Today's column, so out-of-touch and inappropriate seeing as how it's coming on the eve of one of the biggest events in Michigan's history, finds Finley trying to deliver a little payback for an incident that happened up at Mackinac. Seems that a session led by Nolan on "accountability", turned into a session on "blame", as the panelists fell into that increasingly boring and pointless sport of pointing the finger at the Governor for all our woes. Scapegoating is easy; looking in the mirror for your own "accountability" turns out to be a bit more difficult. One wonders if they realized that Dan Mulhern was in the audience when they started down that road. Dan stood up to point out that Michigan residents are "tired of conflict and negative talk", and he touched a nerve when he questioned why Finley was running the panel when the Detroit News wasn't faring all that well in the great newspaper demise of the past few years.
Crain's has the story on the exchange, Crain's tweets were a bit more revealing though.
#mpc Mulhern to N. Finley: "Ironic that you are running this show when you are on a ship that has been sinking for years." Again. OH SNAP.
#mpc Finley to Mulhern: "If I’m sinking, you are the captain." Huh? Does Dan Mulhern own a newspaper? I think Finley missed the point...
#mpc Nolan Finley just got booed and hissed by the crowd after saying Granholm had taken no action in six years. This session is on FIRE!!
Dan does have a point. The Detroit News has fallen a lot farther than the Freep under Nolan's direction, tumbling 15 places from #34 to #49 out of the top 100 newspapers from 2004 - 08 (the Freep went from #18 to #22). And, this was a crowd that was anti-Granholm, so you know that Nolan must have made himself out the villain somehow. Good show. That, in itself, was very telling of how the wingnut bashing of Granholm will fail (again) - but when you look at the reality of the Republican party and its declared gubernatorial candidates, it's really all they have. Finley tries to grasp at straws today, playing up the so-called Democratic "fears" about Cherry that are looking more and more like a Republican attempt at a wedge, as he conveniently ignores the unpopularity and lack of coherent message coming from his own party. He trots out these Republican candidates as if they were to be revered as the possible saviors of Michigan...
At least five Republicans who are openly exploring a run for governor in 2010 were on the island for the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual powwow. The Republican menu includes Attorney General Mike Cox, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, state Sen. Tom George, Congressman Pete Hoekstra and retired computer mogul Rick Synder.
Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard was also working the island, for reasons unstated. Dominos Pizza CEO David Brandon says he thinks about the job every day, but dreads a grueling campaign. John Rakolta, chairman of Walbridge Aldinger, perked ears by not denying his gubernatorial ambitions on WJR's Paul W. Smith show.
Are you in awe yet? Are you? Let's take a closer look at the list, shall we? Nolan really doesn’t want you to; if you notice, he never says what is positive or different about this group or how they would be better at this job, he trots them out and leaves them there to continue with his attack on Cherry. Let’s add it up for him. We have Mike "More Tax Cuts and No Way to Pay For Them" Cox, Terri "Can't Start A Fire With A Can of Gasoline and a Blowtorch" Lynn Land, Pete "Really Not A West-Side Flip-Flopping GOP Congressman, Honest" Hoekstra, Rick "Another Rich Guy With A Record for Outsourcing" Snyder, Mike "Can't Decide Where and How to Lose Next" Bouchard, David "No One Knows Who I Am" Brandon, and John "Hope They Don't Remember the Hitler Ads" Rakolta.
Wow. And those links come without much effort. Barely scratching the surface shows that the Republicans themselves are in deep trouble with this crop, and that was also evidenced by the so-called "debate" they held at Mackinac. No new ideas on where they would lead the state, these guys were all over the board on party message, even when they were simply mouthing the same tired and shallow talking points about "taxes" and "reform". There was nothing there. And the only thing they had in common was to bash Granholm some more, probably because they don't dare bash the very popular Obama at this point.
When you add that to a deeply unpopular national Republican Party that continues to trend downward in voter identification as they look to shock jock radio hosts for "leadership" in the need to please the only base they have left, the base that continues to tout purity and drive those desperately needed moderates from their ranks, well, you can see why Finley refuses to look for accountability within his own party. It's a pretty desolate and lonely place.
The great untold story about the conference were the underlying themes that presented themselves. When you get past the political nonsense, what really came out of Mackinac? What were the exciting ideas and solutions that has people talking about the future, causing business leaders to be generally optimistic in these dark and troubled times? Alternative energy and the new hybrid/electric auto industry. The rapidly growing film industry. Diversifying the economy into health care and other areas that require innovation and entrepreneurship. Keeping young professionals here.
In other words, Granholm's ideas.
The leadership poll conducted by John Bailey & Associates makes you question how we can hold that the governance of this state is so poor, while the the ideas that originated with that governance are so strong that they generate this kind of optimism.
When asked to look ahead at the next five years, respondents felt positive that Michigan’s business climate will be stronger. At 70 percent, the 2009 numbers are slightly higher than the 2008 results. 73 percent of respondents think the state’s efforts to attract more businesses in alternative energy sectors will help diversify the state’s economy. (14 percent
disagree and 13 percent “aren’t sure.”)
67 percent agree that Michigan’s new film tax credits will help diversify the state’s economy. (20 percent disagreed and 13 percent “weren’t sure.”)
Other results: Michigan is viewed as a "3" or below as a "good place to do business", and road funding solutions are all over the place, the government should control the stimulus money over business, and Cherry actually leads the pack of declared candidates, but most are still undecided. So, there are areas to work on here, but the main ideas that cause a sense of optimism for this state are themes that the current Democratic leadership has championed, and, for political implications alone, ideas that the Republicans fought against every step of the way. We would do best to remind people of that every chance we get.
Long story short - Granholm's ideas are winners, even as she is taking the fall for the state’s economy in a general way. You will see people like Finley try to divert your attention from the truth in those ideas, in their quest to bring the Bush Republicans back to power. Don’t fall for it.
Never underestimate the Democrats ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory though. If they don't stand up and point out when Republicans are stealing these ideas and at the same time trying to shift the blame on the current leadership for the unstoppable downfall of the auto industry, Finley and his extreme right wing masters just might be successful with this wedge. It's doubtful, but still something that needs to be addressed with the correct framing as this progresses. 2010 is a long way away, and there is a lot of water to flow under the bridge between now and then, but a solid offense started now can blow right through the tissue-thin protests of the Michigan Republicans and their whining mouthpieces like Finley.
Perhaps we should keep baiting them as well. It's tempting to chastise Mulhern for playing in the political gutter (seriously dude, it's beneath you), but anything that keeps these guys shooting themselves in the foot might be a good thing. "Granholm sucks" is not a winning strategy; the people need to feel like the next governor will continue to work towards a better future, and keep following these ideas and solutions that bring such optimism now. "Hope" still works in our favor.
As of right now, that path is best exemplified by John Cherry and the Democrats - a fact that drives Nolan absolutely nuts. You almost feel sorry for him.