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Dear Governor

An open letter to Mary Fallin

The Honorable Governor Mary Fallin
820 NE 23rd Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

Governor Fallin,

Greetings. Hope this letter finds you well.

So what the hell happened? You shouldn’t even be back in Oklahoma. President-elect Trump once considered you for his running mate, right, and now … not even a cabinet position? And after all you did for him during the campaign. You said he was a racial healer and then excused his remarks about grabbing women (both gobsmacking moments, have to tell you); you campaigned with him; you took that demeaning vice chairman job on his transition team, even though you had to know it wouldn’t bode well; you didn’t whine when both Representative Rodgers and Zink were talked about for Interior (Zink got it)—the Oklahoma tribes even supported you on this one; and, then, if those indignities weren’t enough, Rick Perry gets Energy. It was a long shot for you, agreed, but you’re as qualified as he is. If nothing else, you know what the name of the department is you’d be heading. Worse, Ben Carson got Housing and Trump compared him to a child molester; Michael Flynn got National Security and he retweets detritus that the Clintons are running a sex ring out of a pizza place. I hear Bridenstine may even get NASA (how scary is that?) and you’re not even named a special advisor to the president or ambassador to Turks and Caicos? 

That’s gotta sting. 

Not for nothing, but you’re like Fredo from “The Godfather.” You were passed over. Instead of getting a cabinet position and new digs in Georgetown, you get to come back to OKC and yell at Preston Doerflinger for missing the 2017-18 budget hole by almost $300-million. Sad! 

I read in The Oklahoman that when you talked to Trump about Interior, it was “awkward” and that you stumbled over some questions about the sale of federal land. How was that possible? I can’t imagine he knows anything about federal land, except it’s yuuuge, and he stumped you? (I have to ask: how badly did the interview go?) Seems to me the only way you wouldn’t be in the Trump administration is if you walked in to his office at Mar-a-Lago humming Woody Guthrie’s “Old Man Trump.”

All right, I’ll stop. 

The question now: you’ve got about two years left in your term—what do you do?

I’m not your biggest fan, clearly, but I have some ideas, so stay with me. 

You played nice with the GOP for how many years and what did it get you? You didn’t accept ACA money for Oklahoma because the GOP company line was to reject it, and now with its impending repeal, you’ll have more Oklahomans uninsured (now with pre-existing conditions) than ever before, and what did it get you? You embraced a thrice-married, incurious braggart for president who used you and what did it get you? You cut taxes because you said it was going to spur growth and what did it get you? We’ve had one-party rule in Oklahoma for your entire administration and it’s been a … disaster. Nationally, we’re in the Top Ten of all the bad things and Bottom Ten of all the good things—look at prison population, cuts to education, women’s health, earthquakes, for the love of fracking! And much of that is on you. Nobody expects you to turn into Jerry Brown on any of these issues, but you need to somehow distance yourself from that. That may take an apology, your own Rick Perry “Ooops” moment, something on the order of: “We, the GOP, messed up in this state. I messed up. No more.”

Make that statement—hell, I’d vote for you. 

The state can’t run, government can’t operate, education certainly can’t function without more money, more taxes—and not gimmicks—so even if every man, woman, and child starts smoking four packs a day, every day, for the rest of their lives, tattoos every part of their body, and colors their hair after going to the tanning salon, the additional taxes raised on those services still won’t balance the budget. You know that, we know that. Say so. Ask voters to repeal State Question 640, the amendment which makes it almost impossible for the legislature to fiscally do its job by requiring it to approve tax increases by a three-fourths majority. Think about it: a Republican governor more concerned with solvency than slogans. 

Talk about unpresidented! 

We’re all grownups, and even if we’re not, treat us like we are. Test the theory that Oklahomans have innate goodness and fairness and remind us that government is not the enemy and never has been.

Remember in the old days when everybody—even those opposed to abortion—was for an exemption in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother because—I don’t know— it was the sane, humane, un-crazy position to take? (If not making a 14-year-old bring a rape to term makes you a RINO, then have t-shirts printed up and wear them proudly.) And while you’re at it, stop talking about cutting funding to Planned Parenthood. Even former State Rep. Doug Cox said, “To defund a program like Planned Parenthood would be a mistake. They perform a valuable service as far as breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, parenting classes, many things that benefit our state that we’re sorely in need of.” Cox is a medical doctor.

You know that, too.

Say so.

Tell your new attorney general—who you thinking of, anyway?—no more wasting state money on frivolous lawsuits (Really, we’re suing Colorado because it legalized pot?) just to pad his or resume the way Pruitt did. And while you’re at it, tell state legislators to stop wasting time deciding who can use what bathroom and putting up religious monuments we’re going to have to take down. 

Even if your approval rating tanks, even if every subterranean meeting of every Oklahoma Tea Party concludes with you being hanged in effigy and hit like a piñata for losing the faith, so what? What are they going to do: not vote for you again? Point to our successes in our overcrowded schools and prisons, billion-dollar budget deficits, botched executions, and Oklahoma’s strong, diverse economy? These groups may not mind that the state became a national punchline, but the rest of us do. 

You should, too. 

But back to your inglorious return from Washington. Truth is, I’m enjoying it a little. I’m not bathing in the schadenfreude, but it’s not surprising. Trump humiliated you, just as he did Giuliani, Gingrich, Christie, his two previous wives, every other GOP candidate, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the intelligence community, those subcontractors on the D.C. hotel, his debtors, every supporter who thinks jobs are coming back from China and believes Mexico is paying for the wall, and, if you read his Tweets, the English language … just as he will America.

Why put up with that? Why defend that? 

Now, do I expect you to do any of this? 

Of course not. 

If you choose to simply run out the string, you’ll go down as the Oklahoma governor who left the state with huge deficits, gutted education, embraced (and was cowed by) the crazies, was manhandled by special interests, spouted warmed-over pablum, proposed bankrupt solutions, was timid, awkward, and missed every opportunity to be a great leader.

One more thing: during “Star Trek: First Contact,” there’s a moment when Jean-Luc Picard, disgusted with and about the relentlessness of the Borgs, tells Lily Stone he has had enough of compromising and accommodating monsters.

“This far, no farther,” he screams. “We must drawn the line heeeere!”

Draw it, governor.

Barry Friedman

For more from Barry, read his article on Scott Pruitt.

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