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Bill Janklow: Nietszche Written into South Dakota History?

Bill JanklowWe bury Bill Janklow today. Amidst the broadcast eulogies, I ask the following question: Did Janklow read Nietzsche? And whether he dog-eared Thus Sprach Zarathustra or not, was Janklow the South Dakota manifestation of Nietzsche's übermensch?

I caught a bit of SDPB's pre-memorial coverage yesterday over the noon hour. They played a clip of Janklow speaking of facing himself in the mirror. I don't have the transcript, but the gist of his statement was we shouldn't care what other people think of us. We should care deeply about what we think of ourselves. Only the person in the mirror, said Janklow, knows what you are really about. Only the person in the mirror knows whether you are doing the best you can do. The person in the mirror, said Janklow, was his harshest critic.

As I listen to Janklow's friends and fellow citizens remember him, I consistently hear the theme of Janklow as his own man, not hewing to party labels or ideology, following nothing but his own vision, his own will. He knew what he wanted and he was determined to do whatever he could to turn those desires into reality.

So was Janklow the Nietzschean Overman? Did he defy the conventional rules of society and define his own values? If Janklow was not the übermensch, what overarching morality guided and checked his desires? If Janklow was the übermensch, is that only kind of man who can exert the kind of transformative leadership Janklow exerted on South Dakota?

And is such a self-contained value-generator the best kind of leader for a state?


  1. John Hess 2012.01.18

    Good link. He said interesting/supportive things about public education and that wealthy people (and the poor) have never paid their equal share, leaving the middle class to essentially pick up the tab.

  2. Steve Sibson 2012.01.18

    Cory, now you are beginning to understand the concept of the "New Age Theocracy". Yes, the state is worshipping the overman (god?), Bill Janklow.

    May the real God have mercy.

  3. Steve Sibson 2012.01.18

    Found this to be interesting:

    Nietzsche’s curious ‘spiritual’ assumptions (the overman) mixed with his semi-Darwinian framework produces a completely abortive result.

    The current New Age movement is making a variant of this mistake. The fact is that we can’t quite see into the future to consider what man could/should evolve into, and in any case, the ought to be something more than rehashed Buddhistic evolutionism, degenerated in figures such as Blavatsky et al. , that presume a great spiritual esoteric knowledge but bomb out with a mess of pottage, as confused as anything in Nietzsche.

  4. Douglas Wiken 2012.01.18

    Steve, I'm sure all that meant something. [CAH: No, Doug, it didn't.]

    It appears to me that like so-called "death-bed conversions", Janklow and appointees and sycophants are making death-bed revisions of history. I suppose part of the sweet talk is also the result of our main elected officials being in a very small fraternity of characters forced to display some politeness because of proximity and the desire to have their own mortality memorialized.

  5. troy jones 2012.01.18


    With all due respect, arm chair psycho-analysis is as accurate as one's proximity to those they analyze. The honesty and non-sanitation by Russ Janklow today was profound.

    May Bill Janklow rest in peace, without regard to those who want to haunt him in his grave.

  6. Bob Newland 2012.01.18

    Why should Janklow "rest in peace?" Not that I think he's doing anything more than deteriorating chemically.

    Many of the beneficiaries of his "passion for justice" are resting in jail. For doing something that no sane person thinks should be a crime. If there is such a thing as "burning in hell," Janklow is a nominee for the honor.

  7. Steve Sibson 2012.01.18

    Troy, I went to another funeral this week where Mother Mary was called the Queen of Heaven. Not in the Bible. God was very clear about idolatry. Has the media and others gone over the line with Bill Janklow?

  8. Steve Sibson 2012.01.18

    Bob, you went over the line the other direction.

  9. Charlie Johnson 2012.01.18

    It has been bothering me all week. What are the families of Gina Score and Randy Scott thinking right now? I'm sure their pain is being carried on their shoulders all over again.

  10. Donald Pay 2012.01.18

    Janklow was the kind of leader he was more because of the failure of the system, and the environment in the late 1970s. He happened to become governor at a time when there was a distinct lack of good leadership in state government in South Dakota (aside from maybe a couple of people). The Democrats had self-destructed over the income tax issue. Both parties were split several ways over the Oahe Irrigation Project. The violence that cropped up associated with various Native American issues was divisive. Into this environment stepped Janklow, who seemed to have more on the ball than anyone else running. His term as AG gave him some law-and-order, shoot-from-the-lip credibility at the expense of stoking racial animosity. But if everyone was hating Indians, it meant they could overlook the other divisions.

    He was really a bully for a lot of his first term as Governor. Most people cowered. Certainly state workers, who feared losing their careers, wouldn't stand up to him. But they leaked, which meant a lot of Janklow's "vision" (selling off Missouri River water and hosting nuclear waste) was doomed.

  11. David Newquist 2012.01.18

    And while some pay their respects to Bill Janklow, they will also remember Gina Score.

  12. mike 2012.01.18

    obviously there is much hate coming from those who should be better. i wasn't a huge janklow person but i hope all of us find redemption and are redeamable.

  13. troy jones 2012.01.19

    Thanks Larry Kurtz.

    There are times when "if you can't say something nice, say nothing" is appropriate. This week is definitely one of them.

    Those who cant restrain their mouth . . . . Let's just they say are not someone I would have a personal interaction with.

  14. Steve Sibson 2012.01.19

    “if you can’t say something nice, say nothing”

    That certainly was not Bill Janklow. The exact opposite of that is one aspect that I respect. He was not a wishy-washy politician. He told you what he thought whether you liked it or not. I guess that is where the rub is for some.

  15. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    just finished my 21 bong salute....

  16. Steve Sibson 2012.01.19

    How many of you are ready for Lyndon LaRouche's take on Nietszche:

    The "Age of Aquarius," or "New Age," is the generic name adopted by the modern Satanist movement. The best-publicized among the founders of the Age of Aquarius movement include Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Alex Muenthe (of Capri notoriety), and Aleister Crowley. Most Aquarians trace the origins of modern Satanism to Nietzsche and Crowley.

    Anti-Christ cultist Nietzsche announced that the twentieth century would see the end of the Age of Pisces, which Aquarians associate with the figures of Socrates and Christ; Nietzsche prophesied that the New Age would be the Age of Aquarius, which he identified with the Satanic figure Dionysos. Crowley announced himself publicly a devotee of Nietzsche's New Age cult in his Vienna Theosophy magazine, near the beginning of this century, and indicated as his preferred choice of name for Satan.

    Cory, I hope you are getting a better understanding on "New Age".

    [CAH: Oh, so your constant "New Age" shouting is all LaRouche bullcrap? Yes, now I understand, Steve. No wonder your comments seem so irrelevant.]

  17. Bill Fleming 2012.01.19

    Love your enemies just in case your friends turn out to be bastards.

    But seriously folks... there are times when we have the opportunity to transcend ourselves. The Gospel of Matthew:

    "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven ; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have ? Do not even the tax collectors do the same ? 47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same ?

  18. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    looks like i'm going for extra innings....

  19. Bill Fleming 2012.01.19

    Mark Epstein in his landmark book "Thoughts Without a Thinker" calls these moments "the secret weapon of Buddhism." It is that point at which we are absolutely convinced that since we have been so greviously wronged we have every right to express our most righteous indignance that a bridge appears... a jumping off point... a way off the Dharma wheel into a more complete knowing of who we really are.

    All the great spiritual teachings point to this moment. (Even the ones my friend Sibby despises.)

    The realization is that the bridge is always there for the choosing. From what I know of Mr. Janklow, he sometimes chose it, sometimes not, much the same as we all do. We all share the same human predicament. What's not to love about that?

  20. Troy Jones 2012.01.19


    I really don't care about anyone's "rub." The time for taking a pound out of Bill Janklow was before he got sick and until a reasonable period of time has past for the family to grieve. Anything less lacks basic decency.

    When one is sent on their way, past differences are to be placed in the coffin as well. Probably nobody in 1980 was more aggressive against Senator McGovern than Governor Janklow. But McGovern was at the funeral (I in fact had "lunch" at the reception with one of McGovern's closest and longest staff, Judy Harrington).

  21. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    Lakota_Timez Lakota Country Times
    KENT: Lakota view of 'Wild Bill' ignored.

  22. Steve Sibson 2012.01.19

    Troy, I agree with your point. I hope you also agree that idolatry is going over board the other direction. What is really sad is that I have not heard one account of Mr. Janklow admitting he turned his life over to Jesus Christ. If you are aware that he did, then praise God.

  23. Steve Sibson 2012.01.19

    Mr. Fleming, do you consider Jesus Christ a great spiritual teacher, nothing more?

  24. Bill Fleming 2012.01.19

    What difference does that make to you Steve? How would knowing what I think of Jesus add to your knowing who you are? Perhaps you should spend your time on your own spirituality, not mine.

  25. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    jesus of nazareth maybe: jc was created by the whore of babylon.

  26. Steve Sibson 2012.01.19

    "What difference does that make to you Steve?"

    Mr. Fleming, I will pray for you.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.19

    Let's steer back to the original question. Donald is one of the few to address it: I find very interesting and useful his suggestion that Janklow grabbed his unique and huge place in South Dakota's history in part by being in the right place and the right time. He stepped into a vacuum of leadership and filled it with an outsize personality and no small share of bullying.

    But what overarching value system motivated Bill Janklow? How Nietzschean was he? Did he answer to anyone but himself?

  28. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    Military service is brain bending: just ask anyone who has served.

  29. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    Janklow was injured during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, a conflict where the US was preparing to use nuclear weapons: "Also 12 203mm long range artillery guns and other 155mm guns were transferred from US Marines to ROC Army and sent to Quemoy/Kinman to help turn the tide of the artillery duel there."

    Marines make promises for reasons that civilians could never understand.

  30. Steve Sibson 2012.01.19

    Cory, Mr. Janklow was a big part of the New Age Theocracy that Nietsche helped get off the ground. But so has many other political leaders, of both political parties, that attended his funeral yesterday. And New Age is all about me and through evolution becoming like god.

  31. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    What happened before the Big Bang? "Obviously it doesn't matter that much if you're a beetle, that you be really smart. If it were, evolution would have produced much more intelligent beetles."

  32. Bill Fleming 2012.01.19

    Good read, Larry. Thanks. Here's to your, my and Sibby's inner beetle.

  33. Darwin 2012.01.19

    David Newquist, did Janklow kill Gina Score? I don't believe he was even there that day. If thats what you think, I guess you could also say Henry Ford has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

  34. Steve Sibson 2012.01.19

    "Here’s to your, my and Sibby’s inner beetle."

    Bill, you insisted that I stay out of your spirituality, so why do you push your New Age spirituality onto to me?

  35. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    yeah or Joseph Goebbels for that matter.

  36. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    you're usually the one to hurl the first stone, sibby

  37. Bill Fleming 2012.01.19

    Sibby doesn't like being a product of evolution apparently. Personally, I'd be happy to exclude him, but hey, it's not my call.

  38. Charlie Johnson 2012.01.19

    Serving as Governor fit the mold of Janklow more than any other job he could have trained or applied for. Within office, he had the power and resources to carry out most if not all the initiatives he cared about. Serving as congress person if that role had continued on would have been frustrating at best for Bill Janklow.

  39. larry kurtz 2012.01.19

    Lake effect waterspouts near Lower Brule are prayers signaling the end of an era in South Dakota history. Not New Age so much as post Pick-Sloan.

  40. Douglas Wiken 2012.01.19

    Post Pick-Sloanitis is a terrible disease.

    I haven't heard much about Janklow's wonderful ideas to pollute the reservations with toxic waste, or drain the Madison Aquifer of ancient water to move coal slurry to Arkansas, and no mention of his firesale of the State Cement plant to a Mexican company. Also no mention of the primary business beneficiary of his plan to wire the schools with prison labor.

    There were also better ideas than Janklow's for handling the rail "crisis", but they would not have rewarded his good buddies.

    The sad truth is that South Dakota may have never had truly great governors and certainly not a greatest governor.

    I do not see why we should suddenly give a dead Janklow respect and honor that we never believed when he was alive.

    Janklow was according to his appointees and sycophants concerned about the bitter partisanship in politics now. Janklow and Newt Gingrich were right at the top of those who made partisan politics into the political equivalent of bayonet warfare.

  41. Roger Elgersma 2012.01.19

    So Janklow did some good sometimes. Don't we all. The bad and bullying is the part that concerns me. He gave the impression that he was so honest. He said he never turned down a ticket. Well he would call the hiway patrol to get the cops out of his way when he was gov so he would not have to be bothered with being stopped. Then while he was not gov he got twelve speeding tickets. THen as gov again he did not get tickets. But he portrays himself as being honest. But if you knew how promisquous he was both as a teen in Flandreau and on the reservation, no one on the Christian right would ever have voted for him. But he was smart enough to know that if he was solidly prolife they would all vote for him. Great strategist, lousy person.

  42. Bill Dithmer 2012.01.19

    Not much to be said that I haven't said before about Wild Willie. If you were his friend, and that would be someone that agreed with him when he was in your presence, he would go out of his way to help himself financially and politically. If he helped you that was just a coincidence.

    I like to think of him as South Dakotas very own Lyndon Baines Johnson. He was widely known for the art of blackmail, bullying, and total disrespect for those he didn’t like. Able to assimilate vast quantities of information for the express purpose of controlling people, not just the people he didn’t like but also those that thought they were his friends.

    The Blindman

  43. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.19

    Janklow as LBJ: interesting comparison! But LBJ wasn't nearly the forceful executive in the White House that Janklow was in Pierre, was he?

  44. Bill Dithmer 2012.01.19

    Cory LBJ knew where the bones were buried and when to dig them up to get what he wanted. Not as much while he was the president as before he got to that office.

    The Blindman

  45. Bill Dithmer 2012.01.19

    It is my opinion that LBJ would have never had the VP nod if he hadn't known where the Kennedy bones were buried.

    The Blindman

  46. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.19

    So could I frame the difference this way: LBJ knew where the bones were buried; Janklow was willing to bury his opponents?

  47. Donald Pay 2012.01.19

    I don't think Janklow had an overarching philosophy or ideology. He looked at most issues (water development and law and order issues being exceptions) one at a time without being tied to any pre-conceived ideology.

    He was more results oriented than process oriented, so he lacked the sort of leadership qualities that would convince people on anything. He expected people to get in line and follow orders. That usually worked with the Republican Party, who had lackeys in the Legislature. You either agreed with him or you didn't. If you didn't he would brow beat you, rather than listen and compromise.

    He thought he was the smartest man in the room, but on issues that I cared about I found his fact base was rather shallow. He had the lawyers' belief (sort of like high school policy debate) that if he threw out a few facts at a rapid fire pace that everyone whould just agree with him, and sit down. But people generally have other facts, and Janklow really didn't want to hear those.

    He had a tight circle of friends and advisors, some of whom exerted some influence and restraint on him. He was sometimes too loyal to this clique, making some really dumb decisions to please them.

  48. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.19

    Did the Republican Party support his rise, Donald? Or did he fight his way to the top himself and then push/buffalo the Republicans into hitching their wagons to his horse? Just how Republican was Janklow?

  49. Donald Pay 2012.01.19

    You have to remember that the SD Republican Party was at a low point during the early and mid 1970s, so when they got dynamic younger recruits, like Pressler and Janklow you would expect them to be excited. Really, though, the Republican Party apparatus at the time was not really excited about either one at first.

    Janklow was not driven by ideology, but back then the Republican Party was much more mainstream and moderate. It was a different Republican Party. (The Christian right influence would start in 1979).

    The Democratic Attorney General Kermit Sande had appointed Janklow to do some prosecution work (mainly cases involving AIM). Sande was not the best AG, so Janklow took him on. That first election might have been a career move, rather than anything else.

  50. Steve Sibson 2012.01.20

    "The Christian right influence would start in 1979"

    I would like to see the research on that.

  51. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.20

    Donald, yours is the kind of comment that gets me out of bed in the morning. Thanks for helping learn more about our state's political history!

  52. larry kurtz 2012.01.20

    Just released: lead exposure leads to gloomier, less hopeful people. Recall that Janklow moved to abolish the Department of Environmental Protection.

  53. Donald Pay 2012.01.20

    My mother worked for the Minnehaha County Republican Party during the late 60s-early 70s. I volunteered in Democratic campaigns during that period. I put a peace sticker on the car, and she said, "Republicans are for peace, too." She and Ken Stofferahn were the only Republicans I knew who were for peace, but she was technically right.

  54. Steve Sibson 2012.01.20

    Don, still waiting for the research regarding the Christian right.

  55. larry kurtz 2012.01.20

    Steve, the Unruhs were from Elkton, the Janklows from Flandreau: connect the dots.

  56. Donald Pay 2012.01.20


    That's my recollection, but I could be wrong. There was some movement away from the Democratic Party following the Roe v Wade. I noticed it among some Catholics in Sioux Falls, but it was the income tax vote that really hit Democrats hard in the mid 70s, not social issues.

  57. larry kurtz 2012.01.20

    Several christian groups fleeing Minnesota's tax structure in the 70's brought radicalization to the grassroots.

  58. larry kurtz 2012.01.20

    and contributed to church-based political organizations that are against civil rights for women: Janklow schmoozed with church leaders at will.

  59. Steve Sibson 2012.01.20

    "against civil rights for women"

    During the media worshipping of Bill Janklow there was a lot of women thanking him for giving women an opportunity...such as South Dakota Supreme Court Justice. So I think you are off base Larry.

    Don, thank for you answer.

  60. Troy Jones 2012.01.20


    I agree in substance with what you are saying but have a different twist.

    Absolutely correct that Janklow and Pressler weren't insider's choices. But, I don't think it was so much ideology as generational. For most of the 50's and 60's the face of the GOP was WWII generation figures. In the 70's there was an across the board shuffling of the deck driven by two fundamental issues: Age, the reality the party was moribund (maybe age related), Watergate and the consequent shellacking they took in the early 70's elections. By 1978, they pretty much had corrected everything.

    The GOP was helped by two things. First, when McGovern ran for President he gave up some leadership in the SD party which Kniep assumed. But, when he left the state it seemed like the Dem's became rudderless.

    I know I shouldn't say this but part of the current Dem problem in SD is they don't have any legislators showing true leadership outside Bernie Hunhoff. Too much emphasis on arguing the differences rather than first laying groundwork on commonality. The old guard (Herseth, Burg, etc.) did that. It is wholly possible to promote Dem (or GOP) ideals and disagreeing without being disagreeable. The GOP got off kilter in the 70's and again in the 90's in this regard but have done very well the last several election cycles.

    To some degree, I don't think either party ideologically has moved much in the 35 years I've been watching/participating. The Dem's had the Gene Mahan's, Pat Kane's etc. and the GOP had the Bill Grams, Bob Hirsch's etc. There was nothing moderate about any of them and I think the mix has been about the same.

    But the tone is alot different. Back then, both parties started the discussion on where they agreed and then argued over the disagreement. Today, it is just argue about the differences and never discuss the common goals.

    And, back then it was common for deep friendships to be formed across party lines. The Janklow/Daschle relationship was normal. Now it is abnormal. One of Jim Abdnor's best friends in the Senate was Paul Simon (friendship formed when both were Lt. Governors) and Paul Tsongas. They could argue substance, yell at each other, and then retire to the back of the chambers and essentially commune like they were at a sleep-over.

    For me, I see no reason not to be friends, give respect, assume the best motives to those I disagree with. It saddens me that

  61. Troy Jones 2012.01.20

    (accidentally hit "post")

    we can't be more friendly.

    I'm not picking on liberals as conservatives do it too but recently much has been said critical of the Governor's education ideas. I disagree but get it. Disagreement is good. But back in the day the disagreement wouldn't be couched in saying this former head of Children's Home Society didn't care about kids. That dog won't hunt and it doesn't serve the body politic and frankly it discredits the Democrat apparatus.

  62. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.01.22

    Janklow apparently was good at forming connections across party lines... though he could be as harsh on his opponents as anyone cited above, right, Troy? And is the sour climate purely a product of Democratic bad attitudes? Do Republicans bear any responsibility for the polarized discourse, perhaps with their absolutist abortion politics? (And where did Janklow stand on abortion politics?)

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