Caryn Sullivan: Deflect, deny, and dodge

As Walz runs for a second term, he insists honesty is on the ballot. But is he honest? When things get tough, he doesn’t take responsibility. He deflects. Worse yet, he disappears.

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan at World's Best Donuts in Grand Marais. (Office of Gov. Tim Walz/Flickr)

It was late May 2020. Minnesotans were grappling with the COVID lockdown when Minneapolis erupted in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Gov. Tim Walz’s response offered Minnesotans a snapshot of his leadership style.

As TV screens lit up with video of a city under siege, KARE-11 anchor Julie Nelson told viewers they’d repeatedly reached out to the mayor, governor, and top aides but had gotten no response. Expressing what many were thinking, Nelson said, “Someone needs to tell us what is going on and what the plan is.”

In the middle of the night, Walz finally took to the airwaves. He assured Minnesotans he was now in charge of the frightening and chaotic situation.

As looting and burning — including a police precinct building — continued into a third night, Nelson, and co-anchor Randy Shaver, expressed disbelief. How could the governor allow a repeat performance?

Nelson said, “This is not a good sign or a good look for the governor, who said this would be under control.”

That moment in history offered insight into Walz’s leadership. Astonishingly, when our largest city was on fire, our governor was in a virtual bunker.

Walz’s response came as no surprise to men who served with him in the Minnesota National Guard. Alpha News’ Liz Collin spoke with three command sergeant majors who served with Walz until he retired in 2005.

Though it’s been many years, Walz’s behavior rankles the men so much they stepped forward to tell Minnesotans what kind of leader they observed him to be. In their eyes, he committed an unforgivable act by abandoning his unit as it was about to deploy to Iraq. Moreover, he continues to assert he was a command sergeant major, though the promotion was conditional on him completing certain requirements — which he failed to do, though they did.

Retired Command Sergeant Major Paul Herr said, “It speaks to integrity and honor. You have a man sitting in the seat as governor of the state of Minnesota. He’s lied to the public. He continues to lie to feather his bed. He lied so he could make it easier to leave the National Guard. He lays claim to something he (being a command sergeant major) literally only did for a few minutes and never met the requirements for.”

As Walz runs for a second term, he insists honesty is on the ballot. But is he honest? When things get tough, he doesn’t take responsibility. He deflects. Worse yet, he disappears.

After the Feeding Our Future scandal broke, Walz pointed fingers at Ramsey County Judge John Guthmann, claiming to be shocked by a ruling he made and suggesting a sitting judge, appointed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, might need to be investigated.

Walz so badly mischaracterized Guthmann’s ruling the Minnesota Judicial Branch issued a statement, calling it “inaccurate.”

Within days, Walz had disappeared.

As reporters tried unsuccessfully to reach him, on Monday Walz surfaced on social media. Appearing with Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan about as far north as one can go in Minnesota, he didn’t explain why he was in Grand Marais. But he did put in a plug for The World’s Best Donuts shop.

Walz returned to town but canceled a Tuesday fundraising event in Hutchinson, citing safety concerns. Fewer than 20 members of a citizen group, Mask Off MN, had planned a protest at Walz’s event.

When he was a United States senator, John F. Kennedy wrote “Profiles in Courage,” a compilation of biographies of leaders who epitomized courage, integrity, and honesty. As we prepare to decide who will lead the state for the next four years, one passage is instructive.

“In a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, holds office; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.”

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not represent an official position of Alpha News. 


Caryn Sullivan
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A retired attorney and author of the award-winning memoir, "Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page," Caryn Sullivan has inspired readers with her thoughtful commentary for the past two decades. To learn more about Caryn’s work or to connect, visit