Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave her latest last week, and I have to say it was extremely politically shrewd. I do not much care for the governor's style — she wants to act cute and flirty and, at the same time, be taken seriously.
That wouldn't be so bad, if she was willing to be a leader more often and take tough and necessary stands, even when those aren't all that popular. And she indeed has done that, to her credit, on education standards.
But I was curious to see what she would do in this State of the State speech...
I thought Jennifer Granholm would be trying to persuade voters to blame President Bush and Republicans, not her, for all this. Instead, she gave an uplifting speech that had a good idea or two, but was mostly notable for backing the Republican-dominated Legislature into a corner...
First, she challenged the Legislature to create the "Michigan First Health Care Plan," which would provide some basic health insurance for all 550,000 uninsured Michiganders. That would indeed be a wonderful thing.
Naturally, the governor knows perfectly well that this Legislature would enact compulsory training in atheism, give out condoms at commencement and make abortion a sacrament before it would do that.
Nor did she breathe a word of where the money for universal health care was to come from, in this state which has a grave perennial budget crisis. But in a breath she made herself the champion of all the women with babies who work for my dry cleaner, and every Wal-Mart "associate" everywhere.
Naturally, the Republicans obligingly took the bait, with House Speaker Craig DeRoche sneering that no "government-provided solution" could match anything provided by the sacred private sector. Tell that to people who have no medical coverage at all, and see how loudly they praise the hidden sector. More importantly, see if they want the candidate from Amway or Jennifer Granholm.
Jenny G's second masterstroke was calling for the state to create a new vehicle to offer 401(k) plans for workers whose employers don't provide them with pensions. The state would not contribute any funds, matching or otherwise. All it would do is administer the plan, as she said, "at minimal expense." This is something that would seem to be actually affordable and doable, and should strike a responsive chord with conservatives.
After all, for years they've been complaining that workers should start taking responsibility for their own retirement, not depend on nasssty feelthy government. This is a plan designed to warm Republicans' hearts, and please small business owners by taking some pressure off them.
This puts the leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature over a barrel. They certainly don't want to pass anything that would make her look good. But if they just say no because she proposed it, they'll look like petty little shits to anyone who is paying attention, and this time may alienate some of their own followers.
We have a long way to go till election day and it's too early to make predictions, but Lessenberry had a little tip for those of us who like to gamble:
"John F. Kennedy was in the White House the last time a Michigan governor lost a race for a second term. Don't bet the rent money on that happening again this year."