Gov. Bruce Rauner took to Fox News Channel on Friday for what was billed as his first national television interview — and it backfired badly.
Leading a parade of bad reviews was right-wing commentator/provocateur Ann Coulter, who told her 1.6 million Twitter followers that Rauner “either is retarded or playing retard.”
“His answer to every Q is, “Our system is broken.” Fascinating!” Coulter tweeted during the governor’s interview with FOX News host Bret Baier.
Notwithstanding her completely inappropriate and offensive slur, Coulter was on point in calling out Rauner for his evasive answers.
I counted the Republican governor using eight variations on “system is broken” as he dodged, ducked and sidestepped Baier’s straightforward questions about sanctuary cities, Illinois school funding and Obamacare.
My favorite, though, was Baier’s last question: “Is President Trump a good president?”
I would bet most people in Illinois have an opinion on that, but not our governor, at least not one he is willing to share publicly.
Rauner’s answer: “I could tell you this, my job as governor is to work with every President and every Congress, and I worked with President Obama. I work with President Trump. I work with the members of Congress. I represent the people of Illinois, and I want to make sure their interests are looked out after at Washington, D.C.”
That was one of five sentences Rauner started with some variation of “I would [or could] tell you this,” which is the governor’s way of signaling he’s not going to give a straight answer.
At least Baier got Rauner to stay Trump’s name aloud. He usually avoids it like a Mike Madigan hug.
In truth, Rauner was just being his normal evasive self about topics he doesn’t care to discuss. Members of the Illinois news media are completely accustomed to it, and some of us even have developed a grudging respect for his disciplined approach.
But it didn’t work well on national television. And for the life of me, I can’t understand why he agreed to do the interview if he wasn’t going to answer questions.
If Rauner’s new media advisers thought going on FOX would help him with conservative voters, they miscalculated.
Coulter’s Twitter followers echoed her slam with their own comments about Rauner’s refusal to answer questions directly.
Remember this wasn’t a bunch of liberals like Mark Brown attacking Rauner. These were people who watch FOX News and follow Ann Coulter, the people Rauner will need to survive a re-election challenge in 2018.
A spokesman for the governor declined to comment about Coulter’s tweet.
Calling someone “retarded” is one of Coulter’s favorite insults. She also once called President Barack Obama a “retard.” She described Donald Trump as “mental.”
Baier seemed frustrated early in the interview by his inability to get direct answers to his questions about whether Rauner sides with Mayor Rahm Emanuel or President Donald Trump on the issue of sanctuary cities. But Baier never called him out directly.
Rauner also used his television appearance to repeat one of his favorite whoppers about his arch nemesis Madigan.
“Bret, when I first got to know the Speaker nine years ago he told me, I asked him: What’s your goal for improving the quality of life for the people of Illinois?
“He laughed. He said: ‘I’ve got no goal like that, Bruce. I do two things. I manage power, and I make money from managing power.’ He was proud of it. I almost threw up my soup at lunch.”
I’ve heard Rauner tell many variations on this story, usually in off-the-record settings, the variations being one reason I’m convinced it’s a lie.
The other reason is that, even if you believe that’s how Madigan thinks, there’s no way the most disciplined person in Illinois politics would talk that way with somebody he didn’t know that well.
Contrary to what Ann Coulter might think, Bruce Rauner is a highly intelligent man, just not a very honest one.