Dancing Jay

It’s too bad actor Charles Durning died on Christmas eve in 2012. He’d probably be the choice of a lot of reporters to portray Jay Nixon when Hollywood does the biopic on our Governor. Durning was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of a governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas thirty years ago or so. He also played a governor in O Brother, Where Art Thou? We were reminded of his performance as the Governor of Texas, however, as we watched Governor Nixon dance around questions about his administration’s control of information from a gathering of newspaper people and other journalists at the Governor’s Mansion last Thursday.
The Governor usually speaks to the assembled editors of various kinds and answers questions for about half an hour. Last Thursday, he told them:
“It is always a pleasure to have y’all back here and quite frankly, we appreciate what you do. The ability for us to speak throughout the state through the various outlets represented here is an honor, and whatever we can do–Communications Director Channing Ansley is here and others–to help you in your daily work, we try to do that.”
We don’t know if music was going through the minds of other editors and reporters in the room, but we started hearing Charles Durning as we listened to Jay Nixon.
Fellow Texans, I am proudly standing here to humbly say.
I assure you, and I mean it- Now, who says I don’t speak out as plain as day?
And, fellow Texans, I’m for progress and the flag- long may it fly.”
We were seated behind one of the ornately-painted columns in the parlor and could not see the person behind us who observed that his reporters have not been allowed to talk to officials in state departments. He said they wanted to talk to economists in the economic development department or epidemiologists in the state health department “but we’re not allowed to do that.” And he asked, “Is there a gag order…or if not, why are we having this problem?”
Nixon responded:
“We spend a great deal of time trying to make sure folks get access to information from the state, a great deal of time and it’s consistent and it’s correct. When the state is speaking it’s important that our folks are correct, informed, and consistent, and so to meet all those, certainly we have policies in place to make sure we specifically communicate as directly as we can. I think we have public information folks in all those departments that respond to calls and try to get information out as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
“Governor” Durning: Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

Governor Nixon: “There’s no gag order anywhere in government. We just try to make sure that we’re commenting consistently and directly information that would help folks get their jobs done and on multiple occasions have had folks at all levels of our government have been provided information both on background as well as in person. We look forward to continuing to do that.”
“Governor” Durning: I’m for goodness and for profit and for living clean and saying daily prayer.
And now, my good friends, you can sleep nights, I’ll continue to stand tall.
You can trust me, for I promise, I shall keep a watchful eye upon ya’ll…

Governor Nixon: But it’s not a menu for opinions when it comes to the policies and positions of our administration. We try to be consistent especially in the executive branch with what we’re saying. I think that’s important to the state of Missouri. I’m not going to get in a, I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to have differing uh uh on policy issues so we do spend a great deal of time trying to be consistent on that and I know that can cause some consternation on the deadlines you’re working, especially when you guys are chasing bloggers who are just tweeting stuff. But we try to be consistent and I think the policies that we have tries to provide information in a timely fashion to folks.”
“Governor” Durning: Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on.
Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep…
And, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step…
Cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

“Cut a little swathe,” says the song from Whorehouse. As in cutting cloth into bands that wrap, bind, envelope, enclose, conceal or, dare we suggest, gag. Reporters seeking expertise that public information people do not have does not constitute seeking differences on policy issues. Of course statistics might interfere with “consistency.”
The least danceable statement from the Governor last Thursday was at the start: “The ability for us to speak throughout the state through the various outlets represented here is an honor, and whatever we can do…to help you in your daily work, we try to do that.”
And as we have noted several times before in this space, they’re very good at it.

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