Not conservatism, but authoritarianism

Striving for his personal goal of the presidency, Tim Pawlenty is remaking the office of governor while rejecting up to a billion dollars in much-needed aid when Minnesota faces massive deficits and declining health outcomes ("Pawlenty restricts health money," Sept. 1).

Pawlenty's dictate requiring all state officials to funnel grant applications through his office is an unprecedented concentration of power.

It shows how unconservative he and his supporters have become. Time was when limited government was a top aim of conservatism. But now we have iron-fisted control from one man over all agency and department funds.

It appears not to be enough that Pawlenty gets to choose the heads of each of these units of government. Even his own handpicked leaders can no longer be trusted to follow the policy aims of his administration.

Imagine for just a moment, say, a Gov. Anderson-Kelliher issuing the same rule. Conservatives would be going wild about this power play. But since the right thinks Pawlenty is "one of them," hey, it's all OK.

This is not conservatism; it is authoritarianism.

And it is a poor precedent for the office of governor, and conservatives and independents should oppose it.


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If not for its tragic consequences, Gov. Pawlenty's statement that he will allow Minnesota's citizens' access to federal funds for health care on a "case by case" basis with "the state's best interest in mind" would be amusing in the gullibility it presumes among the populace.

Given his legacy of shortchanging local school districts and municipalities to maintain his "no new taxes" pledge, Pawlenty's refusal to accept federal funding for comprehensive sex education at no cost to the state while accepting it for "abstinence-based" education requiring a state contribution ("Pawlenty rejects $850,000 for sex ed," Aug. 31), and now his pledge to thwart state access to more than $1 billion in federal health care funds, makes apparent whose "best interest" he has in mind: his own.

Will Pawlenty do anything for political gain? Where is his conscience?


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Pawlenty's decision will deprive Minnesotans of a lot more than money.

It threatens to undermine our position as a national leader in three critical areas: reducing the number of uninsured; rewarding high-quality, low-cost healthcare, and effectively regulating insurers.

As a member of the working group charged with advising the Minnesota Legislature on how best to set up an insurance exchange -- a mechanism to give consumers in the individual and small-group insurance markets better information about their insurance options, and in the process improve those options -- I find the governor's executive order especially exasperating.

The $1 million grant he has rejected for studying exchange policy design -- just a drop in the bucket when one considers all the federal funds he has blocked, of course, but the application for this particular grant appears to have triggered the sweeping executive order -- would not even have committed the state to setting up an exchange. The grant's goal was only to give states the capacity to collect and analyze all the data needed to make an informed decision on whether to set up an exchange, and if so, how.

Data collection itself is now the enemy, apparently, for our grandstanding governor and the paranoid forces in the national electorate he seeks to please.

And Minnesotans' health? Just collateral damage in a holy war against government.


War in Iraq

Reflections on the end of combat operations

We are walking away out of Iraq, but I do not think we should see this as a military loss, and I am a conservative ("Obama: 'Time to turn the page' in Iraq," Sept. 1).

We have given more than 4,000 of our very best to offer freedom (freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from internal terrorism), and we are leaving.

But we have not lost this war -- they have. They have chosen to not participate in a civilized world in which you can have even very contentious elections without suicide bombings. America has done its best, and the Middle East does not care for it. It is OK to come home now; we offered.

DAWN HIRSCH, Coon Rapids

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Somebody should remind David Brooks of the inverted pyramid, a story structure that puts the most important information first. His Sept. 1 column "In Iraq, the United States built a nation" sings the praises of the "successes" of the American war in Iraq (lots of air conditioners and cell phones!), but self-servingly leaves until the end the ugliest, longest-lasting realities of our idiotic invasion: The nation is broken; its doctors, engineers and other professionals have fled; corruption remains rampant; women's rights are still largely ignored; ethnic tension and fear continue to burn just barely below the boiling point.

Tell me again, Mr. Brooks: How are things better in Iraq now than before we invaded?


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Actually, I do miss President George W. Bush. For all the catastrophes his military and economic policies wrought on this nation, he understood that the radicalism of terrorists -- and not the religion of more than a billion Muslims -- was behind the Sept. 11 atrocity. He showed genuine leadership in calling for religious freedom and tolerance, and he understood that to contain extremism required a union of Christians and Muslims in America and worldwide. The dishonest and disgusting rhetorical crusade that Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Fox News have launched against Muslim-Americans makes it clear that Bush represented the moral and intellectual zenith of the modern Republican Party.

ALEKS HINDIN, St. Louis Park