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May 31, 2006

Pelz v. Tebelius

Posted by David Postman at 4:12 PM

The chairmen of the state Democrats and Republicans just faced off on Lou Dobbs' CNN program. The subject was immigration and most of the talk focused on the piece of the Republican's new platform that opposes automatic citizenship for babies born to people in the United States illegally. Dobbs is one of the toughest critics of U.S. immigration policy in the media and made his point clear during the brief exchange.

Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz, seemingly taking his talking points from The Stranger, said the real debate should be between Republican Chairwoman Diane Tebelius and GOP officials in the state "who immediately distanced themselves from this proposal."

The highest ranking Republican official is the attorney general and he doesn't agree with this plan. The former chair of the state party said this resolution was an unfortunate development out of a convention and it brings disunity to the party. Republicans are split on this issue.

Tebelius jumped in:

I disagree on that. First of all no one knew exactly what was coming out of the platform at the party, and they listened to what the press had to say not what our words were. And if they had heard what we said they would not be disagreeing with it.

So what were Republicans' words on the issue of what they said was the widespread problem of babies, they called anchor babies, born here only to take advantage of public services and help keep their illegal parents in the country?

Here's what the plank on citizenship for babies said:

We Support the original intent of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution (1868) which declared "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States..." and thereby recognized the citizenship of ex-slaves and in NO way granted citizenship to the babies of illegal aliens.

Andy Valrosa, sponsor of the provision: "Babies that are born of people here illegally should not be citizens."

Spokane delegate Laura Carter: "They are called anchor babies and once the babies are born they can get welfare and all sorts of stuff and we don't want that. At least I don't."

There was some confusion because the initial vote taken Saturday covered all "aliens," not just illegal aliens. The first measure passed by an even wider margin and would have opposed citizenship to babies born to people in the U.S. on student or work visas. Valrosa then made his proposal and it was considered the final word.

So to clarify, after the vote Saturday Tebelius was asked, "You think most voters in Washington would agree that if you're an illegal immigrant and have children in this country, they should not be citizens?" She said, "I think that is what the party would say."

After the taping I asked Tebelius what the press has gotten wrong and she said, "I shouldn't have said that."

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Dems say McGavick Afraid of Bush Visit

Posted by David Postman at 7:40 AM

Am I a dupe? Naive maybe? Democratic chairman Dwight Pelz seems to think something's wrong. He called last night to tell me he's convinced Mike McGavick is trying to avoid being seen with President Bush when Bush comes here next month. McGavick said he would have done a fundraiser with Bush — who will raise money for Congressman Dave Reichert — but that he's going to be on the east coast attending the high school graduation of his son. (He said he's been told he could raise between $500,000 and $750,000 at a fund raiser headlined by Bush.) It seemed plausible to me. But not to Pelz:

The U.S. Senate is in play. This is one of the few states where Republicans say they can pick up a seat. ... McGavick is ducking Bush. McGavick wants to stand by Bush in Washington, D.C., for a rubberstamp for his policies but he doesn't want to stand by George Bush in Washington state.
Pelz said he isn't "challenging Mike McGavick's affection for his family" and says graduations are important for families. But, he said, "If McGavick wanted Bush to come to Washington state they would have been comparing schedules and found the time to do it while McGavick was available."

I asked Pelz why McGavick would duck Bush but not Vice President Cheney, who he stood with in Spokane. Pelz said maybe McGavick had come to his senses and decided that was a bad move. And it was conservative Spokane and not somewhere in the more liberal Puget Sound area.

Would McGavick go through this to avoid a photo on the front page of him and President Bush? It's not like McGavick has said he doesn't need or welcome Bush's help or that he's too independent to stand with the president. The question is, does being out of town when Bush is here really get McGavick anything?

I checked with McGavick for some follow up questions. He thought it was funny how Democrats have tagged him as running a poor campaign but now say the Senate race here is in play and that he could dictate the president's schedule.

I don't expect the President to schedule around my son's graduation and neither do I think he expects me to cut it short. These guys on the other side have to get a life. On the one hand they say we're flailing. ... I've been hearing all along that this wasn't even a contest. Well we seem to have improved our position quite a lot.

Is he trying to distance himself from the President?

Well, I've always spoken clearly where the president and I agree and where we disagree. But I have done nothing to avoid the Administration. You might look to the simple fact that I appeared with Vice President Cheney in Spokane. I'm glad the president is coming. I'm sorry I won't be here. I hope he comes again and I hope I will be able to be with him. But there is nothing in a campaign that can pull me away from Jack's graduation. Period.

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May 30, 2006

Vance says "Unfortunate Things" Came out of Convention

Posted by David Postman at 4:57 PM

With the fall out from the weekend's Republican state convention, I wondered how it looked to Chris Vance, the former chairman now seemingly happy as a consultant at The Gallatin Group. While Republicans got tough on immigration, he mowed his lawn, played with his kids, played a round of golf and generally seemed pretty glad not to have been there.

"There are a lot of unfortunate things that came out of the convention. All the stories highlight the divisions in the Republican Party rather than the unity in the Republican Party. .... What you and the other members of the press are writing about is disunity. It's not a good thing when you have our major elected officials, like Rob McKenna, and our major candidate, Mike McGavick, saying they disagree with the most newsworthy thing that came out of the convention."

Vance said he was talking to a business lobbyist today who said, "The business community doesn't understand why the Republican Party doesn't understand immigration issues." I hadn't thought about this angle much, but Vance points out that a lot of businesses in Washington — most importantly agriculture but others, too — rely on immigrant labor and may see the Republican position as working against their interests. Already there is a split between business and the GOP over the gas tax and other transportation issues.

In the last convention Vance did pretty well keeping everyone unified on the platform, though not everyone was happy with his leadership.

In addition to the tug to the right on immigration, Vance was bothered by an amendment to the platform that calls for repeal of the Growth Management Act. During his years as chairman he pushed for a more moderate approach on growth, basically that the party should call for allowing rural counties to opt out of GMA but leaving it in place to reassure suburban voters they oppose sprawl.

Vance said the conservative activists that led the platform fight will celebrate their victories — and they are — but it could have the effect of shrinking the party's base.

"Who is going to be part of the Republican coalition? It's like some of these folks would like it to be nobody but intellectual conservatives. That's nice. But that's not how American politics works."

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Bush coming to help GOP candidates

Posted by David Postman at 1:05 PM

President George W. Bush is tentatively scheduled to vist Washington state next month to raise money for Congressman Dave Reichert and Senate candidate Mike McGavick. No details yet, except that the visit is penciled in for June 16. Presidential schedules change often, though, so stay tuned. UPDATE: I was wrong. There will be no McGavick fund raiser during the trip. There will be events for Reichert and the Republican Party.

UPDATE UPDATE: McGavick just told me he would have had a fund raiser with President Bush on the 16th but he will be attending his son's graduation. Jack, McGavick's eldest son from his first marriage, graduates from high school out of state. "I'm happy for Dave. I'm happy the president is coming and I'm very sorry to miss it. But I have to be with my son. That's where I belong." He says he hopes Bush will come back before the election. "I would have been honored to have his support."

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Republicans on their new immigration platform

Posted by David Postman at 8:36 AM

What do Republicans on the ballot this year think of the party's new immigration policy that opposes citizenship for babies born here to illegal immigrants and supports a guest worker program only for workers who go back home to apply?

Congressman Dave Reichert told me yesterday that he is willing to consider a proposal that would end automatic citizenship for babies born here. "It makes sense to me. This is people taking advantage of the system," he said. Reichert said that he has heard stories of pregnant Mexican women "just moments before the baby is born crossing the border and having the baby in a parking lot ... then claiming they can't leave because their baby is a citizen."

State Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, said denying citizenship to babies born in the United States would be unconstitutional. Reichert said that is something "for the lawyers" to hash out. "I think that has to be part of the entire discussion that has to take place," he said.

The guest worker program endorsed by the party is impractical, Reichert said, because "we will not be able to send 12 million people back." But, as he has said earlier, the U.S. government should try to review the specifics of as many of those people as possible and handle them on a case-by-base basis, with perhaps some being required to return to their home country before getting a guest worker permit.

Congressman Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, has been pushing for a guest worker program that would allow the agriculture industry in central Washington to keep operating. He is concerned that requiring everyone to leave the country before applying to come back as a temporary worker could hurt the ag industry. His press secretary, Jessica Gleason, said this by e-mail this morning:

"Decisions about who has to go home first, for how long, and how to enforce such a requirement will be made as the differences between the House and Senate bill are worked out. Hastings' priorities are ensuring that a guest worker program enhances security and is implemented in a way that meets the needs of our farmers. Whether workers must return home first or not, the transition must be done in a way that does not jeopardize even one harvest season. The fact remains that there is not a ready pool of Americans waiting to fill these farm labor jobs."

She said she didn't know Hastings position on citizenship for babies of illegal immigrants.

I'm waiting to hear back from Rep. Cathy McMorris.

Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick doesn't support either plank added in the platform. On babies, he says the plan is unconstitutional. The Republican-endorsed guest worker plan is unworkable, he said. He said he understands, though, what drove the delegates:

"These are expressions of frustrations. While the solutions may not be perfect, the frustration is real and appropriate given that the United States has failed — as any country has a right to do — to control its own borders."

McGavick had left the convention Saturday when delegates debated immigration. He said he couldn't comment on the tone or the language used. But he said people need to be sensitive when debating the issue.

"We should never let it slide down the slippery slope to racism. We all have to work hard to prevent that."

UPDATE: State Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla says he opposes both of the new immigration planks. Speaking for himself and not the Senate Republican caucus, it is clear Hewitt is a high-ranking Republican uncomfortable with the jump to the right the platform took. Hewitt has worked hard to reach out to Hispanic voters. He sponsored a bill to give in-state tutition at colleges and universities to illegal immigrants. He was honored for his work last year with an award from the Washington Repubican National Hispanic Assembly. "The party over-reached on this one," Hewitt said.

UPDATE: I asked Darcy Burner's campaign if they had reaction to Reichert's comments. Campaign manager Zach Silk said, in part:

"Dave Reichert has been seriously out of touch on this issue from the beginning. First, he voted in favor of the House bill that made it a felony for the clergy to offer aid to immigrants. Now, he's supporting a clearly unconsitutional proposal to end automatic citizenship for babies born here.
It forces you to ask, 'What is he thinking?' "

MORE DOC: Gleason got back to me on Hastings' position on automatic citizenship for babies born to illegal immigrants. Hastings thinks it is worth talking about.

"The Constitution says what it says. Any way you look at it, changing birthright citizenship would require a Constitutional debate that would take years. Congressman Hastings believes the proposal is worthy of debate, but securing our borders and creating a functional guestworker program is a more direct way to solve the problem and that's what he's focusing on right now. "

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May 29, 2006

Conservatives Happy With New Immigration Plank

Posted by David Postman at 3:06 PM

I'll be writing more on immigration tomorrow. In the meantime here are reports from two conservatives who were in Yakima for the convention.

At The Reagan Wing, the convention was declared "one of the best Republican Conventions of the last 10 years" and pegged as a defeat for the "pragmatic elite" in the party.

A commenter there said it was the best convention since 1992. Could it have been a troll? Many - certainly among the pragmatic elite -- think that was a low mark for the party. A week before this year's convention GOP Chairwoman Diane Tebelius said "1992 is a lifetime away. We've had a new generation of young people since then."

The Orubsmax blog covered the convention live. Orblog says the platform will please Republicans.

My overall opinion is that when the updated platform is released to the public, the Washington state republicans will be pleased with it overall. It clearly identifies where it differs with the national party and the President where appropriate (immigration/borders and out of control spending), and clearly supports those policies that continue to hold the party together (like the war on terror and lower taxes).

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May 27, 2006

So much for vagueness

Posted by David Postman at 5:19 PM

Republican leaders' best efforts to keep a lid on their internal immigration debate have failed. Convention delegates just voted to oppose citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants. There was a series of votes on that issue and some delegates left confused, thinking they also went on the record opposing granting citizenship to all "aliens," whether here legal or illegally.

But Party Chairwman Diane Tebelius, and the delegate who proposed one of the amendment covering just illegal immigrants, said their reading is that the platform was amended to oppose citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants.

Republicans also voted to take a far different approach to guest workers than supported by President Bush, Congressman Doc Hastings and other Republican leaders. The convention voted to support a guest worker program only for people who apply for the program from their native countries. The president and many congressional Republicans support a guest worker visa that would be available to people who entered the country illegally. But Republican delegates said they don't want anyone currently here illegally to be able to become a guest worker, unless they first go back home.

The Whatcom County delegate who proposed the new guest worker language first told delegates of his two late wives who were legal immigrants as well as other immigrant relatives. "So I am in no way opposed to Hispanics or other foreigners," he said.

"If someone breaks into your home, they're not a guest.. If they break into your country they're not a guest. I don't know why they are even called guests. ... If you want to apply for any guest worker program that is proposed and passed at the national level then you must return to your native land and begin to process the application so you can become an invited guest."

When another delegate said it would be impractical to deport all those workers, the sponsor of the amendment said, "We let them take themselves back. They brought themselves in. If they want to be legal we let them do it the right way."

On babies, a Spokane delegate told the convention that in Southern California hospitals are "flooded with illegal aliens trying to have babies." She said the problem is spreading to Washington. "They are called anchor babies and once they are born they can get welfare and all sorts of stuff." She later said that people who are white are being denied benefits given "to people who are brown."

One delegate expressed concern during the debate that the changes would offend Hispanic voters that Republicans have been courting. Tebelius said she didn't think that would be a problem. "I think the majority of the legal Hispanic community agrees," she said.

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A Vague Republican Immigration Plan

Posted by David Postman at 2:32 PM

There's no issue that splits Republicans today as much as immigration. At the Republican convention that dispute has been kept largely behind closed doors. The Yakima Herald Republic's Leah Beth Ward watched yesterday as a White House aide defended the president against a delegate's accusation that Bush is "running with Ted Kennedy" on immigration. (Party officials say reporters weren't supposed to be in the campaign school the paper covered, which I guess is why everyone in the story sounds so candid.) You won't find any hint of those tensions in the party platform, which has been made so vague that the immigration section uses more space quoting George W. Bush and poet Emma Lazarus than it does spelling out what immigration policies the party supports.

Delegates did vote to debate the immigration plank and that will happen this afternoon. But the draft platform says Republicans support "The reform of the immigration laws of our country so as to be enforceable and to meet our country's citizens' legitimate interests." It says Republicans don't support amnesty for illegal immigrants, but doesn't speak to earned legalization. The party supports a guest worker program.

Congressman Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, told me he thinks Congress may narrow talk of a guest worker program to cover only the agricultural industry. He said that has more support among House Republicans than a broader plan that would allow workers for construction, landscaping, food service, and other jobs.

Hastings voted against the original House bill last fall, saying it went too far in treating illegal immigrants and people who help them as felons. Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, voted for the bill and remains a supporter of some of the strongest moves against illegal immigration. After a speech to the convention this morning he said it'd be wrong to penalize people who provide education or health services to illegal immigrants. But he said he is still open to making illegal immigration a felony:

"Whether or not it is a felony or a misdemeanor or a fine, to me I'm very open to any of those as possibilities. But I think there has to be a way to hold people accountable to the law."

The president and others have said mass deportation is impractical for the 10 million or so people here illegally. But Reichert said some could be deported as a start:

"I think there needs to be some very open mindedness about how you deal with them; first and foremost holding people accountable and responsible, but maybe evaluating each person, each situation, on its merits. ... For example, maybe we take everyone right now who's here illegally and has a warrant out for their arrest. Maybe that might be the first persons we go after and put in our jails if they've committed crimes here. Secondly those that have committed crimes in other countries who are here, let's get rid of those people. ... Then you can go further down the list."

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Veteran Republican Challenges Doc Hastings

Posted by David Postman at 8:17 AM

From the Republican convention in Yakima --- Republican Congressman Doc Hastings has a primary challenger with enough support in Central Washington that he has been endorsed by the party along with the incumbent. Benton County Commissioner Claude Oliver got more than 25 percent of the votes at recent Republican county conventions to win official backing as a GOP candidate in the September primary. Officially it is called certification as a Republican candidate. Party rules mean that Hastings and Oliver must be treated equally by the party.

That also gives Oliver, a former county treasurer and former state legislator, a chance to speak later this morning to the state convention. The text of the speech shows that Oliver knows his candidacy is not popular with party leaders. His first line: "I'm a loyal Republican. ... I am not being disloyal in running against an incumbent. I am running because Doc has lost touch with what is needed in our District."

In the speech Oliver will criticize Hastings for voting against the House immigration bill last fall, saying that a majority of people in the Fourth Congressional District support the tough House version over what is seen a more moderate approach from the Senate and President Bush.

"Bottom line, you will find that you can trust me to be the person Doc Hastings was when we sent him to Congress."

Hastings is in his sixth term in Congress. He is chairman of the House Ethics Committee and has been criticized for doing little with it in the face of growing Congressional scandals. Oliver's speech doesn't mention that, but in an interview he said Hastings has done a poor job with the committee and he will campaign on the issue of D.C. scandals and ethics.

"The question is going to build in the Fourth Congressional District: 'Don't you think the people of this nation have a conscience?"

Hastings speaks to the convention this morning and I hope to ask him about Oliver's challenge.

Party Chairwoman Diane Tebelius is trying to be good sport about Oliver. "Doc likes him. He thinks he's a great guy. But the reality is Doc's going to win," Tebelius told me last night. "It'd probably be better if he didn't run," Tebelius said of Oliver. But she said his campaign can serve as a "relief valve" of sorts for people unhappy with Hastings.

Oliver said he was encouraged to run against Hastings last year by "some guys in organized labor." Earlier this month the Washington State Labor Council issued a dual endorsement of Oliver and Democrat Richard Wright.

Oliver hosted a hospitality suite at the convention hotel last night. It was likely the nicest room any candidate had, but attracted one of the smallest crowds. A cadre of women invited delegates as they left dinner earlier in the night. "You're running in the fourth? Who's there, Baird?" one man asked. "No, Doc," he was told. "Uh, how's that going?" he asked as he moved on.

UPDATE: Hastings didn't know that Oliver had reached the 25 percent threshold until asked about it a few minutes ago. "That means I got 74 percent. That's not bad. I'll take it," Hastings said. (Oliver's people say the final count gives their candidate closer to 30 percent.) Whatever the numbers, Hastings said he isn't worried.

"This great country mandates elections every two years. I always expect somebody to run against me. That's the American way. And as a result I'm always cognizant of trying to build a political campaign as strong as I can."

Tebelius Oliver is the only Republican in the state to get party certification to run against an incumbent Republican office holder.

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May 26, 2006

Republican Convention

Posted by David Postman at 2:31 PM

I'm off to Yakima to cover the state Republican Party convention. Check here for updates over the weekend, because I'm sure there's nothing else you'd rather do over a three-day holiday. Tonight the chairman of the Oregon Republican Party is the banquet speaker. Tomorrow night it is Attorney General Rob McKenna. Correction -- McKenna speaks in the morning.

One note: former President Bill Clinton's visit to Seattle has been postponed. Clinton was scheduled to be in town June 3 for fund raisers for Congressman Jim McDermott and Sen. Maria Cantwell. No word yet on a new date but it's expected in July.

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Cantwell votes against CIA director

Posted by David Postman at 10:09 AM

Maria Cantwell voted today against confirming Michael Hayden to head the CIA. Hayden was confirmed on a 78-15 vote. The Northwest Progressive Institute blog says in a message to "all you impractical progressives out there who constantly spend your time online railing against Maria Cantwell" that a no vote on Hayden is a "good vote" and they should quit picking on Cantwell.

What's that mean about Patty Murray's vote in favor then?

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Media bias on immigration?

Posted by David Postman at 7:50 AM

Mickey Kaus sees signs of media bias in reporting on the immigration debate.

"I'll believe the MSM isn't biased in favor of semi-amnesty when I start to read stories in the two Timeses questioning why the Senate's negotiators don't back off their extreme, untested**, megalomaniacal, Hillarycarian do-it-all-at-once scheme in favor of the House's more responsible, incremental approach. ..."

Kaus wants a tougher approach than what the Senate adopted so he's not without agenda here. But he points out that the reporting on the immigration debate has portrayed the House as the obstruction, not the Senate. "Why is it, exactly, that it's the House that's now backed up against a wall, and not the Senate?" he asked in reaction to an L.A. Times headline.

But given that President Bush wants something closer to the Senate position, which also has more Democratic support, isn't the House the odd player out? Or am I just stuck in MSM think? Of course the debate is predicated on the theory that the House bill is much tougher than the Senate. And that may be a wrong, according to the Washington Post.

The changes indicate that the bill is far more intricate than its public image as a measure that is relatively friendly to immigrants, particularly in comparison with an immigration measure passed by the House late last year.

Note: Kaus' Timeses are in L.A. and New York. The Seattle Times coverage today of the Senate vote combines L.A. Times and Washington Post reports.

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May 25, 2006

Jimmy Carter's Iraq Plan

Posted by David Postman at 7:24 PM

Former President Jimmy Carter was in Seattle today with his son Jack and their wives to raise money for Jack's campaign for a Nevada U.S. Senate seat. I'll post my column on the 12-minute interview I had with Jimmy and Jack when it's available.

Former US President Jimmy Carter and his son Jack visited Town Hall in Seattle for a fund raiser for Jack's senate campaign in Nevada.

Perhaps the most interesting part was hearing Jimmy Carter's plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq. I don't know if he has said this before, but it rings a little cynical for a man known post-presidency for his charitable, diplomatic and artistic endeavors.

"I would like to see this administration complete formation of a government in Iraq, with all of its warts and imperfections and I would like to see us surreptitiously go to that government and get them to ask us to leave publicly. Then the president, whoever it is, can say 'We've done our duty. We've got a form of government there (that you can exaggerate to say is a real democracy), they've asked us to leave and we're complying with a sovereign nation that now wants us to depart.' That's what I think could be done. I don't think it's going to be done because there are some key people in this administration who never intend to leave Iraq militarily, who never intend to leave Iraq economically. They still see their fingers in the oil pie and they want to have a major military presence 50 years from now. But the way to get out is what I just described. I think that once we withdraw our troops the level of violence in Iraq will see a dramatic reduction."

Former US President Jimmy Carter.

Carter was not known as a great orator. But in describing what he sees as the importance of the 2006 mid-term elections — "the most important congressional election we have ever had in history" — he came up with slogan-sounding phrase, "2008 is too long to wait."

"The importance of 2006 is that 2008 is too long to wait to arrest this downhill slide. We have to do something in 2006, at least take one house of Congress so responsible people can start changing the direction of this country."

And note what Carter says about incumbent Democrats' feelings about Iraq. He says many he's talked to think their vote in favor of the invasion was a mistake, but they feel trapped and don't want to say that publicly today.

UPDATE: A caller points out that in my column today I failed to mention who Jack Carter is running against. An oversight. It is incumbent Republican Sen. John Ensign.

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Fox's laid-back response

Posted by David Postman at 7:01 AM

Listening to Mexican President Vicente Fox lay out his five principles for immigration reform last night it seemed he was offering a fairly laid-back response to what could be a heavy crackdown from the U.S. on illegal migration. He said fences are not a good idea, and he stressed the need to protect human rights, but there was nothing that could be classified a hard word for U.S. politicians.

Was he being polite? This could have been his Sister Souljah moment and boosted his party's prospects back home with some tough words. But academics and political analysts in Mexico tell me that Fox has banked so much on his relationship with the U.S. and the Bush Administration that no one expects him to object too loudly. Soledad Loaeza is a professor at El Colegio de Mexico and one of the country's leading experts on the rise of power Fox and his party:

First of all I think many people are very resentful for his policy, if you can call it a policy, toward the U.S. He is perceived as being particularly weak and compliant to the U.S. interests and to the Bush government. ... Although he has protested the building of the fence, he is trying to somehow recuperate the good part of the plan as being a success for his diplomacy. But people in Mexico are not listening to his message.

Fox came into office as a great reformer after he toppled the opposition party that had run Mexico for 71 years of undemocratic rule. Loaeza said Fox thought Mexico's problems with the U.S. would be solved with the emergence of a Mexican democracy.

But our problems with the U.S. have nothing to do with Mexico being undemocratic. It has to do with problems of migration, with American public opinion. My impression is the complexities of the bilateral relationship escaped the Fox administration.

Whatever importance is attached to Fox's visit here, it was a trip he didn't take to Washington state that will leave the bigger impact on Mexican politics and his term as president. Fox had to cancel an April 2002 trip to the Northwest and Canadian west, including a stop in Seattle, when the Mexican Senate voted against allowing him to leave the country. The opposition party was flexing a rarely used constitutional power that gives lawmakers the right to control foreign travel by Mexican presidents. The opposition said Fox was traveling too much and getting too chummy with Bush.

But now with Fox on his way out — he can serve only one term — there was no noticeable debate about this trip. The Mexican Congress has no interest in interfering with the president's final months, said Jorge Chabat, one of Mexico's leading political analysts and academics.

"At that time they were playing the game of power," Chabat said from his office at the Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economica, a think tank in Mexico City. And Fox won the game. Polls showed a majority of Mexicans thinking Congress had overstepped and was hurting Mexico's international profile. "Suddenly we awoke to find Vicente Fox in virtual house arrest, kidnapped by a handful of irresponsible legislators in order to carry out their personal or partisan vendettas," wrote the editor of the newsmagazine CAMBIO.

Fox is obviously a confident politician and a warm, personal figure. You could see that in his interactions with people here. But the frustration and criticism he heard from Mexican-Americans yesterday reflects his standing in Mexico. "He's been very obsessive with his popularity," Chabat said. "But people are not totally happy with the result of his administration.

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May 24, 2006

Will Hutcherson need a new home?

Posted by Richard Wagoner at 6:09 PM

At the Slog, Eli Sanders, who has been dogging Pastor Ken Hutcherson, has news about Hutcherson's use of a school gym for his church, and his political activity there.

UPDATE: Nevermind, says the school district. Hutcherson is not in trouble after all.

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In Other News

Posted by David Postman at 12:36 PM

I'll be covering the meeting tonight between Mexican President Vicente Fox and Gov. Gregoire. And, by "covering" of course I mean sitting in a room elsewhere in the hotel watching them on television. Word from Fox's first stop on his U.S. trip is that he is taking no questions from the media, according to the Deseret Morning News, and newsbusters, too.

Don't expect much here, either. Edgar Trujillo, an official in the Mexican delegation to Seattle, just told Times reporter Al Scott, "There is no space for an interview with the president." But, Trujillo added, "He's not avoiding the press. His agenda here in Seattle is very tight."

Mike Seely, a former campaign aide to Maria Cantwell offers a defense of the senator's position on the war in a guest column in the Seattle Weekly. Cantwell's "lack of gratitude and common human decency were simply repulsive" and the "paranoid hellcat of a boss" drove people to drink as she was "berating everyone in sight," but don't pick on her for her position on Iraq, the former press aide says. I'm sure the senator thanks Mike for his help.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, Seely is on the staff at The Weekly, but this is his guest spot at Mossback.

UPDATE UPDATE: I had asked Cantwell's staff for any comment or reaction. There's clearly some history here. "I guess time doesn't heal everyone's wounds," said Cantwell aide Michael Meehan, who met Seely in 2000. "At the time I didn't think that his skills matched what he thought his skills were. But campaigns attract all kinds."

The Democrat Democrats love to hate, Sen. Tim Sheldon, is fighting with his party. Again.

Can't figure out the secret behind yesterday's NY Times story about Mr. and Mrs. Clinton? Jack Shafer has the secret decoder ring.

Former President Jimmy Carter will be in Seattle Thursday to raise money for his son Jack's U.S. Senate race in Nevada. Jack and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will be here, too. There will be some big-ticket private fund raisers and a lower cost — $25 to $50 — public event at Town Hall at 5 p.m. Looks like Jack's got some catching up to do, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Usually you wouldn't think it news that Dan Savage got a telephone call from "a big gay muckety-muck." But this mysterious call shows how competitive the race for the 43rd District will be.

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The new McGavick ad

Posted by David Postman at 8:05 AM

Democrats are in a lather over a new radio ad by Mike McGavick that hits Maria Cantwell on immigration votes. A state Democratic Party release calls the ad negative, misleading, dishonest, a smear, and fear mongering. But is it?

You can listen to the ad here. Here's the script:

I'm Mike McGavick. I'm running a different kind of campaign for the U.S. Senate. From me you don't get name calling or partisan attacks ... just discussion about where the incumbent Senator and I disagree. Take these two votes on border security and immigration reform. Senator Cantwell was one of a small group of Senators who voted against the building of more fences and other barriers across vulnerable areas of our southern border. I would have voted for these proposals as a critical part of real immigration reform and national security. The incumbent also voted to offer Social Security benefits for people who are here illegally. I oppose this idea. There should be no rewards for breaking our laws. Washington state needs a Senator who will support common sense efforts to protect our borders ...; and not reward the breaking of our laws with scarce Social Security dollars.

I'm Mike McGavick, Republican for United States Senate. I approved this ad.

The ad is not perfect. McGavick says Cantwell voted to "offer" Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants. But the vote was to retain the status quo and it would have been accurate to say she voted to "save" those benefits. It obviously sounds worse to offer up something new. And saying she does that at a time of "scarce Social Security dollars" is clearly intended to make you think you're losing something in the deal. The provision in law today allows illegal immigrants who later become legal residents to collect Social Security benefits earned while undocumented.

But have we gotten so sensitive that an ad criticizing two votes is considered negative? There are legitimate differences in the candidates' positions on immigration and it should be fair game to point that out. That doesn't mean there's not plenty of room for argument on the issue. Cantwell has lots she could say in response. She has opposed the building of the fence and to my ear has explained her position well, summed up by saying she questions the value of a very expensive, very short, fence along a very long, very porous, border. She has talked about northern border security for years. The Social Security vote was a bipartisan vote that included some Republicans McGavick has cozied up to, including Ted Stevens and John McCain.

All that is worth pointing out, as Democrats did. But the thrust of their four-page press release on McGavick's ad is that he has gone negative after promising a civil campaign and that there is something inherently dishonest and unfair in the ad. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, has long tried to explain the difference between negative ads and fair attacks. And in this campaign season it's worth hearing her again from a 1998 interview with PBS:

The basis of differentiation which is how you make a vote is the ability to say, "This candidate stands for this, and that candidate does not." And in the clash of competing ideas, you're going to have what one would ordinarily describe as conflict and as attack, and you should have it — it's good, it's constructive. So pundits and the press and academics say, "Oh they're going negative," when, in fact, what individuals are doing is making legitimate, fair attacks that are accurate and relevant to governance. What those pundits are doing is discouraging something voters actually need in order to make informed judgments.

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May 23, 2006

Democrats shouldn't celebrate too soon

Posted by David Postman at 4:56 PM

Pollster Celinda Lake, in town for an appearance tonight at Town Hall, just offered a candid — or so it seemed to me — assessment of where Democrats stand in this year's mid-term election. Lake should know. She is one of the country's most prominent Democratic pollsters and watched up close in 1994 when her side took an historic beating.

In an interview in Sea-Tac, Lake said Democrats should not get cocky. Already she said some Democratic interest groups "are celebrating victory before they should count on it." Democrats should be worried about turnout, though, because her polling shows that key blocks of voters — unmarried women and men, and women 18 to 30 — aren't good about turning out in mid-term elections, and this year feel particularly discouraged by how things went after they made it to the polls in 2004.

And while those voters are anti-Bush, Lake said Democrats have not yet done enough to tie all Republican candidates directly to the White House.

"We need to nationalize the elections. We need a tidal wave. They're going to localize it and try to disqualify our individual candidates. It's very clear what the struggle is."

Washington voters will get a chance to watch Lake's strategy up close because she is polling for Democratic Darcy Burner, who is challenging Republican Rep. Dave Reichert in the 8th District. "Right now voters want independents who represent their voice," Lake said. But that's one step removed from what's needed for anything approaching a '94-like surge. If voters are just interested in an independent, that could be someone like Reichert, Lake said. Democrats have to make themselves the default choice.

Voters need to be convinced, Lake said, that close to ties to Bush-Cheney are "disqualifiers." Democrats are handicapped because there is no single vote to tie incumbents to Bush. In '94 it was a tax vote that many think doomed Congressional Democrats, particularly freshmen.

"There's no single vote here. Even though the single vote would be the war, frankly a lot of Democrats voted for the war, and lots of voters remember at the time being in favor of the war."

In '94, Lake said, she and other pollster working with congressional incumbents were seeing trouble in the field but pollsters working directly for President Clinton continued to maintain everything was fine.

"We used to have huge fights between the Clinton polling team and the rest of us who were doing other races. And I don't know to this day whether they believed their numbers or not. I think not. ... Pollsters usually don't disagree when you're behind closed doors. But I think they were being loyal to their boss. There were screaming matches. They were saying 'It's OK, stay the course' and people were saying 'I don't know what you're looking at. It's awful out there. Our voters are demoralized and it's off in every way.' That was a year long fight."

I asked whether she thinks Republicans are having the same fights.

"I don't think they delude themselves as much. I think they've had a period of disagreement and they definitely have had a disagreement on whether their candidates should distinguish themselves from the President. But now they have a strategy."

The event tonight at Town Hall is about Lake's new book, co-written with Kellyanne Conway, a leading conservative pollster. It's called, "What Women Really Want: How American Women Are Quietly Erasing Political, Racial, Class, and Religious Lines to Change the Way We Live."

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On the Radio

Posted by David Postman at 11:18 AM

I'm scheduled to be on Dori Monson's show on 710 KIRO shortly after 1 p.m. to talk about the income tax.

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Cantwell and the Anti-war Left

Posted by David Postman at 8:32 AM

Of all the stories I've written recently the one that generated the most response is "Cantwell's stance on Iraq keeps volunteers away, party chief says" from May 5. A lot of e-mail, maybe 70, came from supporters of Mark Wilson, an anti-war candidate running against Cantwell in the primary, who responded to his listserve request that they tell me they were upset I hadn't mentioned Wilson. A few pushed the candidacy of another Democrat in the primary, Hong Tran.

I also heard from Cantwell staffers who were upset with the quote from state party chairman Dwight Pelz, who claimed that Cantwell's stance on the war was making it hard to recruit volunteers for her campaign, which they had said in the story was a false claim. Someone forwarded me an e-mail Pelz sent to party members late last month boasting about how many volunteers the party already had. "As of this writing, we here in Washington State have the 2nd most number of folks signed up in the entire country," Pelz wrote. That does seem to undercut his concerns that a mushy position on the war has hurt recruiting for volunteers for the party and campaigns.

Pelz took a beating from Cantwell supporters and some columnists who said he was hurting the party and its candidate at the top of the '06 ticket and that he needed to be more loyal and try less to push the senator on the war. So with starting this new blog I thought it would be good to revisit the issue and ask Pelz why he told me what he did - which was not dramatically different from what he told DNC Chairman Howard Dean at a recent party meeting. So what has the fallout been for Pelz? "No comment," Pelz said. "I'm going to tell you what I should have said in the first place. No comment."

The issue still churns. I don't think Russ Feingold helped any with his odd appearance in Seattle over the weekend, which was supposed to boost Cantwell with the left. The campaign story line of Cantwell's problems with the anti-war crowd has been a favorite of Stranger news editor Josh Feit, to the consternation of some of his readers as well as other liberal bloggers. I'm sure it's not that Seattle's liberal establishment can't take dissent that made Feit feel he needed to explain himself and say he doesn't really side with the anti-war protesters.

In my original story I quoted a posting from washblog by a Democrat who said that no matter how frustrated he was with Cantwell he'd still vote for her. Now a sheepish Arthur Ruger says he's "going to have to flip flop and "withdraw my declaration of intent to vote for Maria Cantwell in my party's primary election."

This tension with the left is not unique to Democrats in Washington state this year. Jim Dean, brother of DNC chairman Howard, was in Seattle last week for a fund raiser for Democracy for America, the progressive PAC his brother started and he now heads. He says Democratic incumbents who are less than aggressive on an Iraq exit strategy are likely to see difficulty recruiting activists as the campaign wears on. "You'll see people vote, but where they'll spend their valuable time is where people are willing to take positions on this war," he told me.

Dean doesn't think activists are throwing up their hands. Yet. He says all around the country they are pushing Democratic incumbents on the war in the hope that more will sign on to plans like what John Kerry is pushing for. Dean says the talk about Cantwell echoes what he hears about Hillary Clinton. DFA has strong support in the Seattle area and will be endorsing and helping candidates here, including Darcy Burner in her race against Congressman Dave Reichert. The PAC raised about $2 million in 2004 and Dean hopes to make that $3 million this year.

What I don't know -- well, among the many things I don't know -- is how much of a problem all this is for Cantwell's re-election. Certainly Republicans are enjoying talking about dissent among Democrats. It means anti-war protesters will continue to show up at Cantwell events. Any chance this all could help Cantwell because it makes her appear more moderate, not part of the Seattle liberal elite that Republicans love to bash?

UPDATE: Over at the always active Slog, Eli Sanders -- “ besides showing off his superior math skills” -- says that I'm trying to "walk back" my story on Pelz and Cantwell.

The fact that an incumbent Senator, who represents the entire state, has fewer volunteers than a local candidate in one of the state's many Congressional districts (a candidate who the Seattle Times keeps reminding us is a "novice") would seem to support Pelz's initial claim, not undercut it, right Postman?"

Sure, Eli. Though maybe we shouldn't be surprised that a first-time candidate operates on more volunteer labor than an incumbent U.S. senator. In any case, I was trying to catch people up with what's been said since the story ran, to show that Pelz had retreated on his statement. I'm only a day into this blogging game and realize things are read into what I write in a different way now, but I certainly haven't felt the need to back away from what I wrote. I think what Jim Dean said shows this is a widespread problem. (And Pelz has said -- to both of us I think -- that Democrats' position on the war hurts both party volunteers in general and Cantwell specifically.)

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May 22, 2006

Price Gouging: You Know it When You See it

Posted by David Postman at 5:17 PM

Headline on The New York Times Web site posted this afternoon:
Report on Gas Prices Finds No Collusion

Headline on a press release issued this afternoon by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington:
Gas Price Gouging Evidence Discovered - FTC Report

These are not contradictory. The Times headline talks about collusion, the industry participating in illegal, anti-competitive, behavior to drive up prices. Price gouging is, in general, artificial increases in fuel prices. The report did find a handful of examples of price gouging following last year's hurricanes. And others "who did not technically meet the price gouging test, enjoyed markups of similar magnitude," according to a "concurring statement" by Jon Leibowitz, a member of the federal commission that issued the report.

Cantwell wants to make price gouging a federal crime and will press the case in hearings Tuesday. Leibowitz wrote that price gouging is an amorphous term. "Indeed, price gouging is the obscenity of antitrust law: difficult to define in theory but easily recognized at the pump." You can read the full report here. It is not, alas, as interesting to read as the Meese report.

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Is McGavick a Mainstreamer?

Posted by David Postman at 3:04 PM

One last post from this weekend's Cascade Conference. Mainstream Republicans (the trademarked type at least) like Mike McGavick. The group endorsed him Sunday and created a PAC to help him. Is McGavick a Mainstreamer, a moderate Republican? "I refuse to put labels on myself," McGavick told me.

It's the same route taken by Dino Rossi when he ran for governor: Avoid labels and collect as many endorsements as possible from the widest range of interest groups. That alone, of course, does not make someone a moderate. It may show them to be reasonable, open-minded or, I suppose, the best electoral bet. And nothing wrong with any of that when you're running for office. But when you talk to people in the core of the Mainstream group you hear people who hold very firm positions on issues, such as abortion or the environment, that they feel sets them off from the official state Republican Party.

I asked McGavick about same-sex marriage. His position: States should be able to decide and if gay marriage bans continue to be thrown out by courts, he would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same sex marriages. He says it's a "crisis to have these activist judges" throwing out bans on gay marriage. He says his position is "more of a governance issue." But not exclusively. He doesn't think "redefining marriage" is a good idea.

This puts him clearly at odds with former Gov. Dan Evans, the inspiration and still today the soul of the Mainstream movement. Evans warned Saturday that right-wing Republicans were pushing America toward a "social theocracy." Adding later, "It's a wretched distortion of what our founding fathers had in mind when they created this nation."

Evans said that the Constitution should never be amended to restrict rights. In an interview he said that includes any attempt to use the Constitution to stop same sex marriage. He called that move "strikingly dangerous. No one is getting hurt by those kinds of equal rights." And he doesn't buy the religious argument. "I don't know why they are so worried unless they're worried about the strength of their own faith. I think my faith is strong enough that it wouldn't be affected."

News Tribune reporter Sean Cockerham was at the conference, too, and here's his take, including questions about McGavick's position on the state's new gay right's law. Rich Roesler of The Spokesman Review attended the Friday night events and has a good overview with an excellent Transformers reference.

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A Misuse of Talk Radio?

Posted by David Postman at 10:30 AM

As the state Supreme Court gets ready to consider whether talk show hosts campaigned illegally by promoting an anti-gas tax initiative last year, one talker says it was "a misuse of talk radio." And he's no liberal, but Bryan Suits, a host who shares the airwaves at KVI with John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur, the two accused of using talk-show time to campaign for Initiative 912.
Suits told the Mainstream Republicans conference Saturday, "This is me airing an internal, private business debate."

"My radio station crossed the line in my book in terms of going from advocacy to leadership on a political issue, which is why the 912 talk stopped at 6 p.m. when I came on the air and my name was never on the initiative."

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Dems and business talk income tax

Posted by David Postman at 6:51 AM

Business lobbyists are talking to House Democrats about an income tax. At least they're talking about a corporate income tax as businesses look for a way to shift tax burden to individuals.

That came from Gary Chandler, vice president for governmental affairs for the Association of Washington Business, who spoke Saturday at the annual Cascade Conference of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington.

Chandler didn't say much about it. But he said the talks have been with Rep. Jim McIntire, a Seattle Democrat who chairs the House Finance Committee. Chandler said that when the words "income tax" are spoken "everybody wants to get up and leave the room." No wonder. Washington voters have repeatedly rejected an income tax, and since a Constitutional change would be necessary, voters get the final say.

It could be an easier sell on the ballot if it didn't include a personal income tax, but that's something that some Democrats have wanted to do for a long time. There have been a lot of studies done on variations of the income tax, most recently by a committee headed by Bill Gates Sr.

"A lot of our businesses are nervous when you mention the income tax," Chandler said after the panel. That's why the talks are moving very cautiously. But Chandler said businesses pay up to 54 percent of total taxes paid in the state -- what he describes as an unfair burden that would stop businesses from locating in Washington. He says the state's primary business tax, the business and occupation tax -- a tax on gross sales, not net income -- is unfair. "Everybody knows we have to do something," Chandler said.

But small business certainly doesn't agree that the income tax is the way to go. Carolyn Logue of the NFIB was there, too, and worried that a corporate income tax would create too much paperwork, could come with a personal income tax, too, or would be imposed on businesses and in proof of "the ultimate distrust" in government the B & O would never go away.

I don't think this was a planned announcement or a managed leak. Chandler was talking about the issues facing state businesses and tax burden is high on the list. But that it came up at a meeting of the Mainstream Republicans, the group whose spiritual leader, former Gov. Dan Evans, was in attendance, is interesting.

It comes as some voices in big business feel at odds with the state Republican Party. The Mainstreamers, who years ago may have been more easily defined by being the pro-choice wing of the Republican Party, are emerging as a voice for those who see big business and government as allies. Democrats like to think that's them. And big business here has supported Democrats in power. But business leaders have traditionally felt more comfortable with Republicans.

John Stanton, the wireless entrepreneur who is emerging as part of the new Republican brain trust, was on the same panel as Chandler and Logue. He said the split came for him last year when the state party endorsed Initiative 912 which would have repealed the gas-tax increase. Mainstream Republicans opposed it and used money from Stanton and others to help defeat the measure and save the gas tax. "That issue became a litmus test for large business as to who was on their side and who was against them," Stanton said.

Stanton quoted an unnamed "good friend of mine in business" who said business interests generally work with Democrats for more funding for transportation and education and Republicans to help keep down the costs of business. His friend said, "Ultimately we hope for divided government so the excesses of both sides can be avoided." Stanton said GOP candidates and office holders have been asking him how come they can't rely on big business backing. "Ultimately, I believe the answer is business is interested in what's good for business."

"Historically if we go back to the early days of Mainstreams when our political giants like Dan and Slade were running for office, business was solidly on the Republican side because Republicans in general opposed excessive government that created excessive costs for businesses, favored transportation and favored educational programs. Over time, whether intentional or not, the Republican Party in general in this state, I believe, has been tapped into the role of 'no.' No on government, which is often a good thing, but also no on transportation and no on education. '"

Stanton said he was alarmed that the King County Republican Party took a position recently supporting removing the WASL as a graduation requirement. (Scroll down on the county party's proposed platform and read the education section.) Given business' preference for divided government, and the state Republican Party failing Stanton's litmus test, the Mainstreamers could be a natural place for some of that money the Republican Party has relied on.

Update: I just talked with McIntire. He said, "I don't see anything dramatic. I just think there are more people who are asking the question, 'In a global economy how do you want to tax business and how do you want to ensure that you are going to be competitive over time?'" McIntire said he talks with AWB every week about taxes and "its not unusual to have these kinds of discussions." But, he said, maybe the business people "are getting a little more mainstream about the conversation."

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May 17, 2006

A new blog

Posted by David Postman at 9:19 AM

Welcome to The Seattle Times' political blog. The plan is for me to write this pretty much full time until at least the November election. I'll also write a political column in the paper every Friday and on occasion some good old-fashioned newspaper stories.

This is a work in progress. Other than some "testing, testing, testing" to teach myself how to use the software, there has been no dry run. Dry runs, Mickey Kaus says are "soul killers."

I plan to post at least each weekday starting Monday. Check back often. And I hope you'll leave comments. This is a shared space and there will be room for your thoughts, criticisms, questions, or whatever. But please keep things civil. Everything doesn't have to be positive or upbeat. But I will delete comments that are offensive or don't meet the standards of fair dialogue.

I hope that doesn't happen much. If there has been one unknowing mentor to me as I enter this world it has been Jeff Jarvis, who writes the always-interesting buzzmachine. Last week he wrote a lengthy post on the subject of comments and I have to agree that except for the rare case, "the best answer is to face people directly; bullies back off under the glare of eye contact or to put it more positively, anyone appreciates the respect of conversation." So let's try that.

Most of what I write will be seen by an editor before it's posted. What you see here will largely be my work. I'm hoping for a light touch from the editors. This will help me avoid typos and rampant stupidity. But the blog will be a rougher draft than what newspaper readers get from me.

I don't want to get into a lot of philosophy about blogging and newspapers at this point. I'm certain whatever preconceived notions I have about blogging will change as I do this every day. I want to be as open with you as possible, tell you how I do my job as well as why I do things a certain way, admit mistakes and be open to constructive criticism. (My editors would tell you that doesn't sound like me.)

Before I could get started here, Eli Sanders at The Stranger's Slog posed the big question about the new blog on the block: Can an "objective" political blog make it in the world of Horsesass and Soundpolitics?

That's the challenge. Starting Monday morning we'll see what happens.

Update: Until someone smarter than me can fix it in the morning, comments will have to be approved. That's not the way it'll be done in the normal course, but this is what happens when you listen to Mickey Kaus and don't do a dry run.

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