Gov. Tim Pawlenty got a tough time from callers on his WCCO radio show Friday. He was called cruel, told he "never learned anything" and taken to task for his views on education.
As the governor said, he "got an earful."
"Michael from Minneapolis" was the first to tee off on the Republican governor.
"Why do you hate the poor and disadvantaged in Minnesota?" Michael asked.
He also questioned Pawlenty's frequent bashing of unions' power, given Pawlenty's background in a union family.
"Obviously, you never learned anything," Michael said.
Pawlenty responded by saying that cost of human services programs, particularly subsidized health care programs, is "out of control."
"You can't have blank check, open appropriation, runaway government spending and that's what we had," Pawlenty said.
"Marilyn from Woodbury" was next to bash the governor. Her subject: education.
"Every time you bring up the subject...I want to scream. I am so tired of your constant talking about performance pay and that's the answer and student testing, basing everything on student testing. Do you realize that a teacher has no control over the make-up of her classroom..." Marilyn began.
Pawlenty interrupted by suggesting that they could compare each class only to itself as a measure of progress.
"What's the problem with that?" Pawlenty asked.
"There is a problem with that," Marilyn said.
"What's the problem with it," the governor interjected. He then interrupted her answer again.
"If you'd let me speak, I can tell you what's wrong with that," she said.
"Ok," Pawlenty said.
After a break, Marilyn and the governor essentially agreed to disagree in a calmer fashion.
But the Pawlenty pounding wasn't done.
"Bruce from St. Paul" called to say he has a lot of respect for the office of governor but: "I think you are the cruelest man, the cruelest, that has ever been in office. The cruelest. You always want to take away from the poor. Always. And you always want to help the corporations."
Bruce suggested Pawlenty's actions smacked of dictatorship, starved city budgets and said the only reason Pawlenty won in 2006 was because the Democrats ran a "hot-headed baby against you."
Pawlenty's response: "Bruce, let me ask you a couple of questions." He asked how much of St. Paul's budget "should the rest of the state pay, what percent?"
Bruce was uncowed by the question.
"I know you can outdebate me and I don't know a darned thing except that... when you're not being this nice voice on the radio, this folksy guy that has on these famous people and this nice talk...I know what you're about," he said.
Pawlenty: "Bruce, thank you and I appreciate your comments."
The governor added that it's difficult to reduce government spending without impacting programs and state spending has just gone up too high. He also said that he's not anti-tax because he has some "irrational attachment to corporations" but because being pro-business helps increase the number of jobs in Minnesota.
The governor did get some relief when "Jay in St. Paul" called in.
"I couldn't disagree more with the previous caller. I think his criticism is misdirected," Jay said.
Well, Pawlenty said, it's a free country.