Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has a problem he needs to either sidestep or counter: the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed under his watch. His Administration had a policy of keeping maintenance costs at MNDOT down by not doing the necessary maintenance of our roads and bridges. This incompetence will be a key weakness his 2012 presidential opponents can exploit, providing his campaign ever attains lift-off.
What’s his solution to this potential problem? What all conservatives do when confronted: play the victim.
In the book, which went on sale over the weekend, the former Republican governor describes an episode he said occurred within the “very first hour” following the collapse on Aug. 1, 2007. Pawlenty said his staff received a call from an unnamed DFL legislator – the governor, at a book signing Tuesday, declined to identify the legislator – who said he would “use this tragedy politically to carve me up.”
Pawlenty, in the book, described the episode as “one of the most disgusting examples of low politicking I’ve seen in my entire career.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, and other DFLers involved in the tragedy’s aftermath, said they had never heard of the incident and had never heard Pawlenty refer to it. “I’ve never heard anybody talk about it. I’ve never heard anybody say they did it,” said Pogemiller, who frequently clashed politically with Pawlenty and said he was with Pawlenty at times during the days following the collapse.
“I didn’t make it,” he said of the phone call.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, was even more blunt. “I’m not sure that I actually even believe it,” he said. “[Pawlenty] has consistently tried to cast himself as a victim” of the bridge collapse’s political fallout.
“I don’t believe it,” said Dibble. “I would want some proof before I would even begin to believe it.”