Skubick: Critics Question Leadership
high, but critics question leadership
She has numbers any elected official would die for. A 69 percent favorable rating; 66 percent feel she's doing a bang-up job. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is sitting pretty, but are seams in her Wonder Woman suit starting to rip?
One prominent Republican who likes her privately asks, "What does she stand for?" A Democrat who didn't vote for Granholm in the 2002 election also wondered about her convictions.
Some on both sides of the legislative aisle complain she is trying to please everyone and, thus, is hesitant to take a tough stance on issues that might shave a few points off that enviable 69 percent approval mark.
Granholm's detractors point to the Detroit school reform effort. She refuses to take a public stance on what should be done to improve the schools. She opts out by suggesting she will do whatever the majority of Detroit lawmakers want her to do. Those critics concede that's the correct political stance, but it is not leadership.
Others point to the dove hunting bill.
The Humane Society has a signed document showing that candidate Granholm opposed killing that little bird. But now she's making noises about a limited hunting season, which some say is a classic flip-flop. Granholm demurs, saying she is only hunting for a compromise, which is what the legislative process is all about.
Leadership, though, is staking out a position you believe to be right and sticking to that, no matter what the polls suggest or what the fallout might be.
During the 2002 campaign, candidate Granholm spoke to that. She confessed that when it comes to "family, faith and issues that are core and fundamental to who I am, obviously you can't compromise anything."
But then she described issues in the "realm of public domain."
On those, she pledged to seek "input from all stakeholders to make sure you're making a wise decision." And nobody can fault her for not doing that. What some are beginning to whisper is that after that fact-finding process, she remains comfortably on the fence.
That certainly was not the case when she boldly told lawmakers that she wanted a freeze on the income tax rollback last year. She also has remained steadfast in opposing any general tax increases while bravely shoving lawmakers to boost sin taxes.
Yet there's the perception that she needs to spend more of her political capital. "She hasn't taken any risks ... this love for the governor is going to dissipate over time if she doesn't take any leadership role," observes pollster Ed Sarpolus.
Granholm is quick to retort, "Just because I'm not in your face, doesn't mean I'm not leading." A self-avowed consensus builder, Granholm warns, "Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean that I'm not leading behind the scenes."
Frankly, Granholm suffers under what could be called the "legacy of John Engler confrontational politics." He relished getting into everyone's face who opposed him. Everyone was used to that.
Now comes Granholm, who prefers to get into opponents' heads and bring them by the hand to a reasonable solution. Some perceive that as not leading. She disagrees.
The voters will eventually decide who is right.
Tim Skubick has covered Michigan politics and the state Legislature since 1969. He anchors the weekly public TV series "Off the Record" and is capitol correspondent for WW J-AM (950).
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