Thursday, January 17, 2013

You Say "Not Bad," I Say "Unintelligible"

"Snyder’s Pure Michigan: Taking Away Our Choices...Silencing Our Voices"

~ Flyer being circulated in Lansing by Democrats

I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one person’s junk is another person’s treasure but come on. Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. (Can we still use that expression?)

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s third State of the State speech last night was jarringly bad. It was beyond poor. It was completely devoid of detail, logic and cohesion. I know I’ve criticized his delivery and his grating, clipped, nasal monotone before but last night takes the cake. It was unmitigatingly awful.

So what I can’t figure out is why so many pundits, journalists and others are complimenting the guy and no one’s climbing to the top of the highest mountain in Michigan – Mount Arvon, elevation 1,979 feet, located eight miles south of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula’s Baraga County, for those who care – and screaming, “Your leader is an idiot. You’re all in danger.”

Seems like these folks have a moral obligation to tell the truth and warn the populace rather than pretending the emperor is wearing wonderful new clothes that are oh so refreshing.

I watched the whole thing – all 56 minutes of Snyder’s rambling, disjointed pablum. If we forced captured insurgents to view this speech without interruption, I’m pretty sure our agents would sprain something in their rush to write down every confession, secret and revelation.

Courtesy Lansing State Journal
Snyder started out by making a lame joke about the Senate Majority Leader, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House, who sit behind him during the speech, having to stare at his back. Then he went right to the pandering, demanding a round of applause for the Armed Forces, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Attorney General Bill Schuette, his Cabinet (I thought the secretary of state and attorney general were part of his cabinet...maybe they’re his favorites) and others.

He went on to talk about the “Big Three,” which in his world were autos, agriculture and tourism. He mentioned that the cars deemed “best” by North American International Auto Show people were built right here in Warren and Lansing (the Dodge Ram and Cadillac ATS, respectively) and said, “If you want the best, you buy it from a Michigan product.”

I swear to dog. Review the tape.

He said our economy and income growth are doing well. He touted private sector job growth, boasting that we've added 177,000 jobs (I didn't catch the time period). He said the home market is coming back and our population is growing again.

It was at this point that I realized/remembered he famously doesn't use Teleprompters or actual written speeches – he apparently relies on note cards with abbreviated outlines. And it shows. This explains why he jumbles words and throws out random statistics and factoids as they occur to him.

He said that last year he wanted to focus on jobs, people and good government. Then he pointed to three major tax reforms: personal property tax reform, a non-ferrous metals tax change that will bring jobs to the Upper Peninsula, and unemployment tax reform. (I know. Huh?)

Then he mentioned regulatory reform and said we eliminated over 1,000 rules last year, creating an environment that’s conducive to business. (No wonder postcards that say, “Come to Michissippi” are currently selling like gangbusters.)

Courtesy MEA
Then he referred to our infrastructure, spoke about the New International Trade Crossing (the controversial proposed second bridge to Canada that everyone wants except Matty Moroun, the owner of the first and only bridge, and the politicians he’s bought) and gave the first of many “shoutouts” to some Canadian politician whose name I didn’t catch.

Not sure what was with all the shoutouts. When did we elect Arsenio Hall governor?

Next, he started talking about the new Regional Transit Authority (RTA) for southeast Michigan, announcing that he was appointing Paul Hillegonds – a senior official at DTE Energy who was a state representative for almost two decades and was Speaker of the House in 1995 and 1996 – to chair it and giving a shoutout to State Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) for being the “Yooper who brought mass transit to metro Detroit.”

For those who don't know, "Yooper" is what the cool kids call someone from Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Then he promised to “put the rapids back in Grand Rapids," announcing that it was a big environmental win that people in west Michigan will be able to kayak there again.

This was followed by a reference to “Pure Michigan Business Connect.” The governor explained that he worked with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to make it happen. To make what happen, you ask? Well, now we’re asking Michiganders to do more business with Michiganders. I’m not sure to whom Snyder was referring when he proudly spoke of the “matchmakers.”

He went on to talk about loans and programs, success coaches in our schools and “going to the customer.” He gave a shoutout to success coach Dana Trafallette, client Yolanda Foster and her young son, Joshua, who earned a Most Improved Award in math at his school. They all stood up when the governor recognized them, although Joshua looked like he would have preferred to undergo an invasive medical procedure than be recognized during this speech.

Snyder then boasted, “This last year we did almost 750 kids.” I have no idea what he meant and no, I’m not going there. He introduced Anton, a resident of the east side of Detroit who was attending Macomb Community College, liked basketball and bowling, and has applied for a position at the Department of Natural Resources. Anton, Snyder said, was “the kind of success we have in this program,” although I didn't catch the program.

Courtesy John Beutler
This was followed by the claim that we've “made tremendous success with autism.” We have at least 15,000 qualified candidates to get assistance, the governor said, and there are no losers. (Again, no idea.) He said this (not sure what) “helps society in terms of being more successful,” and then gave shoutouts to Senators Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley (R-Dearborn). I don’t know why.

Snyder then mentioned a “Healthy Kids Dental” program. He said 440,000 (children?) are in this program, announced that we’re adding another 90,000 kids, and declared that we should continue with this.

What was next? A reference to the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which consisted of just $2 million in 2010 – enough to run the government for 20 minutes, the governor pointed out – and now contains $500 million. How did this happen? Where did the $498 million come from? No idea.

Then he said something about people counting on retirement checks when they retire before moving into a brief discussion about “Bureaucracy Busters,” an effort spearheaded by Lieutenant Governor Calley to “get state employees more fired up.” State workers have been so fired up that they've suggested over 1,000 ways to bust the bureaucracy, which the governor said was “really cool.” (We had this program when I worked in the governor’s office in the 1980s; we called it the “State Employees Suggestion Awards Program” which is admittedly less cool.) Snyder clarified that the program is “not about a bureaucracy” but is about “serving the customer, our citizens.”

Time to mention new performance measures for Michigan courts, of course, and court consolidation, and to give shoutouts to the Michigan Supreme Court and the entire judiciary. Then the speech became interesting.

Why? Because this is when Snyder referenced the obscene mangling of the legislative process that occurred in the waning hours of last year, when lame duck Republican lawmakers jammed a number of horrible bills through the process without allowing Democratic lawmakers to get a word in edgewise and in spite of massive protests taking place outside on the Capitol lawn. Only he never mentioned “making Michigan a right-to-work state” or “limiting women’s access to a legal medical procedure” or “a new emergency manager law that’s identical to the one voters repealed a few weeks earlier” or “making it tougher to recall state lawmakers.”

Instead, he said “at the end of the year we had a difficult time” and “it was a divisive period” and “sometimes it happens in the world” and “I wish we hadn't” and “I hope we can work together” because “our role is to give the people of Michigan great customer service” rather than “dwelling on our own issues” and it’s time to “say how do we work together to find common ground?”

This was so infuriating, so patronizing and disingenuous and lacking and insufficient and inaccurate that I would have thrown something at the TV had I not been so busy taking notes.

I didn't have time to dwell on this issue, though, because Snyder went right back to being boring and incomprehensible. He said he had some legislative “asks” – I've always disliked that term – and insisted that the toughest single issue we face is our roads, which he said really means our roads and bridges and rails and harbors. He said it’s time to invest more in our roads and this means user fee increases to the tune of roughly a billion dollars a year.

Did you catch that? Snyder's proposing to raise a billion dollars a year - not by making businesses pay their fair share but by increasing fees on drivers.

This was followed by the admission that “we’re not getting enough performance out of our education system” because “over 60 percent of our kids have to take remedial class when they go to community college.” Then he boasted of something called the Educational Achievement Authority, or EAA, which received an award from the Gates Foundation. (I have no idea why.) Then it was time for more shoutouts to people of color, this time to two young men named Kente and Marquis. (I have no idea why.) He talked about “getting kids in early childhood programs” and then he interrupted himself because he “missed a shoutout on education.” He forgot to recognize two legislators for their education reform efforts: State Representatives Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto) and Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township). (I don't know what they did.)

The governor then whined, “We should go back and do Blue Cross/Blue Shield,” whatever that means, and went on to describe Michigan as the tenth most expensive state in the nation when it comes to auto insurance. The average claim in Michigan is $44,000, he said, and we’re home to three of the top cities (he said “states” but I’ll cut him some slack here): Detroit, Novi and Muskegon which are first, sixth and ninth, respectively. (I don’t know what they’re first, sixth and ninth in/of.) Then he said we need to reform no-fault, whatever that means, announced that he just signed an executive order to create a new department of insurance and financial services, and encouraged the new director, Kevin somebody, to “get goin’.”

He also promised to create a new agency for veterans affairs by the end of the week; talked about making it easier for veterans in some occupations to get licensed; spoke of the need to create more public/private partnerships to work on mental health; referenced slumlords, metal recycling and more troopers; and urged lawmakers to “get more stuff done.” (No, he wasn't channeling Larry the Cable Guy, although I would have welcomed Larry’s superior public speaking skills at this point.)

He actually went on for several more minutes (I still have three more pages of notes – single-spaced), speaking clumsily and referencing unrelated topics, but you get my point. It was a terrible effort, a thoroughly embarrassing speech by my state’s chief executive, and when he finally bleated, “God bless Michigan and all of us,” I was actually delighted to hear those words. Like a court appearance or a meeting with Anita’s ex-husband, I was relieved that it was finally over.

I caught a few minutes of Senior Capitol Correspondent Timmy Skubick’s post-speech analysis on public television – he and his panel members were yucking it up, praising the governor’s skill at knowing what to leave out while listing all of the urgent and combustible issues that received nary a mention, and complimenting him on his “passion” at the end. (The mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing, was in the audience at the speech but was apparently not worthy of a Snyder shoutout.) But Skubick, like Honey Boo Boo and anyone from The View, is on my “I Can Only Take So Much of These People” list so I turned the TV off and opened another bottle of Lindemans Cabernet Sauvignon. (Just kidding. Although that might have helped.)

I then made the mistake of checking Twitter before closing my laptop and saw that a longtime Lansing mover/shaker and public relations guru I know tweeted, “For a guy who only spoke from notes, gotta hand it to the guy - not bad.”

Not bad?! Are you serious? My seven-year-old gives a better speech. Even when the flu’s made her feverish and delirious. And she’s had oral surgery. And both hands are tied behind her back. And it's raining.


  1. I have been away from Michigan for the better part of 6 years, and North Carolina has it's share of dumbass politics, but Michigan tops most of the crazy states. Thanks to you, I can keep up with most of he zanier stuff.

    Snyder is a first class douchebag. My parents, both in their 70s, have a house they can't sell, though it was once assessed at nearly $300,000. Stormtroopers are annexing locally elected municipalities, and now Michigan has earned the dreaded 'right to work' status.

    Michiganders need to wake up and smell the bullshit being extruded by the Republicans and their sheepish electorate.

    1. Snyder had nothing to do with the housing crash, and we are not a "Right to Work" state, we are a "Right To Choose" state now whether to belong to a union or not...The union should have left things alone instead of pushing and getting enough signatures to put Prop 2 on the ballot, and they lost at the polls, not at Snyder's agenda, and Snyder did the will of the people...You do believe in the "Will Of The People" right? Or does it only apply to you when you win?