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Corbett by the book

| Sunday, June 10, 2012, 3:03 p.m.


Much has been made inside the Capitol of how little reporters and lawmakers have seen Gov. Tom Corbett since he was sworn in on Jan. 18.

That stems in large part from the comparisons to former Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell, who would crush anyone getting between him and a TV camera. Rendell was probably the most accessible governor in modern history -- for good or bad. By the end of his term and desperate for attention, Rendell often had two news conferences a day.

Corbett has said more than once, "I'm not Ed Rendell."

Rendell's shoot-from-the-lip style is not something you'll see from Corbett, a Shaler Republican and former federal prosecutor.

To understand Corbett, people should realize his DNA is that of a U.S. attorney, a job he held in Pittsburgh from 1989 to 1993.

Federal prosecutors are notoriously reticent. They seldom leak stories. They operate in a culture of grand jury secrecy. Typically, they say nothing until they are ready to unleash an indictment or try and prove their case in court. Corbett also was the state attorney general and Rendell had been Philadelphia's DA. But neither of those jobs compares with the culture of federal prosecutors.

Corbett was being questioned in columns and a Philadelphia Inquirer story for not holding any news conferences since his inauguration. He spoke with The Associated Press and the Trib separately during his first week.

Corbett inherited the worst state deficit in modern history. He faces an estimated $4 billion deficit and must close it, based on his campaign promises, without raising taxes. He says he has been poring over the budget "line by line" for weeks.

Corbett cares about results, not how things might appear to some, and the budget is his biggest challenge of 2011. The governor delivers his budget address to the Legislature on March 8.

Goodness knows it's not as if Tom Corbett is an unknown face to Pennsylvania who needs name ID and exposure. He just won an election for governor and his mug was in every home with a TV.

Drilling down on state spending cuts is crucial at this point.

Is a governor to be judged by how many news conferences he holds• Quantity matters not. Rendell's toward the end were virtually devoid of any "news." Is one substantial news conference every month or six weeks better -- or worse -- than being out there all the time?

Corbett did hold a news conference after the third week to announce that Linda Kelly of Edgewood is his nominee for attorney general. He chose the career federal prosecutor -- again dipping into that pool of former colleagues at the U.S. Attorney's Office. His chief of staff, William Ward, worked there with Corbett, in the early 1980s. His inner circle has always been composed of people he trusts.

Corbett appeared relaxed and in a good mood at his news conference despite the sniping about his lack of appearances. In fact, after announcing Kelly's nomination, he addressed a wide range of topics and exhausted reporters' questions.

So don't look for Corbett to be Mr. Warm and Fuzzy with the press.

"When I have something you need to know, we'll announce it," he told me recently.

No speculation. No jumping on a question to get a quick headline. With Corbett, it's by the book.

The federal prosecutors' book.

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