Recent months have given Minnesotans a front-row seat to the shortcomings of liberal governance.
On Friday, May 29th, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz had the opportunity to tell nervous Twin Citians how his state law enforcement team would end the out-of-control mob violence that had reduced parts of Minneapolis to battle-weary embers.
But that wasn’t his initial focus. Before allowing members of his team to outline their plans, Walz breathlessly announced that a member of the state patrol had mistakenly arrested a CNN news crew during an on-air broadcast in Minneapolis. “A few minutes after hearing that I was on a call with CNN President Jeff Zucker, who demanded to know what happened,” the Governor said. Demanded. Walz responded to the media honcho with regrets. “I take full responsibility. There is absolutely no reason something like this should happen. Calls were made immediately. This is a very public apology.”
It took several days for the meaning of this to sink in. The 2:30 a.m. arrest was a mistake, although a YouTube video reveals that the troopers treated the crew with civility, and the reporter responded with unfailing courtesy. It was a misunderstanding, nothing more—the kind of thing that might happen in managing and covering a riot. What stands out to me is why Walz felt moved to interrupt his briefing with such a lickspittle act of public contrition, especially when he hasn’t offered any other apologies to far more deserving people.
Let’s put this into perspective.
Walz had spent the evening before watching the befuddled mayor of Minneapolis make a hash of his responsibilities. In a singular act of deliberate public cowardice, Mayor Jacob Frey surveyed the fiery destruction around his Third Precinct police headquarters and ordered officers to retreat, leaving control of the streets to thieves, vandals and arsonists.
Walz could have prevented all of this. He knew of Frey’s ineptitude. Heck, everybody knew. He acknowledged that he was aware Frey might cut and run. Still, Walz allowed 500 well-equipped members of the National Guard to stand by while the Third Precinct burned. He didn’t deploy them, he said later, because Frey did not provide specific enough directions about what he wanted the Guard to do. What? Was his phone broken? Why not call and ask? And despite his confident predictions of calm for the night to come, the Walz-led protective force was also overwhelmed by the mob.
When it was over, rioters had vandalized and/or looted something like 1,500 buildings along a five-mile stretch of Lake Street in South Minneapolis and 3.5 miles along University Avenue in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. The cost of rebuilding might exceed $500 million, making the Twin Cities riots the second costliest in American history, behind only the 1992 L.A. riots.
Imbedded in those statistics are the names of thousands of people who deserve apologies from Walz. If he can apologize so readily to CNN, then how about the business and property owners who watched their futures go up in smoke? Or how about the wage-earners who watched their jobs disappear? Or the people—especially in neighborhoods populated by low-income and immigrant populations— who lost access to stores? Or how about the people who sat in their homes in genuine fear for the safety of their families?
And while we’re talking about the culpability of failed leadership, let’s not forget the steep costs of Walz’s ham-fisted response to COVID-19. By shuttering Minnesota’s economy, Walz enabled his constituents to achieve the distinction of having both the highest number of COVID-related fatalities and the highest number of jobless claims in the upper Midwest.
What about an apology to the 800,000 people who have lost their livelihoods to cuts to the economy?
By enduring the surreally difficult times in the first half of 2020, Minnesotans received a front-row view of what liberal governance looks like. We believe the government’s handling of the riots and the COVID-19 pandemic exposed disturbing inadequacies in the leadership capabilities of our elected officials, so much so that we’ve devoted the majority of this magazine to expose them to examination. In “Surrender: How Minneapolis voluntarily relinquished its streets to vandals, thieves and arsonists,” writers John Phelan and Tom Steward present a chronology of mismanagement that you haven’t read anywhere else. Scott W. Johnson and Kevin Roche have written a companion piece about COVID-19, “False Alarm: Using a preposterously flawed scientific model, Gov. Tim Walz waged a campaign of fear to shut down Minnesota’s economy.”
When we elect folks who don’t have the courage to make a priority of public safety and economic growth, we get the government we deserve.