The Kansas City Star (Sunday) - - OPINION - GAIL COLLINS

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.


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