If any one thing characterizes the Jim Doyle gubernatorial administration, it is his willingness to change his mind given his circumstances.  For instance:

  • When running for Governor, he specifically supported eliminating the “Frankenstein Veto,” saying governors shouldn’t be able to write their own laws merely by making the budget into a word puzzle.  As governor, Doyle flipped completely and said he believed this authority was a necessary power for the executive.  
  • As a gubernatorial candidate in 2002, Doyle ripped Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk over her plan to release prisoners early, positioning himself as the “law and order” candidate.  As governor, Doyle has proposed essentially what Falk sought to do – release “nonviolent” prisoners early to save money on prisons. 
  • Facing a budget deficit in 2003, Doyle strongly emphasized how important it was for the government not to raise taxes.  His budget in 2009, coupled with an already-enacted budget “repair” bill, raises taxes by $2.2 billion.  Doyle also has repeatedly warned of the dangers of using budget tricks and one time money to balance the budget, then gone on and done exactly what he’s warned against in record numbers.

Finally, Doyle has flipped on a position that will rile his supporters.  Environmentalists, who already feel some skepticism toward Doyle for his support of streamlining DNR permit processing, have been pushing for the Department of Natural Resources secretary to be picked by the Natural Resources Board, and not the governor.  Attorney General Doyle supported shifting appointing authority back to the board.  Governor Doyle clearly does not.

Here’s an excerpt from a blow-off form letter Doyle has sent to environmentalists, as posted at Wispolitics.com:

“I recognize that there are legitimate arguments on both sides, but I believe that a system that has a strong board and a quality secretary appointed by the Governor is the most effective.”

Yes – I am certain Doyle has been sitting in his office rubbing the top of his head in anguish over this change in position.  In fact, look for Doyle to have another epiphany when there’s a Republican governor in the East Wing.  We’ll no doubt be hearing from him again about how awful it is for the governor to have appointment power.

More importantly, at what point do we start to tune out what Doyle says and start focusing on what he actually does?  Quoting him in news stories is easy; digging into his contradictory policies is a lot harder.  Let’s hope the regrettable decline in news coverage in this state doesn’t let politicians off the hook so easily.