Maybe Gov. Tim Pawlenty isn't interested in the White House after all.

While on a conference call with Minnesota reporters from his trade mission to Chile earlier in the week, Pawlenty made it sound as though he might prefer to be president of that country.

Perhaps the balmy temperatures are partially to blame for his rosy take on the politics and policies of a South American country that was led by a brutal dictator for many years.

"Since the [Gen. Augusto] Pinochet regime here, they have had a strong commitment to democracy, but an incredible commitment to free enterprise, free trade and private markets," Pawlenty said.

The governor touted Chile's "public-private partnerships in all forms of infrastructure, including airports and major roads."

Don't even get him started about fiscal restraint.

"They have an incredible commitment to fiscal discipline and balanced budgets," said Pawlenty, who was scheduled to meet with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during the trade mission. "In Chile, they have essentially no public debt. Zero. None to speak of." Bachelet is a member of the country's Socialist Party, as was her predecessor, Ricardo Lagos.

Pawlenty admitted "there is more to the story" of how Chile achieved relative freedom and prosperity (like a complex debt crisis in the 1980s).

But in the end, "they have, not withstanding some sharp political differences, between various parties and perspectives here in Chile, a strong sense of commitment to certain approaches to issues," Pawlenty said.


Attorney general, eh?

Mad Jack is back. Almost.

John Remington Graham, probably the most controversial county attorney in state history, says he wants to be Minnesota attorney general and will move from Quebec, Canada, to St. Paul next month to establish residency.

Dubbed "Mad Jack" by some for his performance as Crow Wing County attorney in the early 1990s, Graham made news as the prosecutor who wanted less prosecution. "We have too much law," he said at the time. "I think it's time to lighten up a bit."

His most controversial comments dealt with the enforcement of domestic violence laws, which he said "gives women power over men that they shouldn't have." One public defender quit, saying he could no longer represent accused child molesters in court because Graham didn't aggressively represent their alleged victims.

"I am very proud of what I did there," Graham, 69, said in an interview last week, maintaining that his views have been vindicated. He says he appears in Minnesota courts up to a dozen times a year to argue against "unwise" domestic violence or child support policies.

Graham, who seeks GOP endorsement, says Attorney General Lori Swanson, a DFLer, has abused her power. He cited a settlement signed by Swanson that gave proceeds to a nonprofit whose political wing contributed to the campaign of her DFL predecessor, Mike Hatch.

Swanson's office noted the settlement occurred while Hatch was attorney general.


Day does it his way

If Minnesota lawmakers ever erect a statue of retiring Sen. Dick Day, the sculptor probably should probably depict his famously loose lips and the hands of those trying to shush him.

The former Senate minority leader from Owatonna gained a reputation for saying perhaps a little too much to the public and journalists, sometimes bedeviling his zip-lipped colleagues and staff.

His kids aren't surprised.

"When you see him at a press conference, he's just like he is at home," said son, Dan, 49.

Like fellow lawmakers, Day's family has grown to expect some cringe-worthy statements.

"We're always like, 'Dad, I can't believe you said that in front of people,'" his son said. "It's just him, shooting from the hip."

After announcing that he will resign his Senate seat to become a lobbyist for racinos, Day ruminated that he probably shouldn't have speculated about expanding gambling to bars.

Why not hold back more? "That hasn't been my way," Day said.

He described his legislative showmanship this way: "I get kind of wild on the floor every once in a while, and raise a little hell, and I say what I think."