proven.

I’ve often reminded commenters here that “allegations aren’t proof.” Allegations that aren’t backed up by eyewitness accounts or a taped conversation or an email are simply allegations. Let’s turn this around to see what the Haditha Marines can verify. Here’s what I wrote awhile back that fits into this conversation:

The battalion S2 officer made a full and complete report based on his monitoring of the day’s events and the intelligence he and others had amassed then and previous days. As we wrote at the time, the PowerPoint after-action report he sent up the command ladder proved to all the higher officers that the incident warranted no further investigation.

Jeffrey Dinsmore is the name of the S2 intel officer. Capt. Dinsmore testified that he heard gunfire coming into his observation station. He also scanned the video coming in from the UAV that was filming the firefight. That would be the firefight that Rep. Murtha said didn’t happen.

If the charges are dropped against Sgt. Wuterich and Lt. Col. Chessani, then I’d say that Rep. Murtha will be staring at a mountain of verifiable proof that contradicts the allegations he’s made against the Haditha Marines.

Based on this information, it’s isn’t surprising that Matt Mazonkey, his press person, won’t return my phone calls. The last thing that Mr. Mazonkey wants to do is try and defend Rep. Murtha against someone who’s got a command of the issues surrounding the Haditha Marines.

Unfortunately for his boss, his days of denial might soon end. The days of his having to defend himself in court might just be beginning.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Bill Moyers took exception to some things that Karl Rove made in his FNS interview with Chris Wallace. This Sunday, Chris Wallace decided to put Moyers in his place. Here’s the transcript of to a most delicious smackdown:

WALLACE: Time now for some mail, actually, one letter from liberal commentator Bill Moyers. You may remember in my interview with Karl Rove last Sunday, I asked him about a Moyers statement that Rove is reportedly an agnostic who manipulated the Christian right for political gain.

Well, Rove answered that he’s an observant Episcopalian and Moyers, quote, “ought to do a little better research before he does another drive-by slander.”

Bill Moyers didn’t like that and sent me this letter, which he also posted on his Web site. He quoted four print stories for his contention that Rove is agnostic, none of which offer any proof other than what Rove supposedly told colleagues over the years.

Then Moyers wrote this. “Obviously, Rove wanted to blow smoke because his version of reality is undermined by his own previous statements and by the reporting and analysis of journalists who have done their homework and don’t take his every word as gospel, no pun intended.”

Well, to save on postage, Bill, here’s my response. If you want to find out about someone’s religious beliefs, a good first step might be to ask him.

If you had talked to Rove, as I did, you would have found out he reads a devotional every day and the biggest charitable contribution he ever made was to his church. Of course, you never called Rove.

That’s reporting 101, but it would have gotten in the way of a tasty story line about a non-believer flim-flamming the Christian right. I guess, Bill, reporting is easier when you don’t worry about the facts.

Bill Moyers has been an over-the-top nutjob for ages. He’s taken cheapshots at the Bush administration since the inauguration. I’m not sure he’d believe anything that anyone connected with the Bush administration would say.

The good news is that he picked a fight with someone a whole lot smarter, and more objective, than he is. He foolishly picked a fight with Chris Wallace. You can’t get a better smackdown than that last paragraph. For that matter, the last sentence is as good as it gets in smacking down Nutroots idiots like Moyers.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Based on this article, John Murtha refuses to update the information in his anti-war diatribes. Proof of that is that he hasn’t stopped using the line about the Iraqi civil war. Frankly, it’s past time for him to update his statistics. Here’s Murtha’s full statement:

President Johnson said in 1966, “the solution to Vietnam is patience.”

President Nixon said in 1969, “As our commanders in the field determine that the South Vietnamese are able to assume a greater portion of the responsibility for the defense of their own territory, troops will come back.”

Today, we hear the same misleading rhetoric coming from this Administration. In Vietnam, we were talking about 10 years of patience and in the end a U.S. military solution did not work. Now, five year’s into the war in Iraq, the President continues to seek a U.S. military solution to an Iraqi civil war. There will be no real progress in Iraq until key political, economic and diplomatic improvements are made by the Iraqi’s.

The facts on the ground in Iraq indicate that electricity is below pre-war levels (only 2 hours a day in Baghdad), oil production remains below pre-war production and at least 50% of the Iraqi population is unemployed.

All Americans realize that stability in the Middle East is important to our national security. The American people will not accept patience as a strategy while the Iraqi Government continues to ignore key political and economic benchmarks.

I can’t imagine what it’s like for an American soldier to hear Rep. Murtha’s rants after the soldier has just killed off more bad guys. I can’t believe that he’d like it, though. The other galling thing about Rep. Murtha’s statements is that he doesn’t use current, or accurate, data. For instance, Rep. Murtha has been using the 50 percent unemployment line since early in 2005.

That statistic was blown out of the water ages ago. This CNN article reports that he’s off by 30+ points:

High unemployment

While Iraq’s unemployment figures were high, the survey found that most eligible workers, excluding the military, were able to keep the jobs they had held since before March 2003.

Iraq’s unemployment rate was 10.5 percent of a population of 27 million people, the report found. When the figure of workers who had given up looking for a job, discouraged workers, was included, the unemployment number increased to 18.4 percent.

Granted, 18.4 percent unemployment is bad but 50 percent would cripple Iraq’s economy for a decade. It’s time that we started calling into question his motives for saying such nonsense. It isn’t a stretch to think that he’s using such inaccurate information because he can’t make his anti-war case with accurate statistics. In fact, I’d say that it’s getting more difficult for him to make the case against the war every week.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Despite Democrats’ railing against President Bush’s economic policies, revenues keep pouring into the nation’s coffers. It’s gotten so bad that the CBO is revising its forecast for this year’s budget deficit again. If their prediction becomes fact, Democrats will have a tough task telling voters that ‘the rich aren’t paying their fair share.’ Here’s the grisly details of CBO’s revision:

Thanks largely to economic growth spurred by the Bush tax cuts, the federal deficit continues to shrink significantly.

The Congressional Budget Office announced last week that the deficit for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 will be about $158 billion, well below the $250 billion recorded the previous year.

Last year’s budget deficit came in at $247.7 billion. In fact, if CBO’s forecast is accurate, it will mean that the annual budget deficit will have been cut by almost $160 billion in two years. The budget deficit for 2005 was $318.7 billion.

If that trend continues through FY2008, it isn’t inconceivable to think that the budget deficit could drop into the $75 billion range. I’m not predicting that because I’ll leave the economic forecasting to King. That said, I certainly can’t say that it’s an unachievable accomplishment, either.

There are some things that could reverse this trend. Here are two things that the LVRJ cites that would have a dramatic effect on the deficit:

In addition to uncertainty over the current credit crunch and the wildly fluctuating stock market, the Democratic Congress has threatened to let the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010, which could undermine the economic progress the country has enjoyed in recent years.

Too, the Democratic presidential candidates all seek to impose their own, expensive version of socialized medicine on taxpayers.

I’d be lying if I said that the Democrats’ agenda was the only thing that stands in the way of a rosy economic picture. That said, I’d really be lying if I said that the policies listed wouldn’t have a dramatic, negative effect on the economy and therefore the deficit. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire would undoubtedly have a negative effect on the deficit because they’d endanger derail us from our current path of economic growth. It’s that simple.

This helps set 2008 up as a year to debate whether we want to raise taxes and stall out our economic growth or whether we want to keep in place the policies that are leading to a balanced budget while we’re fighting a war.

For that matter, it’s a time when we can debate whether we want an administration that will aggressively but legally surveil terrorist communications or whether we’ll put the judicial branch in charge of terrorist surveillance programs.

If the 2008 election focuses on prosperity through tax cuts, national security and a stable Iraq, then Democrats will face a difficult challenge.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

And not a minute too soon. Though I haven’t seen proof that he did anything illegal, his stewardship of the DoJ hasn’t earned him applause from any group. According to the Politico’s Mike Allen, Solicitor General Paul Clement will serve as the acting attorney general:

The acting attorney general will be Solicitor General Paul Clement. He “can stay in that position for quite a while,” a senior administration official said.

That would avoid a bruising confirmation fight. Some Democratic senators have vowed not to confirm a Gonzales successor.

Clement was an editor of the Harvard Law Review before clerking for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court. He later served as chief counsel of the Senate subcommittee on the Constitution, Federalism and Property Rights and was a partner in the Washington office of King & Spalding.

Democrats have always needed someone as a target for their vitriol. Gonzales was their latest target. Now that he’s gone as the poster child of Bush administration ineptitude, Democrats will have to find a new target. It sounds like Mr. Clement has some impressive credentials so I’m thinking that DoJ is in good hands.

This starts the rumor mill as to who will replace Gonzales. The most popular name being bandied about is DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. His term at DHS has been less than stellar so it’s difficult to see him doing much better than Gonzales. I’d hope that President Bush would find a fresh face who hasn’t been tarnished by the Bush administration.

Here’s a sampling of what Democrats are saying about Gonzales’ resignation:

“Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-NV).

“He has exhibited a lack of candor with Congress and the American people and a disdain for the rule of law and our constitutional system. I strongly urge President Bush to nominate a new attorney general who will respect our laws and restore the integrity of the office.” — Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

“It is a sad day when the attorney general of the United States resigns amid a cloud of suspicion that the system of justice has been manipulated for political purposes. More than accountability, we need answers…If the power of the prosecutor has been misused in the name of partisanship, we deserve a full airing of the facts.” — Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., House Judiciary chairman.

As over-the-top as Conyers’ statement is,it isn’t the most over-the-top statement. That ‘honor’ goes to this statement:

The Justice Department under Gonzales “suffered a severe crisis of leadership that allowed our justice system to be corrupted by political influence.” Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

It’s a joke to hear the most partisan politician whining about the justice system being “corrupted by political influence.” I don’t recall Sen. Leahy’s registering his indignation when Bill Clinton fired all of the US attorneys. Having Sen. Leahy complain about partisanship is almost as laughable as hearing Sen. Schumer whining about partisanship.

I’m thankful that this chapter of the Bush administration is coming to a close. It’s time to move on.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

For the second time this month, the SC Times Editorial Board has sounded like the voice of sanity in the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse. Here’s the first section that caught my eye:

Calling for a special session now, without knowing specifically what needs fixing, equates to parents discovering their child has a fever and asking the doctor to start treatment without a thorough diagnosis.

Compare that ‘prescription’ to Sen. Tarryl Clark said in her editorial:

We are at risk of losing entire towns in southern Minnesota. The metropolitan area has a huge hole in its transportation system that has a daily effect on people’s lives and commerce. We must act now in both of these areas and also we should address the larger infrastructure issues the bridge collapse has made real.

While the Times Editorial Board sounds like the voice of sanity, Sen. Clark sounds like the voice of panic. I’ve always been of the opinion that the people in the biggest hurry make the biggest mistakes. Over a decade ago, I was watching George Will and Carol Simpson talking about something during the roundtable discussion of the ‘This Week With David Brinkley’ show. After a couple back and forth exchanges, Ms. Simpson said “Surely we must do something”, at which point Will replied “More mistakes have been made in the name of ‘doing something'” than all other reasons combined.

When I compare Sen. Clark’s statements with the Times Editorial Board’s statements, it’s impossible for me not to see the Times in George Will’s role and Sen. Clark playing the role that Carol Simpson played all those years ago.

In addition to that voice of sanity, the Times makes another astute observation:

The cause here is clear: Mother Nature. The solution is simple. Craft state-based aid packages that supplement potential federal relief. The state and many of these legislators have experience in such cases. They should be able to do what’s needed in short order in a special session.

Passing a flood relief package shouldn’t take much time at all, especially if the package has been negotiated prior to calling a special session. If the package is negotiated prior to the special session, then it shouldn’t take more than a day.

Here’s the last thing that the Times said that I totally agree with:

Again, though, make sure the details are known before convening, and keep the agenda strictly to flood aid.

I’d add two steps to the process: Have the bill’s language agreed to prior to the special session and have the bill posted online prior to the special session so that legislators can read the bill prior to the convening of the special session. If that’s what happens, there’s no reason for a lengthy, meandering special session.

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After I finished watching the Twins defeat the Orioles, I decided to check the Minnesota Senate’s website to see how much time the Transportation Committee spent on various bills. What I found was appalling, especially in light of the outcry there is for a special session. Here’s what I found out:

The Transportation Committee held:

  • 1 hearing in January that lasted under 2 hrs.
  • 2 hearings in February; the first hearing lasted 1 hr., 31 mins., the second lasted 2 hrs.
  • 1 hearing in March, lasting 2 hrs., 47 mins.
  • 4 hearings in April; the first meeting lasting a mere 42 mins., the second meeting lasting 1 hr., 50 mins., the third lasting 1 minute, 24 seconds, the fourth meeting lasting 1 hr., 49 mins.

The Transportation Committee didn’t meet in May.

That’s a grand total of 8 meetings in 5 months, for a total time of 12 hrs., 40 mins.

According to the notes, the January meeting was about making seat belt violations a primary offense (S.F. 16). After that, the members introduced themselves to each other.

The first hearing in February focused on Motor vehicle operators child restraint systems use requirement expansion. (S.F. 122)

The second hearing in February focused on Mobile (cell) phone motor vehicle moving violation fine increase. (S.F. 247)

The only hearing held in March dealt with 19 bills, ranging from HazMat restrictions to load restrictions to renaming a highway for Dallas Sams to EMS personnel communication headsets to hearing from the congestion reduction task force to the Omnibus Transportation Policy Bill.

The first meeting in April dealt with ATV youthful operation and passenger requirements. The second meeting dealt solely with the Omnibus Transportation Policy Bill. The third meeting lasted 1 minute, 24 seconds. I’d doubt they did more than clear their collective throats before that hearing was gaveled shut. The last Senate Transportation Committee hearing of the 2007 regular session was held on April 25. It dealt solely with runway safety and with the Airport Zoning Advisory Task Force.

I think it’s interesting that most of the hearings didn’t deal with highway construction or repairs. Clearly, the Omnibus Transportation Policy Bill dealt with those issues. Based on the minutes from the hearings, those issues didn’t get more than 3-4 hours of attention in committee for the entire session.

That’s quite an indictment against the DFL in general and Steve Murphy in particular. Furthermore, this information suggests that the DFL didn’t put a high priority on bridge and highway reconstruction or on expanding existing highways.

Let’s also remember Sen. Murphy’s now-infamous quote about the Omnibus Transportation Policy Bill:

“I’m not trying to fool anybody,” said Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, sponsor of the measure that would increase funding for roads and transit by $1.5 billion a year once it was fully implemented in the next decade. “There’s a lot of taxes in this bill.”

If a person based their opinions solely on this information, they’d have to conclude that the Senate DFL expended alot of effort in increasing taxes. They’d also have to conclude that they didn’t expend much effort in passing legislation that repaired roads and bridges.

People can argue about this or that policy. It’s impossible to argue against timelines that tell people how little time was spent on legislation that mandated road and bridge repairs.

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Based on this Strib article, it’s obvious that Gov. Pawlenty should avoid calling a special session. Here’s just one reason for not calling a special session:

Lobbyists already have been wandering the Capitol halls and hitting the BlackBerrys to push their pet issues. The lobbyist representing bars and bowling alleys, for instance, is urging legislators to consider resurrecting a bill to allow for electronic pulltabs, dangling the promise of more than $800 million in revenues as a way to side step a gas-tax increase.

Why on God’s green earth should we give these lobbyists another shot at legislators? It isn’t that I think these lobbyists are evil or anything. It’s just that I know that these lobbyists are perfectly willing to use the bridge collapse and the flooding to get their bills passed.

That’s just one reason why Gov. Pawlenty shouldn’t call a special session. Another reason for not calling a special session became apparent Saturday night. That afternoon, I spotted Drew’s post about Gov. Pawlenty’s constitutional authority in emergencies. Here’s what Drew posted about that:

12.36 GOVERNOR’S POWERS TO FAST PROVIDE EMERGENCY AID.
(a) The governor, during an emergency or disaster and notwithstanding any other law, may:
(1) enter into contracts and incur obligations necessary to combat the disaster by protecting the health and safety of persons and the safety of property and by providing emergency assistance to the victims of the disaster; and
(2) exercise the powers vested by this subdivision in the light of the exigencies of the disaster without compliance with time-consuming procedures and formalities prescribed by law pertaining to:
(i) the performance of public work;
(ii) entering into contract;
(iii) incurring of obligations;
(iv) employment of temporary workers;
(v) rental of equipment;
(vi) purchase of supplies and materials, for example, but not limited to, publication of calls for bids;
(vii) provisions of the Civil Service Act and rules;
(viii) provisions relating to low bids; and
(ix) requirements for the budgeting and allotment of funds.
(b) All contracts must be in writing, executed on behalf of the state by the governor or a person delegated by the governor in writing so to do, and must be promptly filed with the commissioner of finance, who shall forthwith encumber funds appropriated for the purposes of the contract for the full contract liability and certify thereon that the encumbrance has been made.

This section of the Minnesota Constitution says that Gov. Pawlenty has the authority to do whatever is necessary to get the recoveries started. The only question that remained was whether there was enough money to get the job done. Saturday night, I got that question answered. According to the Minnesota House Fiscal staff, there is almost “$350 million in the Cash Flow account.”

In other words, a special session is a waste of taxpayers’ money. We should remember that the operating expense of a special session is estimated at $20,000 per day. Obviously, that doesn’t include the cost of legislation passed and signed.

True to form, Democrats are ladling on the hyperbole:

“Avoiding a special session at this time would be a political move, not in the best interest of Minnesotans and our children who will be riding in buses on our state’s roads in just two weeks,” wrote Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, in a newspaper commentary last week.

It’s worth asking why Sen. Bonoff and her Senate colleagues didn’t push for more funding of bridge repair. The DFL’s transportation priorities during the regular session could be summarized this way: Increase taxes, build more transit lines and add lanes to existing highways to alleviate road congestion. ‘Mundane’ things like road and bridge repair weren’t on their radar.

That doesn’t mean that the DFL is to blame for the I-35 bridge collapse. It simply means that their transportation priorities are screwed up.

Sen. Bonoff’s quote uses the time-tested DFL tactic of playing on people’s heartstrings to sell their agenda. It doesn’t make for a compelling argument. The Strib article includes some useful information, though it includes some nonsense, too:

Pawlenty does have broad executive powers to respond to the emergencies himself, even without input from the Legislature. But a special session could have advantages from his point of view.

The Legislature passed a transportation bill with a gas-tax increase in it earlier this year. Pawlenty vetoed it. The Legislature could return in regular session in February and pass a new transportation bill with a gas-tax increase of their choosing, confronting Pawlenty with a politically risky choice.

But with everyone under pressure to act sooner in special session, Pawlenty might be able to negotiate the sort of “reasonable gas-tax increase” that he said he wanted in a private letter to legislative leaders last week. Signing that now might put him in a better position to resist proposals for larger tax increases next year.

Passing a gas tax is only part of the equation. As we saw repeatedly, Gov. Pawlenty vetoed the DFL’s tax increases. Meanwhile, Marty Seifert kept the House GOP caucus united. Because they stayed united, there were able to thwart the DFL’s attempts to override Gov. Pawlenty’s vetoes. As a result, the GOP scored a decisive victory.

As for taxes, that’s winning issue for the GOP, both at the federal and state levels. Vetoing tax increases isn’t a “politically risky choice”, as the Strib suggests, especially if it’s a gas tax increase. As Michael so aptly pointed out here, Minnesotans don’t take kindly to a gas tax increase:

According to new KSTP/Survey USA Poll, 57% of Minnesotans do not support a gas tax increase for roads and bridges. 38% support an increase, while 5% are not sure. Of the 38% that support a gas tax increase, 47% think it should be raised less than 5 cents.

The truth is that the House GOP caucus is united on the issue of tax increases, partially because Tony Sertich and the House DFL employed a ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ approach rather than actually working with the GOP from time to time. A strong bond formed as a result of having to stick together because that’s what was needed to keep from getting trampled. That bond won’t unravel easily, though some RINOs are ‘stepping up’.

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