Anyone hoping for a dazzling display of leadership from our newly-elected governor had to be disappointed in his State of the State speech.
In the speech, which was presented Wednesday night before the General Assembly, Governor Blunt showed that he is willing to go to the mat (no pun intended) to give his biggest campaign contributors what they want.
A case in point would be his attacks on worker's compensation claims and civil suits. The Republican take on these issues has been that lawyers are the root of all evil. When people sue for medical malpractice, insurance rates go up astronomically. When people claim they have been injured in the workplace, insurance rates go up astronomically.
There is no denying that frivolous lawsuits and worker's compensation claims are a problem, but the hairtrigger response of insurance companies that any claim should trigger a major rate increase is just as big a part of the problem. Of course, insurance companies contribute a great deal to the Republican party, which obviously intends to protect their interests and their huge profits.
People in the Joplin area can recall a time only a few years ago when all of the local state representatives came from the ranks of the insurance industry.
Governor Blunt also showed no leadership on the education front. If you can get a sales tax or an income tax to pass, go ahead and do it. Hey, if it were that easy to get a tax increase passed, education would not be having any difficulties. And while the concept of giving an equal share of casino and lottery money to each pupil in the state sounds good, it means nothing if nothing is done to correct the imbalance between the state's richest school districts, such as Ladue in the St. Louis area, and its poorest, McDonald County.
Blunt calls for privatization of many government functions, something that traditionally appeals to his party's base, and enriches the coffers of its members, but nearly always at the expense of the working man and woman.
An embarrassing part of the State of the State message was when the governor clearly stopped his speech as a trigger for Republican applause for whatever he said. Apparently, someone had written "stop for applause" numerous times in his speech. Someone should have held an applause sign so people would have known when to clap.
Another awkward part of the speech was the governor's attempt to emulate the late President Reagan by introducing people from the audience, usually with poorly written transitions and with only vague connections to what he was talking about. It was revolutionary when Reagan did it. It really doesn't work at the state level, at least not with an inexperienced governor making the introductions.
The biggest problem with Matt Blunt's first State of the State message is that it did not show that he has any unique quality of leadership that should have placed him in the governor's mansion, other than a familiar last name.
Democrats always want Republicans to reach out and embrace some of their ideals. Matt Blunt did not have to do that in order to make an early positive impression on Missourians.
It is possible to take conservative ideals and with aggressive leadership turn them in a new direction. That doesn't appear to be in the cards for the Blunt administration. Judging from his first major speech, our new governor is tending to Republican business as usual. Big business is the order of the day.
Today is the day that friends and family will say goodbye to Jamison Alexander, 18, the Joplin High School senior who was killed by a hit-and-run driver last week. Apparently, the notation on case.net that Travis Wyrick, 18, Joplin, the man who has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the incident, was being charged with a second offense, is not accurate.
His only other arrest, on a drug charge last April, ended with a guilty plea to an amended misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.
It should be interesting to watch the local TV newscasts today (those of you who are able to do so) to see how they handle the two parts of this story, Mr. Alexander's funeral this afternoon and this morning's arraignment of Wyrick. Just the vast difference in atmosphere and the contrast between the two events should make solid television.