08/12/2011 09:47 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2011

The Death of Minnesota Nice

Minnesota Nice, a much admired tradition of civilized debate and discourse that characterized the North Star State's political system for much of the 20th century, died this week. The cause of death was injuries inflicted during a mugging on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames.

Police said the victim, still recovering from a drive-by shooting at the State Capitol in St. Paul last month, was fatally injured while attending the Republican presidential candidates' debate Thursday night.

Ironically, two Minnesota Republicans, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann, were responsible for the victim's untimely death, according to law enforcement officials, although six other GOP candidates stood by without doing anything assist the victim.

"It was unfortunate, but I can't say I have any regrets," said Pawlenty, who denied having anything to do with the victim's demise. "Minnesota Nice was never as nice as the pundits made it out to be, and it was as outdated as Harold Stassen," referring to the former GOP governor and perennial presidential candidate.

He added, "You saw what happened when Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale ran against Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan in 1968 and 1984 and didn't go after their jugular, and when I let Mitt Romney off the hook in our debate in New Hampshire last month. Well, I ain't gonna let that happen again, believe you me."

Bachmann, who also proclaimed her innocence, said, "If God wanted me to be Minnesota Nice, I would have listened to Him. But I didn't get to be one of the top GOP candidates by letting a big government lackey like Pawlenty attack my legislative record and experience and then turning the other cheek. If he or Mitt Romney or anybody else thinks they can get away with that, they've got another think coming."

Ames Police Chief Elmer Fudd said Pawlenty and Bachmann were the leading suspects in Minnesota Nice's death since they were seen administering blows to the victim on national television. "But there were a lot of other potential suspects who wished the victim ill will." He indicated that he intends to interrogate anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, all of whom he said were seen making threatening gestures toward the victim,

The death of Minnesota Nice was lamented by many Minnesotans, including Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who conceded that it was probably inevitable after the state narrowly averted a government shutdown last month over a budget impasse with the Republican-controlled legislature.

"This is a terrible blow to Minnesota's well-earned reputation as a bastion of civility and common sense," he said. "I'm afraid the rest of the country looks at us now the same way they look at Wisconsin."

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a Minnesota native, echoed Gov. Dayton. "This just another reason why we need a new third party. Maybe what we need now is a Minnesota Nasty."