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October 24, 2006

Gore's quiet, dark state of the union

Posted by David Postman at 4:10 PM

Former Vice President Al Gore raised close to $600,000 at a noon fundraiser at the Washington Athletic Club, setting a record for a Seattle event by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Tickets cost from $1,000 for lunch to $26,700 to a private reception and photo with Gore.

Gore was quiet and philosophical and steered far from the sort of raucous stem-winder that I've heard from him in recent years. He seemed almost somber. Rather than rousing the base as polls have mostly good news for Democrats, Gore painted a dire picture of America under Republican rule. After Congressman Norm Dicks expressed some optimism that President Bush was rethinking his Iraq strategy, Gore said he had a darker read on recent news. He figures Bush is only parroting what Karl Rove told him to say in order to help Republicans' election hopes.

In describing the state of the union, Gore quoted German philosopher Theodor Adorno on the rise of the Nazis.

Adorno conducted a kind of autopsy on the Third Reich and he said the first sign of this descent to hell was when this happened, and these are his words: All questions of fact became questions of power.

...

And I'm not drawing an analogy to what happened there. I'm not. But it's dangerous when we allow questions of fact to become questions of power.

Gore said questions of fact become questions of power, though, when Republicans "censor the scientific reports and when they ... allow themselves to believe that they can create their own reality.

Aldous Huxley once said, "All governments lie. But when they start smoking the same hashish that they're giving out to others, disaster lies.

This crowd has apparently begun to believe its own lies.

From a little Web search, I think it was I.F. Stone who said, "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out."

Gore's quiet speech was laced with history and philosophy. He talked about the Enlightenment and arguments between Jefferson and Hamilton, cited Lincoln and quoted the poet Wallace Stevens, who said,

after the last no comes a yes, and on that yes, the future world depends

Gore said:

"There's never been, in the entire history of our republic, a six-year period when so much power has been concentrated in the hands of so few and abused so much. The legislative branch is so shamefully obsequious, cowardly, allowing abuses that are insulting to the American tradition.

...

"These abuses have occurred without the tiniest objection or protest from the one branch of our government that our founders looked to as the defenders of their constitutional design; the repository of their hope that our republic would survive.

...

"What they have done, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate, is to abandon any sense of responsibility to their oath to defend the Constitution."

The lunch at the WAC was a bit of a Democratic dreamland under crystal chandeliers. There was great support for another Gore presidential run and talk of what Democratic control of the House would mean. King County Executive Ron Sims said, "I look forward to Chairman Norm Dicks" and Dicks said he was hoping for "Chairman McDermott as well, on the powerful Ways and Means Committee." In introducing McDermott, Dicks said, "He's been right more than he's been wrong."

Looking at the well-heeled guests, McDermott said;

"It's fun to welcome Norm to my district. He brings the vacuum sweeper in here and takes all the money out of here. And he'll take all the credit back in Washington and it all came out of my district."

Dicks told him to tell it to "Nancy." That'd be Pelosi, the minority leader they hope will be speaker of the House come January.

Darcy Burner, who was talked up by Gore, Dicks and others, spoke briefly. She said that the balance of Congress could hinge on what happens in the 8th District and, she joked, on "me not making any major mistakes in the next two weeks."

Also seen at lunch: Former Gov. Gary Locke, just back from a trip with his mother and father and extended family to his ancestral village in China ... Preston Gates' Manny Rouvelas who told Locke he flew in from D.C. to see Gore ... Boeing's Bob Watt and Al Ralston ... Congressman Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi, who invited Gore on a kayak trip around Bainbridge Island ... Long-time Gore confidant and friend Pam Eakes ... Gore's local mountain climbing friend Jim Frush ... And the P-I's Joel Connelly, who greeted Gore by quoting what he said Will Rogers told Calvin Coolidge, "The face is familiar but the name escapes."

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Empty chair gets questions at Supreme Court debate

Posted by David Postman at 8:03 AM

If you want to learn more about the behind-the-scenes story of last night's one-man Supreme Court debate, you can read Stefan Sharkansky and Josh Feit, who both played a role.

The event went on as planned before the Downtown Seattle Republican Club even though Justice Susan Owens would not attend. Her opponent, Sen. Stephen Johnson, did show up and faced an empty table and chair with a name tag for Owens.

Questions were asked by Sharkansky and P-I columnist Joel Connelly. And, Sharkansky writes, questions were asked of "both candidates."

And Joel Connelly was a totally stand up guy — he insisted on going through with the debate and promised to pose questions to Owens whether there was anybody sitting behind her microphone or not, and that's exactly what he did. (He asked great questions of both candidates and earned a lot of respect from me and everyone else in the room)

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Democrats work to elect states' top election officials

Posted by David Postman at 7:42 AM

Campaigns for secretary of state are usually low-key affairs. But when election disputes arise, as has been happening increasingly around the country, suddenly much can depend on who holds the office.

Democrats are trying to raise the profile of secretary of state races around the country and garner support for their candidates as a prerequisite for a clean, well-run presidential election in 2008.

The Secretary of State Project has raised more than $235,000 for Democratic candidates in seven secretary of state races this year. The group plays up Democrats' belief that the last two presidential elections were marred, and perhaps stolen, by misfeasance and malfeasance by election officials, particularly in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004.

The group says:

A modest political investment in electing clean candidates to critical Secretary of State offices will provide benefits to everybody for years to come. Any serious commitment to wresting control of the country from the Republican Party must include removing their political operatives from deciding who can vote and whose votes will count.

...

Katherine Harris. Ken Blackwell. Does anyone doubt that these two Secretaries of State, each the chair of Mr. Bush's presidential campaigns in their respective states, made damaging partisan decisions about purging voter rolls, registration of new voters, voting machine security, the location of precincts, the allocation of voting machines, and dozens of other critical matters?

In recent pivotal elections, Republicans have relied upon their control of the Secretary of State position to dramatically influence voting and to block the implementation of voter-verified paper trails. The results have been catastrophic for the nation.

Harris was the Florida secretary of state in 2000 and is now running for U.S. Senate. Blackwell is the Ohio secretary of state and is running for governor.

Republicans do not seem to have any coordinated national effort to back their candidates in secretary of state races.

While Democrats complain about Harris and Blackwell and their political support for Bush, USA Today reported this summer:

At least four Democrats with presidential aspirations — (Iowa Gov. Tom) Vilsack, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former Virginia governor Mark Warner — have donated to secretary of state candidates. Among Republicans, Arizona Sen. John McCain has helped candidates in Michigan, South Carolina and New Mexico; national party chairman Ken Mehlman also helped out in New Mexico.

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