Vilsack: the dog made me late

Governor Tom Vilsack’s public schedule shows his first appearance on Thursday, June 1 was to be at 8:45 am at East High School in Des Moines.  School officials obliged the desire of the governor’s staff to have students as props for the cameras, so a group of students were assembled on the steps of the high school at about 8:40.  Vilsack arrived 25 minutes late.  He spoke for about 10 minutes about the package of eduation-related bills he was signing into law this morning.  He moved to sit down in the chair set aside for him, and as he was signing the bills one of the teenaged girls who’d been standing for nearly 45 minutes by this time collapsed.  Folks initially thought she fainted, but she’d been standing with her legs locked, her knees finally buckled and she fell. 

After the governor signed the bills, distributed the pens he used to sign the bills to the large group of education-establishment types who’d gathered and needed that souvenier, he strolled over to the gaggle of reporters who’d assembled to ask him a few questions.

The first question came from me:  "Governor, your tardy slip shows you were 25 minutes late.  What’s your excuse?"

"I was walking the dog," Vilsack replied.  "My wife…usually wakes me up.  She was gone in Mount Pleasant.  I was walking the dog."  (An aside: I distinctly remember the conversation I had with Christie Vilsack when her husband gave her that dog when they became empty-nesters — she did not want to raise another child, but that’s how she described the addition of the excitable puppy.)

Jeneane Beck of KUNI public radio told Vilsack that type of excuse probably wouldn’t fly if one of the students tried to use it.

"Well, it’s better than the dog ate my homework," Vilsack replied.

The next question came from Tim Higgins of the Des Moines Register and if you’ve seen the newspaper today you know that Vilsack communications director Rodell Mollineau told a Reggie reporter yesterday that the Vilsack Administration would not be releasing a report that detailed what Iowa Workforce Development staff knew and when they knew it regarding the CIETC scandal.  Anyway, Vilsack deputy press secretary Jennifer Mullin (I don’t know what her real title is but that is pretty much what it should be) had approached the gaggle of reporters while we were all waiting for the governor to make his appearance and told us the governor had "overrideen" Mollineau’s edit and would be releasing the report to the public (through the media) early this afternoon.  Which means about four o’clock when you consider they’re operating on Vilsack time.

Anyway, Higgins asked Vilsack what had happened yesterday.

"I was out of the office yesterday, on the road and I was not aware of the press inquiry," Vilsack said.

Higgins followed up, asking Vilsack to explain the aboutface.

"It’s important for people to know and so it’s going to be released," Vilsack said.  "By the end of the day."

Mullin had left reporters with the impression Vilsack had read the report, so the next question of Vilsack was, of course, what’s in the report?

"I’ve not seen it.  I’ve seen in the sense that I’ve seen it on table, but I’ve not read it.  It was an invetigation that was conducted and actually disciplinary action’s been taken as a result of the investigation."

The next series of questions were about the eminent domain bill.  Vilsack has to make a decision and he hasn’t made up his mind yet.  (Like Bush, he is the decider when it comes to bills and he’s got to the close of business tomorrow to make up his mind because that’s the deadline for action on bills passed in the 2006 legislative session.)

Dan Gearino from Lee Newspapers asked Vilsack about the debate among Mike Blouin, Chet Culver and Ed Fallon over the Iowa Values Fund.  Rod Boshardt from the Cedar Rapids Gazette tried to push Vilasck to answer some of the criticisms that have been made about inflated job creation claims.  I’m writing up that stuff next for broadcast this afternoon and tomorrow morning on Radio Iowa.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.