When University of Minnesota Law School Professor Richard Painter announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a possible Senate candidacy last month, I urged him to follow his heart and go for it. He is interested in the seat held by the appointed Democratic incumbent, Tina Smith. According to the Star Tribune, however, Painter is “unsure whether he would run as a Republican, Democrat or independent.”
Painter found it useful to identify himself as a Republican when he endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. He also finds it useful for his bookings on MSNBC, as in Hugh Hewitt’s close encounter with him yesterday (below). I asked Hugh for his comment on Painter’s unhinged attack on him. Hugh responded by email: “I was surprised by it. I intended to convey that ‘ethics experts,’ like doctors, shouldn’t make diagnoses from a 1000 miles away in Minnesota. He heard me somehow insult Minnesota, even though I am Commissioner of Hockey there. I suspect that Professor Painter may lack the temperament necessary to serve in office, being perhaps in the Minnesota tradition of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken rather than Tim Pawlenty and John Kline.”
Painter holds himself out as an ethics guru. If he took the ethics shtick seriously, he wouldn’t go around calling names. Painter’s belief in ethics is approximately as serious as his Republican bona fides. He is a phony. Politics may indeed be his true calling, as soon as he resolves his midlife identity crisis.
In the DFL-heavy Fifth District, where the law school is located, Painter may even appeal to the 30,000 voters who opted in 2016 for the Legal Marijuana Now congressional candidate in addition to the voters who stuck with Keith Ellison. He is second to none in his criticism of Donald Trump and the Trump administration. Painter’s wild-eyed denunciations of Trump would go down very smoothly indeed with the Legal Marijuana Now crowd as well as the DFL regulars.
Yet Painter probably best fits the profile of an Independent candidate. He presents a sort of high-minded elitist counterpart to Jesse Ventura’s man of the people routine. After a fundraiser with Legal Marijuana Now crowd, he may even fantasize that he could win the race as an Independent. To conjure the delusion that he stands a chance of winning the Republican nomination for any office would require a mind-altering substance harder than marijuana.
As an alumnus of the University of Minnesota Law School, I would dearly love my fellow Minnesotans to see the sort of nutter who holds an endowed chair at my alma mater. There are more where he came from. His candidacy would provide a useful education for Minnesota taxpayers.