THE GOP’S NUTTY TREATS ARE GOOD AND PAWLENTY
Today, our topic is: strange stories about Republican presidential hopefuls. Would you rather start with the one about Mitt Romney and the rapper, or Tim Pawlenty? OK, if you really insist, Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, appeared before the recent Conservative Political Action Conference. The all-important question was whether he would be angry enough to win the hearts of the Tea Party-types. He doesn’t seem naturally irate. And politicians often get into trouble when they’re trying to sound more furious than they feel. And Pawlenty told the conservatives they should try to be more like … Tiger Woods’ wife. “We should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government in this country,” he urged. The overall strangeness of this thought aside, consider the timing. An angry man had just smashed his airplane into the IRS office in Austin, killing one federal employee, injuring others and breaking quite a few windows. Does this seem like the very best time to be encouraging people — even figuratively — to assault government property? Another star of the conservative conference, Scott Brown, was worse. When the new senator from Massachusetts was asked on Fox News about the IRS office attack, he appeared to embrace the possibility that the pilot of the plane might have been one of his followers. “And I don’t know if it’s related, but I can just sense, not only in my election but since being here in Washington, people are frustrated,” he said. “They want transparency.” Let’s think this through. Andrew Joseph Stack III, the pilot, was a man with multiple hatreds, from Catholicism to unions, whose rage at the IRS apparently began when the agency refused to allow him to declare his house a church for the purpose of avoiding taxes. And the end of the story is that he crashed a plane into a building, killing and injuring innocent people. Plus, he burned down his house. Where his wife and her daughter lived. How many of you think this story would have come out differently if there was more transparency in Washington? That if only President Obama had followed through on that pledge to put the health care negotiations on C-SPAN, Stack and the IRS offices would all be with us today? Brown did add: “He could have had other issues. Certainly, no one likes paying taxes.” At least we now know that when Brown announced to his campaign victory party that his young daughters were “available” it was not a onetime slip of the tongue by a man who normally chooses his words carefully. Romney, who was introduced by Brown at the conservative event, had a less-dramatic take on current events. In his speech, he railed about “liberal neo-monarchists” but did not suggest beating them up with a golf club. As you may remember, Romney’s real news moment occurred when he had an altercation with a passenger on a flight back from the Winter Olympics. A spokesman said the former governor was attacked when he asked the man to raise his seat before takeoff. The mystery passenger has apparently now come forward. Sky Blu, a rapper, said the encounter began when Romney yelled at him about the seat and put a “condor grip” on his shoulder. “No hard feelings to him. I’m sure he’s a good dude,” said Sky Blu. We had wondered whether this story had a political tinge, but the rapper, who specializes in songs about shot-drinking, does not seem like a neomonarchist. And my sorrow in discovering that the fight did not involve retribution for the day Romney drove his dog to Canada strapped to the roof of the family car was ameliorated by my joy at the vision of Mitt having an argument with a rapper about proper seat positioning for takeoff.