I ask all South Dakotans to comply with the directive of President Obama to honor Senator Kennedy by flying the flag at half staff.
—South Dakota Governor M. Michael Rounds, 2009.08.27
Comply with the directive—not the words I would choose if I wanted to sound like I gave a damn. Certainly not the kind of words that accompany Governor Rounds's other half-staff orders:
On former State Rep. Tom Hennies: "Tom Hennies had a remarkable career of public service, both as a law enforcement officer and a state legislator.... He served with pride, compassion and integrity, and he will be missed. We extend our condolences to his family." [2009.08.14]
On former Lt. Gov. Carole Hillard: "I worked with Carole for six years, when she was the President of the Senate and I was the Majority Leader.... I gained a huge amount of respect for her. She was intelligent, caring, and always fair in conducting the Senate’s business. She was a 'class act' but it was never an 'act.' She was a genuine, kind, gracious person who was a good friend to everyone. She was also very proud of her family and loved to talk about what they were doing.... After she left government, she could have totally retired, but she worked very hard promoting democracy and economic development in other countries. She cared deeply about other people and about making things better. We are a better state because Carole Hillard gave her time, talent, and wisdom in public service to South Dakota." [2007.10.25]
On President Bush's Patriot Day directive: "It is appropriate that we remember and honor those brave men and women whose lives were taken in the deadly attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.... It is also appropriate that we thank those who serve the cause of defending our country and recognize our first responders who answer the call in times of need.” [2008.09.09 and 2006.09.08]
On former President Ronals Reagan: "President Reagan will be remembered as a hero and a leader.... He believed in the American people. He helped us see how bright our future could be. His vision of a free people with unbridled potential became our vision once again. America is better because of his ability to share the dream with each of us as if we knew him personally." [2004.06.07]
What Governor Rounds actually thinks about honoring Senator Kennedy is not the point. People get paid to make sure the words he says—or doesn't say—convey exactly the right message. They didn't have to gush over Senator Kennedy. But they could have crafted one sentence that sounds a little classier than, "Well, the President said so, so do it."
For some South Dakota officials who can find some respectful words, see Dave Kranz's Friday column. But as for certain legislators' lack of recall of legislation Kennedy pushed that affected South Dakota, start with immigration law, S-CHIP, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit.