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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dems right, Hoeven wrong

I like and respect North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven a lot. I think he has earned his high popularity ratings, and the state is much better off for his service.

But I'm disappointed with two of his statements -- the first to a radio talk show host June 19, the second in response to recent questions about those statements.

No, I wouldn't call the statements "lies." But Hoeven does seem to be skiriting, dodging or even stretching the truth with them. That's not like him, and that's why the statements are disappointing.

State Democratic Party leaders rightly called attention to the radio interview. Here's the Associated Press' description of the June 19 exchange:

(begin quote) "During the interview on Fargo's KFGO Radio, Hoeven was asked if he agreed with the statement that he had 'not had discussions with ... any members of the state board about Dr. Potts.' Hoeven replied: 'That's it. You know, that's a personnel decision. That's something, the (Board of Higher Education) needs to make those decisions.'

"Later, in a reference to Potts, Hoeven was asked: "You have not been involved in this issue. Is that correct?" Hoeven replied: 'That's what I'm saying. I have always approached it from the standpoint that that is the board's responsibility.'" (end quote)

More recently, of course, we've learned from the attorney general that Hoeven had, in fact, had discussions with members of the board about Potts, the chancellor of the North Dakota higher education system. My guess is that what he was trying to do in the interview was craft a "non-denial denial" -- that is, make it sound like he was answering "no" to the question when he wasn't really saying anything at all. But he's not very good at doing such things, especially on the fly, so he made his "denial" too strong for it to be easily denied later.

Especially in his second answer. Because when a questioner makes a statement and then asks, "Is that correct?", the answer "That's what I'm saying" is close enough to pick the lint off the sweater of "Yes".

Hoeven should have said something like, "Well, I do talk on occasion with board members, and it's safe to say Potts has come up in those conversations now and then." But he didn't. Next time, he should trust his instinct to talk straight rather than to spin.

Make that, the time after next, because the governor ducked and weaved once again in response to questions about the interview. "Hoeven said Friday he had been speaking by cell phone during the June 19 interview and may not have heard some questions clearly," The AP reported. But Hoeven's June 19 answers were on-point and didn't show any misunderstanding of the questions at all. If, in answering the statement, "You have not been involved in this issue," he had said, "Tissue? Who said anything about tissue?" he could fairly claim to have misheard. But instead he answered, "That's what I'm saying. I have always approached it from the standpoint that that is the board's responsibility." And that suggests he'd heard and understood the question perfectly.

Were these fatal errors? No. Everybody makes mistakes, and I expect North Dakotans will forgive Hoeven this lapse. But it was a lapse, the governor should recognize. And he should nip the Artful Dodger-speak in the bud before it becomes a habit.

14 Comments:

Blogger Good Ol' Boy said...

I agree. Hoeven needs to fess up here. He's better than that, and like you say, it would most likely be no big deal with voters if it's handled correctly.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It always kills me when we continually read blogs like this, especially from people at the Herald. How come we never read anything when the Nodak delegation votes against what a great majority of North Dakotans want? They can never do any wrong in this state and it is sad that our press will never publish anything negative about them. Hoeven definitely did not handle this well at all, but not that big of deal.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous trenter said...

anonymous....don't you get it...this is the herald that either refuses to publish or buries stories about Dorgan and his connection to Abramhoff. Hoeven and his staff did not handle this well at all and if he would just come out and let everyone know he either misspoke or tell us what went on, this would be over and done with. This is not a big deal at all.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't about time Mike Jacobs writes another article/editorial criticizing the President, Republicans, and this war? oh yeah, he does that on just about a daily basis. It is really sad that some media outlets have such a slant to their news and reporting.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom,

This is a great editorial. You should run it in hardcopy.

Hoeven basically lied about his involvement in the Potts debacle.
It is there word for word.

As for the other commentors. Dorgan got nailed for the Abramoff stuff in the press. You must be a bunch of right wing nuts.

Conrad, Dorgan and Pomeroy do a lot of good for this state. If they weren't there, Hoeven wouldn't take credit for not doing squat. Hoeven is popular because the Congressional delegation gets the job done for him.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Conservative Yahoo said...

"Hoeven is popular because the Congressional delegation gets the job done for him."

The reason for that is the government getting their fingers into waaaay to much stuff there isn't much the locals can do alone anymore.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

some people would love to have states give up all their rights and let the feds decide what is right for everyone.......wow....to think that the Nodak delegation is the reason for everything positive in this state laughable

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said that Mike Jacobs is always criticizing the President, the government, and the war. If you have read his editorials in the past, you should know that he is very conservative, as is the Herald. These latest ones to which you refer have been soooo diplomatic and low-key, and they seem to simply raise questions, in a thought-provoking manner. And anyway, since when is it wrong to criticize the President, the government, or the war? Or are you one of those ultra-ultra conservatives that would label anyone unpatriotic if they criticize that sort of thing? Sort of "my country right or wrong"? Who was it said "I support my country always, and my government when it deserves it"--Mark Twain?

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said that Mike Jacobs is always criticizing the President, the government, and the war. If you have read his editorials in the past, you should know that he is very conservative, as is the Herald. These latest ones to which you refer have been soooo diplomatic and low-key, and they seem to simply raise questions, in a thought-provoking manner. And anyway, since when is it wrong to criticize the President, the government, or the war? Or are you one of those ultra-ultra conservatives that would label anyone unpatriotic if they criticize that sort of thing? Sort of "my country right or wrong"? Who was it said "I support my country always, and my government when it deserves it"--Mark Twain?

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Mike Jacobs is conservaitve, as is the Herald"? What fantasy world are you living in?

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