The Day Mitch Carved Up the Minneapolis City Council
This is another one of my “post-Roast” tributes reflecting on some of Mitch Pearlstein’s accomplishments during the “early days” of the Center. My previous piece, which includes the fun poem written and performed by Chuck Spevacek and Robin Kelleher at Mitch’s November 16 Roast, can be found here.
Mitch has always had a way of writing that was entertaining yet poignant. Yet, when it comes to exposing and cutting liberals to the quick, he possesses the sharpest of wits. My favorite is his response to a letter we received three days before our sold out 1997 dinner with Margaret Thatcher (2,250 attendees) signed by six Minneapolis City Council members. I’ve included Mitch’s entire response, and believe me, it’s worth reading every word. This is the type of exchange, had it happened just a few years later, would have surely gone viral on the internet.
Minneapolis City Council letter concerning Margaret Thatcher
We are writing to express our serious concern over your invitation to Margaret Thatcher to speak on Friday, May 9th. Our City Council has supported the struggle for justice and civil rights in Ireland. Margaret Thatcher has opposed that struggle – opposition that led to the death of 10 hungerstrikers (sic).
We wanted to make sure you were aware of and would consider the Council’s position on this matter.
[Signed by] Jackie Cherryholmes, Joe Biernat, Walter Dziedzic, Brian Herron, Jim Niland and Kathy Thurber.
Pearlstein response to Minneapolis City Council
Permit me to respond to your letter of May 6 and what, I must admit, is the most remarkable piece of political grandstanding I’ve ever see up close and personal. My congratulations, of sorts.
You expressed “serious concern” regarding Center of the American Experiment hosting Lady Thatcher at our 1997 Annual Dinner on May 9 as, you said, she has “opposed” the “struggle for justice and civil rights in Ireland” (sic), and conclude by asking that I “consider the Council’s position on this matter.”
Now that Lady Thatcher has left the oh-so hospital city of Minneapolis, I’m pleased to indeed consider your request and let you know what my colleagues and I think of it.
Whatever views you or I may hold on the tension and conflict that have long existed between many English and Irish, I would ask that you put in perspective what, in essence, you asked American Experiment to do: At best merely insult, at worst disinvite perhaps the strongest friend the United States had anywhere in the world during her almost dozen years as prime minister from 1979 to 1990. The fact, moreover, that the United States grew first from England and that it has been our most important ally for more than two centuries also would appear to be lost on you.
Do you and your colleagues fathom that you were but one vote away from having a majority of the Minneapolis City Council declare Lady Thatcher – Lady Thatcher, for heaven’s sake – persona non grata in our city? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think Minneapolis needs to add “left-wing loony bin” to “Murderapolis” when it comes to burnishing its national and international image.
If the issue, as you contend, really is one of liberty and justice, whom might you suggest – other than Ronald Reagan and Soviet dissidents and refuseniks themselves – did as much in the 1980s in facing down the Soviet empire? Suffice it to say, American Experiment was honored and overjoyed to host one of the great heroes of the 20th Century.
From another angle, imagine if you will a nonconservative organization in Minneapolis succeeding in getting one of their ideological own to speak at its annual meeting. At the risk of making the State Department nervous, make believe they enticed Fidel Castro himself to do the gig. Honestly now, how agitated would you get under those circumstances? Would you issue statements about his civil rights transgressions and his assaults on justice? Or would you (as I’m reasonably confident would be the case) declare how his visit represented a vital milestone toward better relations between Cuba and the United States?
If you think I’m playing some kind of red-baiting game by suggesting this, you’re wrong. If, on the other hand, you think I’m of the mind that your potential for intellectual intolerance is nearly boundless, you’re right.
Two final points.
You should know that I’ve been writing about what has come to be called political correctness for almost 20 years. And, especially since I grew up in New York City, I’m not exactly unfamiliar with old-style, ethnically flavored pandering. If I might say so, with your letter of May 6, you married the ugliest and most divisive aspects of each corruption.
And last, not only should you know that I quite purposely chose Minneapolis as home for American Experiment more than seven years ago, but my wife and I made an explicit decision more than five years ago to move from the suburbs to Minneapolis, as we sought to commit ourselves to this city and to helping alleviate its very real problems.
In that time, sorry to say, we have grown increasingly threatened and frightened living here because of exploding crime. But, ladies and gentlemen, until your letter last week, we were never embarrassed.
Mitchell B. Pearlstein
Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment, where he has been honored to serve since June 1, 1993.