Resign time, a duet

Apr 8, 2009 at 12:00 am

Jennifer Granholm has been governor, or, more correctly, playing one on TV, for more than six years now. So let me start by naming her greatest accomplishment since she took office: 000000.

Sigh. Yeah, I know. There hasn't been one. True, other people would have done worse. She is not malevolent, or evil. She apparently has good values, and would stand up for them and try to get something accomplished ... except that it might make someone mad.

Her real tragedy — and even more so ours — is that she is fundamentally unsuited to govern. She is highly intelligent and educated, but is afraid to make difficult decisions. When she does, with great reluctance, make them, she seldom follows through.

Here's just one small example: Just before her State of the State speech two months ago, her troops leaked the news that she was determined to consolidate 18 government departments into eight. That made some sense; it was clear even then that the state was facing looming budget deficits that are scarily large. But as soon as the news came out, she got some criticism, and apparently panicked.

Suddenly, she was announcing that our long-suffering Lt. Gov. John Cherry would be put in charge of a commission to study this. In other words, she effectively killed her own proposal.

Now things have gotten much worse. The deficit for the year ending in September is approaching $1 billion; the one next year will be more than $2 billion. The Center for Michigan, an entirely nonpartisan, middle-of-the-road think tank, has outlined $1.5 billion in sensible cuts that could be made. Others have suggested other measures.

But the governor has no response.

She appears to be desperately dithering, hoping things will get better. They won't. State government is facing the mother of all fiscal crises. Sure, the politicians in Lansing will improperly try to use the federal stimulus money to plug the deficit, but that may not work. Even if they can misappropriate that money, it may not cover the deficit, and even if they can pull it off, this would be like putting makeup on your cancer lesions instead of treating them.

Hard decisions and tough political infighting are needed. Make no mistake: Most of the Republicans who control the state Senate have little interest in good government. They are perfectly happy to wreck Michigan if it means power will fall into their hands in 2010. And that's exactly where we are headed now. Don't expect Jennifer Granholm to suddenly morph into a leader. She can't do it. If that were going to happen, it would have happened in 2007. She was then better positioned than perhaps any other governor in history to make the really hard decisions, and fight for what was right.

She had just been re-elected by an enormous landslide, despite being heavily outspent by the Amway salesman. Term limits meant she couldn't run again. Nor does she have anyplace else to go, in terms of elective office. Both U.S. senators are Democrats, and they evidently aren't going away as long as either one has a pulse.

Yet Granholm muffed the whole budget mess two years ago; she provided no, or contradictory, leadership, and exasperated her own party. We ended up with a business tax calculated to drive commerce away, and a second-rate Oakland County politician, state Sen. Mike Bishop, whom she allowed to emerge as her effective equal.

Had she been tough and strong and forced a sensible solution, she might well be in the Obama cabinet now. But he is no fool, and despite her fawning all over him after the election, he wasn't having any. We are in a major crisis, and he needs people who can get things done. So here is a serious suggestion, for the good of this state and the Democratic Party that the governor professes to care about: Gov. Jennifer Granholm should resign.

Now. By which I mean, as soon as a face-saving way out can be devised. President Obama could appoint her to something harmless, like attorney for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Failing that — if we can find a good-paying private sector job for the arrogant criminal who worked hard to wreck the city of Detroit, we can certainly find one for a nice mom with a Harvard law degree.

That would give Lt. Gov. John Cherry a fighting chance to show what he is made of, and maybe win re-election next year. I don't know him well, but unlike his boss, he was in the Legislature and knows how it works. What I do know is what will happen if she doesn't resign, or ascend bodily into heaven.

Democrats will nominate Cherry for governor next year, and he will be badly defeated by some ruthless Republican, most likely Attorney General Mike Cox. Lieutenant governors lose, period, especially one that serves under a governor who is a failure.

Will this happen? Democrats ought to think about it.

How bad is the Detroit newspaper experiment? Worse than even I could have imagined it would be. On purely mechanical grounds, Dave Hunke and the Detroit Media Partnership clowns have taken incompetence to a new level.

Example: I did not get a Wall Street Journal all week. Reason: It had been delivered by the now mostly laid-off newspaper carriers. Thursday, a WSJ operator told me, "The people running the Detroit papers really messed this up. We are trying to find a new delivery system." I shouldn't feel bad; I at least got The New York Times. A friend of mine in Grosse Pointe didn't get his NYT either.

As an experiment, I signed up for mail delivery of both papers. The Detroit News never came at all. The Free Press, to my surprise, came every day, about 4 p.m. But the news in it was many hours older than the paper you can buy on the newsstands.

On Friday, my carrier threw the papers in a planter full of water, so I can't analyze them very well. For whatever baffling reason, they did bring me two Sunday Freeps. I have never seen an uglier or more wretched paper, and that is saying something. One longtime Free Press editor wrote to me: "most of it reads as if it had been 'written' for someone with an IQ of 52," adding, "I give it till December — if that long."

Another reporter who has hotly defended the paper against my criticism in the past said simply that he was giving up. As he said, "the designers have taken over," even more so than they did when Gannett was ruining The Detroit News in the 1990s.

But hey. How 'bout them Spartans!

Monica Conyers watch: Originally I thought of writing about her this week, but Nolan Finley wrote the perfect column about her in last Sunday's Detroit News (which amounts to one whole opinion page in the Freep): "Impeach Conyers Before It's Too Late." I would add only that the city's black leadership ought to stand up and say the truth, which is that she is doing more harm to the image of blacks in power than Birth of a Nation did a century ago.

What is really needed more than anything else is a complete reform of the terribly written city charter. If anybody can stay awake through a Dave Bing or Ken Cockrel debate long enough to tell me if they are for this, please telegraph details.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]