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July 31, 2006

Is Haq a terrorist? Does it matter?

Posted by David Postman at 9:03 PM

After spending the day Saturday writing about Naveed Haq I had a hard time thinking of him as a symbol of anything other than of the ravages of mental illness. I was the rewrite guy on the profile of Haq. The picture that emerged from reporting largely done by reporters Michael Berens and Jonathan Martin was of a guy who spent at least a decade battling mental illness.

At the time of the shooting he was awaiting trial on a lewd conduct charge that came after he was arrested in a Kennewick mall, standing on a fountain, shouting at women at the Macy's cosmetic counter and, allegedly, exposing himself to a young woman. In the court papers, Haq denies he exposed himself, saying he only unzipped his pants.

I left the newsroom that night thinking that those who wanted to attribute any deeper meaning to the shooting must also find a way to fit the lewd conduct charge into the picture. To be absolutely clear: There was no doubt he was intent on killing Jews. It was not random in any way. He searched the Internet for a good target and traveled from Pasco to launch his attack. But was it a sick vein of hate in a deluded mind, or a political act? Did it matter?

Everything is politically loaded at a time like this. I had a message on my phone yesterday from a woman who said she hadn't read the Haq story in Sunday's paper, but she was disturbed the paper ran a photo of Haq's parents home in Pasco. She said it was irrelevant where Haq or his parents lived, saying in closing:

"To me you all just want to harbor some hate, some more hate, and that is just totally unnecessary. So you really need to check your Zionism. Thank you."

I should say now I don't have a solid answer for any of this. So be warned if anything short of ideological certainty puts you on edge. By Friday night, you could find commentators from all sides of the political spectrum engaged in the debate and showing none of the doubts that still burden me.

I was struck dumb in the immediate aftermath of the shooting by a post at Sound Politics that tried to draw a connection between the murder of Pamela Waechter and a headline on a letter to the editor in The Seattle Times. Michelle Malkin, one of the county's most popular bloggers, was on the story from the start with a running political commentary insisting it was an act of terrorism.

From Malkin's site I found one of the more disturbing posts on the shooting. Christopher Cantrill, a Seattle writer blogging at The American Thinker, suggests Seattle invited the killing.

You would expect that an angry American Muslim would choose Seattle to perform his outrage. Progressive Seattle legitimizes and condones the outrages of the self-described oppressed peoples. It rewards them with reduced responsibility for their actions. It encourages them to experience themselves not as equal citizens but as violated victims.

Cantrill also pointed out that the shooting happened in "the very heart of the congressional district of 'Baghdad' Jim McDermott." In his ham-handed condemnation, Cantrill rewards the victim culture by saying Seattle is socially engineered to welcome cold-blooded killers. Isn't Haq to blame, not Seattle?

This search for blame is not confined to the right. Daniel Kirkdorffer posted Friday night to connect the Seattle shooting with Israeli aggression, which he says has:

been way out of proportion to the transgression they claim to be avenging. ... Those in Lebanon that have lost loved ones and family, on either side, will grow up with hatred in their hearts, and in turn will seek a revenge of their own. They may be the future suicide bombers on Israeli buses, or shooters such as the one in Seattle today.

That is why an immediate cessation of hostilities must be brokered, and the USA needs to urge both sides to come to the table again. To be honest I think it has been left far too late now. The damage has already been done and the clock has been turned back 40 years. So many lives in Lebanon, Israel, and now in Seattle, have been lost as a result. When war is made to be the only solution there can be no winners.

It may be a stretch to even call Haq a Muslim. He was recently baptized. He declared himself a Muslin, I know. But is the bigger meaning muted by that bit of contradictory evidence?

With the news of the baptism, Darryl, filling in at horsesass.org, tried a turn at satire:

By now you have heard about the shooting of innocent people last Friday in downtown Seattle by a Christian terrorist. And what I want to know is what are we going to do about the rise of Christian terrorism in this country?

Do we need deeper meaning in every horrific event? Certainly the Old Media is always quick to pick up that thread as a follow-up to a disaster. Did the shooting expose some debate in Seattle about the Middle East that simmered unseen until Haq and his guns rolled into town? The PI points out that there have been numerous public demonstrations in Seattle about the Middle East, so I guess the answer is no.

I truthfully am not sure what to think. And this morning, as I sat trying to write this, I got a call from a woman in Brooklyn with a story to tell.

"I read your story," she said. "I see he is being treated as a lone gunman who is crazy. It is eerily similar to my son's case."

Devorah Halberstam's son, Ari, was murdered on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994 as he was driving with a van load of fellow Hasidic students. He was killed in a barrage of gunfire from Rashid Baz. In the days following the shooting, police said Baz, a Lebanese immigrant, acted alone and, according to the New York Times, "they had no evidence to connect Baz to terrorist groups or activities."

Baz's attorney said at the time that people were calling the killer a terrorist because "he is an Arab Muslim charged with a violent crime." At trial, jurors rejected Baz's insanity defense that had been based on a claim that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from growing up in Lebanon. His attorneys argued his disorder was triggered the day of the shooting because he was upset by the massacre of Muslim worshippers in Hebron, Israel, a few weeks earlier by a Jewish settler from Brooklyn.

Baz at first said it was a case of road rage, not politics.

But there were signs of politics, too. Police had a statement from a man who said Baz had said he was "very angry" about the Hebron killings and that he said, "We're supposed to kill all those Jews."

Law enforcement officials said Baz committed a hate crime, but not terrorism.

"The way they portrayed him in court, they made him like he was crazy and really he wasn't crazy," Devorah Halberstam told me. "We can't just hide it under the rug and have it go away; say this is one case, one crazy guy, a lone gunman. We have to protect each other, we are all Americans."

I told Halberstam that just as she called I was thinking about writing about the debate about whether Haq was a terrorist. She stopped me mid-word:

"It's not a debate," she said. She said people are too quick to label such shootings a hate crime. She says that hides the true nature of the crime. "It is terrorism, terrorism hiding behind something called a hate crime."

It took almost seven years, but Halberstam and others convinced the government that Baz was a terrorist. And that it mattered to label him as such.

According to a letter quoted on a memorial Web site to Ari Halberstam, the U.S. Department of Justice wrote Devorah Halberstam on Dec. 5, 2000, to say:

It is fair to conclude on the basis of this evidence that the murder of Ari and the shooting at the van were motivated in significant part by Baz's views and his desire to retaliate against Jewish people and, as such, were, in our view, the crimes of a terrorist as described by the state prosecutor at the time of Baz's sentence: All of these things culminated on the morning of March 1 with the defendant committing an act which, based on the psychiatric testimony that we've heard in this case, can only be considered as an act of terrorism.

A second letter assured her that the shooting would be included in all subsequent FBI summaries of terrorism incidents in the United States. You can see it there along with pipe bomb attacks by American Front skinheads, attempted fire bombings by the Mexican Revolutionary Movement and the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

Devorah Halberstam says it's important for journalists and others not to jump to conclusions about a killer's state of mind or motivation. That certainly should be heeded. As I was reading stories today about her son's murder, I found a piece by the late, great New York City columnist Murray Kempton, about how fast the police arrested Baz. And it tells me we shouldn't be too quick to assume that we know what a terrorist is, either.

Deeds like his always surprise us with the speed and the ease with which the doer or the doers get caught. We ought long ago to have ceased laboring over a puzzle with so little mystery in it. Terrorism is inspired rather less often by the service of a cause than by self-involvement in the ugliest of aesthetic pursuits. More frequently than not, the commanding impulse of the terrorist who kills the innocent is not to avenge the wronged but to reap sensual pleasures from killing the innocent.

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Can the DOMA case be reconsidered?

Posted by David Postman at 11:34 AM

I see at the Slog they pose the question: "Why Aren't We Appealing the WA Supreme Court Decision on Gay Marriage?" It's pointed out, there's no state appeal possible, but it could be reconsidered. (Gov. Chris Gregoire last week suggested it'd be legally possible to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.)

To get the court to reconsider the decision, any party to the case has to file a motion within 20 days of the decision. There generally needs to be new information that would convince the court to re-hear the case.

Reconsideration is rare. People I've talked in recent days can only think of one case where the court took a reconsideration and reversed itself. And coincidentally, that is a case that played a major role in the gay marriage decision, Grant County Fire Protection District No. 5 vs. City of Moses Lake.

The case involved city annexations. In the initial decision, issued March 14, 2002, the court issued a split decision -- six justices signing the majority, two signing a concurrence with partial dissent, and one justice dissented in full. The court ruled that the petition method of annexation was unconstitutional, violating Article 1 Sec. 12 of the state Constitution, because it gave an "impermissible privilege" to owners of the most valuable land.

The cities of Moses Lake and Yakima filed for reconsideration and the court re-heard arguments March 25, 2003, and issued a new decision January 29, 2004. The second time around, the court reversed itself, saying the annexation system used by the cities was constitutional. And it was a more unified court, unanimous in the result with Justice Richard Sanders concurring but disagreeing with some of the majority's analysis.

Grant County II, as it has become to be known, was a key piece of the gay marriage case. The case defined how the court analyzes the privileges and immunities clause of the state Constitution. In writing the lead opinion in the DOMA case, Justice Barbara Madsen said the clause was not meant to protect minorities, but to protect the majority from railroads or other moneyed interests from getting deals from the Legislature, as attorney and law professor Hugh Spitzer explained to me last week. The Madsen view, Spitzer said, is that the state constitution's clause was designed to "protect the majority from a privileged minority."

In DOMA, Madsen instead relied on the U.S. Constitution for an equal protection analysis. In his dissent, Justice Tom Chambers said Madsen was misreading Grant County II and should not have deferred to the federal constitution. The state's privileges and immunities clause, he wrote, "may provide greater protections than its federal counterpart." It also is debated in the concurrence written by Justice James Johnson.

UPDATE: Here's what Chief Justice Gerry Alexander told The Stranger last week: "I would be astounded if we didn't get a motion for reconsideration."

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On the radio

Posted by David Postman at 8:46 AM

I'm away from the blog this morning, but will be on KUOW at 10 a.m. to talk about all things political.

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July 29, 2006

Today's court story

Posted by David Postman at 1:00 PM

From this morning's paper, here's the roundup of Supreme Court candidates, with an interview with Michael Johnson. He says he won't raise any money or seek any endorsements and is in the race to draw attention to the "special interest money" going to back Sen. Steve Johnson.

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July 28, 2006

Business group buys air time to thank Reichert

Posted by David Postman at 4:08 PM

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has bought air time over the next two weeks for an ad praising Congressman Dave Reichert's support of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, known as Part D. The chamber wouldn't talk about how much was spent on the ad buy. KING 5's director of sales and marketing, Ann Sobel, confirmed for me that the ads will run on her station from July 27 through Aug. 9.

Renee Sinclair, a Northwest regional official for the U.S. Chamber, said the ads will talk about Reichert's support for the prescription drug plan. In other parts of the country the chamber is running ads thanking members of Congress for their vote for the act in 2003. But Reichert wasn't elected until 2004, so the ad will be different. I haven't been able to get a copy of the ad yet.

"It's a thank you to Congressman Reichert," Sinclair said.

The 8th District, where Reichert faces a strong challenge from Democratic newcomer Darcy Burner, is the only Washington congressional race the U.S. Chamber has made an endorsement in. The group also endorsed Republican Mike McGavick in the Senate race.

Two years ago the chamber funded ads criticizing Democratic attorney general candidate Deborah Senn. The ads were sponsored by the Voters Education Committee, which through most of the campaign refused to say where its funding came from.

When the group did reveal its funding, all of it, $1.5 million, had come from the chamber. A King County Superior Court judge said the ads were "express advocacy" against Senn, not merely educational, and the Voters Education Committee was required to register as a political committee and report its donations. The case is on appeal to the state Supreme Court. The chamber is not a party to the suit. But it was criticized by local business groups for its anti-Senn ads. Not out of any disagreement about Senn, but because the locals felt blindsided by the chamber effort and embarrassed by the brouhahah over the attempt to keep the funding source secret.

No such issue this year. The chamber is not using any local group as a go-between. The ad will clearly state that the U.S. Chamber is paying for it and tells people to contact the chamber for more information.

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Burrage to face Chambers for Supreme Court

Posted by David Postman at 3:38 PM

State Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers has an opponent. Former King County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Burrage filed this afternoon and so far is the only challenger to Chambers.

Burrage is a former state legislator and served five years on the court before losing a close re-election race, and has run unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.

If the name's not ringing a bell, Burrage was the judge who threatened to sanction two female attorneys for failing to follow her dress code which required them to wear skirts in her courtroom. The King County Bar Association has consistently rated her "Not Qualified."

The Times reported in 2002 that during her tenure on the bench, "she held the record for being the judge with the most affidavits of prejudice, requests filed by attorneys for their cases to be transferred to other judges."

UPDATE: Burrage just told me that she had been thinking about getting in the race for several weeks. She was not prompted, she said, by Wednesday's court decision upholding the Defense of Marriage Act. Chambers was in the minority on that, arguing that the law was unconstitutional.

She said several other people had been considering getting in the race and they told her they'd endorse her if she ran.

"I think people are ready for someone who is more for protecting regular people from government bureaucracy and someone who is not in the good old boys club with the attorneys."

Burrage said that like the other conservative court challengers this year, she will not participate in the bar association's ratings process, saying, "I've had my fun there already."

SIDEBAR: For those like me who wanted to be a fly on the wall at The Stranger yesterday, the audio of at least part of the editorial board meeting with Chief Justice Gerry Alexander is here.

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Eyman's I-917 fails random signature check

Posted by David Postman at 10:08 AM

Secretary of State Sam Reed just announced that "Initiative 917 did not qualify for the November ballot based on the 4 percent random sample prescribed by state law." It could still make it, though.

The initiative is Tim Eyman's latest attempt at cutting car tab taxes. Eyman has claimed signatures were lost or stolen, which Reed has said is ridiculous. Eyman submitted 266,006 signatures but claimed he had submitted more than 300,000.

The sampling found an invalidation rate, including 24 duplicate signatures, of 17.96 percent. State law now requires Reed to to do a full signature count of the petitions submitted by Eyman.

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Another curious development in Supreme Court race

Posted by David Postman at 8:49 AM

A Smith has joined the Johnsons in challenging Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens. But again, the candidacy raises questions in my mind.

Richard Smith filed this morning to run against Owens, state Sen. Steve Johnson, and Seattle attorney Michael Johnson.

Smith is an environmental attorney in Seattle. So why at the last minute did he get in the race against Owens, an incumbent already endorsed by Washington Conservation Voters, the state's leading green political group? WCV is the "legislative partner" of the Washington Environmental Council. Smith has served on the board of the council and chaired its legal committee. Has he had a falling out? Does he disagree with the group's endorsement?

History shows that common names do well in court races. It is also true that a singular female candidate in a race with several men gains an advantage as well. Four people in the race all but guarantees Owens will make it to the general election.

UPDATE: On the Michael Johnson issue, Richard Pope put this in the comments on the below post but it is worth moving up. It is against the law , in fact it is a felony, for somone to file a declaration of candidacy using "A surname similar to one who has already filed for the same office, and whose political reputation is widely known, with intent to confuse and mislead the electors by capitalizing on the public reputation of the candidate who had previously filed."

UPDATE UPDATE: Smith's partner, Knoll Lowney, confirms Smith has joined the Supreme Court race. Lowney is the attorney who represented groups that successfully challenged Tim Eyman's I-747 and is a longtime Eyman critic.

My colleague Ralph Thomas talked to Lowney, who said that Smith would make an excellent justice and has been "particularly concerned about the problem of special interests attempting to take over the Supreme Court." That's certainly the rallying cry of Owens supporters who have been critical of business backing of Steve Johnson. But does Smith have a beef with Owens in that regard?

"I guess you'd have to ask him that," Lowney said.

Clifford Traisman, the lobbyist for Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington Environmental Council, said he hadn't heard that Smith had joined the race against WCV-backed Owens. Traisman said Smith is a "cracker jack lawyer" and said, "I'm sure he's outraged at what's happening with the buying of the Supreme Court."

Does he think it's a serious campaign?

"One would wonder, getting in so late without doing the kind of outreach that's necessary," Traisman said.

UPDATE: There's another candidate in the race, Norman J. Ericson of Olympia. He's a $500 donor to Chris Gregoire.

UPDATE: Just finished a chat with Ericson. He is a state administrative review judge. A job he has held for 31 years. He used to be a clerk on the state Supreme Court.

He says he decided to get in the race in part because of what he sees as the "slippery slope" of special interest money in court races. He said that involves money going to challengers and incumbents.

But Ericson has nothing against Owens.

"I was looking at the positions that were up for election and settled on that position. There was nothing that Justice Owens did one way or another."

He says he's not a stalking horse and not running in any way to help Owens beat her best-known opponent, Sen. Steve Johnson.

"I decided to run so I could win."

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July 27, 2006

A new Johnson gets in the Supreme Court race

Posted by David Postman at 4:47 PM

Seattle attorney Michael Johnson just filed with the Secretary of State's office in the race against Justice Susan Owens. What's most enticing about this is that already in the race is a well known Johnson, state Sen. Steve Johnson.

I don't know Michael Johnson, but we're trying to reach him. His secretary said he was busy and unavailable until tomorrow.

Anyone know who he is? He was admitted to the state bar in 1998, the year he graduated from UW law. He's 46 years old, and has a firm specializing in elder law.

There are already two Johnsons on the court, Charles and James, so it's a winning name. And in a race with a well-known Johnson, Michael's entry certainly raises the prospect of an interesting and perhaps confusing race.

UPDATE: Michael Johnson has been tough to reach tonight.

His practice specializes in elder law and guardian cases. He and his firm are listed with the Greater Seattle Business Association, the gay chamber of commerce. He is somewhat politically active, having donated at least $910 to Victims Advocates, a trial lawyer PAC. The PAC gave $9,000 to Citizens for Upholding the Constitution, a PAC that is supporting Owens.

So why is a guy who supports the gay community and gives to an Owens-friendly PAC running against Owens, something of a hero to many in the gay community for her stand yesterday on the gay marriage decision?

There's a good chance it's a monkey wrench candidacy; an effort to confuse people, take votes from Steve Johnson and help Owens make it through the primary at least.

"What you'd have to think is if he runs and people think he is the other Johnson in the race — Steve — Susan gets to the general election," said former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge.

And in the general election, Talmadge said, there will be more voters than in the primary and a voting demographic likely more inclined toward Owens. Talmadge told me he and Michael Johnson were co-counsel on a case but he did not know that Johnson had gotten in the Supreme Court race.

My colleague Ralph Thomas will have more on the Supreme Court races in tomorrow's paper.

Talmadge points out that other unknowns have run for the Supreme Court. Justice Charles Johnson was certainly one when he ran in 1990, beating incumbent Chief Justice Keith Callow. Many people think Johnson's name helped, with voters knowing little about court candidates it may have just seemed more familiar, and friendly, than Callow.

Chuck Johnson only spent about $1,000 on his chief-beating campaign. It may have been a crapshoot or a lark, but Johnson wasn't in the race to help another candidate. He has been re-elected twice since and has matured into a respected member of the court.

Is Michael L. really hoping to join Charles W. and James M. on the bench? I hope to hear from him soon so he can convince me.

Others are checking him out, too. See Stefan Sharkansky's post and this at Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

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Court news roundup

Posted by David Postman at 12:12 PM

The King County Bar Association is out with its ratings of appeals court judges and their challengers. On the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justice Tom Chambers are given the highest rating, "exceptionally well qualified," while Justice Susan Owens gets only a "qualified." That is on a four-step scale, exceptionally well qualified, well qualified, qualified and not qualified.

The opponents running against Alexander and Owens, John Groen and Steve Johnson, have said they will not participate in the ratings process. The bar association is reviewing them anyhow, but so far has not issued ratings.

Alexander and Owens are due today at The Stranger's office for endorsement interviews. News editor Josh Feit says he'll be watching to see what the chief has to say to Stranger Editor Dan Savage. "I hope he's ready to tell Dan why Dan and and his boyfriend of 10 years aren't qualified to raise their kid."

In The News Tribune Peter Callaghan digs through the six opinions released yesterday to say the justices were split on the issue of gay marriage like society at large, but they "have to place into legal terminology what is at its core an emotional, personal and acrimonious debate."

Danny Westneat doesn't temper his words at all.

The ruling blithely sanctions discrimination and is oblivious to the complexities of modern families. It's also absurd — frightening even — if carried to its logical ends.

UPDATE: You can see a brief summary of the Alexander/Savage meeting here.

UPDATE: And here's Eli's take on what seems like a pretty intense meeting.

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And the winner is?

Posted by David Postman at 7:20 AM

In reviewing the comments that included guesses for what the Supreme Court would do, I find two that look like winners. Both have 5-4 decisions upholding DOMA with some details on how the opinions would splinter. Maybe we need to declare a tie, but first I thought I'd see what you all think. Which of these do you think came closest?

Prediction: 5-4 decision to uphold. This isn't based on my own political beliefs (I actually support throwing out the DOMA), but the trend and out look this court has upon similar personal rights issues.

To throw out DOMA:
Justice Owens
Justice Fairhurst
Justice Bridge
Justice Chambers

To uphold DOMA:
Justice J. Johnson
Justice Sanders
Justice Madsen
Justice C. Johnson
Justice Alexander

I believe that Justices Chambers, Owens, Bridge, and, Fairhurst will vote to throw out DOMA on equal protection and rights grounds. I pretty sure that Justices Sanders, J. Johnson, and Alexander will vote to preserve the DOMA based on state rights and a broad definition of the power of the state legislature that passed the DOMA. I really see Justices Madsen and C. Johnson as the swing votes on this one. I don't know how these two and perhaps Chief Justice Alexander will rule, but I think they will vote to preserve the DOMA.

This court has shown a reluctance for sweeping and controversial decisions. This will be a close decision. Close enough that regardless of the decision that this issue will be brought up again under different grounds. I just don't see this court going out on a limb at the present time. Then again, I would be glad to be wrong.
Posted by Dan at 05:07 PM, Jul 25, 2006

Uphold DOMA:

1. Madsen
2. C. Johnson
3. Alexander
4. Sanders

Concurring separately:
1. J. Johnson
2. Sanders

Dissenting:
1. Fairhurst
2. Owens
3. Bridge
4. Chambers

Dissenting separately:
1. Bridge
Posted by Plessy Ferguson at 11:07 PM, Jul 25, 2006

AND THE WINNER IS: Plessy. Almost scary how close PF was, missing only a few things. Either he/she had a tip, or has an uncanny ability to read the court. Either way, we should talk Pless. And send me an e-mail with your mailing address and I'll send along a nice gift for playing our game. (And if the address is the Temple of Justice I promise not to tell.)

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July 26, 2006

What happened to the activist court?

Posted by David Postman at 3:09 PM

The main thrust of conservative campaigns against Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justice Susan Owens is that the current court is run by activist judges who legislate from the bench with disregard for the constitution and the voters.

That view is summed up best in this quote from a speech by Alexander's opponent, attorney John Groen:

"These decisions are the result of a willingness to engage in contorted legal analysis that avoids clear precedents and that alters the plain language of the statute and goes beyond the proper bounds of the court."

But wait. On the steps of the Supreme Court this morning, Gary Randall, president of the Faith and Freedom Network, a conservative evangelical lobbying group helping court challengers this year, issued an endorsement of the current court that undermines the argument that this court is out of control:

"I was afraid they might depart from ... the tradition of neutrality that the court has always taken. We're in a highly politicized environment and it seems that they cut through all that and made the decision as it should have been."

Of course conservatives don't always have to agree, but which is it? A "tradition of neutrality" or "a willingness to engage in contorted legal analysis"?

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A closer reading of the gay marriage decision

Posted by David Postman at 2:05 PM

There is no majority opinion in the Supreme Court's gay marriage case. There is a lead opinion written by Justice Barbara Madsen and that's how we'll refer to it here.

Because there is not a majority for the legal arguments behind the decision, some caution is called for in drawing conclusions about the long-term impact of the ruling. Madsen told me she wishes there had been a strong majority because that would have set a clearer precedent and reduced confusion in all the analysis that will go on. She does, however, think there were majorities for certain pieces of her decision.

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander told me the next time a similar case comes before the court "we will probably have to revisit this difference of opinion over what analysis we apply." And Justice Richard Sanders said in an interview, "What the lead opinion says in support of its conclusion is not binding precedent."

With that caveat, one of the notable things in the Madsen opinion is the lengths she went to say that homosexuals are not a "suspect class" for the purposes of an equal protection argument.

To be considered a "suspect class," Madsen wrote, "the class must have suffered a history of discrimination, have as the characteristic defining the class an obvious, immutable trait that frequently bears no relation to ability to perform or contribute to society, and show that it is a minority or politically powerless class."

She says gays and lesbian fail on two of the three tests. She does say there is no dispute that gays and lesbians have been discriminated against. But she sides with the state's argument that homosexuality is behavioral.

The plaintiffs do not cite other authority or any secondary authority or studies in support of the conclusion that homosexuality is an immutable characteristic. They focus instead on the lack of any relation between homosexuality and ability to perform or contribute to society. But plaintiffs must make a showing of immutability, and they have not done so in this case.

The piece that really jumped out at me, though, was the discussion about how gays and lesbians are not politically powerless.

Finally, with regard to the ability to obtain redress through the legislative process (the political powerless prong), several state statutes and municipal codes provide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and also provide economic benefit for same sex couples. Recently, the legislature amended the Washington State Law Against Discrimination to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Engrossed Substitute H.B. 2661, 59th Leg., Reg. Sess. (Wash.2006). In addition, the Intervenors point to evidence that a number of openly gay candidates were elected to national, state, and local offices in 2004.

The enactment of provisions providing increased protections to gay and lesbian individuals in Washington shows that as a class gay and lesbian persons are not powerless but, instead, exercise increasing political
power. Indeed, the recent passage of the amendments to chapter 49.60 RCW is particularly significant given that, as the plaintiffs point out, the legislature had previously declined on numerous occasions to add sexual
orientation to the laws against discrimination. We conclude that plaintiffs have not established that they satisfy the third prong of the suspect classification test.

So, because the Legislature passed a gay rights bill — presumably because gays and lesbians face discrimination — that shows that homosexuals have political power and can't be a "suspected class" deserving of equal protection. Is that a little Catch 22ish?

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Gay marriage ban upheld by Supreme Court

Posted by David Postman at 7:40 AM

The state Supreme Court has upheld Washington's ban on gay marriage.

The two cases before us require us to decide whether the legislature has the power to limit marriage in Washington State to opposite-sex couples. The state constitution and controlling case law compel us to answer "yes," and we therefore reverse the trial courts.

The decision on Andersen, et al. v. King Co., et al can be found here.

More from the majority opinion written by Justice Barbara Madsen:

Finally, DOMA does not violate the state constitution's equal rights amendment because that provision prohibits laws that render benefits to or restrict or deny rights of one sex. DOMA treats both sexes the same; neither a man nor a woman may marry a person of the same sex.

Concurring in the majority opinion are Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justice Charles Johnson.

(Note: The time stamp on this post is wrong. It went up at 8 a.m.)

There are six opinions. In addition to the majority opinion, Alexander wrote a short concurrence saying "there is nothing in the opinion that I have signed which should be read as casting doubt on the right of the legislature or the people to broaden the marriage act or provide other forms of civil union if that is their will."

Justice Jim Johnson wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment only, but disagreeing with the majority's reasoning.

From the dissent by Justice Mary Fairhurst:

The plurality and concurrence condone blatant discrimination against Washington's gay and lesbian citizens in the name of encouraging procreation, marriage for individuals in relationships that result in children, and the raising of children in homes headed by opposite-sex parents, while ignoring the fact that denying same-sex couples the right to marry has no prospect of furthering any of those interests. With the proper issue in mind — whether denying same-sex couples the right to marry will encourage procreation, marriage for individuals in relationships that result in children, or child rearing in households headed by opposite-sex parents — I would hold that there is no rational basis for denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

The Madsen majority tries to keep the decision narrowly focused and goes out of its way to say the ruling should not be read as opposition to gay marriage.

We see no reason, however, why the legislature or the people acting through the initiative process would be foreclosed from extending the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples in Washington.

It is important to note that the court's role is limited to determining the constitutionality of DOMA and that our decision is not based on an independent determination of what we believe the law should be.

MORE:
Justice Bobbe Bridge agreed with the reasoning of Fairhurst's dissent, but wrote her own as well. She says the majority allowed religion and morality to sway critical thinking and that the gay marriage ban smacks of state-sanctioned religion.

What we ought not to address is marriage as the sacrament or religious rite — an area into which the State is not entitled to intrude at all and which is governed by articles of faith. What we have not done is engage in the kind of critical analysis the makers of our constitution contemplated when interpreting the limits on governmental intrusion into private civil affairs; what we have done is permit the religious and moral strains of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to justify the State's intrusion. As succinctly put by amici the Libertarian Party of Washington State and the Log Cabin Republicans of Washington: "To ban gay civil marriage because some, but not all, religions disfavor it, reflects an impermissible State religious establishment." Amicus Curiae Br. of the Libertarian Party of Washington State et al. at 11. After all, we permit civil divorce though many religions prohibit it — why such fierce protection of marriage at its beginning but not its end?

If the DOMA is really about the "sanctity" of marriage, as its title implies,
then it is clearly an unconstitutional foray into state-sanctioned religious belief. If the DOMA purports to further some State purpose of preserving the family unit, as the plurality would interpret it, then I cannot imagine better candidates to fulfill that purpose than the same-sex couples who are the plaintiffs in these consolidated actions.

UPDATE: The majority takes a hard shot at Fairhurst and her argument that DOMA was motivated by anti-gay sentiment. Madsen wrote that's "demonstrably incorrect" and points out that 15 lawmakers who voted for DOMA in 1998 also voted for the gay rights bill this year:

In assuming that everyone who voted for DOMA is a bigot, Justice Fairhurst's dissent is not only wrong, it sadly oversteps the bounds of judicial review.

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D.C.'s beautiful people

Posted by David Postman at 7:26 AM

Washington, D.C., it is said, is Hollywood for ugly people.

But there's more than just inner beauty inside the Beltway. And to prove it, otherwise grown-up, though mostly young, people submit to The Hill's report on the "50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill." The search happens every two years for those with "delicate features," the "touch of gray for gravitas," the "light-eyed, Jodie Foster look-alike" who "loves spontaneity, surprises and flowers" or the manly man who is "attracted to women who are passionate about their interests."

Only six members of Congress made the list, including one of our own:

The glow you see in Rep. Cathy McMorris's face is that of a bride-to-be who will marry a former Navy pilot Aug. 5 in San Diego.

Morris, 37, will marry Brian Rodgers, a Naval Academy graduate and retired Navy pilot who flew submarine-hunting F-3s. Asked if they ever watched "Top Gun," the 1986 film about Naval fighter pilots, McMorris says, "we've never watched it together."

McMorris, the freshman representing the Fifth District is the one true Washingtonian on the list. But there's an important disclaimer: Apparently if you were on the list in 2004, as Sen. Maria Cantwell was, you couldn't be on this year's. (Could you imagine the Republican attack ad? It would be the deep-voiced, scary narrator, saying, "An influential newspaper says Maria Cantwell is no longer beautiful" as her photo morphed into Abe Vigoda.)

There are two others with Washington connections on the list. Brooke Adams, who is now the spokeswoman for the House Veterans Affairs Committee, was once former Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn's press secretary. She also ran for governor of California in that wild 2003 recall election that saw Arnold Schwarzenegger beat out more than 100 candidates. Adams finished 45th, according to The Hill. We knew she was destined for bigger things.

And Steve McBee, a lobbyist originally from Bellingham, sounds like Perfect Man when The Hill says, "More than his own physical beauty, lobbyist Steve McBee prefers to discuss how seriously beautiful his 2-year-old son, Brody, is."

Isn't that the soft side you're looking for in a defense lobbyist?

You can use the comments below to tell me how I should be covering more important things. But to save time, I'll tell you here I don't think this is more important than the war in Iraq, the Middle East crisis or the genocide in Darfur. It may be more important than CAFÉ standards.

UPDATE: There is another person among the 50 beauties with Washington ties, Staci Maiers, congressional liaison for the National Education Association.

Maiers grew up in Moses Lake and, says The Hill, her list of what she doesn't like in men include "a guy who takes longer to get dressed than I do" and "someone who talks politics or name-drops on a date; we get enough of that in our line of work."


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July 25, 2006

McGavick wants lots of debates with Cantwell

Posted by David Postman at 5:14 PM

Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick wants nine debates with Sen. Maria Cantwell — one in each congressional district. I'll go out on a limb here and say it's not going to happen. Challengers always want more debates than incumbents, and frankly have more free time to fit them in.

In fact, that is such a truism I was sure if I checked the clips there'd be stories about Cantwell wanting some huge number of debates against the man she beat for the job, former Sen. Slade Gorton. What I found was Cantwell pushed for just three debates, though she insisted they all be televised. (I guess in case anyone didn't know Gorton was much older than she was.) There were eventually three, though only one was televised.

In a letter to Cantwell, McGavick said there is plenty of time for nine debates.

"I take seriously the obligation of the political process to make myself available to the voters so that they may examine and compare my ideas with my opponent's."

He'll get his chance. But nine of them? We'll see what Cantwell's opening bid is.

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Bush spokesman with local ties to leave White House

Posted by David Postman at 4:45 PM

Ken Lisaius, special assistant to the president and deputy White House press secretary, is leaving after more than five years as part of George W. Bush's communications team. Lisaius is a born and bred Washingtonian and ended up with Bush after a stint with former Congressman George Nethercutt, R-Spokane. He's one of the high visibility Washingtonians in the administration.

Friday is his last day. I'll be sorry to see him go. It's been nice to have a local guy in the White House who I can get on the phone for an official "no comment."

Lisaius worked for the first Bush campaign in 2000 and then spent more than a month in Florida as a Bush spokesman during the recall battle. He met his wife, Jennifer, on the job, and proposed to her in the Rose Garden. She's deputy communications director for the Small Business Administration.

In March he was promoted to one of two deputy press secretaries. He has worked with all three White House press secretaries and had nothing but good things to say about the latest, Tony Snow. He says he wants to do something different, but hasn't decided exactly what that will be. He's off soon on the first real vacation in a long time and insists there is no political message in his destination: France.

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Gay marriage decision out tomorrow

Posted by David Postman at 12:05 PM

The state Supreme Court will release the long-awaited decision on the state's Defense of Marriage Act tomorrow morning. The case was argued March 8, 2005.

The decision should be available online after 8 a.m.

The court usually releases opinions on Thursdays. But Chief Justice Gerry Alexander has the authority to release opinions as soon as they are ready.

The decision will not only set the stage for another round of political wrangling over gay marriage, it will give court-watchers a great opportunity to see how the justices handle the most contentious issue this court has dealt with.

UPDATE: We can no longer speculate on when the court will act. And I don't know enough to speculate about what it'll do. (I do think we'll see more than two opinions tomorrow as justices draw nuanced positions. And that could explain the long gestation period.) But don't worry, there's still some speculating to be done.

If after 8 a.m. it can be said that gay marriage could soon be legal in Washington what does that do to the broad political climate of the 2006 elections? There are candidates who say they don't want to talk about state issues. But gay marriage is a galvanizing issue and candidates at all levels would be asked for their position.

The decision will be made public two days before the filing period ends for this fall's election. As of now Justice Tom Chambers is the only incumbent on the court up for re-election this year without an opponent. If the Defense of Marriage Act is thrown out and Chambers is with the majority, will he attract a conservative opponent?

Some people have already been surprised that Chambers hasn't drawn an opponent cut from the same conservative cloth of Steve Johnson, running against first-term Justice Susan Owens, Alexander and John Groen, running against Alexander first-term Justice Susan Owens. Of course if the case goes the other way, and Chambers votes to uphold DOMA, he could draw an opponent from the left. But I think that's less likely.

There's lots of discussion about what judicial candidates can and cannot say about issues before the case. But there's no doubt that if Alexander and Owens vote to overturn DOMA that will become a big part of the campaigns against them -- if not by their opponents directly, certainly by third parties.

If DOMA is tossed out, my guess is a Republican lawmaker will call for a special session within an hour of the decision being made public to push for a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage.

If the law is ruled unconstitutional, there would likely be legislative action necessary before gays could marry. I doubt Democrats would be in a big hurry to do that and would likely wait until next year's legislative session.

What do gay marriage supporters do if DOMA is upheld? I suppose there could be a legislative push for civil unions.

And no matter what the court says, Gov. Chris Gregoire has promised that once the decision is out she'll say what her position is on gay marriage.

Anyone want to guess which justices will vote which way? Let's have a contest. Tell me which way the court will rule and who signs the majority and minority opinions. I'll find a swell Seattle Times prize to give to whoever comes closest. Guesses have to be posted in this comment thread by midnight tonight. Earliest correct guess wins.

UPDATE: As for what sort of political climate will exist in the state if the court throws out DOMA, we just got an e-mail from Joseph Fuiten, a leading conservative and politically active pastor who was an intervener in the case, saying he'll have his response to the decision by 9 a.m. tomorrow.

But he's not waiting until then to stir things up:

Unlike Massachusetts, Washington State does not have a residency requirement. If the court strikes down DOMA it would allow homosexuals from all over America to come to Washington State to form a legal marriage.

But maybe it has taken so long for the court to rule that the issue of gay marriage is losing steam. A column up on the Governing magazine site says "Gay marriage may soon run out of steam as a political issue in the states." Marriage is so last year. The big fight now is gay parenting.

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Talk show hosts grill Eyman

Posted by David Postman at 7:48 AM

Folks at Sound Politics may think I made too much of their own Eric Earling's post on Tim Eyman. But as denizens of SP work to downplay the idea that conservatives are tiring of Eyman, some of the city's biggest voices in talk radio are making it clear they are at best skeptical about Eyman's story of stolen petitions for I-917, and at worst think he's a liar.

Michael Hood, who follows talk radio at blatherwatch, listened yesterday to Eyman being grilled by 710 KIRO's Dori Monson — who Hood describes as an ordinarily loyal libertarian and I-917 supporter — and 570 KVI's John Carlson. Hood says neither seemed to be buying Eyman's tale or purloined petitions.

Monson asked: did you make copies of the initiatives you turned in?

Perhaps showing a sudden twinge of confidence in the government he says he distrusts and abhors, but Glib Timmy said, "No, we didn't think you'd have to."

You can hear Monson's interview with Eyman and Secretary of State Sam Reed here.

The exchange with Carlson was even more testy, particularly interesting given that they have often been allies in initiative battles.

But Carlson isn't buying this one; and he told Eyman: "I know the government can screw up, but I also know you can screw up; I know the government can be dishonest; but I also know you can be dishonest."

In one amazing exchange, Eyman struck out at Carlson, accusing him of opposing his anti-car tab (which is really anti-Sound Transit) initiative because it, he said, would endanger the transportation package Carlson and others, including former Governor Gary Locke, are trying to hammer out in a bipartisan effort for next year's ballot.

One of the things that struck me yesterday about Earling's post was that he took Eyman on directly and called him a liar. Carlson agrees, according to blatherwatch:

Carlson summed up for Eyman what he said, "makes me think you're lying."

They were:

~ Nothing like this, on this scale, with this volume of signatures has ever happened in the Secretary of State's office, and it strains credulity that it could.

~ The "time stamped receipt" for the petitions was a letter Eyman brought in and got a receptionist to time stamp.

~ He astoundingly made no copies of the petition sheets before he turned them in — a minor expense, relative to its importance.

~ And our personal favorite: "You took a third of a million bucks from a donor, spent his money — and that's not going to make him very happy."

Of course, so far the donor is not at all unhappy and is ready to write Eyman a $100,000 check.

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July 24, 2006

Gregoire wants more state contracts to go to minorities

Posted by David Postman at 5:53 PM

Gov. Christine Gregoire wants the state to increase the amount of contracts it gives to businesses owned by women and minorities. Working within the confines of Initiative 200, which rolled back state affirmative action programs, Gregoire told state agencies in a letter sent last week to do more and "help turn this record around."

In the past six years there has been a dramatic decrease in state contracts given to minority- and women-owned businesses. Numbers from the Office of Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises shows contracts with minority-owned firms dropped from $50.2 million a year to $21.6 million a year, and contracts with women-owned businesses went from $49.4 million a year to $33 million year. In that time overall spending on state contracts rose from $1.7 billion to $2.8 billion annually.

Gregoire wrote:

"Clearly, our state contracting laws prevent awarding contracts on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender. At the same time, they require agencies to communicate bid opportunities to historically underused businesses, be they owned by women or African Americans, Latinos or veterans, persons with low-incomes or rural business owners."

State officials say that I-200, passed by voters in 1998, still leaves room to help minority-owned firms get state work as long as there are no mandatory goals or preferences based on race, gender or national origin.

Gregoire's cabinet and staff have come up with proposals for boosting minority contracting that they say comply with I-200. They include having state agencies name a "supplier diversity change agent." That person must be "committed to supplier diversity" and will report directly to the agency director.

A presentation given to Gregoire's cabinet also says that minority- and women-owned businesses will be recruited for "informal bids" of purchases from $3,100 to $43,900. Those bids will include one solicitation from a woman-owned business and one from a minority-owned business.

The state says it can do that under I-200, but can't give a preference to the minority- or woman-owned business when deciding which company to award the contract to. The state also will move to "unbundle" larger contracts to come up with more jobs that fall into the informal bid category.

Carolyn Crowson, director of the minority contracting agency, said the statistics on minority contracting "are an indication we're in a situation that is unfair. We're trying to turn it around without violating any of the rules."

(Why in the PowerPoint presentation given to Gregoire's Cabinet is there a photograph of the governor? It seems kind of obsequious. Gregoire should issue an executive order barring any state official from putting her photo in a PowerPoint presentation given to her.)

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Business group backs Alexander, Johnson

Posted by David Postman at 3:33 PM

A major state business lobbying group has endorsed Chief Justice Gerry Alexander for re-election, passing over property rights attorney John Groen. And it's not just that the Association of Washington Business backs incumbent judges. The group endorsed Republican Sen. Steven Johnson in his challenge to Justice Susan Owens.

The AWB said that while it disagreed at times with Alexander, the chief's record shows "we can get a fair shake in front of him and that is the hallmark of a good judge." Groen, who has the backing of other business groups, has accused Alexander of being an activist judge who does not support private property rights.

In backing Johnson, the group was restrained in anything that could be perceived as criticism of Owens, saying "AWB believes the court would benefit greatly from Senator Johnson's legislative experience tempered by his philosophy of judicial restraint."

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Eyman money man ready to write another check

Posted by David Postman at 3:06 PM

Tim Eyman's patron has no doubt that Eyman is right about the number of I-917 signatures he turned in, and says Eyman's enemies may have made off with the missing petitions.

Michael Dunmire, who has contributed more than $232,000 to the campaign so far, says he will soon donate about $100,000 to the "compensation fund" that goes to pay Eyman and his partners, Jack and Mike Fagan. He said he sees weekly reports on the number of signatures collected and he is confident there were more than 300,000.

"They keep track. They live and die by them. They're not wrong."

So what happened to the signatures?

"I know they were there when they were handed in. And if you look at the last election you have ballots coming in weeks after the election. Get serious, if people don't believe Washington state has ballot counting problems."

And who's the culprit?

"There are a lot of entities that don't want I-917. They have their own techniques. They send out goon squads to intimidate petitioners. That never gets covered. We play it straight up."

Dunmire has been Eyman's No. 1 financier since last year's successful performance audit initiative, giving Eyman more than $1 million so far.

I asked Dunmire how much he had given this year, and he said he wasn't sure. In fact he said:

"Haven't a clue. When I get a compulsion and think that's a good place to make a contribution, I write a check. And I don't keep track."

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The conservative critique of Tim Eyman

Posted by David Postman at 7:58 AM

It is not difficult to find critics of Tim Eyman, particularly among local liberal bloggers. One even got his start dogging Eyman. But it is of note, and should be reason for concern for Eyman, that the area's most prominent conservative blog leads this morning with this headline:

TIM EYMAN YOUR 15 MINUTES ARE UP

At Sound Politics, Eric Earling, though, doesn't just write that Eyman is running out of gas and has turned "himself into a traveling carnival of various costumes in a spiraling attempt to garner media coverage. I suppose that makes him a new kind of Carny."

Earling says Eyman is also a liar. Earling says Eyman recently lied to 710 KIRO host Dave Ross about how I-917 would mess with regional transportation votes and denied what the language of the initiative makes clear: It would take power away from local voters.

Putting the transportation component of this discussion into perspective, the Legislature approved the gas tax package, and the public solidly supported it in a statewide vote. Now Eyman, wants to revisit part of that decision and limit the future ability of local voters to decide on their own taxes that would go straight to the transportation improvements this region desperately needs. Again, if the idea is really "Give the Voters More Choices" then Eyman would be better served actually letting the voters of those three counties do that when they get the chance next year, rather than using a statewide vote to limit that region's options in advance.

If I-917 doesn't make the ballot, especially after the Referendum 65 failure earlier this year, Tim Eyman will have lost a lot of credibility, even with his supporters. Despite that, I realize Tim Eyman really wants car tabs to be $30. I'm half convinced he won't rest until he receives a car tab notice from the state that reads $30.00. It seems voters, particularly in the Puget Sound region, increasingly disagree, and probably tend to agree instead that the whims of one publicity-hungry individual are not the basis for sound public policy.

Eyman will have a hard time dismissing Earling as part of the establishment that has served so well as a foil for Eyman's campaigns. But I don't doubt he'll try.

UPDATE: Also at Sound Politics today, Stefan Sharkansky digs in to what Eyman claims is his smoking gun to prove the Secretary of State's office lost thousands of his petitions: a receipt showing he turned in, as he claimed, 300,353, signatures. But as I figured, the receipt was something Eyman asked for, it is unofficial in any meaningful way, and based only on Eyman's assertion that he was turning in that many signatures. From an e-mail Sharkansky got from Elections Director Nick Handy on how Eyman got his receipt:

At the front desk, he asked our receptionist to date stamp his letter as received. After she did this, he turned to the press and announced that the Office of Secretary of State had just acknowledged receipt of 300,353 signatures. Of course, we were just acknowledging receipt of a letter written by Tim Eyman claiming he was submitting 300,353 signatures. We had not counted teh (sic) pages or the signatures on his petitions at that time.

So, to be clear: Eyman brought in a pile of petitions, told the receptionist they included 303,353 signatures and asked for a piece of paper saying that; the Secretary of State's office counted the signatures and found far fewer, leading Eyman to wave his receipt as proof that someone had pilfered his petitions.

Also, as David Goldstein graciously points out in the comments, he's not the only blogger who got started by dogging Tim Eyman, so did Andrew Villeneuve.

UPDATE: And even more Sound Politics? Stefan has posted a response to what I said above about Earling on Eyman, pointing out that Earling's father is David Earling, the former Sound Transit board chairman. (My guess is any Eyman response leads with that fact.) He points out that Earling only writes for himself, not some official voice of Sound Politics, and otherwise tries to downplay any significance to, as I said, the area's most prominent conservative blog taking Eyman on so squarely. OK Stefan, it's not important, but it sure is interesting. Whether you or a majority of your readers agree with Earling, the post jumped out at me because it was different from what we hear from the usual sources.

UPDATE: You can see the smoking gun here, and read the latest on Eyman from the Spokesman Review's Rich Roesler.

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Jamie Pedersen's two views of the Supreme Court

Posted by David Postman at 7:17 AM

Speculation about the state Supreme Court's gay marriage decision has been going on so long it's apparently given some people a chance to reconsider their view of the court. Here are two comments from Jamie Pedersen, an attorney for gay couples in the case and a Democrat running in the crowded Democratic primary for the 43rd District House seat.

May 13, 2006, The Associated Press:

A number of participants think justices will sit on it until after the election, just because it's such a hot-button issue, bound to anger the losing side and segments of the voting public.

"It's the classic seepage of politics into the process," Pedersen says. "They'll see the controversy and some will worry about re-election, and that's a shame."

July 20, 2006, The Associated Press:

Jamie Pedersen, a lawyer representing the gay couples in the case, said he doesn't fall into the camp of those who believed the court might delay the opinion for political reasons, and that he appreciates the care the court appears to be taking with the ruling. As a former law clerk, he said he knows how complex opinion-writing can be.

"Anytime somebody changes something in one opinion, the others get a chance to change what's in their opinions," he said. "They'll issue the decision when they're done writing it."

And while we're keeping track, it was early June when Gov. Chris Gregoire said, "I don't think it's coming before the election."

Last week after Justice Susan Owens said she believes the decision will be out before the primary, the AP reported that Gregoire said, "I've given up predicting when the decision will come down."

That is the one safe approach.

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July 22, 2006

Jim West is dead

Posted by David Postman at 9:54 AM

UPDATE: The Times obituary of Jim West has been posted here.

Former Spokane Mayor Jim West died early this morning from complications related to the cancer he has battled for years. I knew West well and will write more here later after I help on an obituary for the paper.

You can see what the Spokesman Review wrote this morning. The paper published a lengthy investigation that led to West's political downfall and personal crisis.

Spokesman blogger Frank Sennett may have been the last reporter to hear from West. The e-mail shows West was still hoping for a legacy other than scandal.

"I may have screwed up personally but I never screwed up the city. And I was accessable, just about anyone could drop in my office without an appointment."

Here's the AP obit.

I wrote an extensive piece about West late last year in which it was clear he was far from being able to say who he really was and what really happened over his troubled life.

It must be said he died in disgrace, a man turned out by the voters whose respect he craved, who could not explain what made him cruise on-line for very young men. He died having never been able to fully refute allegations that he was a child molester. He spent most of his life wanting to be a person of authority, looking for respect, and when he was given the chance his secret personal life did him in.

The cancer seemed seems almost an afterthought.

MORE: I did not express myself well in this hurried post. And a comment below compels me to write more. I do not think West's death is an afterhought in any way. In his struggles the past year his cancer was overshadowed by the scandal. He said so himself. He was glad for that on some days. I'm sorry if what I wrote above seemed harsh. West was haunted by the allegations he could not refute, or he was when he last spoke to me. He'd bring it up in almost every conversation.

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July 21, 2006

I'm being watched

Posted by David Postman at 7:23 AM

Patrick at Respectfully Republican, and a reader and commenter here, says he's keeping an eye on me, waiting to see if I'll reveal my true political colors. He says the: "Seattle Times chief political reporter seems conflicted at times on his reporting of the U.S. Senate race. At times, he seems to like to dog Maria Cantwell -- other times he picks on McGavick."

I think the challenge for Postman is remaining impartial, and that's why he alternates between dogging on the candidates. True, his articles are "news analysis" -- but I've often wondered whether he will pick a side in this Senate race.

No, I won't. I won't even come close. I am a reporter who blogs about politics. I won't take sides and I won't express my political opinions. When a candidate says something that needs a reality-check, I do that, regardless of their party and regardless of whether the last one I reality-checked, or praised, or merely commented on, was a Republican or Democrat.

I know it has become something of a sport to try to divine what I really mean in what I write, but I'm not so complicated. I write what I mean, and there is no P.o.P decoder ring to show you the secret partisan messages embedded in my posts.

When I was starting in this business in Alaska a politician complained a story was unfair because his opponent's name was the first word in more paragraphs than his was. He said his campaign consultant told him that's how the press skews stories. In the early '90s a local media watchdog group said the answer to finding a reporter's bias is in the last paragraph of a story. There, the theory went, was where the spin would belie the supposed objectivity -- as if by the last paragraph we had become exhausted by trying to look fair.

Why is it so hard to believe that a reporter is not driven by a hidden agenda?

This has been an issue since the first day of this blog, when some suggested it would be difficult if not impossible to write an objective political blog. And not just that it'd be impossible, but somehow objectivity would be misplaced on a blog ... that because I write here in MovableType instead of Word, different rules apply.

In June when I wrote about Gov. Chris Gregoire's refusal to talk about her view on gay marriage, Daniel Kirkdorffer left a comment saying, "if you are going to ask politicians for their position on gay marriage, don't hide behind your press credentials - tells us what your own position is why don't you. Tell us so we can gauge for ourselves whether your reporting is biased or not."

Nope, not going to do it. I think what's important is to write stories that are fair, accurate and objective. You can tell that by reading what I write day in and day out. Watch over the days and you'll see I don't play favorites. That's how you can gauge whether my reporting is biased or not.

ParticleMan's advice on day one was much closer to the mark: "SLAP DOWN SPIN!!!"

Patrick is watching me with the eye of a practiced Kremlinologist as he senses that I may be about to pull back the curtain on my true feelings, at least in the Senate race.

Afterall, his newspaper's editorial position seems to be inching closer to supporting McGavick -- or at least his positive approach to campaigning. Postman was also on Goldy's radio show last night discussing the race, giving commentary on several of the finer points.

There is zero connection between anything I write and the position of The Seattle Times editorial board. Never has been, never will. There is an inviolable wall between the news and editorial operations. That's how it's supposed to be, and that's how it works here.

I welcome the close monitoring. But I'm convinced that not only can objectivity work on the web, but that we need more of it in an increasingly partisan world.

UPDATE: I just saw this report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. It turns out I'm in the minority on one point, Pew says one-third of bloggers see their work as a form of journalism, though 56 percent "spend extra time trying to verify facts they want to include in a post either 'sometimes' or 'often.' "

Other on-topic findings:

Bloggers are major consumers of political news and about half prefer sources without a particular political viewpoint.
  • 72% of bloggers look online for news or information about politics; by contrast, just 58% of all internet users do so.

  • 45% of bloggers say they prefer getting news from sources that do not have a particular political point of view; roughly the same percentage of the general internet population agrees.

  • 24% of bloggers prefer political news from sources that challenge their viewpoint; and 18% choose to use sources that share their political viewpoint. Again, bloggers' responses are similar to those of the general internet population.

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July 20, 2006

In other news

Posted by David Postman at 8:02 AM

  • Mike McGavick published an open letter in Roll Call to ask D.C. political operatives to stay out of the gutter in any independent campaigning they do against Sen. Maria Cantwell. I know he has his doubters about this whole civility thing, but this letter is more than most have done to try to quash negative ads run for their benefit.
  • Former Republican Congressman George Nethercutt writes in the Wall Street Journal that Democrats need to do more than just not be Republicans if they have any chance of seeing the sort of gains that swept him and the GOP into power.
    But voter unrest does not by itself portend wholesale electoral change. Even disgruntled Americans are reluctant to "fire" incumbents if they think they're just trading in one pol for another, regardless of party. That's the lesson of 1994.

    He's got a warning for his friends, too.

    Today my former colleagues seem tired, conflicted and defensive about holding their majority in the face of huge budget deficits, an unpopular and difficult war, and the inefficiencies that come with a bigger government bureaucracy — all at a time when a few Republican and Democratic members face their own ethical issues.
  • At Sound Politics Stefan Sharkansky calls out one of his readers for his attacks on McGavick and Dave Reichert as Republicans in Name Only. Sharkansky suggests the guy lives in a fantasy world ruled by Gov. Ellen Craswell and Sen. Linda Smith.

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July 19, 2006

Gingrich and Reichert on Social Security

Posted by David Postman at 2:45 PM

The reaction to Saturday's post about Newt Gingrich declaring World War III — including a nice plug for The Times from Stephen Colbert last night — distracted me from getting to some of the other things the former House Speaker said in our interview.

Things like Social Security. That has been an interest of Gingrich's for years. In 1998 he had a plan that was said to be somewhere between the "die-hard defenders of the current system" and the "fire breathing 'privatizers' who would dump the whole thing and set every wage earner free to make a killing on Wall Street."

One of Gingrich's post-Speakership projects was SocialSecurityPlus.org. That project seems to be dormant today, but Gingrich's Web site does spell out his plans for personal retirement accounts.

You can find far more details there than what Gingrich offered in talking to me about Social Security. He thinks the political climate isn't right for major Social Security change, even with President Bush saying he plans to try again. Gingrich said young Republicans in Congress — he suggests Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin and Sen. John Sununu, R-New Hampshire — should "go across the country and organize groups of people under 40 who basically say, 'I want to control my own money.' "

"The key is to get every person under 40 to understand, this is their future. It is their money and it is the politicians cheating them. And when that happens, you'll see it passing easily."

Gingrich recognizes this is not an easy year for Republicans running for re-election. He doesn't suggest candidates work to overtly distance themselves from the President. But, he said in true Newt fashion:

"I think they've got to go out and first of all be clear about where they stand. They have to offer big solutions to the country's challenges."

Gingrich was here Saturday for fundraisers for Congressman Dave Reichert, GOP 2nd District challenger Doug Roulstone and the state Republican Party. Reichert's chief of staff, Mike Shields, is a former Gingrich aide. At one point he was executive director of SocialSecurityPlus.org.

On my way out from the Gingrich interview, I stopped to ask Shields for Reichert's position on Social Security. There really isn't one. Last year, Times Editorial Page Editor Jim Vesely moderated a Social Security town hall meeting for Reichert that featured three panelists urging private accounts. Vesely wrote afterward, "Reichert was able to guard his flanks. I did not detect a predictable direction from him; he appears to be trying to figure this out, like everyone else."

In a story last year about an anti-privatization rally at Reichert's local office, the Times reported, "Reichert has not taken a position, and constituents at the rally urged him to oppose privatization.

And as of last weekend, Shields said of Reichert's view of Social Security: "I think he's open to all the ideas, but also wary about all the ideas."

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Eyman says petitions "pilfered." Secretary of State says no way

Posted by David Postman at 7:28 AM

Tim Eyman has changed his online fund-raising solicitation to make it closer to the truth. The pitch at his Web site no longer says he "succeeded at qualifying I-917 for the ballot" but that "I-917's signature drive is completed."

He still claims 300,353 people signed it, though the secretary of state's office said that's more than Eyman turned in. Eyman also still says the signatures are "guaranteeing that this taxpayer-protection proposal will qualify for the November ballot."

But hey, baby steps.

Secretary of State Sam Reed told me yesterday that any suggestion that petitions were lost or stolen while in state custody is "silly to the point of being a ridiculous accusation." Reed said that after his staff recounted Eyman's petitions, an additional 38 pages were found.

But Reed said the system of processing petitions is carefully controlled. Initiative sponsors and a state trooper observe the initial count of petitions. The petitions are then boxed up and taken under watch of the trooper to the state archives building. There they are kept behind locked doors — Reed's entry card won't get him in there even though it is a division within his office — and photographed. The petitions are then taken to the secretary of state's off-campus office where the checking of signatures takes place.

Safeguard have been an important part of the system since 1963, when a stack of pro-gambling initiative petitions were allegedly stolen from a safe in the state Capitol. There were suspicions early on that it was a phony heist, with the Daily Olympian reporting June 25, 1963:

The facts in the fantastic case seemed stranger indeed, than fiction. Two men — one tall and fiddle-faced, the other short and squat — were seen numerous times by state employees as they cased the heist as far back as a month ago. Never were they questioned.

There was no sign of forced entry into the ground-floor safe. Pro-gambling Democrats argued that even without signatures to verify, the measure should be put on the ballot in the fall to carry out the will of the voters. (It was and voters rejected the measure that would have allowed gambling on pinball machines, punchboards and card games.)

No one was ever arrested in the heist. It was a day before the theft was noticed which, the Olympian reported, gave "the yeggs ample time to leg it out of Olympia with 100 pounds of official paperwork."

Since turning in signatures early this month, Eyman has pressed the state to find the petitions that he is convinced have been stolen.

In an e-mail to the secretary of state's office last week, Eyman said he wanted to "determine when the missing voter signature sheets were pilfered," apparently convinced that the real thieves are out there somewhere.

Eyman will not respond to questions, saying he is dealing exclusively with the Associated Press.

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July 18, 2006

Eyman makes false claim in money appeal

Posted by David Postman at 7:30 AM

Tim Eyman is misleading his supporters as he tries to raise money for himself and his initiative partners.

Last week the secretary of state's office said Eyman turned in 266,006 signatures for I-917, a car tax cutting measure. That's 34,347 fewer than he claimed he turned in earlier this month at the deadline for initiative petitions.

He needs 224,880 valid signatures to get the measure on the November ballot, so he could still make it. But initiative sponsors need more signatures than the minimum because many are found to be invalid. Secretary of State Sam Reed's spokesman, Trova Heffernan, told me yesterday that Eyman usually turns in an additional 30 percent. This time he had an additional 18 percent, which makes it unclear whether the initiative will qualify after counting and validation.

Eyman tries to explain the discrepancy by suggesting the secretary of state's office lost petitions. He told the AP last week, "Nothing has changed about our certainty of our turn-in total. We're going to keep after them to get to the bottom of this."

Maybe we should get to the bottom of it before Eyman takes money from supporters for what he claims is a successful petition drive.

His Web site repeatedly makes the claim that the initiative has qualified. And he says that means it's time for his supporters to reward him and his partners, the father/son team of Jack and Mike Fagan, for a job well done:

Each year, from January through June, we ask that you focus your donations toward the signature gathering campaign — this year, thanks to your help, we succeeded at qualifying I-917 for the ballot. Each year, from July through December, we ask that you focus your contributions toward HELP US HELP TAXPAYERS — the compensation fund for Tim Jack, and Mike. Now that I-917 has qualified, we ask that each and every one of you send in your most generous contribution so we can continue our fight on behalf of taxpayers.

Whether or not it turns out 917 has enough signatures, there is no question that as of today it has not qualified.

In 2002 Eyman admitted to lying about his financial take from his initiative campaigns. As a quick refresher, Eyman repeatedly claimed he was not making money from his initiative campaigns but was shown to have worked hard to conceal payments, lying about it to even his closest associates.

The current solicitation for the "compensation fund" is sort of a reform he implemented after that scandal — a way to make it clear when he was raising money for himself and his partners.

Eyman would not talk to me, or apparently many other reporters, about I-917. He said by e-mail last night, "We're dealing exclusively with the Associated Press on this. We have nothing to add to what's already been reported by them."

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July 17, 2006

Gregoire to raise money for incumbent justices

Posted by David Postman at 11:34 AM

Gov. Chris Gregoire says she's worried about the escalating costs of Supreme Court races and she plans to do something about: Raise more money. What she's really worried about is the increasing amount of conservative money going into races in recent years and says she'll try to counter that by raising money for the liberal judicial PAC, Citizens to Uphold the Constitution.

"I just want an even playing field," she said at her morning press conference. She said she was "chagrined" by the business money raised by Supreme Court candidate John Groen just before new campaign limits went into effect. Groen, challenging Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, and state Sen. Steve Johnson, challenging Justice Susan Owens, have the backing of the Building Industry Association of Washington and other business groups that promise strong support for the conservative challengers.

Gregoire said she doesn't want money to decide who sits on the court, saying, "It has to be based on their abilities."

She said she will soon be raising money for the incumbents.

A reporter asked: "Isn't that just further escalation?" And Gregoire said:

"Well, you don't sit there and do nothing. You don't disarm when there is a lot of money flowing in for certain philosophical ways of doing business on the court to represent just single interests. You don't sit there and just do nothing."

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Field reports from the Open Mike Tour

Posted by David Postman at 9:15 AM

Mike McGavick's statewide RV tour is giving reporters and bloggers around the state a chance to see the Republican candidate up close. There is some risk to a candidate in unscripted events, which make up at least part of McGavick's tour, and there have been missteps. But it's only July and McGavick is getting a chance to try his act out on the road before Sen. Maria Cantwell begins campaigning full-time.

Last week in Anacortes, McGavick was asked about his stance on abortion. According to the Anacortes American, he said he "wants to 'narrow' abortion choices, and wants the government to ban partial-birth abortions and federal funds for abortion."
McGavick spokesman Elliott Bundy confirms that is the candidate's stance, though he adds that McGavick also supports parental notification laws.

McGavick's comments in Anacortes about violence in video games have sparked discussion among gamers. Hint: They don't like what they read.

In Vancouver, things didn't go so smoothly for McGavick. What was billed as an Open Mike session was, according to the Columbian's Kathie Durbin, "less an 'Open Mike' event than an 'Open Your Wallet' event, with McGavick chatting up potential donors for most of the evening before delivering a campaign speech."

Along with one miffed reporter and some donors, the audience also included Democrat Joy Overstreet, who writes at washblog. She said she's glad she went because "It's important for us to witness what Koolaid is being dispensed so we can counter it." She has a more expanded, and a bit harsher, version at her own blog.

Randy Stapilus at the ever-classy Ridenbaugh Press caught up with McGavick in Cathlamet and it sounds like things went much more like they're supposed to there. "It should be noted, in this time of bubble candidates," Stapilus writes, "the people who showed up, just showed up: About a dozen students working on a civics project, about as many area supporters, and a few Democrats."

Stapilus assesses McGavick's campaign skills, which he describes as "substantial but still in development."

"He comes across as clearly intelligent, and he has a good knack for avoiding jargon and speaking plainly. He may be a little better one on one than speaking to groups; there, his voice — which is a little thin — is pushed to take on an almost commanding air, which probably worked better in a corporate boardroom than on the stump, where it may strike some people as authoritarian. Talking to individuals or groups of two or three, his demeanor is more casual, though just as articulate."

McGavick's tour makes news at each stop. In Grays Harbor, the Daily World advanced the visit with a Q &A with McGavick. The paper's Steven Friederich asked the questions on everyone's mind, "Like, why do you have an exclamation point after your name on your campaign signs? It's like Mike! McGavick. What's up with that?"

McGavick is east of the mountains today, with stops in Republic! and Collville!

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July 16, 2006

A different tone from Gingrich on World War III

Posted by David Postman at 11:33 AM

When Newt Gingrich told me yesterday that he thinks we are in the midst of World War III he mentioned that he'd be on Meet the Press this morning. I was getting something of a preview of his take on global conflicts and the current Middle East crisis:

"The Israelis left Gaza and they left South Lebanon and the result was the terrorists moved missiles into Gaza and South Lebanon. Now I'm going to be on Meet the Press tomorrow morning and I'm going to say 'Anybody on the left, explain to me the lesson you think Israel should learn from having pulled back from Lebanon and Gaza and how having missiles ferret into their cities from the very places they abandoned, OK? This is a core argument for America."

I just watched Meet the Press, and read the transcript, which I use for quotes from the program in this post, and there's something missing. When Gingrich was talking to a national audience today he dropped the overt political references and the attacks on the left, the Democratic Party and its chairman, Howard Dean, that were a part of our interview yesterday.

On TV the most pointed criticism seemed to be aimed at the Bush administration. He described America as weak in the face of threatening dictators.

Gingrich told me, in drawing what he said was a metaphor for Israel's response to attacks from inside Lebanon:

"If we had missiles being fired into Miami from Cuba would people from the left really get up and say, 'We should have reasonable retaliation' or would they say, 'Clean it out. Are you nuts?'

In telling the story to Tim Russert "the left" was replaced with "Americans."

"Imagine we woke up this morning and 500 Americans were dead in Miami from missiles fired from Cuba. Do you think any American would say, 'Now, we should have proportionate response? We shouldn't overreact?' No. We would say, 'Get rid of the missiles.'

In both interviews he praised John F. Kennedy, though in Bellevue it came with a clear shot at the current leadership of the Democratic Party:

"The old Democratic Party was led by John F. Kennedy who threatened nuclear war over missiles in Cuba; because the old Democratic Party was a very patriotic, hawkish party. It had fought the Second World War, the First World War and the Korean War. It was a tough party.


"The current Democratic Party would say, 'Well, if only if we had abandoned Miami then Cuba wouldn't have any grievances' — the Howard Dean vision."

On TV Gingrich said only:

"And John F. Kennedy, a Democrat who understood the importance of power in the world, was prepared to go to nuclear war to stop missiles from being in Cuba."

Why the two messages from Gingrich? I think that in looking at his appearance with Sen. Joe Biden on Meet the Press Gingrich was playing more to the senior statesman role than the campaign strategist and GOP tough guy role. Hard shots at the Democratic Party and the suggestion that Howard Dean would abandon Miami to appease Fidel Castro wouldn't play on the blue chip Sunday morning political talk show.

Gingrich is well aware of his audience. He told me that the mid-term congressional elections would be nationalized no matter what the political parties did.

"It is impossible in America not to have an election that is nationalized because the media is only national. People tune to the Today Show, they tune into Fox and Friends, they tune to Good Morning America."

On Meet the Press Gingrich did repeat his assertion that World War III has begun. He said the current fighting in the Middle East:

"is absolutely a question of the survival of Israel, but it's also a question of what is really a world war. ... I mean, we, we are in the early stages of what I would describe as the third world war, and frankly, our bureaucracies aren't responding fast enough, we don't have the right attitude about this, and this is the 58th year of the war to destroy Israel.


"MR. RUSSERT: This is World War III?

"MR. GINGRICH: I, I believe if you take all the countries I just listed, that you've been covering, put them on a map, look at all the different connectivity, you'd have to say to yourself this is, in fact, World War III."

On Meet the Press Gingrich seemed to be drawing a distinction between two visions of foreign policy and how to deal with dictators and terrorism. But it came out sounding like he was comparing his view to that of the Bush administration — which he advises as a member of the Defense Policy Board — rather than what I heard as the contrasting views of Democrats and Republicans.

He told Russert:

"My point is — and this is a core difference in how, in how I think we think about foreign policy — when in doubt, I want the United States to be very strong and I want us to be very clear with dictatorships. We're sending signals today that no matter how much you provoke us, no matter how viciously you describe things in public, no matter how many things you're doing with missiles and nuclear weapons, the most you'll get out of us is talk.


"MR. RUSSERT: You're talking about the Bush administration.

"MR. GINGRICH: I'm talking about the policies of the United States today.

"MR. RUSSERT: But that is such a condemnation of George W. Bush.

"MR. GINGRICH: Well, it's not a condemnation of George W. Bush. It's a statement that — look what we've done in the last six weeks. I mean, I think we are in a very serious crisis in this country."

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July 15, 2006

Gingrich says it's World War III

Posted by David Postman at 12:54 PM

(You can find a follow-up to this post here.)

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich says America is in World War III and President Bush should say so. In an interview in Bellevue this morning Gingrich said Bush should call a joint session of Congress the first week of September and talk about global military conflicts in much starker terms than have been heard from the president.

"We need to have the militancy that says 'We're not going to lose a city,' " Gingrich said. He talks about the need to recognize World War III as important for military strategy and political strategy.

Gingrich said he is "very worried" about Republicans facing fall elections and says the party must have the "nerve" to nationalize the elections and make the 2006 campaigns about a liberal Democratic agenda rather than about President Bush's record.

Gingrich says that as of now Republicans "are sailing into the wind" in congressional campaigns. He said that's in part because of the Iraq war, adding, "Iraq is hard and painful and we do not explain it very well."

But some of it is due to Republicans' congressional agenda. He said House and Senate Republicans "forgot the core principle" of the party and embraced Congressional pork. "Some of the guys," he said, have come down with a case of "incumbentitis."

Gingrich said in the coming days he plans to speak out publicly, and to the administration, about the need to recognize that America is in World War III.

He lists wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, this week's bomb attacks in India, North Korean nuclear threats, terrorist arrests and investigations in Florida, Canada and Britain, and violence in Israel and Lebanon as evidence of World War III. He said Bush needs to deliver a speech to Congress and "connect all the dots" for Americans.

He said the reluctance to put those pieces together and see one global conflict is hurting America's interests. He said people, including some in the Bush Administration, who urge a restrained response from Israel are wrong "because they haven't crossed the bridge of realizing this is a war."

"This is World War III," Gingrich said. And once that's accepted, he said calls for restraint would fall away:

"Israel wouldn't leave southern Lebanon as long as there was a single missile there. I would go in and clean them all out and I would announce that any Iranian airplane trying to bring missiles to re-supply them would be shot down. This idea that we have this one-sided war where the other team gets to plan how to kill us and we get to talk, is nuts."

There is a public relations value, too. Gingrich said that public opinion can change "the minute you use the language" of World War III. The message then, he said, is "'OK, if we're in the third world war, which side do you think should win?"

An historian, Gingrich said he has been studying recently how Abraham Lincoln talked to Americans about the Civil War, and what turned out to be a much longer and deadlier war than Lincoln expected.

Gingrich is here for fund raisers for Congressman Dave Reichert, 2nd District GOP challenger Doug Roulstone, and the state party. I talked to him in a hotel suite with a few of his and Reichert's staff.

Any time his name comes up here it's said that he once called Washington state "ground zero for the Republican revolution." Republicans saw huge gains in Washington in the 1994 mid-term elections, though they have largely decayed away.

"I think there is a reform oriented populism that is a key a component of Washington State's, if you will, culture or personality," he said. Voters here also got caught up in the national, anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic wave. The other thing that was different here, he said, was "that there was no place in America where talk radio was more enthusiastically favorable to the idea that it was time to try something new."

(Speaking of talk radio, waiting to go in to see Gingrich as I was leaving were KVI's John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur and William Maurer, an attorney with the Institute for Justice who has been backing the talk show hosts in the legal challenge against their on-air championing of an anti-tax initiative.)

With Republicans in control of Washington, D.C., it's Democrats who this year are hoping for a reform wave to sweep them into office. Democrats want to nationalize the election and make each congressional race about Bush, the Iraq war and the Republican agenda. Republicans have been trying to localize each race, as in Reichert's challenge from political newcomer Darcy Burner, and make the race about the qualifications and personalities of the candidates, not about a national agenda.

Gingrich says that's a mistake. Republicans, he says, should nationalize the contest, too. He said that yesterday he saw polling that gave him some optimism for the first time about this year's elections. He didn't say what state it was from, but it showed that Democratic incumbents' poll numbers crashed when tagged with the record of House Democrats.

He said that as Democrats make the elections about George Bush, Republicans should make it about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. He said voters need to be told "how weirdly San Francisco these guys are voting" and Democrats will "collapse in defeat."

"The line I think every Republican should use is, 'X knows their record, they just hope you don't,' which is actually the line I used in my winning race in '78. I'm a historian. I don't do anything new. I just imitate. I guarantee you there are 60 or 70 Democrats, if their districts thoroughly understood their record, they'd lose this year even though people aren't happy with Bush. Because people aren't suicidal. ..."

"While people understand that while they may be irritated with Republicans, we at least broadly share their values and visions and the left is just out of touch with reality. I think then you have a totally different debate by October, if we have the nerve to do it. ... There's going to be a national conversation in October. The only question is whether it's the Republicans defining it or whether we have some nutty idea that we can run local races, and so the entire definition is on the left."

UPDATE: I tried to get a comment today from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee but no one ever got back to me. This evening, Kelly Steele, spokesman for the state party, did respond and sent this e-mail:

This is classic — that Gingrich's solution to Bush's failed leadership is a different "marketing strategy" shows the true extent to which Republicans cannot be trusted to win the war on terror. Democrats believe we need a "tough and smart" strategy that makes 2006 a year of transition in Iraq and aggressively takes the fight to the terrorists, while Gingrich and Bush seek to elect a new crop of loyal rubberstamps — McGavick, Reichert, and Roulstone included — to blindly support and extend their monopoly on their "tough and dumb" conduct of the war in Iraq and the larger battle against global terrorism.

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July 14, 2006

Third party candidates on the November ballot

Posted by David Postman at 3:46 PM

Here are the third party and independent candidates who Secretary of State Sam Reed's office says have collected enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.

U.S. Senate: Libertarian Bruce Guthrie, Green Aaron Dixon and independent Robin Adair

U.S. Representative, 7th District: independent Linnea Noreen

U.S. Representative, 8th District: Libertarian Bruce White

It will take some time to see which of these candidates will run visible campaigns. Not that they have to be too visible to play a role.

In 2000 Libertarian Senate candidate Jeff Jared had very little media exposure in the run up to the election. But after Maria Cantwell won by about 2,200 votes, defeated Sen. Slade Gorton blamed Jared (who got 64.734 votes) for his defeat.

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There is no stink to Cantwell/Wilson, but it is a story

Posted by David Postman at 10:40 AM

Of the 117 posts I've written before this one, the most comments have come on those having to do with the Maria Cantwell/Mark Wilson story. I think it is a fascinating story. And apparently you do, too.

In one meeting with campaign aides, Wilson goes from Cantwell's No. 1 anti-war opponent to a well-paid outreach director for her campaign. I've been focused on why Wilson made the move, and, frankly, his explanation that he has seen an evolution in Cantwell's war position doesn't ring true for me. I think he was convinced by Dal LaMagna — who I bet can be a pretty good evangelist — that coming into the campaign would do more good than a run on his own that everyone knew would be a loser.

In hindsight, no one should be surprised by this outbreak of pragmatism by Wilson. He has run before as a Green and a Libertarian. And in his role as Libertarian he gladly adopted the party's platform, including this statement, which doesn't sound like part of Cantwell's program: "If the government took less of our hard earned money, and spent what they do take wisely, the seniors would be so wealthy they would ask the government for nothing."

That was in 2002 when he ran against Rep. Jay Inslee. In defending Wilson in a 36th District Democrats list-serve debate, Chad Lupkes wrote last month, "Yes, four years ago Mark Wilson ran as a Libertarian. The Libertarians knew his views and positions, but told him what he needed to say to get the Libertarian vote." As Wilson told me in May, "Using those talking points was the cost of having help in ballot access."

I think Cantwell made a smart move bringing Wilson and LaMagna in. Don't believe it? Look at the comment threads here and you see people who a week ago were bashing Cantwell now telling us all there's no story here; nothing to see, move along.

To suggest that reporting Wilson's salary is a non-story is absurd. The story is about a guy who got a job. It is natural to ask how much he's getting paid and I'm willing to bet that if this were a Republican campaign story, the left would be demanding to know how much money was involved — and whether the money could be traced to Halliburton.

A recent comment on this blog included this: "Mr. Postman did state that Mr. Wilson's pay for joining Cantwell's campaign surprised him (with the suggestion that there is something nefarious or sinister) about this in his original post." This is making me nuts. There was no suggestion of anything. Maybe I just don't know the inside workings of campaigns as well as others, but when I thought about how much Wilson would be paid, I thought it would be less than $8,000 a month. What I meant by saying I was surprised was that I was surprised.

No, it is not the most important story in the world, or even in Washington state. And if Wilson or Cantwell staffers had answered questions about how much Wilson was getting paid, this part of the story would be in the past by now. It is an unusual move to make a primary opponent a highly-paid campaign staffer. If anyone has any other examples please let me know. But if not, don't tell me this isn't a story.

But here's the bottom line: There is no scandal here. There is no stink. Other than waiting too long to tell us how much Wilson is making, the Cantwell campaign has talked openly about bringing him in from the cold. They talked on the record about approaching LaMagna, giving him a face-to-face meeting with Cantwell and having senior staff meet with Wilson.

You know what would have been a scandal? Wilson dropping out of the race for "personal reasons" or to "focus on his business" and having the Cantwell campaign buy $8,000 a month of electrical supplies from Wilson's business. That would have stunk.

The Sound Politics argument that it may not be a bribe in the legal sense is of course a suggestion that it is a bribe. It is the perfect no-win syllogism when the other possibility offered is that Cantwell told Wilson "that she would change her position on the war, making American defeat her goal, thus joining many on the left."

Given the depths of political scandals in the country, how can it be said that this "smells of everything most people don't like about politics."

Partisans on both sides of this issue are letting their agendas cloud their thinking. And it's only July.

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July 13, 2006

Dems look to wage fight to rev up base

Posted by David Postman at 4:54 PM

The New York Times reports today that Democrats want a minimum wage fight to play a central role in this year's mid-term elections:

Democrats, seeking to energize voters over economic issues in much the way that Republicans have rallied conservatives with efforts to ban same-sex marriage, have begun a broad campaign to raise the minimum wage and focus attention on income inequality.

The paper said ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage are in the works in more than six states "where Republicans are in danger of losing House or Senate seats."

That's not the case in Washington state, obviously, since voters already approved a minimum wage initiative. But that doesn't mean Democrats don't want the issue to be part of the debate here, too.

In the past four weeks, Democrats in the U.S. House have forced seven votes in support of increasing the $5.15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Democrats attached votes to a variety of other issues, including the estate tax repeal, appropriations, an adjournment resolution, the Internet gambling ban, a credit rating bill and a vocational education bill.

The one vote that passed was a non-binding motion attached to the voc-ed bill. As Hotline reported, and I saw thanks to this from David Goldstein:

Looks like Boehner and Co released the Conference. By a margin of 260-159, the House this afternoon passed a non-binding "motion to instruct" procedure in support of upping the minimum wage to $7.25 per-hour. Though symbolic, the vote allows the vulnerable GOPers to point to an actual vote matching their promises. All the endangered GOPers on the letter voted 'yea,' as did Ney and Gerlach.

The vote also provides the Dems with a record of which GOPers voted 'nay.' Those opposing it, as Rahm surely scribbled down, included: Mike Sodrel (IN), Charlie Taylor (NC), Thelma Drake (VA), Dave Reichert (WA) and J.D. Hayworth (AZ).

The vote was not lost on Reichert opponent Darcy Burner, who issued a press release saying it showed Reichert out of touch with Washington voters. And her always enthusiastic backer Goldstein said:

"So Reichert refuses to join vulnerable moderate Republicans in supporting a vote on the minimum wage. I suppose that just shows Reichert for what he really is: a vulnerable conservative."

Reichert spokeswoman Kimberly Cadena said Washington state's voter-mandated minimum wage shows Congress does not need to raise the rate:

"Congressman Reichert voted no because he believes that minimum wage should be dictated by economic indicators and state and local governments, not the federal government. That principle works successfully in Washington state, which has one of the highest minimum wage rates in the country, higher than the current federal minimum wage rate. Even if the proposed federal minimum wage increase had passed, Washington State's minimum wage rate is still higher than the proposed increase. "

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Wilson making $8,000 a month on Cantwell campaign

Posted by David Postman at 3:33 PM

Sen. Maria Cantwell's campaign manager just issued a statement about the hiring of former Cantwell foe Mark Wilson that says Wilson will be paid $8,000 a month through the election as a campaign outreach director.

The campaign has come under criticism for not releasing the figure before it would be made public in Federal Election Commission filings in September.

The statement from campaign manager Matt Butler said:

"This week, Senator Cantwell was pleased and honored to accept the endorsement of Mark Wilson. Mark had been running for the Democratic primary nomination for the past 16 months.

"Mark's experiences as a candidate, military veteran, Teamster, progressive activist and small businessman make him an ideal person for the Cantwell campaign's outreach director.

"As a small businessman, Mark has put his company on hold to work for the final four months of the campaign. He has accepted a full-time staff position as outreach director at $8,000 per month through the election. We are pleased to have Mark on our team.

"Mark has already hit the ground running, and in his first four days on our staff he has attended events from Cowlitz to Kitsap to Whatcom, talked to voters across the state and done numerous media interviews.

"With the Senate in session until early August, and again from September at least until early October, Mark will be invaluable in helping get out the Cantwell campaign's message of Maria putting us first all across the state."

I have to admit I am surprised at how much Wilson is being paid.

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McGavick boycotting NY Times, during the week at least

Posted by David Postman at 10:54 AM

Like Dick Cheney, Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick is offended that the New York Times published a story about the administration's secret program to examine personal banking records for terrorist links. And like Cheney, he says it helped the enemy.

McGavick said at a stop in Belfair Tuesday on his Open Mike RV tour of the state, that he has stopped buying the New York Times during the week in protest. He said he didn't know what public good came of the story, but he was confident "it helped the bad guys." He said the paper should have listened to the administration's pleas not to publish.

You can find a link to the campaign's audio of the event here.

"To see the New York Times starting to just run with everything they get I find deeply offensive when they've been asked by people in a position to know to show restraint."

McGavick said the government has to do a better job controlling leaks, and he said he's all for a free press. But he said a boycott of the paper was a good idea.

"I think public opinion's a big piece of this because our reprobation toward them, our objection to their behavior, in economic and other ways, is a pretty good way to start. So I for one, I'm not taking the weekly (weekday) New York Times anymore. That's it for me. I just thought that was awful, that that tradition of restraint is being broken."

But McGavick's not too mad. He told me he's still buying the fat Sunday edition of the NY Times.

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July 12, 2006

McDermott to Bush: Send Rumsfeld to Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 2:57 PM

Congressman Jim McDermott said on the House floor earlier today that President Bush should send Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq until the last U.S. soldier leaves:

"The Secretary says he sees progress every time he visits. Imagine what he might see by actually living and working there. There is no higher priority for the President, U.S. military and America these days than Iraq. It stands to reason that the President's military appointee should be directed to report for duty in Baghdad."

McDermott was particularly bothered by this quote from Rumsfeld during his surprise visit to Iraq today: "Each time I come to Iraq I see progress." Said McDermott, according to a transcript provided by his office:

"By working in Iraq, the Secretary could accept direct responsibility for generating more of what he calls progress every time he visits Iraq. He could show America and the rest of the world the progress that only he and the President pretend to see."

Only Rumsfeld and Bush see progress in Iraq? McDermott should talk to his colleague Rep. Rick Larsen, who told the Bellingham Herald last week:

"I can see progress being made compared to the second trip I had," said Larsen, D-Lake Stevens. "There continues to be progress but there is still a long way to go."

Larsen has been a vocal critic of the administration's handling of the war, reconstruction and occupation and in three trips to Iraq he has not glossed over problems. He told the Bellingham paper his first trip in 2003 was "fairly open," and an October 2004 visit was a "180-degree turn" as insurgent attacks soared. But even after that '04 trip Larsen said he saw some improvement, saying, "Having just returned from Iraq last week, I can say that while progress is being made on reconstruction in Iraq, we have a long, long way to go."

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Shot at builders misses mark

Posted by David Postman at 2:08 PM

The Building Industry Association of Washington is a pretty tough group that's used to being called bullies. They can even be sneaky. But the group didn't do what they've been accused of in this year's state Supreme Court campaign.

A piece by former Washington State Bar Association President Ron Ward on our op-ed page yesterday includes a claim that the BIAW tried to exploit a fund-raising loophole to help a candidate friendly to builders. Ward, in writing about conservative money pouring into judicial races this year, said:

"Just prior to the new campaign-finance laws that took effect this June, BIAW dumped $100,000 into another state Supreme Court campaign. If Washington voters buy BIAW's bill of goods in November, it will signal the end of the people's control over our state's judicial system."

BIAW did not contribute $100,000 to the candidate in question, John Groen. Two homebuilding firms did contribute a combined $40,000, though the owner of one of those companies said no one at BIAW talked to them about giving to the well-known property rights attorney.

The BIAW didn't dump money into the Groen campaign at the last minute because, according to BIAW executive vice president Tom McCabe, he didn't want to get the negative publicity he knew it would bring. He said in an e-mail:

"I had every opportunity to dump big money (much more than $190,000) into Groen's campaign prior to the deadline. I was urged to do it by advisers and elected officials. But I didn't do it because I knew the story would be 'BIAW Ignores Spirit of Election Laws.' ... So, even though we didn't do it, we're still being blamed for it. Makes me wonder if I did the right thing."
Ward is a member of Citizens to Uphold the Constitution, a PAC formed to help combat the conservative money that is funding Supreme Court challengers this year. Lisa MacLean, a political consultant working with the group, helped Ward write the column and told me the BIAW claim was an error based on a misreading of an earlier news story.

To be sure, the BIAW will help Groen. McCabe said the group already donated the $2,800 the new law allows and will pay for an independent expenditure campaign to help Groen and other judicial candidates. Times reporter Ralph Thomas told me he has already seen boxes full of campaign flyers for Groen and Supreme Court candidate Steve Johnston at BIAW headquarters.

Citizen's to Uphold the Constitution was originally called FairPac. The name was changed, MacLean said, to not cede ground to the conservatives who claim their judicial candidates are the true defenders of the constitution.
MacLean said BIAW won't be satisfied "until they can buy as many branches of government as possible" and see the courts as the "lowest hanging fruit."

Clearly, BIAW makes an attractive boogey man. The group will spend a lot of money in the coming months and there will be plenty for the opposition to criticize. But there's no sign here that anything sneaky was going on

UPDATE: Ron Ward left me a voice mail responding to my question about his op-ed. "They can parse the issue as they please," he said of the BIAW, adding if you read the news about the Supreme Court races "it's clear what happened here in these judicial races and BIAW is at the root of what is happening."

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Cantwell, McGavick report fund raising totals

Posted by David Postman at 8:36 AM

Sen. Maria Cantwell is beginning the summer campaign season with more than six times as much money in the bank as challenger Mike McGavick. An incumbent is expected to raise more money than a challenger. But the gap will raise the question again about how much of his own money the wealthy McGavick is willing to spend on his campaign.

The campaigns don't have to file reports with the FEC until Saturday, but both have issued press releases touting 2nd quarter totals, though lacking detail of who gave how much.

Cantwell raised about $2 million for the quarter, for a total in the campaign so far of $11 million, and has $6.4 million cash on hand. McGavick raised about $1.7 million in the quarter, for a total in the campaign of more than $4.4 million, and has more than $1 million cash on hand.

Where did the money come from? We'll have to wait to see the reports to know for sure. McGavick's campaign has made much of the fact that Cantwell gets most of her money from out of state. According to OpenSecrets.org at the end of the first quarter Cantwell had received 58 percent of her money from out of state and McGavick had gotten 17 percent.

That percentage is already shifting for McGavick. His press release this week said he has collected nearly 70 percent of his money from Washington residents. Cantwell chooses to count the number of contributions from in and out of state, not the amount of money raised, and says it's about a 50-50 split.

I was about to dash off a line that says it's not unusual for incumbents to get a majority of their money from outside their home states. That's true. But at looking through OpenSecrets at competitive Senate races across the country — and again these numbers are only for the first quarter of the year — I found only two candidates reporting a larger share of their money from out of state. Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., has collected 63 percent of his money from outside of Tennessee in his race for the seat of retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Sen. Conrad Burns, the Montana Republican engulfed in the Jack Abramoff scandal has gotten 79 percent of his money from elsewhere.

Some local numbers should serve as a note of caution to Republicans about making too big a deal out of this. In the 2nd District, Republican Doug Roulstone's first quarter numbers show he collected 33 percent from out of state, compared to incumbent Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen's 18 percent.

On another money matter, the state Republican Party pointed out something I missed the other day. Cantwell's first TV ad of the campaign was not paid for by her campaign, but by the state Democratic Party. What difference does it make? Cantwell touts a no-PAC pledge. But that doesn't cover money raised by the party, as I mentioned a few weeks back. I don't doubt that Cantwell's self-imposed ban makes it tougher to raise money for her campaign. But this is another example of how PACs and the special interests behind them will be a part of the campaign to re-elect Cantwell, even if the money doesn't go into her campaign's bank account.

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Gingrich here Saturday

Posted by David Postman at 7:08 AM

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who once declared Washington state "ground zero of the Republican revolution" of 1994, returns to the state Saturday to help Republicans hold on to their post-revolution majority.

Gingrich was invited to the state by Congressman Dave Reichert's campaign. He will host a private fund-raiser for the first-term 8th District Republican on Saturday. The campaign wouldn't give any more details. Reichert's chief of staff, Mike Shields, is a former Gingrich aide. Shields was a campaign spokesman for Gingrich and his communications director in his post-Speaker work.

Gingrich will also headline a fund-raising lunch Saturday in Everett Events Center for Doug Roulstone, the Republican candidate in the 2nd District challenging Rep. Rick Larsen.

UPDATE:Gingrich will also be doing a roundtable session in Bellevue Saturday for high-end state party donors, says state GOP chair Diane Tebelius.

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July 11, 2006

Congress moves to stop on-line poker

Posted by David Postman at 7:00 AM

Congress looks like it is going to crack down on Internet gambling sites. The L.A. Times says the bill is "designed to choke off the flow of U.S. money to poker and other gambling sites, most of which are based overseas because Internet gambling is illegal in the United States."

It does not appear that the federal bill goes as far as the new state law, which made it illegal to transmit "gambling information" on the Internet. The federal law, "would make it illegal for banks and credit-card companies to make payments to these sites and increase the maximum prison time for violations from two to five years. It also would allow law-enforcement officials to force Internet service providers to remove links to the sites."

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July 10, 2006

Cantwell's first TV ad

Posted by David Postman at 4:56 PM

Sen. Maria Cantwell's first TV commercial of the campaign season began airing today. It's called "First" and runs 30 seconds.

It focuses on Cantwell's energy work, with shots of newspaper headlines relating to her dogging of Enron and calling for an investigation of gas price gouging.

You can watch it here.

It's pretty much a sticking-up-for-the-little-guy ad as well as a way to show voters that Cantwell has been busy in D.C. (You know, just in case like Dal LaMagna you haven't been getting your telephone calls returned.)

It's running on cable in all the state's media markets.

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The man behind the Cantwell/Wilson partnership

Posted by David Postman at 2:17 PM

It was no coincidence that Maria Cantwell added two liberal activists to her campaign this weekend. There's a connection between the decision by former primary opponent Mark Wilson to join the campaign as a paid staffer and the addition of Dal LaMagna as co-chairman of the campaign. The two moves were announced within a few hours of each other Saturday.

It was LaMagna who got the ball rolling. In a matter of a few days LaMagna, a liberal Democratic businessman, went from frustration at being unable to connect with Cantwell -- including contemplating his own challenge to her in the primary -- to brokering a deal to end both Wilson's campaign and his own putative effort.

LaMagna, who owns Tweezerman, a personal care business and founded ProgressiveGovernment.org, said he had been organizing progressives who felt disenfranchised by Cantwell's campaign because of her stance on the Iraq war, and the Patriot Act, among other things.

"I put all those people together and they just expressed an enormous amount of frustration that they're not being listened to, or if they were, nothing was happening."

LaMagna, who also blogs occasionally at The Huffington Post, said he wanted Cantwell to hold a forum, perhaps with Congressmen Jay Inslee and Jim McDermott, to talk about the war, national security and other foreign policy issues.

"I didn't get a response from the campaign and week after week went by and I started to get frustrated. They didn't get back to me, so then I started talking about running."

He said he would have run as a Democrat and not aimed his effort so much at Cantwell but at the Bush adminsitration and Republican candidate Mike McGavick. He talked to Wilson about it, and to the other Democrat in the race, Hong Tran.

Tran said LaMagna and Wilson called her the same day last week to talk about a possible LaMagna run and broached whether she would drop out. She said she wouldn't.

Tran said LaMagna told her she was a great candidate "but the reality is you don't have the millions of dollars I have." She said he was "sort of strategizing about that." Wilson repeated that message, she said, saying that neither he nor Tran had the money that LaMagna could put into the campaign.

LaMagna said the Cantwell campaign got wind of his potential candidacy and suddenly he had a meeting with the candidate. And, he said, "She converted me."

In all the talk about whether Cantwell changed her position on the war, as Wilson says, or not, as she says, LaMagna has the most insightful take. It's not that Cantwell has changed, but that in a one-on-one conversation she was able to convince him that she cares deeply about getting the U.S. out of Iraq and is not the uncaring neo-con some anti-war activists make her out to be.

"I basically left my meeting with Maria feeling that in my mind she is nowhere near Joe Lieberman, for instance, on the war. She felt compassionate for the Iraqi people that were subjugated by a psychopathic murderer. ... She's not interested in an occupation or permanent military bases and she's willing to happily start engaging all progressives.

"At that point I said for this to happen someone in the campaign has to work on this continually and she said, 'Why don't you do that.' And I said 'OK, if you're going to be responsive to me I'll be happy to do it.' "

LaMagna then talked to three top Cantwell aides and asked if they'd be willing to bring Wilson into the campaign and they agreed. LaMagna said he hopes that Tran will join, too. That's unlikely. Tran told me this morning she would not join the Cantwell campaign or drop out, no matter what Cantwell now says about the war or other issues. She said Wilson and LaMagna were bought off.

"It is interesting because they both said last week they didn't think Cantwell could win because she doesn't have the support of the progressive voters and the anti-war voters. That's the most shocking thing to me that now that suddenly they're in the campaign that is going to change something. It's not about them, it's about her, and nothing is going to change about how she continues to support this war."

She said Wilson "just liked the limelight as a candidate and if he joined her campaign he still gets that attention." LaMagna, she said, has been on the "fringe of politics and he wanted more of a role and this gives it to him."

Cantwell aide Michael Meehan, one of the three LaMagna approached about bringing Wilson on board, would add little to the story. "Successful campaigns are about addition and with the addition of Mark and Dal we will be successful," he said.

The recent days events show that the Cantwell campaign had not been doing a good job of listening to the base if someone with the stature of LaMagna had to threaten to run against her to get a meeting. But it also shows that Cantwell can be convincing one-on-one even when her campaign image and the organization of the campaign shows her to be unapproachable or intransigent. Was this a one-shot deal to quiet anti-war activists or a signal of a new attitude from the campaign?

UPDATE: I just had a chance to talk to Michael Meehan. He said that LaMagna is a maximum donor to Cantwell's campaign and that the businessman was working with progressives in the party. "I thought he was an advocate trying to help us out," Meehan said.

It was a real attention-getter when word came that LaMagna was thinking about running against Cantwell. "He went from a top financial supporter to somebody who was considering a primary challenge. I wondered how you get from one to the other," Meehan said.

Cantwell, LaMagna and Meehan met July 3. The next day was LaMagna's birthday and he invited Meehan to attend a party, and said Wilson would be there, too. It was there that they discussed Wilson joining the campaign. Meehan said Wilson, who campaigned for more than a year, and LaMagna "represent an important part of the base" and:

"You either take your political activism outside the tent and run in a primary or you come inside the tent and work on the campaign that best represents what you believe. And we are glad that they came in to do that."

Meehan said that some of the frustration expressed by LaMagna, and others, comes from the fact that Cantwell has been in session in D.C. and unable to do a lot of the face-to-face meetings that are important and could have headed off some discontent.

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More on Cantwell, Wilson and McGavick, too

Posted by David Postman at 8:56 AM

If you're hungry for more on the Senate race other than what made Mark Wilson join the Cantwell campaign, see this mid-summer summation by Randy Stapilus at Ridenbaugh Press and this response from Patrick at Respectfully Republican.

At Sound Politics Eric Earling has his take, too, and says he's noticing a similar theme in recent press coverage.

But, if you're still trying to figure Wilson out, check out The Left Shue. Chad Shue, in many ways Wilson's most vocal supporter, recounts his conversation with Wilson.

Probably what matters most for the campaign is that Shue says he'll vote for Cantwell in November, even though he says he "will have little reason to vote in the Democratic primary."

He has one clear disagreement with his friend Wilson: "I have not seen the shift in Cantwell that Mark alludes to in his statements of new found support."

Shue said Wilson told him that he asked Cantwell the big war question, "how would you have voted on the war if you knew then what you knew today?" Wilson said Cantwell told him "that under those circumstances there would not have been a vote." Wrote Shue:

I felt concerned that I had to point out to Mark Wilson that the answer only dodged the question and did not say how she might vote in the future (think Iran). ... He said that he would continue to press her to be clearer on the subject. Mark was not able to reassure me on the issue of the Patriot Act and if he felt Cantwell "got it" on the question of civil liberties. He certainly did not have any answer on her "Free Trade" votes (as recently as last week).

Andrew Villeneuve has his own take on whether Cantwell has evolved on the war. He quotes my post from yesterday where Cantwell said she hasn't changed her position but that recent statements and votes have been a "a reaffirmation for people of what I've been saying."

He argues she has changed.

While what Senator Cantwell said is true, it's also true that her position on Iraq has been slowly evolving over the last few months and even years.

How can both those things be true? But no matter, because Villeneuve says Democrats can hardly be held responsible for their war votes:

Democrats were trapped in a hostile environment and presented with false information, included cherrypicked intelligence from the Bush administration which was extensively propped up by the traditional media during the prelude to the invasion. (For more on this, see Eric Boehlert's new book ..."Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over For Bush".

The right wing used its powerful political infrastructure to intimidate many Democrats into supporting the war authorization. Cooperation from the traditional media certainly helped to seal the deal.

UPDATE: Andrew has updated his post with a response to my question.

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July 9, 2006

Mark Wilson tells supporters only his strategy has changed

Posted by David Postman at 8:41 AM

It appears that Mark Wilson who will announce formally later today that he is endorsing Sen. Maria Cantwell will become a full-time staffer for the campaign trying to reach out to liberals. In an e-mail to supporters last night, which Howie in Seattle has posted, Wilson said:

Unlike McGavick, who is able to campaign every day, Senator Cantwell still has a full time job-- representing us. On top of her job she is campaigning. She needs our support and help to unify all progressives behind her. She asked and I've agreed to work with her to help engage her campaign with you and all progressives.

My values and issues have not changed. My strategy has.

I will be taking an active full-time role in Senator Cantwell's re-election campaign. I will be a constant voice for the peace and justice community, for veterans, military families and labor. We all need to be fully engaged.

As for the war, which propelled Wilson into the race, he said:

I have had a deep and personal one-on-one conversation with Senator Cantwell. I came away convinced we are on the same path when it comes to solving the crisis in Iraq and the potential crisis with Iran.

UPDATE: Cantwell and Wilson just appeared together at Cantwell's Lake Union campaign headquarters. Wilson read a statement similar to what he sent his supporters.

He will be paid by the campaign for outreach to liberals and what Wilson called "the peace and justice community." He wouldn't say how much he'll be paid.

If you were wondering, as I have, how they would explain the path Wilson took from Cantwell's No. 1 anti-war critic to a member of her campaign staff, they chose not to.

Asked specifically about Cantwell's position on the Iraq war and occupation, Wilson said, "I'm seeing an evolution."

But Cantwell was clear -- at least as clear as she could be in the very short time allowed for questions at what was billed as a "major campaign announcement" -- that she has not changed her position on Iraq. She said recent statements she has made and the recent Senate vote calling for troop withdrawal beginning this year have been "a reaffirmation for people of what I've been saying."

State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz issued a statement today that said in part: "Mark Wilson's voice has demonstrated and added strength to the Democratic Party as we seek a solution to the crisis in the Middle East to bring our troops home." Pelz said a few months back that Cantwell's stance on the war was hurting volunteer recruitment, a position he essentially retracted, though others continued to say was true.

The opposition was heard from today, too. Brian Walton, deputy press secretary of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said in by e-mail,

"A six year incumbent still trying to win over her own party isn't something you'd expect Cantwell to be excited about, and certainly won't bring an end to the booing she faces from her base on the campaign trail."

I think he may be wrong about the booing. From comments here and reading other blogs the past two days it seems many people are willing to use Wilson's move as a sign that, as Josh Feit at The Stranger said, "The war is over."

Other anti-war candidates will now try to take Wilson's place, including Democrat Hong Tran, Libertarian Bruce Guthrie and Green Aaron Dixon.

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July 8, 2006

Mark Wilson to endorse Cantwell

Posted by David Postman at 2:54 PM

One of Sen. Maria Cantwell's biggest critics will soon become an ally in her re-election campaign. Mark Wilson, an anti-war Democrat who has been challenging Cantwell in the primary, will endorse Cantwell at a press conference tomorrow. He will campaign full time for the first-term senator, according to a media advisory just issued by Cantwell's campaign.

Wilson, who in the past has run as a Green and Libertarian, has galvanized a group of anti-war Democrats, who have kept up months of criticism of Cantwell and her stance on the Iraq war and occupation. They have pressured Cantwell to publicly say her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Attorney Hong Tran is also challenging Cantwell on an anti-war platform but it has been Wilson who was in first and held the most support among the anti-war crowd.

Just this week the Washington Post said this in an assessment of Cantwell's race:

Cantwell has drawn the ire of the liberal left for her continued support for the war in Iraq (this stance breeds controversy in a state in which 59% of the population favors immediate withdrawal), although her recent vote in favor of the Levin-Reed amendment may help ease those tensions somewhat. Two anti-war Democrats are weighing primary bids against Cantwell and must decide by the filing deadline toward the end of the month. The question is not whether disaffected Democrats defect to McGavick but whether they stay home on Election Day.

The Cantwell campaign would not give any details of tomorrow's announcement. And I haven't been able to reach Wilson yet. The press advisory doesn't say Wilson will drop out, but does say he'll endorse Cantwell and campaign for her full time.

Wilson has been particularly sharp in his criticism of Cantwell, and not just on the war. At last month's Democratic state convention, he said, "You can't be a true environmentalist when you support the pillage and plunder of war or neo-con fast-tracking, free-trading policies."

On his Web site Wilson asks "Does Maria Cantwell really represent you?," and includes a list of things she voted for that he disagreed with, including the war, the Patriot Act, NAFTA, confirmation of Condoleeza Rice, and the Bush energy bill.

The Cantwell campaign bills tomorrow's event as a "major campaign announcement." Clearly the hope is that without Wilson in the race the anti-war and liberal criticism will subside.

UPDATE: I see the Cantwell campaign has also just issued a press release saying Dal LaMagna will be joining the campaign as a co-chairman. It certainly looks like the campaign is trying to boost Cantwell's standings among liberals in the party.

LaMagna, who lives in Poulsbo, comes with excellent progressive credentials. He is the founder of New York-based Tweezerman, a "personal care tools" company that, according to Cantwell's announcement, "practices responsible capitalism." LaMagna also started ProgressiveGovernment.org, which tracks Bush Administration nominees. The group also publishes a list of ideal candidates for Cabinet officers, including Congressman Jay Inslee for energy, Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney for Homeland Security andNoam Chomsky and Gary Hart for various positions.

(CLARIFICATION: Bill Moyer, executive director of ProgressiveGovernment.org and the associated Backbone Campaign e-mails to say I mischaracterize the Cabinet listings. Those names come from users of the site and are not the group's "ideal" candidates. The full list can be seen here. The conversation page I linked to originally shows those "nominees" who have agreed to participate in conference calls with ProgressiveGovernment.org.)

LaMagna has run for office in New York and is a regular blogger at the Huffington Post.

Wilson spoke with David Goldstein at horsesass.org who reports that Wilson had a personal meeting with Cantwell and "came away convinced that she's working to bring our troops home."

UPDATE UPDATE: Wilson is definitely part of the campaign. I tried reaching him by phone and e-mail today but never heard back. I did get this e-mail from Cantwell campaign spokeswoman Amanda Mahnke:

"Mark Wilson asked me to drop you a line in response to your message. He'll be speaking at the press conference tomorrow, so I hope you can make it... ."

What'll be interesting to see now of course is whether Wilson's supporters follow his lead. That'll be a hard sell. Chad Shue, a liberal blogger and Snohomish County Democrat, has been among Wilson's strongest supporters. He wrote recently on his blog, The Left Shue, about his enthusiasm about voting for Wilson instead of Cantwell in the September primary:

I don't know about you but I am tired of "lesser" and I am certainly tired of "evil". In September, Washington Democrats will have the opportunity to vote to a positive change in the U.S. Senate. Mark Wilson stands FOR American Labor, FOR American Civil Liberties, FOR Universal Healthcare, FOR a Responsible Energy Policy. As a matter of fact, the only thing Mark Wilson is against is the entire Bush/Neo-con/DLC agenda.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: One of my favorite places to take the pulse of Washington liberals is washblog. And sure enough they're already talking about Wilson's move there, with some wondering if this signals it is time to sing Kumbaya. One commenter there says Wilson accomplished something in his aborted campaign:

I'd like to think that his mere presence and the issues he brought up that divided us helped to move Cantwell back a little more to the left. At the least, it opened her eyes a bit. I'd like to think that way at least. And can we sing something else besides Kumbaya? Maybe some Pink Floyd or something? by Pen on Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 06:01:28 PM PST

And the Northwest Progressive Institute Blog declares that it is, in fact, time to begin singing:

The news, which may come as a surprise to many in the state's political circles, is a great sign that the State Democratic Party is quite healthy going into the 2006 midterm elections. While we Democrats prize dissent and the freedom to speak our minds, we also know how important it is to be united.

We can't win and become the majority party in Washington D.C. if we are fractured and splintered.

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July 7, 2006

The wiki-fication of politics, local style

Posted by David Postman at 7:30 AM

My column in The Times this morning is about a new wiki-based campaign and political site started by Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia.

Coincidentally to this week's unveiling of Wales' Campaigns Wikia a local wiki-based political site goes live today, moreperfect.org.

Started by two Seattle political activists, more perfect wants to do a lot of what Wales hopes to see from Campaigns Wikia. It is a place for people to collaborate on politics and public policy. To help people understand what this is all about more perfect encourages people to experiment by rewriting the state or U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights or the state's Priorities of Government.

The site was developed by political consultant Timothy Killian and transportation activist Chad Maglaque. I've known Killian for years through his work on medical marijuana initiatives and other campaigns. He says it was the failure of the first pot initiative that led to the new site.

"In 1997, when the first Medical Marijuana initiative failed, my brother Rob and I sat down to pen new language for a new initiative. After we'd written a simple draft, we took what I've come to learn is an unusual step: we sent our draft language out to those groups who had opposed our previous effort. We asked for their feedback.

"To our surprise, they actually vetted our text, giving us valuable feedback on what they did and did not like in our initiative. We didn't use all of their suggestions, but we used enough to make better law, and to increase our chances of passing the initiative, which we did in 1998."

For these new collaborative political sites to work people will have to set aside ideological differences at least enough to be able to keep talking to each other. I think these things naturally tend toward liberals, as well, and it seems harder to imagine conservatives jumping in.

Wales doesn't think that's going to be a problem. He labels himself something of a libertarian and says that is an ideology that runs deep in the internet political world. Blogs, the last big internet invention adopted by mainstream campaigns, do best when they are ideological.

Wales said blogs are most often ideological because it usually represents an individual voice "and I think to get noticed you have to say stuff that gets people excited."

He and Killian think the wiki world is different and can foster collaboration among political foes in even the most divisive issues. And they think big, as Killian said:

"I think the process of using a wiki forces a level of collaboration that is previously unknown in all of human history. This application of technology can change the way we think about politics, and the way we interact with each other."

UPDATE: Another approach has also sprung up from local roots. wikiGop and wikiDemocrats divide the partisans up between two different sites. Both are beta sites created by Wetpaint, a Seattle company.

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Cantwell on Social Security

Posted by David Postman at 6:44 AM

Sen. Maria Cantwell's staff has responded to a series of questions I had about Social Security. The questions followed an interview last week with Mike McGavick about his position.

McGavick said he supported means testing -- voluntarily at first but then mandatory if people don't send the government back enough money -- and shifting Social Security to privately managed individual retirement accounts. He would guarantee benefits of people at or near retirement age.

The heart of Cantwell's position is on her campaign website where she says she opposes privatization and proposes the "Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers Act" that would set benefits "on a more realistic assessment of how much elderly Americans need to get by each month." The legislation does not include a source of funding for the increased costs of the benefits, according to her staff.

The only extra money for the system would come from Cantwell's hope that the government should be able to get a better rate of return on the funds currently invested in the Social Security Trust fund.

Cantwell opposes any privatization. She encourages people to save more on their own but "believes it is too risky to convert an individual's Social Security account to an unguaranteed private account managed by Wall Street."

She opposes means testing or binding Congress to an up or down vote on a plan from a bipartisan commission, which she says would be abdicating oversight authority.

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July 6, 2006

Eyman on the radio

Posted by David Postman at 4:58 PM

Blatherwatcher Michael Hood, who follows local talk radio closer than anyone, says Tim Eyman will be sitting in next week on KTTH's morning show with Dan Sytman. It's another interesting move by program director Tom Clendening. He was responsible for giving a show to horsesass blogger David Goldstein, who got his start as the anti-Eyman and is now heard weekly on KTTH's sister station, KIRO. I've got to agree with Hood that the big question is whether Eyman can talk about something other than his own initiatives. I've never seen that happen. And besides, having talk radio hosts promote initiatives can be a risky business.

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In other news

Posted by David Postman at 8:02 AM

  • The Herald's Jerry Cornfield finds that there are more than enough Washington National Guard troops willing to volunteer for southern border duty. Gov. Chris Gregoire said she wouldn't order anyone to go, but so far more than twice the number needed have said they'd go.
  • Congressman Rick Larsen is back from a trip to Iraq, and tells Jon Gambrell at the Bellingham Herald that he's seeing progress.
  • At the Slog Cienna Madrid points out the new Campaigns Wikia site started by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. In his open letter Wales said:
    I am launching today a new Wikia website aimed at being a central meeting ground for people on all sides of the political spectrum who think that it is time for politics to become more participatory, and more intelligent.

    Madrid is all for it, but says, "there is the very real possibility that the system of collaborative writing, editing, and flagging that makes Wikipedia so great will disintegrate into gridlocked contrarian mud slinging when applied to the touchy world of politics."

    This morning the entire mission statement at Campaigns Wikia was replaced temporarily with this bit of participatory dialogue: "This site also sucks!"


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July 5, 2006

Burner breaks $1 million in race against Reichert

Posted by David Postman at 3:02 PM

Democratic congressional candidate Darcy Burner has raised $1.1 million in her race against Republican Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. In her filing to the Federal Election Commission due July 15 Burner will report $754,800 cash on hand, according to her campaign manager, Zach Silk. In the three months ending last week Burner raised $581,000.

Silk said there will be some fine-tuning of the numbers before the FEC filing is due. But he's confident any changes will be minor and he's thrilled with the totals. Reichert likely had a good quarter of fundraising, too, including an event headlined by President Bush. (I've just asked Reichert's campaign for numbers too.) In the last reports Reichert showed more than $1.3 million raised while Burner had about $536,000.

With Burner's most lucrative quarter yet, Republicans will have to find a new spin to put on her fund raising success. Last quarter, Burner raised more than Reichert and, according to the King County Journal,
GOP chairwoman Diane Tebelius said, "That's her early money. We'll see what happens after the early money comes in."

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Inslee's GOP foe to move into 1st District

Posted by David Postman at 9:52 AM

As reader Will pointed out first in comments on an earlier post, the new Republican candidate against Congressman Jay Inslee does not live in the 1st District.

Not yet at least. Issaquah School Board Member Larry Ishmael has sold his house on the Sammamish plateau and he and his wife are moving to a Kirkland condo this summer, campaign manager Will Niccolls told me. Ishmael will also soon be resigning from the school board.

It's not required, though. House rules and state law say that lawmakers need only live in the state they represent, not the district. Republicans faced this in 2002 when their candidate against Congressman Adam Smith in the 9th District lived outside the boundaries, and also against Smith in 1998. In the '98 race, the Republican candidate, Ron Taber, found a carpet-bagging solution that required the shortest of commutes.

Taber says he has moved into a rental home he owns just over the creek from his Thurston County ranch. The ranch is in the 3rd District. Over a creek at the edge of the property is the 9th, and his new home.

Days will be spent on the ranch, tending to animals and running the campaign. But at night, Taber said, he will return to his bed in the 9th.

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Seattle Weekly editor resigns

Posted by David Postman at 7:50 AM

Weekly editor-in-chief Knute "Skip" Berger gave notice and leaves the paper in six weeks. He made the announcement public Monday afternoon on his new blog:

"As I told the staff, I've been through four ownership groups, five publishers, and have seen the paper into the online era. Now we're six months into the Village Voice/New Times merger era, and I've decided it's time to be a free-range mossback again."

Berger is a wise man among too many wise guys in journalism. I wish him well.

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Does McGavick really agree with Cantwell on Iraq?

Posted by David Postman at 7:18 AM

An Associated Press story on the Cantwell-McGavick race has gotten heavy play in recent days around the country. The piece by Dave Ammons, dean of the state political press corps, focuses on unhappiness with Cantwell from anti-war Democrats.

It includes this line:

Republicans clearly relish the schism, with Cantwell's main GOP opponent, Mike McGavick, saying, "The senator and I agree on Iraq."

Not really, though. I can see how if that were the case it could be beneficial to McGavick in Washington state. And it may have been true, in a generic way, when McGavick said it. But that was before last month's Senate votes on troop withdrawal resolutions. Cantwell voted for a measure calling on the Bush Administration to start bringing troops home by the end of the year. McGavick spokesman Elliott Bundy said McGavick opposed that move. Cantwell's position on Iraq still doesn't satisfy anti-war activists in her party. But there is a difference between her position and McGavick's.

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July 3, 2006

A new Republican congressional candidate

Posted by David Postman at 9:27 AM

Issaquah School Board member Larry Ishmael, a Dino Rossi pal, is now also a congressional candidate, running against incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee in the First District.

Ishmael was welcomed to the race by state Republican Party Chairwoman Diane Tebelius. But Ishmael's announcement is the latest example of Republicans attacking the Republican-led Congress, a phenomenon that now qualifies as an official trend.

Ishmael said, "I have been listening to people complain about Congress, and decided it was time to make a real difference. The First District needs better leadership; Congress needs better leadership." Sure there's a shot at Inslee in there. But if Congress needs better leadership and people are complaining about Congress, wouldn't that be a reflection of the party in charge? Shouldn't the approach here be something more like "With Republicans in charge the First District needs someone who can get the ear of Congressional leadership"?

Ishmael's right that people are complaining about Congress. People like his fellow school board member Mike Winkler, who said in the campaign announcement, "Congress's weak understanding of education shocks me."

I don't mean to pick on Ishmael. I heard the same thing from Republicans at the state Republican Convention last month in Yakima. Doug Roulstone, running against Rick Larsen in the Second, reprimanded Congress in his speech, saying, ""The first thing we have to fix is to instruct our Congress that we want no more dithering, no more exploiting our difference for its own ends, no more partisan harping. We want it to get to work. Now!"

If only Republicans knew someone in charge in D.C.

UPDATE: And if you know anyone in charge, tell Mike McGavick, because as his new TV commercial says, "Washington D.C. is broken."


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