It’s a good thing that the FolksyMeter — my way of measuring the cornpone affectations in the speech patterns of suburban-raised, Ivy League-educated Gov. Bruce Rauner — is just a concept and not an actual device.
Because Rauner would have broken it Tuesday during an address to the 31st annual Innovations in Construction, Asphalt and Transportation conference in Peoria. This passage alone, in which he described why he decided to run for governor, would have done the trick:
“My kids were leavin’ Illinois. I got six kids. They were leavin’ Illinois. I said ‘This is ridiculous.’ And my partners in my bidness said, ‘Bruce we gotta get outta here, we gotta leave.’ And I said: ‘I ain’t not leavin’ Illinois. I was born here. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m not gonna run away. We’re gonna fix this.’ ”
Well, it turns out that Gov. Gomer ain’t not stayin’ in Illinois neither, ‘least not these a’ days. He left Friday for Germany and Poland on a mission to “attract more jobs and foreign direct investment to our state,” according a news release from his office.
Rauner is “traveling with a delegation of Illinois business and community leaders as well as economic and university development executives” and is meeting in the two countries with “leaders in business, government, higher education, and skilled worker training.”
We all hope he succeeds.
And we all hope that his hosts are not good with internet searches.
“Illinois ist am Rande der Katastrophe.” That’s German for “Illinois is at the edge of disaster,” which Rauner tweeted last November.
“Znaczna częsc tego miejsca została zrujnowana przez wiele lat.” That’s Polish, according to Google translate, for “Much in our state has been broken for many, many years,” a line from Rauner’s 2017 State of the State speech.
In that same speech he bemoaned our huge stack of unpaid bills, our worst in the nation unfunded pension liability and credit rating, the brain drain from our public colleges and universities and “uncompetitive regulations and taxes (that) have made employers hesitant about coming or staying in Illinois.”
We hope that potential investors in Germany and Poland don’t find archived video of the commercials Rauner released last October in which Republican Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Eric Greitens of Missouri and Eric Holcomb of Indiana credited a tax hike in Illinois with creating new jobs in their states, all but inviting Illinois businesses to uproot.
And yes, I get it — Illinois as a hellscape ruled by rapacious moblike criminals who thwart the righteous governor at every turn is a plausible (though so far ineffective) narrative lever for inspiring voters and imposing systemic change. And Illinois has its problems, to be sure.
But governors, like mayors — and parents, come to think of it — have to be boosters first, cheerleaders who accentuate the positive while sparingly and constructively addressing the negative.
When state or city leaders are forever rending their garments about how terrible things are, it makes the job of attracting and keeping business and residents all that much more difficult. This, in turn, makes things more terrible.
It’s best to allow the pundits and political foes to play the role of Eeyore.
Rauner has been slow to grasp this fundamental rule of leadership. Although, in fairness, his 2018 State of the State address was comparatively long on uplift and short on gloom.
“With 36 Fortune 500 companies, 1.2 million small businesses and 72,000 of the nation’s greatest farms, we are the world’s 17th largest economy. We are a top bioscience and medical center. Eighty-two foreign consulates help connect us to the global economy. Our institutions of higher learning are world-renowned, world-connected … We graduate more engineers than MIT, Stanford and Caltech combined.”
There are many reasons, in other words, why Rauner ain’t the only one who ain’t not leavin’ Illinois. If he can impress that upon business leaders in Germany and Poland and persuade them to ignore his earlier trash talkin’, they won’t have no good reason not to be locatin’ here.
Trump to the world: Nyuks to you!
Wednesday morning, a particularly bellicose President Donald Trump tweeted: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ ”
The threat was related to a chemical-weapons attack April 7 on the rebel-held Syrian city of Douma, apparently by the Syrian military under President Bashar Assad. And Trump’s enthusiasm for and playground attitude toward a military confrontation with another global superpower set off international alarms.
Thursday morning came a follow-up tweet that came close to a retraction: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”
This is Moe Howard diplomacy. Moe was the temperamental bully in “The Three Stooges” comedy team and is best remembered for slapstick acts of violence and such empty bluster as “Remind me to kill you later” and his signature “Why I oughta …”
Trump’s largely feckless fulminations have become something of a signature. Think of his “fire and fury” warning to North Korea, his toothless warning that he was considering vetoing the recent spending bill, his promise in January to “take a strong look at our country’s libel laws” in order to curb the media, his unfulfilled declaration in December that the U.S. would cut aid to countries that voted for a United Nations resolution that condemned his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and so on.
Why I oughta …
… build a wall. Withdraw from NAFTA. Try to put Hillary Clinton in jail …
He’s not bluffing, he’s just venting.
Trump is not all talk, unfortunately. From the time I type this until the time you read it he may have touched off World War III.
But often, your best response to one of his splenetic tweets is to narrow your gaze and offer another one of Moe’s classic lines: “Oh, a wise guy, eh?”
The winner of this week’s online reader poll for funniest tweet is a particularly timely entry by @GirlFromBlupo: “Dear Amazon, I bought a toilet seat because I needed one. Necessity, not desire. I do not collect them. I am not a toilet seat addict. No matter how temptingly you email me, I’m not going to think, ‘Oh go on then, just one more toilet seat, I’ll treat myself.’ ”
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