From the Desk of Garrison Keillor
A prolific writer, Garrison Keillor is a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and abroad. To the right, you find a selection of articles published since 1989, and a few unpublished pieces.

A Governor Works in Mysterious Ways
From The New York Times

October 19, 2001

Here in Minnesota our governor has gone undercover, so far as we can figure out. The governor ---- who I will refer to as Larry so as to throw terrorists off the trail --- had a fit in New York recently when he flew there for a photo op at Ground Zero, a trip paid for by ABC-TV which then got exclusive rights to film the governor's grief and concern. When a few Minnesota reporters questioned him on these arrangements, Larry said he would never speak to any of them ever again. Later, he amended this to say that he would speak to some of them but never with tape-recorders present.

Then Larry announced that his schedule of public appearances would be kept secret because he along with the Mall of America and the Humphrey Metrodome and perhaps the statue of Paul Bunyan in Bemidji and the famous Lift Bridge in Duluth might be high on the terrorists' list of targets.

Now he has amended that to say that his press secretary will inform some of the press what the governor is doing, but this information cannot be disseminated to the general public.

The governor thus achieves four public announcements in less than a week without ever having actually done something.

(1. I am going to stop writing this column right now. 2. No, I'll write more, but only a few more paragraphs. 3. But you can't read any more; you must stop right now and I really mean it. 4. Okay, you can read more but only to the end.)

The stealth governor is an innovation in politics, and Larry is the one who can make it work. He was elected to the post, after a career as a pro rassler, because he spoke plainly and plenty of people are tired of the boilerplate that passes for oratory nowadays. His slogan was "Retaliate In '98" which seemed to promise a new era or something. Since his election, however, he has taken a sharp right turn away from all that and become a quiet caretaker governor. A pretty good one. At hands-off governance, Larry is as capable as you or me.

The problem with being a caretaker is that you have very little to show for it, no large ideas to proclaim, no triumphs to celebrate, no ribbons to cut. You are just a guy sitting in a boat in calm water and not tipping it over. After awhile, people's attention wanders.

Disappearance is a great way to attract attention, to become the Garbo of governors, the Pynchon politician.

It is no great thing to stand in the governor's reception room at the state Capitol and shake hands with a delegation of 4-Hers from Kandiyohi County. It raises the occasion to a heroic level to welcome them secretly, no press allowed, no tape recorders, the governor surrounded by highway patrolmen cradling shotguns who search the 4-Hers for pitchforks with which they might overpower Larry and force him to do stuff.

Thus does a Midwestern governor of modest talent employ America's war against terrorism to advance his legend.

Before Larry, governors of Minnesota didn't bother with security. They traveled around in a mid-size car, accompanied by some young staff person to spare the Honorable the embarrassment of having to drive around and around looking for a parking space and parallel park and stuff nickels in the meter. A governor used to be a guy you'd see at University of Minnesota basketball games and walk up to and say hi at halftime.

When Larry ascended into office, he demanded a security detail, with round-the-clock service. And now he has introduced the idea of semi-secret public appearances. Occasionally he may show up somewhere, but suddenly, like the Masked Man of the Plains.

The logical next step for him is to leave town for the duration of the war and not tell anybody. Perhaps he already has. Perhaps Larry even now is hunkered deep in a Minuteman silo in North Dakota, sitting at a control console in front of an electronic map of all 87 counties of Minnesota, running state government via a secure telephone, secret couriers disguised as seed salesmen bringing him state papers concealed in burlap bags, and Larry signing his name to them in invisible ink. We do not know.

While he's there, he could let his hair grow back and lose a hundred pounds so as to lessen his visibility and be able to return home for the holidays. I wish I knew where he is so I could tell him.

Past Articles
  • Phil Keillor Benefit for the Tenney Park Shelter (04/17/09)
  • Bill Holm, 1943–2009 (02/26/09)
  • Happy New Year, Friends (12/29/08)
  • Talk of the Stacks (11/17/08)
  • What Makes St. Paul So Great? (09/03/08)
  • GK On Historic Preservation (10/05/07)
  • Welcome to St. Paul (09/23/06)
  • "Homegrown Democrat," Chapters 1-4 (08/10/04)
  • Sing the National Anthem—and Try it in the Key of G (07/02/04)
  • Holiday Greetings from Garrison Keillor (12/23/03)
  • Remembering Plimpton (10/01/03)
  • Crankiness in Decline, Says the Old Guy (04/19/02)
  • A Governor Works in Mysterious Ways (10/19/01)
  • In Praise of Laziness (09/10/01)
  • I Just Needed a Valve Job (09/13/01)
  • A Eulogy for Chet Atkins (07/03/01)
  • A Foot Soldier in God's Floating Orchestra (04/01)
  • Exile on Main Street (10/02/00)
  • Walking Down the Canyon (07/31/00)
  • The Mysteries of Prom Night (05/15/00)
  • How I Write (12/04/99)
  • The Christmas of the Great Flu (12/99)
  • Let Jesse Be Jesse (10/10/99)
  • The Rice, the Bat, the Baby (09/06/99)
  • Faith at the Speed of Life (06/14/99)
  • The Republicans Were Right, But (02/15/99)
  • Minnesota's Excellent Ventura (11/16/98)
  • The Dangers of Christmas (04/06/98)
  • Gasgate (11/10/97)
  • Talk Radio (10/97)
  • The Seven Principles of a Successful Christmas (09/08/97)
  • The Seven Deadly Sins—Envy (04/97)
  • You Say Potato (04/04/96)
  • The Poetry Judge (02/96)
  • With All the Trimmings (11/27/95)
  • In Autumn We Get Older (11/06/95)
  • Minnesota's Sensible Plan (09/11/95)
  • The Art of the Embrace (02/95)
  • The Voters are Angry (08/94)
  • Word Play (05/18/90)
  • We Are Still Married (12/18/89)
  • Elevator Tales
  • A Graduation Speech

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