FREE SPEECH ZONE | Diaz Review of Pawlenty biography — sly and amusing


Sly and amusing best describes Star Tribune reporter Kevin Diaz’s Jan. 7 review of Minnesota’s retiring governor Tim Pawlenty’s biography, “Courage to Stand” .  Quite a trite title for a political biography reminiscent of blind ambition personified Tim Robbins” character in the political satire “Bob Roberts”.

Diaz’ uses the following yarn for the lead which is a great grabber and reveals a lot about Pawlenty:  Wrestling mania is a recurring theme in the Pawlenty courageous stand starting with a tense scene between then House majority leader Pawlenty and then Gov. Jesse Ventura.  The Tim flipped out one of his patently preppy school boy snide comments accusing the former wrestler of leaving the “taxpayers behind enemy lines”.  Bad move.  This enraged the volatile Ventura.  One can ponder history’s course had Ventura let loose with a roundhouse hay maker aimed at the shaken Pawlenty.  Somewhat uncourageously, the prudent Pawlenty apologized.

Which brings this wrestling yarn to present day when the ghost writer for wrestler Hulk Hogan’s autobiography, Mark Dagostino, was commissioned by Pawlenty for “Courage to Stand”.    I rather doubt that Ventura referred Pawlenty to Hogan for a a suggestion on who could best chronicle great courageous moments in a young politician’s life.  If you are looking for someone without pretensions, a wrestler biographer would do, particularly if your audience is less educated.

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Further biting commentary on Pawlenty’s character e is observed by Diaz as less than courageous in the transformation of boy to the former governor.  Coming from a childhood with a union family and neighborhood traumatized by the shutdown of a local meat packing plant and subsequent mass unemployment, Pawlenty went on to become a governor who would begrudge state employees decent pay and benefits and would take on the public employee unions.

Diaz is based in Washington, where you would think there would be enough for a reporter to ponder let alone a third rate biography on a second rate politician.  But Diaz commanded front page with a jump inside for extensive review on a book that might have deserved a couple of graphs in the Lifestyles section.  This is Diaz’s second go at Pawlenty with an earlier piece assessing his presidential bid chances.

What is sadly missing are details on Pawlenty’s relationship to the failed Republican campaign for governor last year featuring the beleaguered Tom Emmer.  If Pawlenty had not waited until October to get aboard the faltering Emmer campaign would he have been able to tip the scales in favor of the Republican?  And why didn’t Pawlenty go for a third term rather than enter the presidential race where he will no doubt be swamped by media savvy Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin?

Another interesting anecdote in the review is Pawlenty’s sense that he has comic-like talents and wishes to share these with the likes of Conan O’Brien in hopes of a shot on late night TV.  Can he dance?  Does Bristol Palen need a new partner?

Dave Zarkin