When Gov. Dayton doesn’t compute

Anyone who’s ever watched politicians get questions they didn’t have answers for had to know that Gov. Mark Dayton was heading for the rocks almost immediately after he got a question on MPR’s Daily Circuit the other day about a subject that has little to do with politics or policy.

Kerri Miller asked the governor about the number of incidents Minnesota Vikings — and other NFL — players get into in strip joints at 2 in the morning.

Now, if you’re ever elected to office, readers, and a talk show host asks you to comment about why players get into trouble at 2 a.m. in strip joints, one response might be: “I don’t know. I’ve never been in a strip joint at 2 a.m.” (Optional alternative: “I don’t know; I’ve never been in a strip joint before.”)

In his response — the audio of which is below — you can almost hear Dayton thinking about listening to the voice in his head that had to be screaming “Danger, Will Robinson!” But he went ahead anyway and paid the usual price.

“It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are probably more susceptible to be in bars at 2 o’clock in the morning and have problems, or DUIs. It doesn’t excuse it, it just says that it probably comes with it,” Dayton said.

That would’ve been a good place to stop, but he kept going:

“It’s basically slightly civilized war, and then they take that into society, much as solders come back, and they’ve been in combat or the edge of it and then suddenly that adjustment back to civilian life is a real challenge.”

That’s the kind of thing that can push talk of balanced budgets, same-sex marriage amendments, voter ID, and a governor’s morning prayer rituals off to the side, and put a bruise on the forehead of a handler from banging it on the desk. Sure enough, it took seconds for it to sweep across the country, including the Washington Post

Clearly, that would explain Marshawn Lynch’s DUI charge, which resulted from him nearly hitting two other vehicles while driving in the wrong lane on an Oakland, Calif. highway.

And working in a “civilized war” environment is obviously what led Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil to allegedly pull out a gun during an argument with another driver while both vehicles were stuck in Miami Beach traffic.

Ted Glover of the Daily Norseman said demanding an apology on behalf of combat veterans would be “as stupid as the comments that Dayton made. I just want people to quit comparing sports to war.”

And then he provided one of the best responses with this graphic:


In his “apology” today, Dayton compounded his woes by trying to identify its legitimacy.

“In a recent interview, I was asked why so many professional football players had difficulties off the field. I made a poor analogy, by saying that the psychological adjustments they have to make from their contests to normal society were not unlike the difficulties experienced by returning veterans.

“Some of the psychological dynamics may be similar; however, I, in no way, meant to compare their challenges with the traumas and hardships experienced by the heroes who fought in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. While I am a football fan, I reserve my highest respect and admiration for those courageous Americans in uniform, who risk their lives to keep us safe and to make the world more free.

“I regret my mistake, and I apologize for it.”

There is, of course, no equal comparison between a football player and a combat veteran and in honest moments, few people likely think that the governor can’t make that distinction.

Likely, he was referring to the “fight or flight” response that is dictated by adrenalin, and is particularly at work in combat situations. But it works with you, too, even though that doesn’t make you a combat veteran.

None of that can be explained on a talk show in which you got a question you weren’t expecting.

That’s why a good politician punts in that situation.