OPINION: The messianic arrogance of isolation

  • Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, standing at podium, speaks at a news conference in Wasilla on June 14. (Photo/Office of the Governor)

“Any Given Sunday” doesn’t seem like Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s kind of movie, but Oliver Stone’s outlandish take on pro football does have its moments of profundity.

Late in the film after a game when his offensive line allowed him to take a beating over his bigshot attitude, quarterback “Steamin” Willie Beamen walks into the sauna occupied only by linebacker Luther “Shark” Lavay.

“Yeah, you led,” Lavay says. “But did anybody follow?”

The question, like most are when the answer is obvious, was purely rhetorical.

Dunleavy’s support has shriveled in the Legislature to a handful of members mostly from the Valley while traditional Republican Party allies across the business community have either refused to defend him or have directly come out against his vetoes and the House minority holding the capital budget hostage in exchange for a statutory PFD.

Dunleavy has led. But how many are still following as he stakes his office on a minority of legislators barely large enough to sustain his vetoes and the oftentimes hateful rhetoric of his PFD-or-bust base in the Valley?

Rather than recognize the lack of support for his proposals as evidence of a need to change course, Dunleavy has chosen the path of Valley Rep. David Eastman, who also arrogantly takes his isolation as a badge of honor and proof of his messianic righteousness.

Instead of attempting to be a governor for all of Alaska, Dunleavy has chosen to be the governor of District E.

This outcome is what many who supported Dunleavy feared when he hired former Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babock as chief of staff cum wartime consigliere.

And, not to belabor the references to movies starring Al Pacino, he has not governed like the cool-headed and savvy Michael Corleone but as a combination of Sonny and Fredo mixing vindictiveness with incompetence.

Dunleavy’s single-minded focus on a $3,000 PFD has leveled the once high ground of sustainable budgeting and respect for the rule of law with his vetoes ranging from punitive to petty to preposterous.

Not that the legislative leadership is blameless. Far from it.

The aimless stewards of the House allowed the PFD issue to fester for months rather than addressing it or showing even a modicum of respect for the minority members whose votes they now need to fund the capital budget and overturn some or all of Dunleavy’s vetoes.

The Senate is led by Cathy Giessel, who was perfectly willing to run on a full PFD with back payments when she faced a tough reelection battle in 2016.

“There’s a difference between looking at options and grabbing someone else’s money,” Giessel told the camera in a video that is still live on her 2016 reelection Facebook page. “That’s what Gov. Walker did. He grabbed your money. That money grab didn’t solve anything. A money grab is not a solution.

“Sen. Mike Dunleavy is proposing a solution that would give that money back to you. I support that solution and we’ll be working with him in January to see that done. You see, you deserve to have that money back. Alaska deserves a real solution to the budget crisis.”

Alaska’s budget situation wasn’t any better in 2016 than it is now — in fact it was worse — but Giessel has done a complete 180 on what she successfully ran on just three years ago.

In that regard, Dunleavy deserves credit for trying to deliver what he promised.

But in reality the state is not with him as measured by the best possible indicator, which are the votes cast in the Legislature that he has been on the wrong side of all year.

Dunleavy could have introduced a sensible four-year plan to gradually reduce government spending to sustainable levels but he blew his chance for real budget reform when he attempted it all in one bite and in such draconian fashion that he spawned the bipartisan majority in the House that has frustrated him at every turn.

It’s been written in this space that the PFD is not a suicide pact, but right now Dunleavy and Babcock are mixing the punch with their Valley cohort and intending to force it down everyone’s throats if they don’t get what they want in spite of their lack of popular support.

Time is running out for a compromise with the least fortunate among us being turned out to the streets and the University of Alaska declaring the equivalent of bankruptcy a month away from the fall semester.

Dunleavy and his dwindling number of allies would do well to remember one more line from “Any Given Sunday” delivered by Pacino’s Coach Tony D’Amato to his players facing one last shot to keep their season alive:

“Either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals.”

Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].

Updated: 
07/25/2019 - 10:07am

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