Sunday, September 27, 2009

Week 37: Nixon's Grade


It's like they could sense it was coming. Last Wednesday, hordes of reporters from across the state huddled before Governor Jay Nixon at the Lake of the Ozarks as he unveiled a new all-encompassing plan to clean up the body of water that has entangled his administration with suspicion and doubt. It was, without saying, the beginning of Nixon's rehabilitation on the one issue that has significantly sliced into the credibility of his freshman year. Nixon's team had a bright idea: Seize on your weakness, and turn it into a strength. Except, about 24 hours later, the Kansas City Star and then the Springfield News-Leader revealed that top Nixon aide Jeff Mazur knew about the high E.coli levels much sooner than the Nixon administration had previously acknowledged. Somewhere, a Missouri Republican, immediately channeled Joe Wilson. The Governor, and his team, had previously stressed that they weren't aware of the troubling results until at least June. Now, because of the gritty work of Karen Dillon and Chad Livengood, we know a close confidante of the Governor knew almost a month earlier. The story is not only a "gotcha" moment, it's one that will raise the level of skepticism among the press corps for the remainder of Nixon's term. "The media was on point before. Now it smells blood," wrote The Star's Steve Kraske. Nixon's legislative ride has been mostly smooth. But E.Coli-gate is not going away, and it ties into his opposition's concerns with tourism funding too neatly to ignore. Unless the Governor himself addresses the lingering doubts and questions about E.Coli-gate directly, he's likely to face more scrutiny -- not only from the media -- but from the GOP-controlled legislature that has the power to craft the bills that raise and re-raise these uncomfortable issues again.

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