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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Nick Coleman Says It Well


As Hatch was jumping out a window, I was sitting in the attorney general's reception room, waiting for Hatch or Swanson to talk to me and reading a copy of "Fun with Dick and Jane," which I found on the coffee table and which was not as exciting as when I read it the first time in 1957.

Mike and Lori did not talk. Mike and Lori were not having fun. But someone dropped a press release in my lap: Hatch, behaving like a gentleman after all these years, was quitting.

General Swanson (that's what Hatch called her in his letter of resignation) was handpicked by Hatch to run for his old job as he tried to move up to governor. But he lost after blowing his cool and calling a pesky reporter "a Republican whore" (the preferred slur is "jackal"). Then he called in his chits and set up shop again in the attorney general's office, as Special Assistant Svengali.

In normal times, such a dumb move would have drawn more criticism. But we are in a time of so many dumb moves that it took months for Swanson's decision to name her old boss to head the Rasputin Section of the AG's office to rise to the top of the Dumb List.

When it got there, it didn't stand up to scrutiny. At all.

Hatch's refusal to shut up and go away, which is the moral obligation of a defeated candidate for governor, was creepy. Swanson, who is 40, is a grown woman and won election all by her little ol' lonesome. Keeping the 58-year-old Mad Mike around was a prescription for trouble, obvious to everyone but the two people involved. Like letting your ex-husband stay in the basement for the sake of the kids. After a while, nobody wants a thing in the basement. Not even the kids.

Hatch's extended tour was a disaster for Swanson, who faces a staff in rebellion, is at odds with a public employees union that endorsed her campaign and is facing calls for a legislative investigation into how the public's law office has been managed, or mismanaged.

An investigation is warranted, and Hatch's belated resignation should not prevent one.

It was an icky resignation, by the way, with Swanson and Hatch blowing kisses at each other: "Your administration has been fantastic," Hatch oozed in his statement. "Mike Hatch was a fantastic attorney general," she said.

We are becoming fantastically nauseated.

Inside the Lexington Restaurant on Grand Avenue, where St. Paul insiders hobnob and Swanson and Hatch lunched together, you can get an idea of who is up and who is down in St. Paul by perusing the rogues' gallery of celebrities, politicians and personalities in the corridor by the men's room.

Yesterday, there was a photo of Swanson on one wall and one of Hatch on the other. Each said: "Attorney General."

There you have it: There were too many Generals in the attorney general's office.

Now that the cannons have done their work, it is time for Lori Swanson to show whether she can handle the job on her own. At the moment, the jury is out.