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Thune Contradicts Spearfish Economic Development Message, Reads Noem Script

Last updated on 2013.02.02

Hey, Dr. Newquist! This is what you're talking about, right?

Senator John Thune spoke at the Spearfish Economic Development Corporation annual meeting Wednesday evening. Spearfish EDC tagged the Senator's appearance as a "keynote" address. However, Senator Thune didn't really establish a principal underlying theme or lay down a theme for the following program. Arguably, Thune's recycling of GOP talking points contradicted the spirit of the evening's discussion.

Thune's opening remarks mostly recycled Mitt Romney's campaign trope about how America is becoming more like Europe. (Endorsing Romney apparently requires one to say silly things.) He said that we don't want to follow the European economic model, which leads inevitably to Greek debt crises. He said everything Washington is doing is making it more expensive to do business. We must get away, said Thune, from expecting government to do everything for us and get back to our faith in the free market and entrepreneurship.

The Spearfish EDC meeting then proceeded to celebrate all the government-funded efforts Spearfish has made to interfere with natural free market forces and build businesses and quality of life in Spearfish. While meager compared to Madison's taxpayer tab for economic development, Spearfish EDC gets two thirds of its funding from taxpayers. Spearfish City Administrator Joe Neeb listed (and the audience applauded) Spearfish city government's active efforts to improve the quality of life in Spearfish: renovating Main Street, purchasing the hydroelectric plant primarily to maintain flow in Spearfish Creek for aesthetics, and investing ten percent of its budget in capital improvements.

The city is now considering investing in an expansion of the Spearfish Convention Center, which Neeb says has brought half a million visitors to Spearfish in the last dozen years. The city owns the convention center and leases it to the Holiday Inn. In other words, this wonderful driver of economic activity is not private property. It is socialism. Awfully European, wouldn't you say, Senator Thune?

* * *
Senator Thune did surprise me by sounding an awful lot like his purported protégée, Rep. Kristi Noem. His dodgy retreats to stock talking points Wednesday made me think that (1) he and Kristi really are reading from the same script, and (2) he's really not that much better than Kristi.

Thune opened with the same John McCain joke about Congressional approval ratings that Noem used in her Rapid City town hall three weeks ago. He said that when approval ratings get down below ten percent, your support is down to blood relatives and staffers. Thune did add his own frosting, saying Congress's support is probably down to just staffers now (oops, check that: Joshua Shields is leaving, too).

Asked by me about TransCanada's statement that the Keystone XL pipeline will increase oil prices in the Midwest, Thune avoided a specific response and instead returned to the same general statements Noem and the rest of the Congressional GOP make in support of Big Oil. Never mind specific market analyses; just keep restating your faith in free-market assumptions.

One Thune supporter in the audience lamented that the Democrats are much better at using the media and asked Thune if the Republicans are discussing ways to better promote the party's message. Someone offered a nearly identical complaint at Noem's Feb. 4 Rapid City forum. Thune's response paralleled Noem's, saying that the President has the advantage of the bully pulpit. Thune then went further, making the utterly baseless and absurd claim that Democrats are better at speaking to people's feelings, while Republicans do a better job of arguing facts.

Wait, wait, wait: Is John Thune seriously telling us that John McCain and George W. Bush were the cold, aloof, professorial policy wonks, while Barack Obama and Al Gore were the super touchy-feely candidates that made everyone want to have a beer with them? What alternative reality did John Thune just try to pull me into?

Speaking of alternative realities, Midge Heymeier of the Northern Hills Patriots muddied the waters by asking Senator Thune about the grave and secret dangers of Agenda 21. Short form: anyone who mentions sustainability is a Marxist.

Agenda 21 is a favorite shouting point for John Birchers and other right-winguts not contributing to practical policy discussions. It's just another fringe conspiracy theory, but with all his friends on that fringe, Senator Thune must be aware of it, right?

"I'm not as acquainted with that as I should be," said Senator Thune.

His deft ignorance echoed Rep. Noem's feigned cluelessness on the National Defense Authorization Act, a key talking point of her Tea Party supporters (and arguably a much more substantive policy concern). I will bet Thune has heard the Agenda 21 talk just as I have. He knows just as well as I do that it's a tinfoil-hat distraction. To keep from stepping in the big buffalo chip Heymeier flipped into the meeting, Thune detoured us back to his gentle platitudes about engaging, participating, and reclaiming what is great about America.

Senator Thune is not as detached from reality as the Northern Hills Patriots. But like much of what Rep. Noem says, Senator Thune's keynote and gracious Q&A demonstrated inconsistencies between GOP rhetoric and how South Dakota actually does business.

Politico includes Thune on its list of ten Republicans who could jump in and save the party from a Romney collapse.


  1. larry kurtz 2012.02.24

    Spearditch is suffering from dystopia as it devolves into a mausoleum for aging white refugees: nothing the Yellowstone supervolcano won't fix, Cory.

  2. Rorschach 2012.02.24

    I heard Sen. Thune speak this week also. He opened with the same joke about congressional approval ratings. He talked about Keystone pipeline and the virtue of getting oil from friendly countries like Canada as opposed to oil from Venezuela - as Hugo Chavez doesn't like us according to Sen. Thune. He complained several times about President Obama's "lack of leadership" in promoting compromise between the parties in divided government. He complained about the national debt and said we're now over 100% of GDP, and economists would say that every percentage over 90% of GDP slows economic growth and translates to about 1 million jobs lost (I think I got that ratio right). He talked about wanting the federal government to fund Lewis & Clark pipeline, but in a post-earmark era President Obama's the bad guy who won't fork over the dough (cognitive dissonance between his messages of too much federal spending but not enough for SD).

    Surprisingly to me, Sen. Thune found a lot of scepticism from the largely staunch Republican crowd. A Republican questioned him about the US exporting gasoline even while importing oil, and whether Keystone pipeline would export oil. Republicans questioned him about how long he had been in Congress, and whether the US would be better served if we had term limits so that career politicians would be pushed out and new people willing to work together could solve the problems that the career politicians hadn't. I got the sense that the Republicans in the crowd might be tired of the same old talking points and may be willing to change personnel if they don't see some results pretty soon.

  3. David Newquist 2012.02.24

    Exactly what--and who--I was talking about.

  4. WayneB 2012.02.24

    Thune has never had an ability to give specific, tangible answers - that was evident when he visited MHS and talked to us students and dodged any serious question about the infringement on our civil liberties in the name of safety.

    I've never heard of that Agenda 21... but the youtube story about the destruction of a basketball hoop definitely infuriated my sensibilities.

    I think many conservatives are seeing through Thune, but there doesn't seem to be anyone willing to challenge him, especially given the size of his war chest.

  5. Rorschach 2012.02.24

    Back to my earlier comment. Thune had complained that high gas prices are like a tax on working people, and Keystone pipeline will help lower prices. That's when a Republican mentioned that we already export gasoline, and whether the oil from Keystone would be exported - if so how would it lower our gas prices?

  6. Steve Sibson 2012.02.24

    The old socialist vs fascist family feud.

  7. D.E. Bishop 2012.02.24

    Thanks for the link regarding Agenda 21. I had never heard about it, so I read dear Sibson's piece and learned something. I learned it's another loony conspiracy theory, perhaps like the Homosexual Agenda, which no one can find. (Though I think James Dobson and his buddies have made some stuff up - really whacked stuff, of course.)

    Anyway, thanks for the education!

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.24

    D.E.: I'm here to serve. Glad to help!

    R: Did Thune get a chance to present his slideshow on the federal deficit? I saw in the paper that he presented something like that at a meeting in Belle Fourche Wednesday before his visit here. Did he loan the same slides to Kristi for her town halls?

  9. 196thlightinfantry 2012.02.25

    I liked the referal to his claim that "we do not want to be like Europe", and it made me laugh. What do Mr. Thune and the rest of the republicans think that austerity is? They want it so bad for America and it is the same proven unworkable program of austerity that is failing in Europe and the UK. He is talking out of both sides of his mug on this one. Mr. Thune and the rest are very good at that and the media laps it up. Case in point was the Issa hearing on birth control. Talk about Sharia Law, here were a bunch of male clerics making the call for how women should not be able to make up their own minds freely on their health issues, and more importantly, how they would be able to access and afford them. Mr. Thune and his gang say they want to "protect" us from Sharia Law when in fact what they really want to do is make it the Republican agenda. So get ready, if President Obama were to be defeated, brace yourself for being like Greece and like Afghanistan, welcome to their new world order.

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