Commentary: Overheard at GOP governors conference

Previously unpublished minutes of a closed-door brainstorming session at the Republican Governors Association conference, held last week at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami.

Opening remarks by Gov. Charlie Crist:

The governor welcomed his colleagues to Florida, and thanked them for coming so soon after the disastrous Nov. 4 election. He said that grief counselors would be available every day on the mezzanine, and that the hotel staff had been instructed to leave Zoloft tablets on the pillows instead of chocolate mints.

Gov. Crist was interrupted by Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, who asked how Barack Obama managed to beat John McCain in a place like Florida. Gov. Crist blamed "new, overly efficient voting machines" and early balloting that attracted thousands of first-time voters, most of them Democrats.

When it was pointed out that Crist himself had pushed for the new machines and also extended the hours of early voting, the governor said he was late for his spinning class, and excused himself.

Brief remarks by Gov. Timothy Pawlenty of Minnesota:

Gov. Pawlenty said that it's time for the GOP to look toward the future and not stew bitterly over the past. He said there's no point speculating how much better a McCain-Pawlenty ticket would have fared against Obama-Biden, and that history is littered with the wreckage of such lost opportunities. The governor said Republican officeholders must now remake the party's image to attract more voting groups, especially women. To that end, he announced he was legally removing both the "a" and the "w" from his last name, and from now on he was to be called Gov. Plenty.

Brief remarks by Gov. Bobby Jindal of


Gov. Jindal acknowledged that these are difficult times for the GOP, but insisted that it's too early to write the party's obituary. He said he was proud to represent a state that had voted overwhelmingly for the Republican presidential nominee, despite being shafted after Hurricane Katrina by a hopelessly incompetent Republican administration.

However, the governor pointed out that most voters weren't as forgiving as folks in Louisiana. He said that national Republican leaders must find a way to reinvent themselves as progressive advocates for the working class, who care deeply about education, the environment and the economy.

At this point, several of the other governors collapsed wheezing with laughter, and a short recess was called.

Brief remarks by Gov. Rick Perry of Texas:

Gov. Perry expressed concern that Republicans might lose their longtime grip on Texas once President Bush leaves the White House and returns to Crawford.

The governor inquired whether any other states would be willing to offer Mr. Bush a ranch, or even a ranchette. When questioned, Gov. Perry emphasized that he preferred the term "sanctuary" and not "asylum."

He said the Texas Republican Party would be glad to pay for the future former president's relocation and would arrange for all his mail and magazines to be forwarded promptly.

Gov. Perry asked for any interested governors to raise their hands, but there was no response. He said what the heck, he knew it was a long shot, and left the meeting shortly thereafter.

Brief remarks by Gov. Haley Barbour of


Gov. Barbour said he was dismayed by the media frenzy surrounding a "certain hot, young newcomer who knows more about Neiman Marcus than she does about NAFTA." He called on his colleagues to focus their efforts on reviving the GOP, and to put their selfish political ambitions aside.

The governor then said he was going downstairs to hang around by the pool, because that's where Wolf Blitzer liked to eat lunch.

Brief remarks by Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, who arrived late.

Gov. Palin apologized for missing most of the meeting. She said she'd been tied up chatting with CNN, NBC, CNBC, Fox News, BBC, Telemundo, Al Jazeera, MTV and the Sci-Fi Channel.

She also said she had brought the loin of a dead moose all the way from Alaska, and deep-fried it in seal blubber for an upcoming segment on the Food Network.

The governor remarked that she was ashamed of "all these darn doom-and-gloomers" at the convention. She said that Republicans had a bright and perky future, and that she would do her part to spark excitement in the party by granting "several hundred more interviews" between now and 2012.

In closing, Gov. Palin said she was greatly enjoying her visit to Miami. She said that she and her husband planned to take the elevator all the way up to the roof of the hotel, in hopes of seeing the Bahamas and possibly Cuba.