Damned if they do, damned if they don't.
Regardless of their actions on the stimulus plan, Republican governors are always wrong, at least according to MSNBC talk-show host Rachel Maddow.
The ardently earnest Maddow demonstrated this on consecutive nights this week, first on Tuesday when Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, was one of her guests.
Maddow described how GOP governors are split on whether to accept money for their states from the stimulus plan. Some, such as Charlie Crist of Florida and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, want the funding while others, including Sarah Palin of Alaska and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, are "vociferously opposed to the stimulus bill," Maddow said.
"Which means, you know, that they're not going to take the money?" Maddow asked. "Well, not so fast there." Mississippi's Haley Barbour "will look at the plan and decide," Maddow said, while Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina is "looking at it as well and will decide based on the details," Jindal says he'll "review every program," and Rick Perry of Texas "will take a real close look at the package."
"In other words, they opposed the stimulus bill, but they will take the dough," Maddow said. "How does that work? Joining us now is the Republican governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty" --
MADDOW: Gov. Pawlenty, it is very kind of you to make the time to be with us tonight. It's hard for us to get Republicans to be on the show and I'm really glad you've decided to come back to us.
PAWLENTY: I'm happy to be here and you're funny, Rachel.
MADDOW: Oh, thank you, it's nice of you to say.You have a roughly $5 billion dollar budget deficit in Minnesota. It's probably going to grow. But I know that you think the stimulus bill is a bad idea. So that means you're turning down the money, right, governor?
PAWLENTY: Well I have concerns about the bill. I think it could have been done better. I was in favor of a stimulus bill. I was disappointed in this one for a variety of reasons. But in Minnesota's case we're going to accept the money for this reason, Rachel. We pay in, for every dollar to the federal government, we get about 72 cents back. We're the 46th least-receiving state of any state in the nation in terms of federal money. So our view is, if you buy the pizza, it's OK if you have a slice. It doesn't mean you can't express concerns about the bill or offer suggestions of how it could have been better.
To which Maddow responded with her own analogy --
MADDOW: I think thinking about this as a pizza would get to the conclusion that you've ended up with, but I don't, my analogy is this. I pay my taxes to support my local police, but it doesn't mean that I would buy stuff from a crooked cop that was heisting stuff out of an evidence locker or something. If you were getting offered something that you think you shouldn't be offered, you shouldn't take it, should you?
PAWLENTY: Well I think the bill has some positive features in it. My view of it is this. The federal government is spending money they don't have. They're borrowing it in part from the Chinese. That's number one. Number two, it could have been a better targeted bill, a more impactful bill, probably for less money, that's number two. And number three, it was a missed opportunity because I think with some modest modifications it could have been truly bipartisan and lived up to that promise of President Obama. And so for those reasons I expressed concern about the bill. I think it could have been done better. So the answer isn't no, it's better.
And again, when you're paying the tab like Minnesota is, one of the major contributors, subsidizers of the federal government, I don't think it's untoward for us to accept our share of the money.
Maddow wasn't buying it and after more give and take with Pawlenty, she concluded the interview this way --
MADDOW: The day that a governor, Republican or Democrat, says I was against this and I'm not going to take the money, I can figure out a way to do it without it, that will be a truly watershed day for political clarity in this country. But in the meantime, your clear statement of your views is going to be the closest we get.
Yet as fate would have it, the "truly watershed day" occurred within 24 hours, as described by Maddow and New York Times columnist Frank Rich, her first guest on the following night. Once again, the subject was whether GOP governors will accept stimulus money --
MADDOW: The person who's on the ascendancy among Republican governors is seen to be Bobby Jindal, who we learned today is now considering turning down stimulus money that could generate 50,000 jobs in the state of Louisiana, on the basis of this political principle that the Republicans need to say no to economic stimulus. He's seen as the one who has a real future. Charlie Crist is seen as, you know, sort of over.
RICH: Right. And Bobby Jindal, who's really very unproven, very young and obviously in some ways a talented and very bright guy, but what is this stand he's taking in that state of all states, which has been suffering so much for years. To turn down the money, the cognitive dissonance politically in that, whatever the ideology behind it, just makes him look completely rigidly ideological.
Political clarity, meet cognitive dissonance.
Maddow and Rich get it backward -- they are the ones being "completely rigidly ideological" by criticizing Republican governors on the stimulus plan, regardless of what the governors do. And incidentally, Maddow wonders why Republicans have an apparent aversion to appearing on her show? Maybe it has something to do with her fondness for graphics such as the one titled, "The Two-Faced Strategy," which was used during the Pawlenty segment (note the absence of a question mark). This from a pundit whom liberals can't praise enough for her alleged civility.
That Jindal is seen on the left as a potential threat is clear from Maddow's description of him as "on the ascendancy among Republican governors," and Jindal can expect much more scrutiny as the 2012 campaign approaches. Among the events in his past we're likely to hear more about -- Jindal's participation in an exorcism while a student at Brown University, shortly after his conversion to Catholicism and in apparent violation of Catholic doctrine since permission was not first obtained from a local priest.
I can already hear Maddow's criticism -- couldn't Jindal have tried negotiating with Satan instead?