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November 30, 2006

Thank you, whoever you are

Posted by David Postman at 1:23 PM

"... Google now estimates that the average blog is read by one person," says Adam Nagourney at The Caucus, the New York Times' political blog.

(I'm not great with statistics, but I think that means you'd get less than one reader if your blog is below average.)

Nagourney got the stat from Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who was speaking at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Florida. As Schmidt talked about the struggles facing American newspapers, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said, "You know, if some of them went out of business, it wouldn't be all bad."

But he frowned in concern as Mr. Schmidt went on to talk about the risks of truly unfiltered blogs spreading unverified and often false information about elected officials.

"Most of us now fear or have great concerns about what you are talking about," Mr. Barbour said. "Things can get on the Internet that have no relationship to fact."

Mr. Schmidt responded: "I share your concern, passionately."

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Scared straight

Posted by David Postman at 12:47 PM

In commemoration of National Meth Awareness Day, the U.S. Department of Justice today features links to a bunch of commercials from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

None of the ads, though, can top this as an anti-drug message.

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Is Boeing helping the CIA fly terror suspects?

Posted by David Postman at 12:20 PM

I missed this in a recent edition of The New Yorker — until tipped to it by Rick Anderson in the Weekly today. But a few weeks back the magazine had a fascinating little story about Boeing's ties to the controversy over CIA flights of terrorism suspects.

The connection comes through a Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen International Trip Planning, an aviation logistical support company.

Boeing does not mention, either on its Web site or in its annual report, that Jeppesen's clients include the CIA, and that among the international trips that the company plans for the agency are secret "extraordinary rendition" flights for terrorism suspects. Most of the planes used in rendition flights are owned and operated by tiny charter airlines that function as CIA front companies, but it is not widely known that the agency has turned to a division of Boeing, the publicly traded blue-chip behemoth, to handle many of the logistical and navigational details for these trips, including flight plans, clearance to fly over other countries, hotel reservations, and ground-crew arrangements.

...

A former Jeppesen employee, who asked not to be identified, said recently that he had been startled to learn, during an internal corporate meeting, about the company's involvement with the rendition flights. At the meeting, he recalled, Bob Overby, the managing director of Jeppesen International Trip Planning, said, "We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights — you know, the torture flights. Let's face it, some of these flights end up that way."

The New Yorker said it received an official "no comment" from Jeppesen officials.

The details of Boeing's involvement come from a new book by British journalist Stephen Grey. "Ghost Plane" includes what Grey says are details showing involvement of Jeppesen and other international flight planners in the secret moving of terror suspects.

Writes Anderson in the Weekly:

Since 2003, human-rights investigators and news media reports have described a Boeing Business Jet as one of the most-dreaded planes in the Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine air force. The modified 737 — a model rolled out in Renton in 2001 — was built for executive fun and comfort. But it is alleged to be the flagship of the CIA's "extreme rendition" squadron, ferrying suspected terrorists to secret agency prisons or countries where the U.S. is said to outsource torture. ...

Boeing won't confirm or deny the claim. But the Spanish documents, and an investigation by Amnesty International and the Council of Europe, indicate Boeing was making arrangements for as many as 1,000 rendition flights through 14 countries by four CIA planes, including that notorious Boeing Business Jet.

Anderson did get a response from spokesperson Tim Neale at Boeing headquarters in Chicago:

"Jeppesen's flight planning process is to provide the route that is going to be followed, how much fuel is needed on board, where they will stop, and how many people will be on board, for weight reasons.

"We don't necessarily know very much about the purpose of a flight because that information isn't necessary to create a flight plan. What somebody's going to do when they get off is not part of that plan."

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November 29, 2006

Adam Smith, New Democrats and free trade

Posted by David Postman at 4:41 PM

The first legislative session I covered in Washington was in 1993. Democrats had just won big the previous November and there were 65 Democrats in the House and 28 in the Senate. Democrat Mike Lowry was governor and Bill Clinton was president.

It was party time for the Democrats. They rewrote state health insurance laws, raised taxes and launched an expansive effort to fight youth violence.

And of course, come 1994 many of those Democrats were defeated. One who survived was state Sen. Adam Smith, a young attorney from Kent. Today he's in Washington, D.C., after an easy re-election to the 9th Congressional District, where he's having some mixed feelings of deja vu.

"I had sort of forgotten how exciting it is to be in the majority," he told me the other day. But he is quick to temper that excitement with some realistic expectations.

"I try to tell people as much as possible, 'It will be better, but this is not everything you have ever dreamed of you will now get.' I really felt that in '93 — that pent up demand was there and when we got in and Lowry got in, every even marginally Democratic supportive group was saying, 'OK, we get everything we want' and then ended up being bitterly disappointed when that didn't happen."

Smith's 10 years in Washington doesn't put him in line for a leadership position in the new Democratic hierarchy. But as a leader in the movement of New Democrats — those who adhere to Clintonomics, free trade and a generally more moderate platform — I expect we'll see Smith's name popping up as House Democrats debate among themselves about policy and ideology.

Already Smith's been mentioned as an example of part a generational split in the House. Writing in the New York Times after the elections, Matt Bai said:

Our elections may become increasingly generational rather than ideological — and not a moment too soon.

This is why the new Democratic majority in Washington may fare no better in addressing the nation's modern preoccupations than the Republican majority that preceded it.

Bai wrote that Democrats were "reluctant to make room for its next generation, a pragmatic and talented group led, perhaps, by Rahm Emanuel, the chief strategist behind the House elections." He also mentioned a group of nine "lesser-known names," including Smith's.

It might be too much to expect the paragons of Democratic politics to look to younger members when the reins of power are once again within their grasp. But the party that controls the next era of American politics may well be the one whose long-serving leaders can eventually summon the wisdom to step out of the way.

Smith said the split comes less with age than the years in which members were elected. He feels more aligned ideologically with others elected in the 1990s. And he says party elders know better than to run the House on a strict adherence to seniority.

"They understand that this is a different Congress than the one they came into. It's not one where the committee chairmen are gods and we all bow down to them. In part, because we watched the Republicans do that top down power thing. They spent about a year and a half condemning that kind of leadership so it makes it harder to adopt that approach."

As for pragmatism, Smith said that to him that means "knowing that there is no one ideology that has the perfect answer for everything" and from learning from experience. He says it does not mean "we have to make sure we don't piss anyone off so we can get re-elected. I reject that completely. That's not what the New Democratic movement is about."

There already is plenty of advice for Democrats if they are searching for an ideological path. That's particularly true on economic issues. As Bloomberg reported recently:

The dispute over trade and budget policies prompted a high- level private meeting earlier this month between AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who is now chairman of the executive committee at New York-based Citigroup Inc.

AFL-CIO leaders, contending Democrats won the midterm elections because of voter concern about job security and stagnant wages, say it's time to set aside the free-trade policies touted by Rubin.

The New York Times reported Sunday that out of those sorts of disputes, economic populists in the party are "emerging and strongly promoting an alternative to Rubinomics."

They want to rethink America's role in the global economy. They would intervene in markets and regulate them much more than the Rubinites would. For a start, they would declare a moratorium on new trade agreements until clauses were included that would, for example, restrict layoffs and protect incomes.

Smith says something needs to be done to "reset the balance of power between corporations and the super-rich and the rest of us." But he will be a strong defender of Clinton's economic legacy:

"There are a lot of people in the progressive community who think Clinton's thinking was the beginning of the downfall. We will have to fight that out. ... I think Clinton and Rubin were right about a hell of a lot more than they were wrong about."

To turn away from that, he said, "would be a very bad thing for the working people of the country." And he's skeptical of "economic populism" if that "means anti-trade, anti-immigration, work against business 100 percent of the time, bash them, regulate them, tax them."

One commentator wrote recently that Democrats should embrace Rubinomics to show they have an economic plan. In the Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby wrote:

Now that they have won Congress, the Democrats must prove that they are more than the mirror image of their opponents. This means reviving the pro-market centrism of the Clinton era — a spirit that lives on in the form of the Hamilton Project.

(The Hamilton Project was started at the Brookings Institution as what Mallaby described as "a center for Rubinomics in exile.")

Clearly there's a split among Democrats on economics. And one of the places the divide will be seen most clearly is over international trade agreements. From AP:

Many Democrats campaigned against Bush's trade policies in the November congressional elections, saying the administration had failed to do enough to halt the loss of manufacturing jobs to low-wage foreign countries such as China. Since Bush took office in 2001, the country has lost nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs.

The Democratic takeover of the House and Senate has raised speculation that the administration's trade agenda will face serious obstacles in the new Congress.

Smith thinks it'd be a mistake to stop the trade agreements. He says, "amend it, don't end it." That was a phrase that began popping up toward the end of the Clinton presidency, post-Seattle WTO, when Democrats wanted to shore up protections for workers and the environment in international trade agreements.

That's why Smith said he and other Democrats voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement. It was a message, he said, to the Bush Administration to renegotiate the agreement.

"The CAFTA vote said, 'We're not going to keep doing it the way it's being done.' We have to make a stand at some point. If we're going to force their hand we have to vote against something."

At Sound Politics Eric Earling worries that the CAFTA vote by Smith and others may signal a weakening of support among state Democrats for trade.

The Bush administration knows there "are those in the extremes of both parties ready to preach retreating to protectionism and economic isolationism," but will continue to push for trade liberalization, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a speech today.

She said the administration also hopes to wrap up negotiations by early next year on free trade deals with South Korea and Malaysia and said that talks should be concluded soon with Panama.

She called gaining congressional approval for agreements already completed with Peru and Colombia a high priority.

Smith said that the Colombia and Peru agreements likely will need side agreements on worker and environmental protections to win passage in the Democratic Congress. He said that New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, who will become Ways and Means chairman, is a strong supporter of free trade and that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will give the chairman leeway to win House approval of trade agreements.

Smith said that two other powerful Democrats on Ways and Means, Michigan's Sander Levin and California's Pete Stark, "might be more problematic" on trade. Stark is the second most senior Democrat on Ways and Means. Levin is third, and is in line to be chairman of the Subcommittee on Trade.

Said Smith:

"What I hope we don't do is adopt the Lou Dobbs extreme position, which is every trade policy is horrible unless the other country has to buy everything from us and we don't have to buy anything from them."

Dobbs is the Greek chorus of sorts in the trade debate. The CNN anchor has emerged as a leading spokesman against free trade. And he weighed in today, using his weekly commentary to urge Democrats to halt the administration's trade agenda:

Victorious Democrats will, with the opening of the 110th Congress, have a historic opportunity to right the course of a country that has been hell-bent on permitting free-trade corporatists and faith-based economics to bankrupt the nation.

As the New Year approaches, newly elected Democrats in the House and Senate will be battered by calls, even demands, to stay the course rather than right it. And we can only hope they and their new leadership in both houses will have the courage and character to be rationalists and realists and overcome their partisan political debt to corporate America, and U.S. multinationals in particular.

The pressure is already building on Democrats to signal a trade agenda. And "New Democrats" like Smith, particularly those from trade-dependent states like Washington, will be in the middle of the inevitable intra-party struggle to find a cohesive party message.

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November 28, 2006

Could Dicks be House Intelligence chairman?

Posted by David Postman at 2:44 PM

That's at least more possible than it was before Nancy Pelosi told Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings he wouldn't get the post.

Hastings, in an interview with The Palm Beach Post, said Pelosi did not indicate who she would select to head the sensitive panel, which oversees the nation's intelligence community.


The Washington Post says:

Among those seen as potential picks for the committee chairmanship by Pelosi are: Democratic Reps. Silvestre Reyes of Texas and Rush Holt of New Jersey, both members of the Intelligence Committee, and Norman Dicks of Washington state, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Who knows how much of it is an echo chamber, but Dicks' name is in nearly all the stories moving this afternoon about the intelligence panel.

Said Hastings in a statement:

Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet.

In case you're not familiar with Hastings, here's the AP's summary of what prevented him from heading the intelligence committee:

Hastings, who came to Congress in 1992, was charged in an FBI bribery sting but acquitted by a federal jury in 1983. Some judicial colleagues said Hastings fabricated his defense, and their allegations led to his impeachment by the U.S. House in 1988. He was removed from the bench by the Senate the following year.

In 1997, the Justice Department found an agent had falsely testified against Hastings, but no action was taken to reopen his case.


Wednesday update: Dicks is not trying to get the Intelligence job, says the AP.

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Chopp considers House committee changes

Posted by David Postman at 9:32 AM

What do you do now that Democrats have strengthen their hold on the state House, marginalizing Republicans to a degree not seen in years and boosting your claim as one of the most successful political players in the state?

Well, there's always infighting.

At the Slog, Josh Feit says House Speaker Frank Chopp wants to dilute the power of House Appropriations Chairwoman Helen Sommers. Sommers is the most veteran member of the House and clearly not a Chopp favorite. The two Seattle Democrats often disagree on spending, with Sommers resisting Chopp's attempts to assert his power on her committee.

Feit says Chopp wants to create three subcommittees at Appropriations with authority for education, general government and human services, "watering down Sommers' famous hold on state spending."

I just spoke with Chopp. He says the subcommittees are just one of many ideas the House Democratic Caucus is considering. He says there are two pages of proposals. He wouldn't say whose idea it was to restructure Sommers' committee.

"I don't really want to go into details. These are confidential discussions we had in caucus and a lot of ideas were suggested by a lot of people."

As to the suggestion that the subcommittees would take power away from Sommers, Chopp said, "That was not the intent at all. We're trying to figure out the best way we can organize to get the job done."

I think Feit underplays the tensions between Chopp and Sommers when he says:

The two have sparred over transportation issues in the past and there's probably some bad blood over Chopp's indifference when Sommers faced an intraparty challenge from progressive candidate Alice Woldt (a friend of Chopp's) in 2004.

I'd say there is plenty of bad blood from that and other clashes.

Chopp does face a problem with his newly fattened majority. What do you do with all those Democrats? Creating a few subcommittees or naming some co-chairs could help.

There are six House Democrats who want to be Transportation chairman. At least some of those who don't get that job could be mollified with an Appropriations subcommittee appointment.

But with 62 members in his caucus, Chopp also faces a challenge to keep infighting to a minimum. An early threat to Sommers' power isn't likely to help that effort.

The decision will be made by a 15-member Committee on Committees.

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November 27, 2006

GOP loses big in the suburbs

Posted by David Postman at 8:00 AM

In this morning's Times, Andrew Garber writes about deep Republican losses in suburban legislative districts.

Before the election there were six Republican state senators from the region. Now there's only one: Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, in Pierce County, and he was not up for re-election. The party also retains three Senate seats in nearby districts that are largely more rural.

The suburbs are where Republicans have been focusing efforts in recent years. This was a major push for former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance who argued the party had forgotten "how to speak cul de sac." He said GOP candidates in the suburbs needed to be more supportive of growth management and mass transit and focus less on taxation and property rights.

The Nov. 7 Democratic tide took out some who clearly spoke cul de sac and some who stuck to more traditional GOP fare. And, as USA Today reports this morning, what Garber found here is true around the country, where Democrats pushed "Republican turf to the outer edges of major population centers in a trend that could signal trouble for the GOP."

Democrats carried nearly 60% of the U.S. House vote in inner suburbs in the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas, up from about 53% in 2002, according to the analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

They received nearly 55% of the vote in the next ring of "mature" 20- and 30-year-old suburbs, with 45% going to Republicans and third-party candidates. In 2002, the last midterm election, Democrats received 50% of the vote there.

UPDATE: At Sound Politics Matt Rosenberg says the deep GOP losses gives the party a chance to remake itself and regain some relevance.

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November 24, 2006

Christian Coalition leader quits before first day on job

Posted by David Postman at 10:15 AM

The president-elect of the Christian Coalition quit this week after "he realized he would be unable to broaden the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage."

The Orlando Sentinel reports on the split between Central Florida's Rev. Joel Hunter, of Northland, A Church Distributed, and the prominent Christian political organization:

He hoped to include issues such as easing poverty and saving the environment.

"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said.

"They pretty much said, 'These issues are fine, but they're not our issues; that's not our base,' " Hunter said of his conversation with the group's leadership.

A statement issued by the coalition said Hunter resigned because of "differences in philosophy and vision." The board accepted his decision "unanimously," it states.

As you could expect, the left is enjoying a little schadenfreude today. From DailyKos:

The continued implosion of the Christian Coalition, which represents the people currently in control of the Repugs, is one more sign of why the Repugs lost this month and why they will continue to lose as long as they hitch their star to Robertson, Dobson, et. al.

...

I'm actually quite happy that the Christian Coalition is continuing down its self-destructive path, because that just means its total irrelevance will come all the more quickly.

And An Angry Dakota Democrat says:

I want to say Thank You to the Christian Coalition, you have shown me that you are not really religious. You are only a right-wing hit squad that uses religion as a cover.

In the Bible Belt, George Sand writes at Arkansas Politics:

This is yet another case of how the powers behind the scenes don't care or are out of touch with the body, in this case, the body of this Christian organization, in our nation's case, the body of the people. The Coalition spoke loudly and clearly, they wanted Hunter and presumably his vision of the mission of that Christian organization. It appears that the big boys did not, and Hunter found that unacceptable. How refreshing and how sad for those Christian soldiers who agreed that hunger, poverty, and the environment were more important than abortion and gay marriage.

But it was the "powers behind the scenes" that wanted Hunter. He was recruited last summer by the Roberta Combs, chairman of the Christian Coalition. And Hunter's views could not have been a surprise to Combs. He's made no secret of his discomfort with the tactics and tone of the Christian conservative political movement. He published a book about it in June: "Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won't Fly With Most Conservative Christians."

Since his appointment, Hunter was inspired by a film about global warming to get his congregation to become more ecologically responsible.

Clearly the leaders of the Christian Coalition knew they were getting a different brand of political activism in Hunter. But by the time the appointment was made public in September, the Orlando Sentinel -- which has covered the issue in greater depth than any paper -- showed what now looks like the beginnings of a public split between Hunter and Combs:

"The Christian Coalition is in decline," Hunter acknowledged, citing his discussions with the organization's board during the past year. "I think they were desperate when they asked me. ... I've always been drawn to lost causes."

Roberta Combs, chairman of the Christian Coalition of America, put it differently.

"I recruited him to be the president, and I'm looking forward to working with him," Combs said. "It seemed we needed a pastor that could communicate with other pastors."

There were objections from some corners, including the Traditional Values Coalition. But Hunter was moving ahead with his plans to "rebuild and rebrand" the Christian Coalition. The strategy is clear from looking at Hunter's book, where he writes about his disagreements with how some politically active Christian conservatives read scriptures to justify political activity.

It is not that we think these involved evangelicals are wrong. We agree with so much of what they have to say. Yet hopping on the bandwagon does not fee quite right either. We need to do some thinking first.

The religious right has become allied with the political right to form the right wing -- a more conservative or, as some would say, reactionary -- political force. More subtly, the Christians have theologically unified and confused the biblical forms of government with America's forms.

The religious right has not declined in recent years as some have speculated; it has just become more strident and calcified in its focus. I t has developed a strong following on several key issues including abortion and keeping God references in the public square. (Conversely, it has not developed a broader list of concerns well-documented in the Bible, including poverty, injustice, and the environment which resonate more with younger evangelicals and Catholics.)

Hunter writes that it's an illusion that "governmental power is better because a believer holds it" and says the New Testament "does not recommend such an overwhelming infusion of Christianity into government."

He draws a distinction between "Christian" and "Christlike" approaches to politics:

A Christian approach to politics may show those in opposition just how wrong their opposition is. The Christlike approach to politics respectfully acknowledges the points at which they are right. A Christian approach could tell everyone how to vote; the Christlike approach directs the attention of the voters to underlying values. A Christian approach could give us certainty; the Christlike approach gives us a biblical perspective.
The question I'm left with is why was Hunter recruited in the first place? And why did he accept? Both sides knew where the other stood. Perhaps as Jan. 1 approached -- when Hunter was due to take over -- the practical application of those differences made the relationship unworkable.

Whatever the case, I doubt this is the last we will hear of Joel Hunter. The failed partnership may now give him an even higher profile as Christian conservatives struggle to find their way.

MORE: This is only a little related, and a week late, but here is a great article by The Weekly's Nina Shapiro about World Vision and AIDS.

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November 22, 2006

A global warming test for Congress

Posted by David Postman at 1:37 PM

I see that while I was away some Democrats and environmentalists said they look forward to working with Congressman Dave Reichert to try to get him to be a little more green.

But before any good-natured reaching out happens, Reichert could find himself on the spot over global warming. In the campaign Reichert said, among other things about climate change, that he wasn't convinced that it was caused by "man's activity or if global warming is one of the natural temperature fluctuations we've seen over the course of the earth's history."

Reichert said he would investigate the issue.

Congressman Norm Dicks, though, is not likely to wait. Dicks told me he will reintroduce a resolution he pushed in May to get Congress on record that "global warming is a scientific fact and it is caused by human causes."

Dicks' resolution was approved by the Appropriations Committee and put in the Interior funding bill for 2007. That would have led to the the first-ever House floor debate and vote over imposing mandatory limits on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But Republicans stripped it from the bill and wouldn't allow a floor vote. Dicks told me:

"I want to bring that back up and force the Administration to come to the reality that this is a real threat to the planet. I think Al Gore, my good friend, is totally right on this thing. The scientists are 99.9 percent in agreement and the only people saying something different are paid for by the industry."

Here's what the "Sense of Congress" amendment said:

The Congress finds that: (1) greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere are causing average temperatures to rise at a rate outside the range of natural variability and are posing a substantial risk of rising sea-levels, altered patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts; (2) there is a growing scientific consensus that human activity is a substantial cause of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere; and (3) mandatory steps will be required to slow or stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

It is the sense of the Congress that there should be enacted a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory, market-based limits and incentives on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions at a rate and in a manner that (1) will not significantly harm the United States economy; and (2) will encourage comparable action by other nations that are major trading partners and key contributors to global emissions.

It was hardly a radical move. It was non-binding and came with no increased funding for study of climate change. As Dicks said himself during debate, "This provision authorizes nothing."

It led to some great debate, though.

Alaska Republican Don Young: I am a little bit concerned when everything that is wrong is our fault, that the human factor creates all the damages on this globe. That is pure nonsense. That is nonsense.

And so I am asking you, let's have the hearings, let's have the scientists, let's have some debate about really what is occurring here instead of having hysteria and saying it is all our fault.

And, by the way, it is always the fault of the Americans. It is never the fault of the bigger countries that burn as many barrels of oil as we are doing today, not per capita but as many barrels of oil, and burn the coal as we are trying to do. It is never their fault. It is our fault.

So let's have a sound debate about this issue and not be caught in this attitude that we must do something right now because we are the Federal Government. Let's do it the right way.

...

Wisconsin Democrat David Obey: Mr. Chairman, I knew we still had charter members of the Flat Earth Society walking around this country. I didn't realize there were quite so many in the United States Congress.

Young: I am just curious, were you referring to yourself?

Obey: The rules don't allow me to say who I was referring to.

...

Dicks: I mean at some point can the majority here not figure out we ought to have some study, we ought to look into this, that this is a real issue that affects everyone on the Earth?

While Alaska melts away, their Congressmen will be down here in D.C. and everybody will be wondering whatever happened to Alaska.

All I am saying is this is a serious problem, and it is time for serious people to get serious, including the gentleman from Alaska.

...

Young: Mr. Chairman, I just want to remind him, if you look at any of the studies that are taking place now, the polar bear pack is very healthy and, in fact, increasing. Keep that in mind. Read something that really has some merit to it. Do not just read the fear tactic. This is science from the Fish and Wildlife people. Read that. They will tell you we are increasing the numbers, not decreasing. Where you got this idea, I have no idea. Because someone told you that.

Dicks: Mr. Chairman, I do not think you and I will be here to figure out who was right. I would rather do some serious research about it now than wake up 10 years from now and find out if we would have acted back in 2006 and done something about this, we might have been able to save all of humanity.

I mean, this is real and it is an important issue, and I hate to see it be treated so frivolously by the gentleman from Alaska.

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November 21, 2006

And the winner is ...

Posted by David Postman at 2:19 PM

Well, I'll get to that in a moment. But first some interesting findings from the P.O.P. general election guessing game. (I originally called it an "election contest" but that caused palpitations among some Seattle lawyers still recovering from 2004's contested election.)

There were dozens of entries. And no one guessed the size of Sen. Maria Cantwell's victory margin. The closest was Particle Man's 56 percent, which is pretty darn close to the 56.7 percent reported by the Secretary of State's office. Most guessed Cantwell would win with about 52 percent of the vote.

And nobody guessed that Justice Susan Owens would win re-election with 60 percent of the vote. The closest anyone came was 57 percent, but most thought the race would be within a few percentage points.

Only our winner accurately predicted the size of the Democratic victory in the state Legislature. (I do know that one entrant was equally optimistic in talking about it, but couldn't quite pull the trigger to put those rosy guesses on his entry. It might have made him the winner if he had gone with his gut.)

And the winner is, Mike Ryherd. He wrote on his entry that his guesses were "based on the fact that I do not believe the vaunted GOP GOTV will be vaunted, and I do believe the D's crest will be almost as big as 1994 was in reverse."

There are still some votes to be counted in House races. But no matter how they turn out no one will come as close as Ryherd in his guess that Democrats would hold 63 seats in the House and the 32 they hold in the Senate. He got the U.S. Senate spot on, too, and was closest of anyone on the U.S. House with his pick of 230 Democrats. He guessed the winner in every race except in the 8th Congressional District.

Ryherd is a well known lobbyist in Olympia. He works for the Teamsters, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, cities and others. A prize will be on its way soon. And Mike, I don't want to list all those who entered the contest, but rest assured that you were competing against at least a few of your Third House colleagues, some legislative staffers and a couple of bloggers.

Thank you all for playing. And congratulations to Mike.

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Back in the saddle

Posted by David Postman at 8:45 AM

I've returned from a week of badly needed time away from the blog. I'll start posting again soon as I work my way through e-mails and phone messages. I will also sort through the election result predictions and find a winner to post today.

Big thanks to Jim Brunner for sitting in while I was gone. I think he did a great job, and certainly kept up the level of debate post-election.

With the election behind us some decisions will be made soon about the future of this blog. The initial commitment was to keep it going through the election and now the bosses and I will look for a chance to sit down and talk about what worked and what didn't and whether there is something worth keeping going on a year-round basis.

I have your comments from last month when I asked for input for my talk to the Canadian journalists. But if you have anything more to add, or didn't get a chance then, please post your (hopefully constructive) thoughts here about what you'd like to see happen to the blog.

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November 17, 2006

Final thoughts on Burner

Posted by Jim Brunner at 12:56 PM

I see I came to the right room for an argument.

Given the mighty reaction to the Darcy Burner comments yesterday, here are a few parting thoughts.

In any race as close as Burner's, you can pick your own favorite reason for why the race turned out like it did. Some have cited the ticket-splitting nature of the 8th District. Over at the pro-Burner Slog yesterday, Josh Feit said Burner lost because she "wasn't such a good candidate" and added "there was a lot of truth to the Republican rap that her experience didn't match Dave Reichert's." Others blame (or credit) the media, including The Times editorial board's endorsement of Reichert. I tend to side with the people who believe Reichert's comparative advantage in experience was enough to get him re-elected despite the prevailing Democratic current.

For the record, I don't think it loopy to look at the role gender can play in an election. You can see it in the "gender gap" which generally has men favoring Republicans and women leaning Democratic. Male and female candidates can be perceived differently. (Some commenters in yesterday's thread only strengthened Burner's argument by calling her "honey" and telling her to stay at home with the kid.)

But for every male chauvinist out there, there are others who prefer to vote for women. As long as I've covered politics here, I've heard consultants speak about women candidates as having an advantage. Our state Legislature ranks 3rd in the percentage of women in the Legislature, according to Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics, which also has loads of other data on women in elected office.

For another perspective, researchers here suggest that many Congressional districts treat Democratic women differently than Republican women. In Washington's 8th, they predict Republican women having an easier go than Democrats. The methodology is complicated, so take a look for yourself.

I'll leave it at that. Thanks to all of you who commented this week with critiques and arguments, especially those who refrained from calling each other names.

David Postman should return to blogging here next week.

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November 16, 2006

A glass ceiling for Darcy Burner?

Posted by Jim Brunner at 12:02 PM

Darcy Burner this morning offers a new theory for why she narrowly lost to Republican Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District race: her gender.

In an email to Seattle Times reporter Jonathan Martin, who covered the race, Burner listed 20 Democratic challengers in U.S. House races around the country who had raised at least $1 million as of June.

Of the seven who lost (or are trailing), six are women. Among the 13 winners, only one is a woman, according to Burner's tally. Burner ended her email with this statement:

"Notice a pattern? You asked me why I thought I didn't win. Some answers I am not allowed to give."

While it is true that women historically have had a hard time penetrating the good old boys club of Congress, Burner's theory ignores some facts.

First, Washington State, including the 8th District, has had little problem electing women. Does anyone remember Jennifer Dunn? Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell? Gov. Christine Gregoire?

Second, Burner's list of six women who lost includes two who lost, or were trailing in the latest vote counts, to other women (Democrat Patricia Madrid is trailing Republican Heather Wilson in New Mexico's 1st District and Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy trails Republican Deborah Pryce in Ohio's 15th.)

The Washington Post reports last week's election resulted in a net gain in the number of women in Congress.

I asked Burner to clarify her point. She responded with another email:

There has been a lot of talk about this year's Democratic wave, but it was clearly a wave that helped men more than women. A reasonable hypothesis would be that the wave was related to voter feeling about the war, and that voters responded by preferring Democratic male challengers to Republican incumbents (of either gender), but did not apply that same preference to Democratic female challengers. (The one exception on the list, Gillibrand, ran her entire campaign on a corruption theme - a noticible difference from everyone else.). Why would the issue of the war help men but not women? I'll leave that to you. But I think if we're going to talk about the wave and the macro environment, it's important to recognize such a striking pattern.

(Gillibrand refers to Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democrat who beat Republican John Sweeney in New York's 20th District. Sweeney self-destructed with reports of inappropriate ski trips with lobbyists, photos of him partying at a fraternity house, and allegations of spousal abuse.)

So I guess Burner is arguing last week's Blue Wave was actually a Blue Male Iraq War (Unless You Were A Woman Talking About Corruption) Wave.

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Democratic victory: a "Rumsfeldian" loss?

Posted by Jim Brunner at 9:10 AM

Well that didn't take long.

Scarcely a week after winning majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats are fighting over who ought to get credit, and complaining that they should have done much better, the NYT's Adam Nagourney reports.

State Democratic leaders are saying Howard Dean, the party chairman, is not receiving the credit he deserves for the triumph.

Offering a rather different view, two leading party strategists rebuked Mr. Dean on Wednesday, saying the Democrats could have captured 40 House seats rather than 29 had Mr. Dean bowed to demands by Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, leader of the effort to recapture the House, to put more money into Congressional races.

"I would describe his leadership as Rumsfeldian in its incompetence," one strategist, James Carville, said of Mr. Dean.

The biggest griping in the article comes via the Bill Clinton wing of the Democratic Party. The other main complainant quoted is Stan Greenberg, Clinton's pollster and adviser.

Mr. Greenberg said that Republicans held 14 seats by a single percentage point and that a small investment by Mr. Dean could have put Democrats into a commanding position for the rest of the decade.

"There was a missed opportunity here," he said. "I've sat down with Republican pollsters to discuss this race: They believe we left 10 to 20 seats on the table."

Carville and Greenberg made the comments at a breakfast gathering of "newsmakers and reporters," Nagourney writes.

Washington's 8th Congressional District is not mentioned by name in the article, but I'd wager it is one of those "10 to 20 seats" Greenberg is talking about.

State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz (a Howard Dean fan), refused to second guess Darcy Burner's close loss to Republican Dave Reichert when I spoke with him Tuesday:

"She ran a fantastic race -- she challenged an incumbent congressman and took him down to the wire on this thing. Dave Reichert has to prepare for a lifetime of battles because that district is turning Democratic and we're coming after it."

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November 15, 2006

The sad saga of Jim West

Posted by Jim Brunner at 9:15 AM

Last night's Frontline piece on the late Spokane Mayor Jim West superbly captured the man's downfall.

The piece examines in detail how the Spokesman-Review pursued its controversial stories on West, and includes interviews with investigative reporter Bill Morlin and editor Steve Smith.

In case anyone forgot, the paper employed a consultant to pose on a gay web site and draw out West -- a former Republican state legislator who had co-sponsored and voted for legislation opposing gay rights -- into conversations about sex and a possible (unpaid) City Hall internship. The paper then confronted West with his secret life -- and when Frontline replays the actual taped interview of that moment, you can sense the mayor's world collapsing before his eyes.

The Spokesman-Review published a story that not only detailed West's secret life as a closeted gay man trolling the Internet, but also brought up allegations by men who claimed West had abused them in the 1970s, when West was a Boy Scout leader and sheriff's deputy. That was the beginning of the end for West, who denied the allegations but was drummed out of office by a recall campaign. He died of cancer in July.

The Spokesman-Review's controversial tactics get examined in the Frontline piece. There seems to be some painful hair-splitting when Morlin explains how he couldn't have gone online and posed as someone else, because it would have violated the paper's code of ethics. But, he notes, the code of ethics didn't prohibit the paper hiring a consultant to entrap the mayor. The paper's editors also appear gloating and making jokes about possible headlines on the night West lost his recall election.

More than anything, Frontline captured the tragic loneliness of West, who never seemed to come to grips with himself. After what he termed his "brutal outing," West started attending a local church that condemns homosexuality as a sin.

I'm curious what others thought of the Frontline segment. In particular, did it change your view of the Spokesman-Review's tactics? Should the paper's initial story have tried to tie allegations of decades-old sex abuse with the contemporary Internet trolling by the mayor? Did the paper prove its worst allegations? Did West simply get what he deserved?

At the Frontline web site, you can watch the whole program, and see transcripts of interviews with reporters who covered the story (including David Postman), community leaders, some of West's accusers and members of Spokane's gay community.

UPDATE: Spokesman-Review editor Steve Smith has written a critical response to the Frontline piece here.

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November 14, 2006

Burner has few answers, except for Disneyland

Posted by Jim Brunner at 2:38 PM

Darcy Burner's press conference this morning was a bit odd.

Burner came out to a room jammed full of supporters and media cameras and delivered a four-minute speech in which she tried to sound upbeat but looked a little misty-eyed. She clearly had not wanted to concede -- saying there were still many votes to be counted -- and did not want to speculate much on why she narrowly lost.

As she had for much of her campaign against Republican Dave Reichert, Burner focused on the national picture, and celebrated the new Democratic majorities in Congress.

"I think it will be a wonderful thing that for the first time in six years we will have some integrity and accountability again in the halls of the Congress, and for the first time in the history of Washington's 8th District, Democrats came together and made this the most competitive race that this district has ever seen."

She also thanked her supporters for waging a scrappy underdog campaign.

"This has been an incredible journey. Two years ago when I started this race nobody thought it was gonna be possible for us to even come close but we, you and I, knew what was at stake in this election and we believed what was possible."

Burner finished her brief speech by saying "this isn't an end, it's a beginning" and thanked her volunteers and donors. Then she walked off without answering any questions, much to the irritation of reporters in the room.

After walking outside for several minutes to chat with supporters, Burner reconsidered and returned to take some questions. But she did not have many answers.

When asked why voters did not send her to Washington, D.C., Burner paused. "Well," she said, and then laughed a bit nervously. "It's a good question."

She said, "Obviously it's still close. We don't know how close it will be." Then she grew more animated, gesturing as she recounted the massive GOP effort it took to save Reichert's seat.

"It was certainly the case that the Republicans threw everything they had into keeping this seat: $6 million in Republican expenditures, the President, the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the First Lady, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove -- and with that they barely kept it."

When asked whether she will run again for political office, Burner said the only thing she knows for sure is she's taking her young son to Disneyland.

After the press conference, Burner's campaign manager, Zach Silk, told me Reichert was one of a "set of Republicans" in supposed swing districts who managed to survive the Democratic wave this year.

He said they did it in large part because they got so much help from the national party.

"The only common thing that I can see about them is the amount of money that was spent on their behalf to diminish their challengers."

If there was a bright side for Burner's supporters, Silk said, it's that districts like WA-08 gobbled up a lot of Republican energy and cash.

"What it created was those became the frontlines, the candidates like us, and then all these other challengers they couldn't spend money on swept in. So you've got places like rural Minnesota and Kansas and just unusual places that were flipping."

Silk credited a couple late ads in particular with helping to knock Burner down in the public's mind. The first was an ad quoting newspaper editorials critical of Burner, which ran heavily in the closing days of the campaign. The second was an NRCC ad which made Burner look like some kind of evil zombie - a Democrat zombie who would raise your taxes.

Diane Tebelius, state Republian chairwoman, did not return my phone call this morning, but issued a statement: "Dave Reichert won based upon his 35 years of distinguished service to the community and for his independent voting record," said Tebelius. "The Republican Party's get-out-the-vote effort also played a major role in the election."

Meanwhile, some Democrats have to be wondering whether they blew a shot at taking the 8th because of Burner's lack of political experience.

State Rep. Ross Hunter had been considered a possibility but declined to run, in part because he was diagnosed with cancer. Other locals with business backgrounds were also courted by the Democrats. But in the end, it was the relatively inexperienced Burner who took the chance.

I called Benjamin von Ullrich, chairman of the 48th Legislative District Democrats, who admitted a more experienced candidate might have closed the gap on Reichert. "I've wrestled with that myself," he said.

But Ullrich reminded me that Burner got into the race in 2005 -- when few anticipated how far President Bush and Congress would plummet in popularity.

"I think the experienced politicians looked at it and said 'Republicans are still strong, Reichert is still popular, why would I run?' Politicians like to win. They don't like to lose."

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Why couldn't Burner ride the blue wave?

Posted by Jim Brunner at 10:19 AM

She tried with all her might to hang on, but Darcy Burner reluctantly conceded last night in the 8th Congressional District race after the Associated Press grew tired of waiting for her and called the race for Dave Reichert based on vote trends.

So why couldn't Burner ride the national Democratic tide in this fairly blue state? I'll have more on this later, but looking quickly at the voting trends, it appears the later votes broke for Reichert in a big way - not just in the more conservative Pierce County parts of the 8th District, but also in King County. By last night, Burner and Reichert wound up virtually tied in King County - with Reichert creeping ahead by 9 votes. With Pierce County added to that mix, Reichert built a 4,727 vote margin as of last night.

I don't think Reichert ran a perfect campaign. He got himself in trouble with muddled statements on global warming and defended the Iraq war in a debate by saying "we were attacked."

So what happened late in the race to cement Reichert's victory? A couple possibilities come quickly to mind. First, Reichert ran what I thought was a pretty effective ad - the "job interview" piece - mocking Burner's lack of experience. He also ran an ad quoting state newspapers on the race.

In the end, it appears voters bought the notion that Burner was largely a vessel through which Democratic rage flowed. And that wasn't enough for them to fire Reichert.

Burner is holding a press conference this morning. I'll report back with more later.

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November 13, 2006

Filling in for Postman

Posted by Jim Brunner at 2:16 PM

Jim Brunner here. I'm taking a break from writing about strip clubs and Sonics arena politicking to fill in for David Postman, who is taking a well-deserved vacation. (Thanks for the intro, David.)

While I find my blog legs, and await the latest vote totals in the Reichert-Burner race (will she concede today?), Talking Points Memo has a nice roundup of other U.S. House races that remain too close to call.

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A guest blogger arrives as I step away for a week

Posted by David Postman at 11:38 AM

I am taking a week's vacation and will not be blogging again until Nov. 21. Times reporter Jim Brunner will be filling in here. He's a great reporter with a good eye for interesting political stories so I'm confident he'll round up some interesting things in this post-election season.

A little on Jim. I met him in 1995 when he was a UW intern covering the Legislature for the Spokesman-Review. He also did a session for AP and one with the Times, where he's been since 1998. He's covered City Hall for the paper and currently follows the saga of the Sonics.

Please send him suggestions. But save up the nasty comments for when I return.

See you then.

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State delegation divided in race for majority leader

Posted by David Postman at 10:02 AM

Washington Democrats are split on who should be Nancy Pelosi's No. 2 when Democrats take charge and she becomes speaker in January.

In the race for House majority leader, Norm Dicks and Jim McDermott tell me they're backing Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania and Jay Inslee and Adam Smith say they're backing Pelosi's current No. 2, Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer. I'm waiting to talk to Rick Larsen and Brian Baird.

Democrats will meet Thursday to elect their leaders. It's an active campaign, Dicks said, and "both sides are going all out."

The race seems like inside baseball to many. But it will help decide an important committee assignment for Dicks, Washington's senior member, and has laid bare some frustration about all the attention given Murtha when he came out in opposition to the war last year.

It's not about ideology. McDermott, the delegation's most liberal member, is part of the whip team for Murtha. Said McDermott:

"He's a centrist, at best. I'd say he's a little more further to the right than I'd like."

Dicks agrees:

"Murtha is a real centrist. He is not a big liberal -- only on the war. And he is doing that as a matter of conscious."

The war, though, is how most people came to know about Murtha. He's a former Marine and supported the invasion of Iraq. In November of last year he came out against the war and emerged as the spokesperson for the anti-war wing of House Democrats. McDermott said:

"A guy like Jack Murtha has been here for 30 years and outside whatever district he's from in Pennsylvania, I'm sure he's an absolute unknown. His one time putting his head up in public really high made him look like he was with me. When he made his announcement Jay Inslee stopped me in the hall and said, 'The apocalypse has happened. Jack Murtha's with you.

"Jack came to it from a totally different position. He started out as a supporter of the war and very big supporter of the military and wanted to be supportive of his president, and all the rest. So he was not coming from the political position I was coming from. It took him a long time, but once it was done, that was the end of it for Jack."

Murtha's standing with liberal Democrats was boosted when he was attacked by Republicans. And that's led some to the mistaken impression that Murtha leans to the left. Said Inslee:

"As far as the ideological part of this, it is kind of an interesting race because the progressive wing of the party is much more aligned with Steny on a whole host of issues -- choice, the environment, energy - then the other fellow.

"It's an interesting dynamic. I would encourage those who are on the progressive side of our party to hitch their star to Steny because he has been a very, very vocal voice on a whole bunch of progressive issues."

Maybe. But there is a lot of progressive support behind Murtha. Arianna Huffington is urging people to lobby their Democratic representatives to vote for Murtha. And she wants to see Murtha win another honor, too:

When Rick Stengel, TIME's new editor, asked me to take part in a panel in New York this Tuesday to discuss who should be the "Person of the Year", my mind immediately turned to Murtha. Why? Because, contrary to what Karl Rove would like you to believe, this election wasn't about corruption, it wasn't about a few formerly closeted homophobes, and it wasn't about spending. As I've said before, it was about three things: Iraq, Iraq, and Iraq (Click here for backup). And Murtha was a key reason the election was a referendum on Iraq.

...

I strongly urge House Dems to remember why they're even picking a Majority Leader in the first place. If it weren't for Jack Murtha, they'd be voting for Minority Leader.

"There probably won't be a whole lot of difference between a Majority Leader Murtha and a Majority Leader Hoyer," says Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics.

The Nation, in a June blog post praising Murtha and criticizing votes by Hoyer, said:

The point here is not to suggest that Murtha's a perfect progressive -- in fact, he's really an old-school New Dealer who breaks with liberals on some social issues -- or that Hoyer is Tom DeLay in Democrat drag. For instance, while Murtha's been a more consistent critic of corporate-sponsored free-trade pacts than Hoyer, both men have lifetime records of voting with the AFL-CIO around 90 percent of the time.

But the Nation makes clear it's more than just the war that attracts progressives to Murtha.

No member of the House leadership has more consistently echoed the talking points of the corporate-sponsored Democratic Leadership Council than Hoyer, who once told a DLC event that Democrats lost control of the House in 1994 because "too many Americans believed that our party had become weak on crime and national defense, incapable of making hard decisions on welfare reform and fiscal policy, and irrevocably wedded to the idea that all of our problems could be solved by government and more spending."

Inslee says he has a lot of respect for Murtha, who he says is a "dear person, has a big heart and has been a very strong leader." One reason he's backing Hoyer is the work he did to help get Democrats elected this year. Inslee said that through Hoyer's campaign work this year "he has done as much or more to get us out of Iraq as anyone in our caucus" because he was instrumental in making sure enough Democrats won to take control of the House and put the party in a position to do something about Iraq.

Hoyer campaigned in more than 80 districts. Murtha was planning on campaigning in 41.

Inslee doesn't think Murtha's or Hoyer's positions on the war should sway votes in the majority leader's race.

"They both started the war. They both voted for the war and frankly that's when the chips were down. In my opinion that was a misjudgment for both of them and I don't think either one has a leg up on that front."

In talking to Inslee about the majority leader race it seems that the Murtha-Hoyer contest has poked at sore spots about Democratic opposition to the war. He said of Murtha's high profile:

"His voice on this Iraq issue has been very important to us. It's good that the media finally gave a voice to us against the war. It has been extremely frustrating to some of us who have been fighting against the war. There were 156 Democrats against the war, but we were never given any voice.

"But when Jack surfaced, all of a sudden the media said 'There is a debate.' There's been a debate for three years. But it's been ignored. ... All of us who have been against the war since day one were treated like potted plants. I always found that kind of curious."

Dicks said he's served with Murtha for 28 years on the Defense Appropriations Subcomittee. If Murtha moves up to majority leader Dicks said he'd be in line to be chairman of the subcommittee.

The race appears to be close. Pelosi this weekend publicly backed Murtha. According to the Washington Post:

The unexpected move signaled the sizable value Pelosi gives to personal loyalty and personality preferences. Hoyer competed with her in 2001 for the post of House minority whip, while Murtha managed her winning campaign. Pelosi has also all but decided she will not name the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) to chair that panel next year, a decision pregnant with personal animus.

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November 11, 2006

Are Iraqi rebels cheering Dems big election wins?

Posted by David Postman at 1:48 PM

I awoke this morning to hear it suggested that the Democratic election landslide was good news for enemies of the United States. Apparently Iraqi insurgents are popping the bubbly.

This time though it wasn't President Bush or Vice President Cheney making the connection, but NPR's Daniel Schorr, the thoughtful, veteran political analyst. He's certainly no GOP partisan. Here's what he said on Weekend Edition Saturday as part of his answer to host Lynn Neary's question, "How is the rest of the world reacting to the news of this election?"

I suspect that the insurgents are probably sitting around drinking champagne, and saying, 'Hey look, we drove a cabinet secretary out of office, we got the president all upset' and so on. This must look very good in terms of the rebels in Iraq.

If Bush, Cheney, Rush or O'Reillly had said that I bet there would be outrage from Democrats.

Bush said the week before the election:

"However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses. ... That's what's at stake in this election. The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq."

That prompted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to say the President "resorted to the same tired old partisan attacks in a desperate attempt to hold on to power."

And there was a great outrage when Cheney said in August:

The thing that's partly disturbing about it is the fact that, the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task.

Dan Froomkin wrote then in the Washington Post:

By insinuating that the sizeable majority of American voters who oppose the war in Iraq are aiding and abetting the enemy, Vice President Cheney on Wednesday may have crossed the line that separates legitimate political discourse from hysteria.

But by saying that rebels were celebrating the election victory, wasn't Schorr making the same point? Certainly it was in a much more sober and non-partisan fashion. And he's not saying that was Democrats' objective. But he's clearly saying that Iraqi insurgents fighting U.S. forces are cheering political developments here. And when he says it, it seems to make sense and does not come with the tinge of arch partisanship and questions of patriotism inherent in what Bush and Cheney have said.

Here's the fuller excerpt of Neary's conversation with Schorr:

Neary: Well, how is the rest of the world reacting to the news of this election?

Schorr: Well, on the whole, quite favorably. I mean, American popularity was at a very, very low ebb under the Bush Administration. I suspect that a little of that will be abated because it'll be seen that Americans have talked back to the president, talked back to the government, and that things are going to change.

Neary: And in Iraq, I get the sense there is a little bit of nervousness.

Schorr: Well, Iraq, what we have there is, those people who want American troops to stay and are worried that now with Rumsfeld gone they're going to try to do something about that. And there are also those, I suspect, that the insurgents are probably sitting around drinking champagne, and saying, "Hey look, we drove a cabinet secretary out of office, we got the president all upset" and so on. This must look very good in terms of the rebels in Iraq.

You can listen to the full segment here.

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November 10, 2006

Urban vs Rural; Stranger vs Stranger

Posted by David Postman at 3:35 PM

Are rural voters the future for the Democratic Party? Or are they rubes responsible for the county's ills? Did they help urban liberals this year in taking back Congress for Democrats, or did beneficent city folk help the simpletons out of their backwards, backwoods heartland?

The Stranger can't decide. And that's a problem because I rely on the Stranger to keep my urban bona fides current. I'm confused about whether rural voters should be embraced for their "authentic in-between-ness" or cursed for being the primary cause of "the size of the mess that we are now faced with cleaning."

It started soon after the 2004 election when Stranger editors published their "Urban Archipelago" manifesto, blaming Democrats' defeat on worrying too much about rural voters and not enough about urban liberals. As the subhead said: "It's the Cities, Stupid."

It's time for the Democrats to face reality: They are the party of urban America. If the cities elected our president, if urban voters determined the outcome, John F. Kerry would have won by a landslide. Urban voters are the Democratic base. ...

Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They — rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs — are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers.

...

From here on out, we're glad red-state rubes live in areas where guns are more powerful and more plentiful, cars are larger and faster, and people are fatter and slower and dumber. This is not a recipe for repopulating the Great Plains.

But last week, Stranger reporter Eli Sanders drove from Seattle to Montana to cover the Senate race between Democrat Jon Tester and Republican incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns.

You can tell by following Sanders' culinary chronicles that he went with some trepidation.

"I left liberal Seattle, soy latte in hand," he wrote. And later, "I pulled into Spokane and ordered a cup of green tea." In Butte, "I knew I wasn't going to be getting a soy latte, and when I tried for Earl Grey tea the waitress gave me a funny look and handed me Lipton."

Oh, the humanity. But once safely out of the urban archipelago, Sanders didn't share The Stranger editors' disdain for what they called "bovine, non-urban America." That may have been helped by his discovery that, "In red Montana, if one finds the right spot, there's still enough blue to get goat cheese and chanterelles."

Sanders shows a deeper understanding and a level of respect for life in traditional Red parts of America.

People, understandably, want to vote for representatives who seem to understand and respect them. Forcing rural voters to admit that urban liberals are culturally and morally superior as a precondition for entering the Democratic Party — well, it's probably not a recipe for Democratic success at the polls.

It's also somewhat hypocritical in that it embraces the same kind of Manichean worldview that liberals find so contemptible in Bush, replacing his "good versus evil" with another black-and-white binary, "urban versus rural." No surprise, it's not that simple out there in rural America, and in fact, ceding rural areas to Republicans gives up on places that aren't actually as red as they appear — areas that in elections such as this one may be winnable.

Not only does Sanders find the urban domination argument arrogant and insulting to rural voters, he thinks it's a wrongheaded strategy for liberals. He writes that "some have even gone as far as to suggest that the less-religious West, rather than the Bible-embracing South, could be the Democrats' route back to the White House."

A Senate majority with Tester in it will give Seattle liberals exactly what they want from Congress on the war, reproductive rights, Social Security, and habeas corpus, to mention only a few issues. Just as rural America benefits disproportionately from federal subsidies paid for largely with urban tax dollars, the Urban Archipelago benefits disproportionately on policy matters when rural Democrats win.

Tester won this week and indeed was a key to Democrats taking control of the Senate. But not everyone at The Stranger was ready to embrace their country cousins.

The day after the election Charles Mudede headlined a post on The Slog this way: "Rural Idiocy." It read as a rebuke to Sanders.

By the way, just because we finally tricked those outside of the light of the city, those who live in the middle-dark of nowhere and by the order of a moral system that was concocted two thousand years ago — because we finally tricked these muddy people into voting in a way that benefits them in the short and long run, this does not mean reason is spreading across the countryside. What it means is that we, in the city, finally figured out how to pull rural idiots out of the jaws of the lions. Yes, my form of cosmopolitanism is shameless, unforgiving, and knows no patience when it comes to these country types. But they, and they alone, are responsible for the size of the mess that we are now faced with cleaning.

Shameless and unforgiving indeed. I heard Nancy Pelosi say the other day that everyone in the country deserves a voice in D.C., not just those represented by Democrats. Mudede would disagree. I'm sure there's an argument for why liberals should now punish those responsible for the "mess" the country is in.

However, he does quote from the Communist Manifesto about how the bourgeoisie "rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life." And he says:

At first it was the bourgeoisie that did the rescuing, now it is the political left that must do this task.

It's taken me so long to write this post I see Stranger writers are now arguing about something else and touting the importance of the Suburban Archipelago.

How am I supposed to stay current?

SIDEBAR: Dan Savage is on a rant about people using debit cards to buy coffee because it means he has to wait in line too long.

Well, Dan, go ahead and tell rural America to take a leap, but you can pry my debit card from my cold, dead, fingers. You know, they — and you know who I'm talking about — lied to us about the future. Where's my personal jetpack? Where's my robot butler?

Oh sure, young people today have their iPods, artificial hearts and electric garage door openers. But the debit card is magically stuffed with cash and allows me to pay for just about anything, including my $2.75 coffee and bagel if I happen to not have enough cash in my pocket. So just be patient in your morning coffee line and thank your lucky stars you're not forced to drink Lipton tea in bovine America.

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Sims wins high praise from national magazine

Posted by David Postman at 8:16 AM

In naming King County Executive Ron Sims one of its public officials of the year, Governing magazine says, "No issue is beyond his realm of interest."

Sims' PR people couldn't have written anything nicer. The note from the editor says:

If you ask government people in Seattle what King County Executive Ron Sims specializes in, you will get a consistent answer: everything. Health care, global warming, budget reform, land conservation — he delves into all of them and produces better results than almost anyone in American local government.

Read the full story here.

As Sims celebrates the honor, he should also acknowledge elections spokeswoman Bobbie Egan. She got an honor that must have been tough to win. Stefan Sharkansky had something good to say about her and King County Elections.

I do appreciate Bobbie being proactive in communicating with our readers. One of the biggest problems with KC Elections in the Dean Logan era was inadequate responses to the public's legitimate concerns — whether those concerns pointed to genuine problems or were attributable to mere misunderstandings. Bobbie's comment here is a welcome improvement in public outreach.

Congratulations to Sims and Egan.

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It's no truthiness ...

Posted by David Postman at 8:10 AM

My post last week about Congressman Dave Reichert's taxpayer-funded mailings earned me and the phrase "499 mail" a place in the Double-Tongued Dictionary.

The Double-Tongued Dictionary records undocumented or under-documented words from the fringes of English. It focuses upon slang, jargon, and other niche categories which include new, foreign, hybrid, archaic, obsolete, and rare words.

And now "499 mail" is part of that, including an excerpt from the post:

And House rules in the franking manual define "mass mailing" as 500 or more pieces of mail. In the parlance of Capitol Hill, these are pieces of "499 mail." House members can send out as much official mail as they like with no pre-election cut off as long as each letter goes to no more than 499 people.

The site is run by Grant Barrett, an American lexicographer and editor of the Official Dictionary of Unofficial English. As any of my editors and many regular readers can tell you, I'm something of an expert in unofficial English. It's the real stuff that trips me up.

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November 9, 2006

Conservative group hammers GOP on spending

Posted by David Postman at 2:46 PM

The Republican Party is the party of big government, according to a new poll done for the conservative political group The Club for Growth.

A poll done in 15 swing districts around the country, including Washington's 8th, "shows the Republican Party has completely lost its brand as the party of limited government and low spending," The Club for Growth says.

The group's PAC was active this election season backing conservative Republicans, including some running against GOP incumbents. Club president Pat Toomey says his polls show that Tuesday's landslide Democratic victories was "not a repudiation of conservatives but it was a repudiation of the Republican Party."

From the poll:

Introduction to Question: Now tell me whether you think the following phrases better describe the Republicans or the Democrats in Washington.

Q: "The Party of Big Government";

A: Republicans: 39.3%
Democrats: 27.9%
Both: 16.3%
Neither: 9.3%
Don't know/refused: 7.4%

Q: Would you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The Republicans used to be the party of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and limited government, but in recent years, too many Republicans in Washington have become just like the big spenders that they used to oppose."

A: Agree: 65.8%
Strongly Agree: 43.4%
Somewhat Agree: 22.4%
Disagree: 26.4%
Strongly Disagree: 13.4%
Somewhat Disagree: 13.0%
Don't know/Refused :7.9%


The Club for Growth is trying to use the poll results to push Republicans to be more fiscally conservative:

If Republicans can strongly reclaim their previous branding of being the party of smaller government, or, conversely, if the Democrats refuse to extend tax cuts or curtail massive pork spending, then the Republicans have a chance to again win over many of these swing districts in the next election. Alternatively, if the Republicans continue to present voters with no reason to prefer them to the Democrats on fiscal issues, they likely will fail to reclaim these lost swing districts.

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Sen. Deccio announces retirement

Posted by David Postman at 7:52 AM

Sen. Alex Deccio, R-Yakima, is being treated for prostate cancer and will retire Jan. 1. Deccio has been in the Legislature for 28 years.

Leah Beth Ward has the story this morning:

"I've done everything I wanted to do," Deccio told the Yakima Herald-Republic on Wednesday. "And I'm 85 years old."

Deccio said back problems and prostate cancer, which he's been quietly battling, caused him to miss more days of the Legislature in the past two years than he would have liked.

For much of his career Deccio focused on health care, serving as chairman or ranking Republican on the Senate Health Care Committee for 22 years. In a statement released by Senate Republicans this morning, Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said:

"The people of Washington state owe Senator Deccio a big thank you. Because of his hard work, insight and leadership, we have major improvements in the public's health. For example, the 1988 AIDS Omnibus Act — a comprehensive approach to prevention and treatment — allows countless people healthy and productive lives despite living with AIDS. Without question, Washington has better health today because of Senator Deccio. No doubt his legacy in the Legislature will be his work in health care. We will miss him."

A Republican will be appointed to fill out the remaining two years of Deccio's term. Ward reports that one name that has already come up is Rep. Jim Clements, R-Selah, who didn't run for re-election to the House this year.


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November 8, 2006

The M-word and the media

Posted by David Postman at 3:27 PM

If Sen. George Allen, R-Va., is in a close race, in part, because he used an offensive racial term, why has it been OK for the media to keep using macaca, including for comedic effect?

I was thinking about that this morning and imagining what the reaction would be if Allen had used some other racial epithet that found itself in headlines, stories, and interviews.

What if Allen's insult was replaced in these newscasts by some other, better known, racial insult? Would they make it on the air?

"There's a long history of macaca moments in politics." NPR

"Once upon a time, Virginia Senator George Allen was positioned for a 2008 presidential run. Then came macaca." Fox News

It's the bad word that's all right to say. And I don't mean to pick on broadcasters. You can find it all through the print media, too.

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The real meaning of the election; in 16 parts

Posted by David Postman at 1:53 PM

"[W]hen it comes to both the House and the Senate, we obviously always knew this would be a tough year. ... But look, the American people sent a message. We, as Republicans, need to spend time making sure we understand that message, receiving that message." Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman (NBC's "Today Show," 11/8/06)

The presidency of George W. Bush ended last night.

Just as this election wasn't a defeat for conservatism, it wasn't a victory for liberalism. Democrats intentionally avoided a publicized "Contract With America"-style platform advancing a progressive agenda in favor of making the campaign a referendum on President Bush.

The results also confirmed a historic opportunity for Democrats to retake the abandoned political center, and it showed their renewed ability and determination to do so.

Based on the tone taken in a number of comments from liberal (aka Republican hater) readers in various recent posts, they have not grasped the point that Democrats captured Congress because people are disgruntled about Iraq. They did not capture Congress because voters writ large share the venom the far left holds for Republicans and all things conservative.

We knew before the election that the mindless centrists who brought us twelve years of hell would immediately try to throw progressives under the bus. And sure enough Rahm Emanuel has already started that attempt.

Let's be clear — this wasn't just a good night for Democrats. It was a good night for progressives, and no media spin that these new elected officials are "conservatives" changes who they are.

The netroots won yesterday, and we won big. There will be ups and downs, but yesterday was the first step towards rebuilding the Democratic Party and a new, national progressive majority.

Yet regardless of the remaining results and recounts, the fact is the netroots' favorite candidates did not perform as well as the Democrats targeted by party leaders. And they were never supposed to. Many of the bloggers' picks were aggressive Democrats in long-shot districts who were neglected by the Beltway establishment. There is no doubt that bloggers leveraged money and political buzz to make races more competitive and put Republicans on the defensive, but it was simply not the decisive factor in the elections.

A rising spirit of nationalism is evident everywhere in this election, not simply in the economic realm. Americans are weary of sacrificing their soldier-sons for Iraqi democracy. They are weary of shelling out foreign aid to regimes that endlessly hector America at the United Nations. They are tired of sacrificing the interests of American workers on the altar of an abstraction called the Global Economy.

What Americans want is a full-blown solution to the immigration crisis. And that will come only when Republicans come together on a "comprehensive" measure that not only secures the border but also provides a way for illegals in the United States to work their way to citizenship and establishes a temporary worker program.

Voters in every corner of the country made it clear that they are tired of divisive attacks on a woman's right to choose and don't want politicians interfering in our personal, private decision making.

But 2006 showed that Americans will reject political tampering with the courts if they understand the threat.

One of the most significant revelations to emerge from the 2006 election is the Democrats' enormous success with faith-based outreach.

And it's a particularly important moment for spiritual progressives who have been working hard these past two years to revive a religious left.

The message is that values are not just something you talk about at election time; values should guide public policies and personal conduct.

Less clear is that Democrats deserved to win — or that they would have done so absent Republican missteps. The Democrats won the House, and, as of this writing, at least narrowed the GOP majority in the Senate, but not because voters necessarily agreed with their program. How many voters, we wonder, could name even one of the Democrats' vaunted "Six for '06" legislative proposals? As they prepare to wield power, Democrats don't have capital from voters; at most, they enjoy a line of credit.

UPDATE: The Orb notices some rethinking perhaps from one of the above sources.

UPDATE: Andrew Villeneuve of Northwest Progressive Institute says the above link mentioned by the Orb was edited for clarity only, not substance and "absolutely did not tone it down."

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Will local man replace Rumsfeld?

Posted by David Postman at 10:06 AM

The Associated Press story about Donald Rumsfeld resigning says that former CIA Director Robert Gates will take his place.

Gates was CIA director from 1991 to 1993. After retiring he and his wife, Becky, moved near Mount Vernon. In 2001 he was revealed as the anonymous donor who had been paying for supplies at Big Lake Elementary School.

Gates is now president of Texas A & M University. I'm not sure if he still maintains a home at Big Lake.

Gates is a member of the Iraq Study Group, a panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker. It was formed by Congress as a way to start looking for alternative strategies in Iraq.

President Bush had offered Gates the new job of director of national intelligence. Gates turned it down, though, and John Negroponte was given the post.

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton said he thought Gates was an excellent choice to replace Rumsfeld. But, he said, "it's about two years over due."

Gorton said that if Republicans fared different yesterday Rumsfeld might still have a job.

"If the election had gone dramatically different I'm not at all sure it would have happened."

Gorton, who served in the Senate while Gates headed the CIA, said he expects him to "take a bottom's up review of the entire situation in Iraq." He thinks Gates will be confirmed, though Gorton added, "The confirmation hearing will be used to allow a very large number of senators to vent over the issue."

UPDATE: Seattlest is dreaming of big things for Rumsfeld.

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John Kerry starts his comeback

Posted by David Postman at 7:41 AM

Sen. John Kerry does not want to be remembered as the guy who fumbled a joke about President Bush and gave the Democrats' several days of headaches in the final stretch. Instead he wants to claim a little credit for the Democrats' huge wins yesterday.

At 2:45 a.m. D.C. time, he sent out a press release with the subject line:

John Kerry's Commitment Helps Bring Democrats to Victory

The press release outlines the money Kerry gave to Democratic candidates and the campaigning he did in 35 states, "helping to turn the vote in states from Massachusetts and Washington State to Texas and Virginia."

Kerry says he gave $14 million to more than 260 Democratic candidates around the country. And Maria Cantwell was one of the biggest beneficiaries:

John Kerry raised over 500K for Bob Casey in his race to unseat Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania. Kerry raised over 300K each for Harold Ford, Jr., Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill. Kerry raised over 200K each for Maria Cantwell, Tammy Duckworth, Bill Nelson and Bob Menendez.

Kerry clearly does not want those he helped to forget what he did before he stuck his foot in his mouth in California. News stories last week were already saying Kerry's 2008 presidential ambitions were crushed, but he obviously is not ready to fade away.


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And so it begins again

Posted by David Postman at 12:38 AM

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Democrats make post-war history in Spokane

Posted by David Postman at 12:11 AM

Spokane businessman Chris Marr looks like he has beaten Republican state Sen. Brad Benson. This is the first time a Democrat has won the seat since before World War II.

It is the 6th Legislative District once held by Jim West.

This one is a sign of the breadth of the Democratic victories today. Since 1994 Democrats have failed to make inroads in Eastern Washington. The only Democrats on the east side have been Bill Grant of Walla Walla and the three legislators from Spokane's liberal 3rd District.

Democrat Don Barlow is also leading state Rep. John W. Serben, R-Spokane, in the 6th District House seat.

Another big win for Democrats in Spokane was the defeat of longtime County Commissioner Phil Harris by neighborhood activist Bonnie Mager. Here's the Spokesman-Review's story. (When I was in Edmonton recently, I watched a debate between the two on my hotel room TV. Apparently Spokane TV is part of the cable menu there. Weird.)

Sen. Maria Cantwell appears to have beaten Mike McGavick in Spokane County, too. She seems to be running well in other parts of Eastern Washington, though there aren't enough votes counted yet to know for sure how many counties she will win.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: Someone who knows Spokane politics better than I do, says the history-making talk about the 6th District should be tempered by the fact that the current 6th has pieces of the former 5th District, which was Democratic territory.

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November 7, 2006

The Senate race by the numbers

Posted by David Postman at 11:06 PM

If the current margin holds in the U.S. Senate race, Republican Mike McGavick will have had the worst showing by a major party Senate candidate since GOP Seattle city attorney Doug Jewett was trounced by the legendary Scoop Jackson in 1982.

It's an amazing statistic, given that the year began with Sen. Maria Cantwell tagged as the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the country. McGavick was the Republican's dream candidate, with business and political experience and a personal bank account fat enough that he could help finance his run.

The count now gives Cantwell 56 percent of the vote and McGavick 40 percent. Libertarian Bruce Guthrie has about 1 percent and Green Aaron Dixon and Independent Robin Adair each have less than that.

Here's how other Senate races finished:

2004: Patty Murray 55 percent, Rep. George Nethercutt 43 percent

2000: Maria Canwtell 49 percent, Sen. Slade Gorton, 49 percent

1998: Murray 58 percent, Rep. Linda Smith, 42 percent

1994: Gorton 56 percent, Ron Sims 44 percent

1992: Murray 54 percent, Rod Chandler 46 percent

1988: Gorton 51 percent, Mike Lowry 49 percent

1986: Brock Adams 51 percent, Gorton 49 percent

1982: Scoop Jackson 69 percent, Jewett 24 percent

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McDermott says more wave to come

Posted by David Postman at 10:45 PM

Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott said that today's vote was "a tremendous statement by the American people that they want something other than 'stay the course.' And I think the President has to face that starting tomorrow morning."

McDermott said that even if the Senate remains in Republican hands, the Democratic wave will build over the next two years as House Democrats show voters their agenda.

"People may not see it right away," he said. McDermott wants House Democrats to pass their agenda, not just sit and negotiate forever with Senate Republicans. If Republicans just stop the Democratic initiatives, McDermott said, "They do it at their own peril."

"There is a real opportunity and a real necessity to put on the table our proposals. Things tightened up so much, the Senate should be looking over the shoulder at the American people."

Republicans have made much of Rep. Nancy Pelosi as a "San Francisco liberal." But McDermott thinks Pelosi will be a pragmatic speaker of House. "They talk about her as this San Francisco liberal, but I think of her as the mayor's daughter from Baltimore. She's been around politics since she was 5 years old. That's where she learned about politics."

As of now McDermott has about 78 percent of the vote. Republican Steve Beren has 17 percent and independent Linnea Noreen has about 4 percent.

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McGavick concedes

Posted by David Postman at 9:58 PM

Mike McGavick just conceded in his race against Sen. Maria Cantwell. But before he did, he told his supporters in Bellevue not to boo at what he was about to say.

"So a moment ago I participated in one of the great traditions in this democracy, and that is when you know you lost, you call the winner and congratulate them. So I called Maria Cantwell and congratulated her on her next term in the Senate."

The response was lukewarm, but with none of the booing McGavick worried about. That, he said, would have spoiled what he felt was his campaign-long commitment to civility. He said that some of his friends told him this wouldn't be a good year to do that, and he conceded they may have had a point.

But he repeated what he has said about the need to change the dynamics of American political debate.

"In this cold Republican year, that seed may have fallen on stony ground. But it must take root and we must find a way to end this bitterness in our land."

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Slade Gorton says there was nothing else McGavick could have done

Posted by David Postman at 9:19 PM

Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton was watching TV outside the big GOP soiree in Bellevue as national Republican losses kept tallying up.

He said the U.S. House was clearly lost, but he was holding out hope that Republicans could still hold a slim majority in the Senate. But he knew McGavick would not be part of that, which he said was "of particular regret to me" because he thought he'd be a great senator. And he doesn't think McGavick could have done anything different.

"I don't think he left many votes on the table," Gorton said.

Asked what was pushing the national wave, Gorton said, "You can put it in shorthand and say the conduct of the war has a lot to do with it." And he expressed some frustration that the Bush Administration had not done more to change the course in post-war Iraq.

"Like most other Republicans now, I would have gotten rid of the secretary of defense a long time ago. It was his strategy. He messed up.''

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The volunteer exit polls

Posted by David Postman at 8:54 PM

It is not scientific. It's just a snapshot of a few precincts. It's not a prediction. I just find these numbers interesting as we all wait for real numbers.

The volunteers who conducted exit polls in the 8th Congressional District found in an Issaquah polling place that 250 people voted for Darcy Burner and 144 for Dave Reichert.

For those of you who know the precincts, interviews were conducted in these precincts: 05-0543, 05-0544, 05-2806, 05-2807, 05-2929, 05-3138, 05-3206

There were 396 interviews done from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For what it's worth ...

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AP calls Senate race for Cantwell as polls closed

Posted by David Postman at 8:14 PM

As you can see below, Mike McGavick thought the media were calling some Senate races around the country too soon.

None sooner, it turns out, than his own. The Associated Press reported at 8 p.m. that Sen. Maria Cantwell had been re-elected. The news was met with disbelief at the Republican party in Bellevue

The call at poll-closing for Cantwell was based on a number of factors, including voter turnout, previous voting patterns, and a statistical analysis of the vote from voter interviews conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

I called McGavick spokesman Elliott Bundy for reaction. He said he'd have to get back to me.

Here's a look at the exit polls that AP is using.

You can see that according to the CBS site at least, Cantwell has not been officially projected as the winner.

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Reichert optimistic about his race, not sure about GOP control

Posted by David Postman at 7:31 PM

I just spoke with Congressman Dave Reichert at the GOP party at the Bellevue Hyatt. He says he's confident he'll survive a tough challenge from Democrat Darcy Burner. But he's not sure what to think about what's happening nationally.

In part, that's because Reichert says he hasn't been paying attention in recent weeks. He doesn't watch the news on TV and tries not to read the newspapers, he said. His staff looks out for anything important he needs to know, he said, and he is sure to read all that.

But campaign stuff hasn't interested him.

"When I get home late at night I watch a Seinfeld rerun. I need a little chuckle. Or an old western."

I told Reichert that several bellweather races around the country were going Democratic.

"If the majority is lost we just have to work a little harder."

Reichert's campaign was worried earlier today about floods hurting turnout. But Reichert shrugged it off tonight.

"I can't control it. Cops are used to being in control."

Mike McGavick is here, too. He's not saying much more than he's excited and still hopeful. He has been watching the national news and says he thinks some Senate races are being called too soon.

We'll see soon what the networks say about his race against Sen. Maria Cantwell. McGavick said he doesn't read too much into what's happening elsewhere, because he said he ran a different sort of race. He says the other races were negative and nasty, while he says he kept to his pledge of civility.

Former Sen. Slade Gorton, McGavick's former boss and the man Cantwell beat six years ago, just showed up here, too.


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Have a Maria Cantwell

Posted by David Postman at 5:27 PM

At The Stranger's election party, the Spitfire in Belltown has drink specials. ''The Maria Cantwell'' is Absolut Citron, blue Curacao and lime juice. Shaken, served with a cherry.

Dan Savage just took a drink of one. I'll let you know if it makes him decline all interviews.

MORE: Robert Novak told subscribers to his insider newsletter that as goes Indiana, so goes the country. One of those key House races seems to be decided. Democratic challenger Brad Ellsworth is leading Rep. John Hostettler by a wide margin.

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Republicans complain about volunteer exit polling

Posted by David Postman at 2:19 PM

Republicans have complained to King County elections officials about "citizen exit pollsters" talking to voters in the 8th Congressional District.

State Republican Party Chairwoman Diane Tebelius says the pollsters are inside polling places and standing in doorways.

"This is a clear violation of the rules governing exit polling, and can lead to voter intimidation. We suspect these workers are from the Election Integrity organization which has strong ties to the Democrat Party, and have publicly said that they plan to target the 8th Congressional District."

There are volunteers interviewing voters today. Hannah McFarland, who organized the effort, just told me that the pollsters only went inside polling places to introduce themselves to the people in charge and to say they would like a report on the number of voters at the end of the day.

The volunteers are following guidelines published by Election Integrity. The group has raised concerns about voting in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. The group maintains that early exit polls two years ago showing John Kerry leading George Bush were correct, and that the actual vote count that made Bush the winner is likely the result of fraud.

Tebelius found that one of the principals in the group, Stephanie Singer, donated money to Democratic campaigns, including to that of Sen. Maria Cantwell. She criticized that as showing the group's "strong ties" to the Democratic Party and said the exit polling could lead to voter intimidation.

But McFarland said other than following the group's guidelines, and giving them copy of their results, the volunteers has no ties to Election Integrity.

"We haven't even talked or e-mailed with Election Integrity," she said.

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Reichert watches weather closely

Posted by David Postman at 12:39 PM

So far today voters in the 8th Congressional District have been able to get to their polling places despite flooding in some areas.

And with most of those areas in the Republican areas of the district, the weather and access to polling places is a concern for the campaign of Congressman Dave Reichert. Spokeswoman Kimberly Cadena just told me:

"Everything is looking pretty good; people are showing up at their new locations. So far, no cause for concern."

But the campaign and Republican attorneys observing voting today are watching carefully. If at some point turnout looks to be "atypically low" in flooded areas the campaign would consider asking that hours for voting be extended beyond the 8 p.m. cut off.

Secretary of State Sam Reed told me that only a Superior Court judge can do that. He's had state attorneys researching the question the past few days and says he, local election officials or even the governor — who asked about it yesterday — lack the power to make the move even on an emergency basis.

"I don't blame Reichert, because the areas of the county with problem are the more Republican areas," Reed said.

So far reports to the secretary of state's office "are pretty positive," Reed said. King County elections spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said there had been only two calls from voters so far today who said they were stranded in their homes and unable to make it to a polling place.

Elections officials are working to try to get a provisional ballot to those voters. That could also include an e-mail or fax ballot. Egan said:

"Those would be presented to the canvassing board and they would determine whether or not to count those ballots."

Any widespread use of provisional ballots raises the specter of Washington's famously flawed 2004 gubernatorial election. Cadena said in a statement released this morning:

There are several layers of problems because of the weather. When voters who are able move to a different location, they have to vote using a provisional ballot, which caused all of the problems in 2004. Then those provisional ballots have to be verified through their original polling location.

In Snoqualmie, the polling place at the Church at the Ridge was without power this morning when the polls were due to open. City Administrator Bob Larson said crews brought a generator, emergency lights and power strips and the polling place was operating by 9 a.m.

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GOP discounts exit polls before they begin

Posted by David Postman at 8:47 AM

Under a screaming headline that says BEWARE OF EXIT POLLS, the Republican National Committee is cautioning reporters about reading too much in to exit polls today.

The GOP is right that two years ago exit polls showed John Kerry winning. But while some Democrats believe that's a sign of fraud in the actual vote count, Republicans say it's the result of flawed methodology and the other things that work against Republicans.

Among the claims in the release from the RNC today are:

Election Experts Believe Exit Polls Give An Edge And Sway Towards Democrat Candidates.

National Exit Polls Will Skew In Favor Of Democrats This Year, Due To Large Numbers Of Uncontested Democrat Seats In The House Of Representatives.

Early Exit Polling Returns In 2004 Were Widely Inaccurate, Declaring Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) To Be The Next President Of The United States And Republicans Barely Holding A One Seat Majority In The U.S. Senate.

In The 2002 Midterm Elections, Exit Polling Produced Unusable Data.

In 2000, Exit Polling Malfunctioned And Incorrectly Projecting Vice President Al Gore As The Winner Of The Crucial Battleground State Of Florida.

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November 6, 2006

Checking the mail one last time

Posted by David Postman at 5:11 PM

I thought I'd wrap up the pre-election coverage with a few choice pieces from the mail bag. Direct mail is some of the most interesting advertising you'll see during a campaign. But you only get to see what's meant for your area, so you may have missed some of these instant classics.

  • This one has made everyone I've shown it to gasp. The Roosevelt Fund, the state Senate Democrat's PAC, paid for a mailer against Sen. Pam Roach. You can see it here.

    On the front it says "U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert failed to disclose a sex predator in the Congress." There's a photo of Hastert, and below it a photo of Roach, where it says:

    "Pam Roach failed to disclose a sex predator in the state Senate. "How many young people were hurt because of their negligence?"

    Turn it over and you'll see an excerpt from a story last year in The Spokesman-Review where Roach claimed that the late Sen. Jim West made a crude remark to her about her then 18-year-old son.

    And the flier says, "Outraged? So were our neighbors when Roach revealed these allegations 15 years later."

    The only source the Democrats cite as criticism of Roach is a letter to the editor in the King County Journal. I certainly never heard anyone say they thought Roach was responsible for anything West did years later as mayor of Spokane. West was recalled last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct. If Roach had spoken out perhaps people would have watched West's behavior more carefully, or they might have thought Roach was making an unsubstantiated allegation about a man who had long been a bitter enemy.

    That original Spokesman story was pretty odd. And in it Roach's tale was disputed by another Republican senator who said Roach told her a different story at the time it happened. Weird one.

  • The state Republican Party paid for a flier against Roach's opponent, Democrat Yvonne Ward. You can see it here.

    On the front is shows some pills marked "poison" and says:

    "Yvonne Ward urged college officials at Western Washington University to stock 'suicide pills' in the college health center, to be used by students in case of a national emergency."

    On the flip side are condensed excerpts from two Seattle Times stories from 1985. Ward was a student at Western at the time. The Republican ad cobbled together something that looks like a newspaper story from The Times that says:

    "I thought it was a good way to start discussion," said Yvonee Ward, a student officer who worked to get the referendum on the ballot. ...

    But here's the rest of the paragraph that Republican's didn't include:

    "I thought it was a good way to start discussion," said Yvonne Ward, a student officer who worked to get the referendum on the ballot. "Referendums are only advisory, so it isn't binding or anything. Obviously you can't have a lot of cyanide around, but it's a symbolic gesture."

    The Republican ad's "news clip" also says:

    After attending a class on nuclear war, she also was a leader in asking that the poison be stocked for students who want to commit suicide in case of nuclear war.

    "I'd like to have them," she said.

    Here's the full quote:

    "I'd like to have them," she said. "Obviously it's a symbolic statement on the insurvivability of a nuclear war."

    Ward was a campus activist. She led an attempt to ban Penthouse magazine on campus and helped convince the college to adopt a new policy on South Africa investments.

    • Here's a flier I wouldn't have expected to see in a legislative race. It's an interesting approach.

      On the front is a photo of a solider carrying a rifle as he climbs a spiral staircase. It says:

      "I proudly served my nation in the Iraq War. But I believe the decision to invade was wrong."

      That's from Democrat Steve Hobbs. He's running against state Sen. Dave Schmidt in the 44th District. Schmidt is a member of the National Guard.

      On the reverse side Hobbs writes about his time in Iraq, how the president "let us down" and sent soldiers overseas ill-equipped, and says:

      "No one needs to tell me what happens when politicians make bad decisions. I've lived — and had friends die from such mistakes."

      And he answers the question that I'm sure comes to some voters' minds.

      Yes I know, State Senators don't set foreign policy. But they do decide how we can improve health care. How we care for the elderly. And how our children are educated.
      • And here's a stinker. The mail piece comes from the National Republican Congressional Committee and is on behalf of Congressman Dave Reichert in his campaign against Darcy Burner. (Two years ago I called a TV ad from the NRCC attacking Reichert's opponent the nastiest and most shallow TV ad of the campaign season. )

        The front side of the mailer looks like an old book with a large capital "A" and the title, "The Scarlet Letter." On the other side, the old book motif is continued and it shows a photo of Burner and says, "Amnesty."

        Get it? The scarlet "A" is for amnesty. Of course even a junior college drop out like me knows "The Scarlet Letter" is about adultery. The red A Hester Prynne is forced to wear — I imagine it looked sort of like the olde English-like type face the Republicans used — is a mark of adultery. Certainly the thought crossed the minds of literate voters, if not the Republicans who crafted the piece.

        And just because I doubt I'll be able to quote Nathaniel Hawthorne again any time soon, here's a bit to give you the flavor:

        Lo, the scarlet letter which Hester wears! Ye have all shuddered at it! Wherever her walk hath been — wherever, so miserably burdened, she may have hoped to find repose — it hath cast a lurid gleam of awe and horrible repugnance roundabout her.

        The piece is also only loosely backed up by facts. It says that Burner supports amnesty for illegal immigrants. But the source the GOP cites doesn't back that up. The only thing cited that mentions amnesty is a story in a Las Vegas newspaper that said what Republicans in Nevada called "amnesty" Democrats called a "path to citizenship."

        Democrats here, including Burner, said they thought illegal workers should have a way to earn citizenship. Another story cited by the GOP, which I wrote, says Burner "supports a process to allow illegal workers to become citizens if they pay a fine, do not commit crimes, and are learning English and paying taxes."

        The story said that Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris supported a process along the lines of what Burner was talking about. And if fines are required to be paid for entering the country illegally, can that be amnesty?

        The flier also criticizes Burner for calling the immigration bill passed by the House "pretty extreme," also citing my story. The story also mentions that Republican Rep. Doc Hastings voted against that bill, saying it went too far and that he worried about the harsh message being sent by House Republicans and that McMorris, who voted for it, opposed the provision that made illegal immigration a felony.

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Volunteer exit pollsters to look for problems in the 8th

Posted by David Postman at 10:56 AM

A group of citizen pollsters will be talking to voters in the 8th District tomorrow as a check against fraud or foul-ups. The effort grows out of a national group, Election Integrity, that says the 2004 national presidential election was likely stolen by fraud and that independent exit polling is the best way to look for similar problems this year. Says the group:

Your votes and the systems by which they are counted are the private property of a handful of secretive, tightly interrelated, highly partisan firms.

Recent elections have produced a series of highly anomalous results.

Hannah McFarland, the lead pollster in the volunteer corps, said exit polls will be done in Renton and Kirkland. She issued a statement today saying:

There are numerous concerns among voters regarding manipulation of election results due to a wide range of reasons from electronic voting, lack of transparency, conflicts of interest and voter suppression. This and other citizens' exit polls around the country indicate that voters are taking matters into their own hands.

If vote tallies differ greatly from the exit polls the group will push for investigations.

The Vote Count Protection Project of Election Integrity urges people to do their own exit polling to avoid problems the group says were obvious in media polls done in 2004. Early exit polls showed John Kerry leading President George Bush.

Steven Freeman of Election Integrity co-authored a book, "Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count," and maintains that the early media numbers were correct. He researched the discrepancy between the poll results and the vote tally which he says were "far beyond the margin for error."

In an article last year Freeman said that a report from the firms explaining the discrepancies underplayed data that proves "support for the hypothesis that the election was stolen."

Here's the report the firms did after the election. Here's a response from Freeman and other academics.

Joe Lenski, co-founder and executive vice president of Edison Media Research, which does the media polling with Mitofsky International, talked about this year's exit polling in a recent interview with Andrew Kohot, president of the Pew Research Center:

What's your biggest challenge going to be in this particular mid-term election?

Well, there are a lot of interesting things here...one is the relatively small number of races that is going to determine control of both the House and the Senate. The Senate is basically down to 6 or 8 seats that will determine whether the Democrats get the 51 seats they need for control or whether the Republicans hold on with 50-plus with Dick Cheney as the deciding vote. So even national trends aren't going to be as important as state-by-state trends, particularly in those states that are going to decide the Senate.

Similarly in the House, you've seen in most of the national polls that the Democrats have a sizable lead in what's called the "generic House vote," but you can win the popular vote for the House and still not win 218 congressional districts, depending on how those votes are proportioned out among districts. As we learned in 2000, you can win the popular vote but not win the Electoral College.

So, I think that people — including those of us on the decision teams as well as lay people looking at the results — have to be careful to remember that just because an exit poll shows more people voting for Democratic House candidates than Republican House candidates, that doesn't mean that, when you look district by district, the Democrats get or don't get 218 seats. That's going to be one of the trickiest things on election night.

Lenski also talked about efforts this year to stop any early leaks about results.

Well, I'll tell you a brief description of what we will be doing with the networks and the Associated Press. We're going to put in place systems in which no one, even at the networks, can view any of this data before 5 p.m. on Election Day. This will be very similar to procedures used in England and Mexico and other places to strictly control the dissemination of data, and the number of people who get to look at it before 5 o'clock. We'll have one or two rooms in which people will, in essence, be in a bubble, quarantined. They'll have to give up their cell phones, their pagers, any Internet activity, anything of that sort and stay in that room until 5 o' clock in order to view the data so we know there is no possibility of communication with the outside world.

The media consortium will be doing exit polling in the Senate race here.

The citizen exit polling will be done following guidelines from Election Integrity.

King County elections spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said there are protections in place for polling place votes. There are electronic, touch-screen, voting terminals, but unlike in other states they have a "verifiable paper audit trail."

In the primary about 7,500 people voted with the machines and the county's post-election audit found a perfect match between the paper receipts and the vote count, she said. And in all polling places voters have the choice of using the machines or using a paper ballot.

In other election-counting news:

Some Washington counties now have a way for voters to track mail ballots, too. It comes from a local company, VoteHere. Mail-in Ballot Tracker is being phased in statewide and currently is in use in 15 counties, though not King.

And in the new Fortune magazine there is a story about Diebold, the controversial manufacturer of electronic voting machines.

But after a close look at Diebold and its operations, it's hard to see the company as evil. Naive? Yes. Ignorant? Sure. Stupid? Sometimes. "We didn't know a whole lot about the elections business when we went into it, "admits (CEO Thomas) Swidarski. "Here we are, a bunch of banking folks thinking making voting machines would be similar to making ATMs. We've learned some pretty painful lessons."

But what was most interesting is the closing paragraph that makes it clear the company may get out of the vote counting business.

As for Diebold, Swidarski is questioning whether the election business "fits into our product portfolio." He says he'll make a decision within the next three months. But it says something that the company recently ordered the name "Diebold" removed from the front of the voting equipment. Why? A spokesman would only say, "It was a strategic decision on the part of the corporation."

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Mystery robo-calls around the country

Posted by David Postman at 10:26 AM

Remember those strange calls voters were getting in the 5th Congressional District?

The Spokesman-Review wrote about them:

Some Eastern Washington residents got recorded calls late at night or early in the morning last weekend, urging them to vote for Democrat Peter Goldmark for Congress.

Others got the same call, over and over. Others got an obscene call, or a call with no sound except the click of a hang up, with the campaign's caller ID.

It seems it's happening around the country. TPM has the story.

Hat tip to Eli at The Slog, who calls it "Vote Suppression, the Robo-Call Way."

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The election contest is now officially open

Posted by David Postman at 8:04 AM

It's time for your mid-term election predictions. Who knows what'll happen to the blog after the election, so don't miss the third contest of the year and your chance to win some well Seattle Times swag.

E-mail your contest entries here. All entries must be in before midnight tonight.

Pick the winners and percent of the votes in these races:

Cantwell/McGavick/Guthrie/Dixon/Adair (List finish with percent for each.)
Reichert/Burner
Esser/Tom
Benson/Marr
Owens/Johnson

How many seats will each party hold in:

The state House
The state Senate
The U.S. House
The U.S. Senate

Pick the winners in these out of state Senate races:

Burns/Tester in Montana
Ford/Corker in Tennessee
Menendez/Kean in New Jersey
Allen/Webb in Virginia

Good luck and remember, deadline is midnight tonight. Send entries here.

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November 5, 2006

Wrapping up in the 8th

Posted by David Postman at 1:24 PM

Democrat Darcy Burner began running a TV ad last week that doesn't include any mention or picture of Congressman Dave Reichert or, even more surprising, President George Bush.

Burner's campaign has been a classic example of nationalizing a race. She and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have worked hard to convince voter that Reichert's ties to Bush and Republican leaders are, as Burner pollster Celinda Lake put it, "disqualifiers."

But that's only step one. Burner also has to sell herself as a viable replacement for Reichert. I think that's particularly true given that she has no previous political experience and entered this race as an unknown.

The Burner campaign knows that of course. Campaign manager Zach Silk told me recently:

"We had a two step task: convince voters they don't want to rehire Reichert because he is demonstrably supportive of the President's failed policies and then offer Darcy as a credible, positive alternative. We feel very good about our execution on step one, now we are focused on step two.

...

"The onus is on us to close with a strong message
that makes Darcy an affirmative alternative."

The campaign hopes this commercial does that:

There's no secret to this strategy. But nationalizing an election only goes so far. In May, Lake said voters were in the mood for "independents who represent their voice." But without a strong sales job by Democrats, that independent could be Reichert, who had positioned himself well.

For Reichert, then, the campaign was about comparing his qualifications and experience to Burner's. He wanted to put the tightest focus possible on the two candidates — think "My Dinner with Andre" — as opposed to the Democrats' wide-lens approach of making every race about the national landscape.

That point couldn't be any clearer than in Reichert's current ad: The job interview.

KUOW's Deborah Wang did a piece on the Reichert/Burner race. She interviewed me and asked if Reichert were an "icon." I answered:

"I would say he's far from an icon but that is clearly what he wants to be. He wants to be the sheriff. He wants people to elect him, it seems, much more because of his time in the sheriff's office as opposed to his two years in Congress."

Someone from the Reichert camp asked me about the quote and whether I really thought that was true. I do. (However, I must add that it's an interesting experience to be interviewed and to read your quotes. It'd be good for all reporters to be on the other side like that once in a while.)

Reichert's reliance on his time as sheriff goes beyond using it to show he's qualified. It's a way of life and a way of thinking for Reichert. It's the Tao of Dave.

It's how he learned to get along with Democrats:

"I've been a cop for 33 years, and I've faced people pointing guns at me. I've had to talk a guy out of shooting me. He had a shotgun stuck in my gut, and for 40 minutes I sat and talked him out of pulling the trigger. So when you sit on the floor of the House and you talk to somebody who gets upset about an issue, I can pretty much talk through that stuff and work it out. They are not going to pull a gun on me, at least I hope not (laughs) on the floor of the House."

It shaped how he looks at issues in Congress:

"As a former cop, I approach each issue as an investigator, gathering all of the information available to me and then taking the position that is right and that makes the most sense for the people here."

And it affects how he looks at the Iraq war:

"The mistake we made in getting into Iraq was inaccurate intelligence. I know a little about collecting intelligence in my previous life. I also know a little bit about collecting intelligence when it relates to taking action. I was the SWAT commander, on the SWAT team."

Reichert has used his background successfully in the campaign. On KING-TV he said something along the lines of, "I'm here as the sheriff." That struck me at the time as a misstep. I thought he should have said someting about being there as the congressman for the 8th District.

Watching Burner compete on the credentials front has me rethinking that. Clearly her campaign recognizes the tricky business of knocking down an icon. As Silk told me:

"I'm not naive. We are trying to make history here. And we're running against a universally recognized political figure with a well-established identity separate from Congress."

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November 4, 2006

Independent Senate candidate struggles for air time

Posted by David Postman at 5:12 PM

Michael Hood at blatherwatch says he thinks KUOW was wrong to exclude independent Senate candidate Robin Adair from its news shows, particularly when independent Congressional candidate Linnea Noreen was invited.

We have no question that KUOW acted legally and in a good faith. But as a political decision, we don't think it was a good one.

There were only but two independents in the whole state — KUOW gave one of them a platform. How difficult could it have been to provide the same for the other?

Hood points out that KIRO radio was more inclusive.

I don't have a high horse to stand on here. Noreen has gotten scant attention on the blog and Adair even less.

Chad Shue wrote about the exclusion of third party candidates from debates a few weeks back; read through the comments to see Adair's take on how she's been treated by the media:

We cannot afford signs and advertising but we counted on the Media. But last Thursday KOMO refused me an interview, saying : "We ONLY cover the top two candidates ; if the Libertarian got enough polling points we might cover him." And KUOW (npr) told me KUOW WILL NOT INTERVIEW YOU — BECAUSE YOU ARE AN INDEPENDENT AND NOT A PARTY MEMBER ! ISN'T THAT THE POINT? [ All the OTHER CANDIDATES HAVE BEEN INTERVIEWED — Guthrie Dixon (twice), and the hampsters "Mike and Maria" ] BUT NOT ME ??? Friedman trained theoretical economist , "amateur" geologist, pretty blond grandmother, 40 years community work ...

[I'm listening to a KUOW special program about Mike McGavick and Maria Cantwells' campaigns — Monday 8:30 pm !! This is surreal. Is KUOW still NPR ?? ]

And while we're on the subject of talk radio, blatherwatch also has a rundown of planned election night coverage. (This of course is only for those driving and unable to just stay glued to Postman on Politics.)

UPDATE: C.R. Douglas interviewed Adair on the Seattle Channel, as well as Green Party Senate candidate Aaron Dixon. He gave each of them about as much time as Mike McGavick, Maria Cantwell and Bruce Guthrie got in the King 5/Seattle Times debate. The Seattle Channel replayed the debate, then ran the interviews with the two candidates who were excluded. You can watch them here.

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Rodney Tom and his cry of McCarthyism

Posted by David Postman at 2:08 PM

PLEASE SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF POST.

Boy, I need to read this page more carefully. There's been an ad running above my blog recently from Democratic state senate candidate Rodney Tom, promoting a website criticizing his opponent, Republican Sen. Luke Esser.

The ad urges readers to "Take a closer look" at Esser's record and directs them to a website, HaveYouNoShame.net.

It was a little unusual to see an opposition website in a legislative campaign advertised like that. But I didn't think much of it. Just now, though, my attention was drawn to it by a press release from the state Republican Party that said Tom was trying to compare Esser "to the disgraced, former U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy."

And he is. And it seems like an awful stretch. The website looks at three issues, stem cell research, crime and voting records, and claims that Esser distorts both his and Tom's records.

I will not try to determine who is distorting whose record. But even if I were to stipulate that everything Tom claims is true, that does not strike me as McCarthyism. And this is no passing reference for Tom. The whole point of the site is to make Esser look like one of the most thoroughly disgraced politicians in American history.

Here's what Tom says on the website:

In a different time and the other Washington, another Senator used distortion and fear to make his point. Joseph Welch, a lawyer working for the US Army asked a question of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954 that might be asked today: "Until this moment, Senator, I think I had never gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. ... Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Maybe Tom's too young to get the full flavor of his accusation. He links to Wikipedia which says the term McCarthyism has come to be "used even more broadly, to describe public attacks made on persons' character and/or patriotism that involve the sort of tactics associated with McCarthy." There's no evidence that Esser uses any of those tactics.

The things Tom claims Esser has done in the campaign are well within the normal, if not disappointing, tone of elections these days.

You don't have to search the web very far -- if finding a book is too difficult -- to learn that, "Most of those accused by McCarthy were helpless to defend their ruined reputations and faced loss of employment, damaged careers, and in many cases, broken lives."

Careers were destroyed. Lives left broken. A recent book says Sen. Robert M. La Follette Jr. may have killed himself out of fear of McCarthy and his tactics. I know that even into the 1960s professionals worried that rumors of Communist ties could destroy careers.

If Esser is attempting to replicate McCarthy-like levels of demagoguery he's doing it with the backing of the Washington Conservation Voters, the SEIU and the Boeing Machinists who have endorsed him.

Distorting one's record is not McCarthyism. Lying about your opponent's record isn't either. I don't know how best to define it. But perhaps it'd making stuff up about someone you might not even know, to instill fear in the citizenry and to raise doubts about the soundness of our government in order to advance a political agenda.

If that's happening anywhere in Washington state I hope someone will tell me right away. But it's not an accusation that should be made lightly.

4:30 UPDATE: The McCarthy stuff on the website has been taken down. Tom's campaign manager, Andrew Dziedzic, said he pulled it as soon as he read this post.

"It's not that I found it objectionable. But if that's how people are perceiving it, OK," Dziedzic said, adding he thought I had read too much into the link to McCarthy.

"We're not trying to say Luke Esser is Joseph McCarthy. That wasn't the whole point, as you said." The point was to put Esser's attacks on Tom "under closer scrutiny."

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GOP senator says Planned Parenthood purposefully gives out faulty condoms

Posted by David Postman at 11:09 AM

State Sen. Brad Benson, R-Spokane, says Planned Parenthood distributes faulty condoms so the group can perform more abortions.

Josh Feit has the video at The Slog.

Benson said that Planned Parenthood gives out condoms with 80 percent failure rates because they're "interested in the follow-up product."

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman tells Feit, "That's poppycock."

I've got to say this is a conspiracy theory I've never heard. But I bet it's not the first time someone has said it because if you listen to the recording it sure seems like someone in the audience has heard the allegation before.

Benson, who replaced the late Sen. Jim West, is running against Democrat Chris Marr in what has long been a safe Republican seat.

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November 3, 2006

UW poll says voters have little faith in Iraq war, lots in voting by mail

Posted by David Postman at 3:51 PM

By far the biggest issue on the minds of Washington voters this year is the war in Iraq. That's one of the findings in The Washington Poll, a survey done by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality.

The poll found 31 percent of voters mentioned the war in Iraq when asked what the most important issues were as people decided how to vote. Jobs/econonomy and taxes were a close second and third.

Sixty three percent of voters think "the U.S. made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq." And 60 percent said the war has not been "worth the loss of American lives and other costs."

The poll also found that voters are very confident about mail ballots; 88 percent were either very confident or somewhat confident that "each ballot is delivered safely to the County." And 76 percent were very or somewhat confident that the "integrity of each vote is maintained once received and processed."

You can read more, about immigration, same-sex marriage and others issues, here.

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More on influence of newspaper editorials

Posted by David Postman at 10:43 AM

A poll done for Washington Learns, Gov. Chris Gregoire's education commission, has a bit of sobering news for newspaper editorial boards. Voters were asked "who they would trust to speak out on education issues, using a scale of great deal, fair amount, not much, or no trust at all."

Here's what pollsters Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall, Inc., found:


From a poll done October 4th -- 8th, of 600 registered voters

The poll memo says:

In terms of messengers, there are quite a number who can effectively deliver the best messages. However, in our view, using professionals who are involved in the system, parents, and the PTA would be the most effective. Frankly, we would avoid using politicians to drive these messages, we do not think that they will carry the same weight as those who are active in the educational system. One other point, while the ratings for teachers unions, both local and statewide, are credible, they do not do nearly as well as the generic use of teachers.

UPDATE: USA Today founder Al Neuharth once said newspapers should get out of the political endorsement business. He's modified that stance a bit.

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The vaunted independent media

Posted by David Postman at 10:11 AM

Republicans are counting on their vaunted get-out-the-vote machine to help them overcome a hostile environment.
National Journal, Nov. 4

Republicans are betting that the advantages traditionally enjoyed by GOP incumbents — their fundraising edge, their record of bringing home federal money for local projects, their high name recognition and the party's vaunted get-out-the-vote machinery — remain formidable and will tilt close races their way.
Los Angeles Times, Nov. 3

Republicans are kicking off their much-vaunted "72-hour program," calling thousands of supporters from scores of phone banks, delivering absentee ballots and giving rides on Election Day.
The Associated Press, Nov. 2

In the battleground state of Missouri, Republican incumbent Jim Talent needs a big boost from his party's vaunted turnout machine.
Fox News, Nov. 2

In the meantime, the GOP candidates and committees have been able to rely on $46 million more than Democrats and its vaunted "72-hour program" to get out the vote, which outstripped Democrats' efforts in 2004.
Roll Call, Nov. 2

Solop said Hayworth, an incumbent in a majority Republican seat with the GOP's much-vaunted 72-hour program behind him, still enjoyed a slight advantage in a neck-and-neck race.
Roll Call, Nov. 2

This Republican phone bank is a key part of the Republican's vaunted Get Out To Vote machine.
National Public Radio, Nov. 1

MARCUS MABRY, CHIEF OF CORRESPONDENTS, "NEWSWEEK": ... They have this vaunted, much-vaunted 72- hour program, in which we're going to see if, in 72 hours, they can motivate their voters, not only to get themselves to the poll, but to get other supporters to the polls as well.
CNN, Oct. 31

And Republicans began firing it up weeks ago, fully aware that for the vaunted Republican grassroots ground game to carry the day, conservatives must be motivated.
Fox News, Oct. 31

But referring to the Republicans' vaunted get-out-the vote efforts, he warned against writing off the party's chances for holding control of Congress.
Roll Call, Oct. 31

Any Republican last stand this year will rely largely on the party's vaunted voter turnout effort, which most analysts say is usually worth one or two percentage points, and on turning the campaign spotlight away from the increasingly unpopular Iraq war.
Reuters, Oct. 30

Meanwhile, the message on the stump yesterday from gubernatorial nominee J. Kenneth Blackwell and other Republicans, many trailing in the polls, was that there is still time to rev up the vaunted get-out-the-vote machine.
Columbus Dispatch, Oct. 29

As they struggle to hold onto Congress on Nov. 7 amid a wave of national discontent, Republicans are counting on their vaunted get-out-the-vote operation — which is built on such data mining.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 29

The vaunted ability of the Republican Party to get out the vote where it really matters is about to be tested.
National Journal, Oct. 28

Much of the effort is being coordinated by the RNC under its vaunted 72-Hour Program for getting out the vote.
National Journal, Oct. 28

It is also one where the GOP's vaunted 72-hour get-out-the-vote program has been very successful in the past.
National Journal, Oct. 28

That would be the GOP's vaunted get-out-the-vote effort, credited with helping President Bush carry Ohio and win the White House in 2004.
Dayton Daily News, Oct. 26

There is truth in that vaunted machine.
Fox News, Oct. 26

What about the Republicans' vaunted ground game, their organizational skills?
Fox News, Oct. 26

Bush taunted Democrats who believe they are sure to win the House and maybe the Senate next month, speaking with unusual detail about the power of the Republican Party's vaunted get-out-the-vote machine and the excitement among conservative voters.
Los Angeles Times, Oct. 26

The RNC's vaunted 72-Hour GOTV program has been in the works for months, taking hundreds of steps to help endangered incumbents, said a GOP lawmaker familiar with the efforts.
The Hill, Oct. 25

The challenge facing GOP leaders is getting that base off the bench and mobilizing the GOP's vaunted get-out-the-vote operations.
Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), Oct. 25

"I'm waiting to see whether this vaunted Republican 72-Hour Program is really all it's cracked up to be," he said.
Roll Call, Oct. 24

While President Bush lost the Keystone State in 2004, the GOP's vaunted targeting and turnout operation still was hailed as a great success there.
Roll Call, Oct. 24

In an interview, Burns called the Abramoff allegations "an old issue" and said he's counting on the vaunted Republican Party turnout operation to help win him another term.
Baltimore Sun, Oct. 22

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: ... And I think this election is going to come down to whether or not that mood — and I do think it's prevalent — is going to be trumped by the vaunted 72-hour Republican get-out-the-vote operation and also whether or not a lot of grumpy and disaffected conservatives, whether they're social conservatives or spending conservatives, take a look at the prospect of a Democratic House and say, we're coming out and vote, even with our dissatisfaction.
CNN, Oct. 22

While acknowledging the difficult task they face this year, Republicans are still banking on the effectiveness of their vaunted ground game.
Houston Chronicle, Oct. 21

The party will run its vaunted drive to turn out targeted voters, hoping to give McGavick an edge in a low turnout election, she said.
The Associated Press, Oct. 21

The midterm campaign now heads into a final stretch that plays to a Republican strength: the party's much-vaunted ability to get its voters to the polls.
Los Angeles Times, Oct. 19

Exactly three weeks from now, the much vaunted Republican grassroots organization faces the biggest test it's had in recent memory.
Fox News, Oct. 17

Democrats say this year, the voter lists they're working from are a lot better and bigger, and they're hopeful that the Republicans' vaunted GOTV machine will not be good enough to survive the wave of anti-Republican feeling fueled by the war and the Foley scandal.
National Public Radio, Oct. 6

Another point of contention among political reporters is the effectiveness of the vaunted Republican "get out the vote" apparatus.
CJR Daily, Sept. 15

The way Kaine's campaign overcame the GOP's vaunted get-out-the-vote efforts in Virginia could be a model for future campaigns, Democratic party leaders said.
Boston Globe, Nov. 10, 2005

Many of the 58,943 votes Bush gained were due to the GOP's vaunted "72-hour campaign," which was actually more like a 120-hour campaign in the days leading up to the election.
Palm Beach Post, Nov. 8, 2004

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Reichert bragged about busting bird-flipping bus driver

Posted by David Postman at 8:09 AM

As reported a few days ago, the Issaquah School District says it already knew one of its bus drivers flipped off the president by the time Congressman Dave Reichert called to complain about the June incident. Disciplinary proceedings against the driver, officials said, were already underway when Reichert called some time later. The driver had apparently bragged about giving the finger to Bush and word had gotten back to her supervisor.

I've got no reason to doubt that. But in August, Reichert boasted about busting the driver. If you were listening to Reichert at the King County Republican picnic you could be excused for thinking the driver lost her job because of his intervention:

And as the motorcade went by, the President and I drove by on I-5, the President was having a great time. He was waving at everybody, he waved at the kids. He got the biggest kick out of the kids leaning out the window to say hello to the President of the United States.

The sad part of it is though, we got to the last bus — and I won't tell you which school district this was — the bus driver flipped the President off.

So the very next day, you know what I did? I called the superintendent of that school district and that bus driver no longer works for that school.

After raucous applause, Reichert told the crowd:

That's the old sheriff part of me still around.

That comes from an audio recording I have that was made by the state Democratic Party's tracker, a cameraman who follows GOP candidates to record public appearances.

While Reichert said at the picnic he made the call the day after the president's visit, his campaign has also said it was a week later. According to KIRO TV:

Now, Reichert's campaign tells KIRO 7, Reichert called the Issaquah superintendent one week after the incident happened because it was bothering him. The district had already made their decision about the driver and they suggest this was not the first time this driver had been disciplined.

Whatever the case, district spokeswoman Sara Niegowski told KIRO, "I will confirm that Reichert was not the initial tip-off."

UPDATE: The Washington State Council of County and City Employees, which represents the bus driver, clearly suspects politics played a part in the woman's firing — particularly after reading what Reichert said at the picnic.

Union president Chris Dugovich said in a statement:

"In 25 years of this work I've never seen such a severe punishment for an inappropriate, but harmless, act. There is video on the Internet that any child can watch of the President raising his middle finger to a camera, yet a momentary gesture by a private citizen is worthy of firing?

"Why a sitting member of Congress and superintendent would get so personally involved in firing a bus driver raises many questions."

Michael Young, chairman of the King County Republican Party which sponsored the picnic, told the AP the tape is ``protected communication.''

``I'm surprised. If they have a purloined copy, they need to surrender it right away.''

The tape was made by a Democratic volunteer who attended the picnic and recorded Reichert's speech.

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Heart problem sidelines Tom Foley

Posted by David Postman at 7:05 AM

Heart trouble led former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley to cancel appearances at "toasts" in his honor scheduled next week in Seattle and Spokane.

Foley and former Sen. Slade Gorton are the honorees at the Washington News Council's Gridiron West Dinners. The events will go ahead, now also as "Get Well Tom" dinners.

The news council's John Hamer says Foley was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat. Excerpts from a letter Foley sent the news council Wednesday are on the group's Web site and say:

It is with sincere regret that I am forced to cancel my appearance at the November 9 and 11 dinners the Washington News Council has scheduled in my honor. My doctor has forbidden any air travel while I undergo various tests. ...

I have always enjoyed roasts, particularly those that occur after, rather than before, Election Day. ...

One of the reasons I very much wanted to attend the dinners was to say some nice things about Slade Gorton. ... We didn't always agree, but I always knew that we disagreed on principle, not personality. ...

So, go ahead and roast Slade — and me — in Seattle and Spokane. For my part, I'm sure my ears will burn — it takes a while but they do heat up — and I'll miss seeing all my friends. ...

With my apologies for failing to show up in person to take my medicine — although I am taking my share already.

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Taxpayers fund election season mail

Posted by David Postman at 6:42 AM

Voters in the 8th Congressional District are getting thousands of pieces of official mail in the weeks leading up to the election from Dave Reichert's Congressional office. The mail is "franked," meaning Reichert pays no postage for sending the official mail to constituents.

How can he do that when there is a ban on franked mass mailings within 90 days of an election? It's not mass mail. Each of 130 different letters that have gone out since June go to no more than 499 people. And House rules in the franking manual define "mass mailing" as 500 or more pieces of mail.

In the parlance of Capitol Hill, these are pieces of "499 mail." House members can send out as much official mail as they like with no pre-election cut off as long as each letter goes to no more than 499 people.

The letters must "pertain to official business" and cannot be campaign-related, said Salley Collins, the press secretary for the Committee on House Administration, which oversees Congressional mail.

Reichert's chief of staff, Mike Shields, said there have been 130 different letters since June when the pre-primary mass mailing ban went into effect. Because the primary and general are so close together in Washington, the pre-primary black- out period carries through to the general election.

Shields said that not all the mailings went to 499 people. Some times the mail goes to a random selection of 499 constituents other times it goes to a smaller number of people identified as having an interest in a specific issue. That was the case with a letter about Darfur that Reichert sent recently.

"We can't send out mass mailings anymore but we are going to continue to communicate with our constituents on issues," Shields said.

All members of Congress can send the mail. And I bet most do. Reichert though is in the most competitive Congressional race in Washington and already has been noted for being a big mailer. HillMonitor, a non-partisan group that maintains a database of Congressional votes and spending, ranks him as the House's 7th biggest spender on mail.

KING 5's Robert Mak reported on Reichert's franking in July.

A closer look at the mailings:

The franked envelope

Oct. 31 law enforcement letter

Oct. 23 public health letter

Oct. 30 breast cancer letter


I've gotten copies in the past few days of letters Reichert sent "to let you know of my efforts to support local law enforcement," "to inform you about important work I have done regarding public health response" and "to alert you to some very troubling statistics." That last one was about breast cancer and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was dated Oct. 30, a day before the month was over.

The letter about law enforcement, dated Tuesday, talks about the importance of community policing programs and mentions that Reichert was "a former law enforcement officer for 33 years."

Reichert, who in his re-election battle with Democrat Darcy Burner has tried to distance himself from President Bush and GOP leaders, uses the letter to claim independent credentials. He mentions an amendment he offered to increase the community policing budget, and writes:

The amendment was opposed by the leaders in my part and I was urged not to go to the floor and fight my own party but I felt strongly that I h dot stand up for my beliefs regardless of the consequences. Unfortunately, my amendment failed by a vote of 130-297. Please know I will continue to support local law enforcement and full funding of the COPS program.

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November 2, 2006

Republicans worry over "massive voter disenfranchisement"

Posted by David Postman at 12:52 PM

Republicans are worried that ballots from rural Washington may not get counted next week if voters don't remember to get to the mail box early enough.

State law requires that mail ballots be postmarked by midnight Election Day. But the last pick up from many mailboxes can come long before that and a ballot still sitting in a mail box Wednesday morning will not be counted.

State GOP spokeswoman Carrie Shaw said there's more potential for that to happen in the rural parts of the state — the parts of the state more likely to vote Republican.

This afternoon Republicans will hold a press conference to draw attention to the issue with former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, who lost a very close and legally contested election two years ago. The event was announced in a press release with a somewhat alarming headline that said Republicans would "Raise Concerns over Possible Massive Voter Disenfranchisement of Rural Voters".

Around the state 34 of 39 counties will conduct mail-only elections. That's the highest number ever in the state and Shaw said voters who miss mailing deadlines "could impact close elections." She said Republicans want to make sure voters know about the deadlines and what options are available.

Joanie Deutsch, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, said that Reed has been urging people to mail ballots as early as possible.

All counties also have ballot drop-off locations that are open until 8 p.m. on Election Day. In counties with polling places, mail ballots can be dropped off at any voting site. In mail-only counties, they also can be dropped off at the county courthouse or election office.

You can find county election office information here.

Thurston County is sending voters this message:

WARNING: Some US Post Office mail boxes have a last-pick-up time well before 8:00 PM. For instance, if the last mail box pick-up time on General Election Day is 2:30 PM and your ballot is dropped at 3:00 PM, your vote will not count. Much of Thurston County's mail is now processed in Tacoma and may be post-marked too late on Election Day.

(Republicans distributed the above warning and said it came from the Thurston County Auditor. It did not. Republicans can't now say where it came from or who wrote it.)

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Do newspaper endorsements make a difference?

Posted by David Postman at 10:47 AM

Given all the hullabaloo about The Times' political endorsements this year, comments from a former editorial writer and journalism professor caught my eye this morning.

Gilbert Cranberg, a professor emeritus at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, says newspaper political endorsements have little effect, which he thinks is a good thing.

Writing on the Neiman Watchdog, the blog of Harvard's Neiman Foundation for Journalism, Cranberg says:

Do newspaper endorsements matter? There's a perennial debate about it. For some reason, there is little or any concern about how much influence newspapers have on the many other issues they editorialize about daily. My own feeling, based on many years of writing and running endorsements, is that they have marginal, if any, influence. For which I am thankful. It would be terrible for any institution to have so much clout that it could determine the outcome of elections.

Readers can, should and do make up their own minds. Talk about newspaper influence is a distraction from what ought to be the main issue: how effective newspaper election editorials are in stimulating debate about the issues and candidates. Getting readers to think about the choices is what so-called endorsements ought to be about.

I saw Cranberg's piece on Jim Romenesko's great media news site, where I also see that the Grand Forks Herald experimented with giving up endorsements this year.

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Tech writers grade Congress

Posted by David Postman at 10:35 AM

Former tech exec Sen. Maria Cantwell is the highest ranked Senate Democrat in a new high-tech scorecard compiled by CNET News.com.

The results were surprisingly mixed: In the Senate, Republicans easily bested Democrats by an average of 10 percent. In the House of Representatives, however, Democrats claimed a narrow but visible advantage on technology-related votes.

Politicians with low numbers on CNET's scorecard complained about the survey, like this from David Wade, spokesman for second-to-last place finisher John Kerry:

"The methodology behind this scorecard is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. ... He's been a leader on Net neutrality, helped write the first Internet tax moratorium, and built a coalition of tech leaders and mayors to fight for broadband deployment."

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November 1, 2006

District says driver did more than flip the bird to Bush

Posted by David Postman at 4:23 PM

In its profile of Congressman Dave Reichert this week, the King County Journal reported an Issaquah School District bus driver was fired after Reichert saw her giving the finger to George W. Bush as the presidential motorcade drove by.

The president turned to Reichert and said the bus driver had flipped him off.

Later, Reichert called the school district. After an investigation, the 43-year-old bus driver was fired in early September. She filed a union grievance earlier this month against the district, claiming wrongful termination.

The anecdote was widely reported and commented on in recent days, leading the Issaquah district to release a statement today saying it was not the only incident the driver had been involved in. The statement said:

The Issaquah School District terminated a bus driver for misconduct after she made an obscene gesture in front of students on June 16.

"This incident has to do with the responsibility of an employee who is supervising students to act professionally and serve as a role model for appropriate behavior," Superintendent Janet Barry said.

After leaving the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, the bus driver waited with a busload of middle school students on an onramp closed for the Presidential motorcade. The bus driver made an obscene gesture in the direction of the President's car when it passed by.

...

"This was part of a pattern of behavior with this particular bus driver, not an isolated incident," Barry said.

Following the incident, Congressman Dave Reichert called Barry and told her that he and the President had seen the gesture. Barry said she personally knows Reichert from his days serving as King County Sheriff when they discussed school resource officers. Reichert called as a courtesy, Barry said.

"He never discussed his view or suggested what action he thought would be appropriate to take," Barry said. "He reported the incident believing -- rightly -- that I would want to know this occurred, that as a steward of children and public resources, one of my employees had acted inappropriately in her job capacity."

Barry reiterated that the decision to terminate the employee was not motivated by any political reason.

"If the bus driver had made the gesture to a driver who cut her off on a local road, we would have taken the same action," Barry said.


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Seattle Times donates to estate tax repeal campaign

Posted by David Postman at 2:17 PM

The Seattle Times Company has donated more than $6,000 worth of free advertising to the campaign to repeal the state estate tax.

The donations were made last month. In August Publisher Frank Blethen said the paper would not donate to the campaign. Reports filed yesterday with the Public Disclosure Commission say the donation of $6,061.38 was made Oct. 16.

The donations were made to Yes on 920: Keeping Washington Family Business Alive. That is a group formed by business groups after the initiative qualified for the ballot.

In addition to the donation of advertising, The Seattle Times has reported $1,000 of in-kind donations for consulting work done by Jill Mackie, a Times vice president and lobbyist.

In August, Blethen told me The Times and its executives would have limited involvement in the campaign:

"Jill has been having some conversations with some of the folks who are putting together the campaign," he said. "We may be involved on the periphery because people keep calling us. But we're not going to make any political donations, and I may do the things I normally do, which is talking to groups like minority groups."

I've just asked Blethen and Mackie about the new donations via e-mail but haven't heard back.

Sandeep Kaushik, the communications director for the opposition campaign, said it appears Blethen is more active in the campaign than he indicated earlier.

"I would say it does seem to fly in the face of what he told you a few months ago, not to put too fine a point on it. He seems to be pretty involved in this campaign."

UPDATE: Mackie just told me that the ads are running in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and the Yakima Herald-Republic, papers owned by The Seattle Times Company. The ads will run four times in each paper.

She said the ad space does not cost the company $6,000, but the contribution has to be reported at the level of what it would cost the campaign to purchase the ads directly. Mackie also said:

I realize you see it as being of some note, but it also is a very modest involvement given the level of contributions made to any campaign by other companies and individuals and given our strongly held view that the state estate tax will not ultimately generate the net revenue the state believes it will and that it will cause damage to the sector of businesses in the state that are not publicly traded.

(I added "company" in the first sentence to make it clear the ads are not running in The Times.)

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John Kerry apologizes

Posted by David Postman at 1:30 PM

Sen. John Kerry just released a statement apologizing "to any service member, family member, or American who was offended" by what he said was a flubbed joke in L.A. two days ago.

Kerry's comments have taken on unreal proportions. It is seriously being talked about as an important development in the mid-term elections. Has anyone seen anything from a real person who says they have decided to change how they planned to vote Tuesday because of comments from a guy who is not running for election?

Remember, Kerry was the sponsor of an Iraq withdrawal resolution that got little support from his fellow Democrats in the Senate earlier this year. Even if this wasn't a flubbed joke like Kerry claims, he has not spoken for the Democratic Party since the '04 election, and even his non-flubbed lines about Iraq represent a minority view in the party.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer just cut off his guests to take a live report from the White House to get response to Kerry's apology. White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux said Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino said Kerry's apology "came late but it's the right thing to do." Malveaux also reported that President Bush supports the troops and "the president is honored to be their commander in chief."

This just in: Bush likes troops.

We now return to our regularly scheduled finger-pointing.

Kerry blames Republicans who have been pushing for him to apologize. Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group, blames the media. A statement from managing director Jamison Foser:

"The media continue to advance inaccurate Republican spin, turning this issue into a he said/she said debate, rather than challenging those who have twisted Senator Kerry's stated intentions for political gain, just days before the midterm elections.

But Democrats could blame themselves, too, because they're doing their part to keep the story alive. Sen. Hillary Clinton criticized Kerry today, according to Newsday.

Asked Wednesday at the VFW post about the Kerry remarks, Clinton said: "We don't need to be reciting the 2004 election, as much as President Bush would like that to happen. This election is about him and his policies."

"What Senator Kerry said was inappropriate," she added.

Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, according to CNN, said "Whatever the intent, Sen. Kerry was wrong to say what he said. He needs to apologize to our troops."

In Montana, Democratic Senate candidate Jon Tester, said:

"Senator Kerry's remarks were poorly worded and just plain stupid,'' Tester said in a statement late yesterday. "He owes our troops and their families an apology.''

Democratic 5th District Congressional challenger Peter Goldmark has criticism for Kerry, too.

"It's regrettable that the senator from Massachusetts has disparaged our troops in Iraq. Our troops are doing a wonderful job in a difficult situation, and they deserve nothing but our praise and respect," Goldmark said. "I continue to be grateful for their service to our country."

Sen. Maria Cantwell has not issued any statement about Kerry's remarks. Kerry was here yesterday for a Cantwell fundraiser.

Her Republican challenger, Mike McGavick, will hold a press conference soon to push Cantwell to say something about Kerry.

Here's Kerry's statement:

As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and never intended to refer to any troop.

I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.

It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don't want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.

THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE: Yesterday, as Democrats began to speak out against Kerry, I asked the Cantwell campaign if there would be any further comment from the senator other than this statment released Tuesday:

"I am very proud of our military men and women and their families for their service to our country. They are true American heroes and deserve better leadership than what they have had from the Bush Administration. We face real problems in Iraq and need to act urgently to change the course and create a new direction in Iraq so that we can start bringing our troops home."

I didnt' hear anything in response, not even a "no comment."

That's what McGavick was counting on. At this press conference yesterday he said, according to his campaign:

"Our senator stood with and raised money with John Kerry instead of denouncing these comments. At this point all she has said is, 'I like the troops.' But what we've asked is 'what do you think about what Sen. Kerry said?'"

McGavick's press conference yesterday, though, appears to have gotten very little press attention.


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In other news

Posted by David Postman at 11:10 AM

  • Josh Feit is unimpressed with the Cantwell campaign's handling of complaints of Bellevue Community College students who say they were barred from a rally last week because of the Mike McGavick T-shirts.
    I'm not a lawyer, so I have no idea if the Cantwell campaign is making any sense, but I am a voter, and this looks really lame. First of all, Cantwell's long overdue response (until the story blew up, all they'd give out was a terse one-liner) only makes matters worse. They should have apologized for the gaffe right away ... or else, fully explained themselves in a less defensive way. And my God, Cantwell is the heavy frontrunner. McGavick's campaign is (was) floundering. What's the big deal about a small group of students in McGavick tee-shirts?

    UPDATE: To all who have strong opinions on this story, read this to try shoe on other foot.

  • Paul Sand at The News Tribune asks Norris Peterson, dean of social sciences and professor of economics at Pacific Lutheran University, if McGavick's Social Security plan can fairly be called privatization.
    "Privatization of Social Security would mean there's a part of the Social Security fund that is directly tied to my name," he said. "The privatization refers to private accounts" and not to who is managing the money, Peterson said.
  • At the Cascadia Report Bradley Meacham has a first-person report on King County ballot foul ups.
    Before the primary election in September I received two ballots, one each at both my current and old addresses. The ballot at my current address included instructions to ignore the extra one. It seemed a sign that King County's well-publicized problems holding a vote had been fixed.

    Then, this week, I received two ballots for the general election, at the same two addresses. But now the current and old addresses were switched, with the ballot at the old address instructing me to ignore the one sent to my correct address. I also received two new voter-registration cards with wrong information. When I called the elections department to correct the error, I was told that someone had switched my information again, and they have no record of my current address — just the old one.

  • In the Tri-City Herald, Chris Mulick says Congressman Doc Hastings gave his "most detailed rebuttal yet to criticisms of his tenure as chairman of the House ethics committee."

    Part of that rebuttal was to blame Democrats for trying to drown the committee in work, Mulick wrote, "to further their claims that Congress has become a 'culture of corruption.'"

  • Jerry Cornfield reports in The Herald about a whopping fine levied for campaign finance violations.
    A veteran Monroe city councilman agreed Tuesday to pay one of the largest campaign-related fines in state history to settle allegations he concealed his identity as a contributor in city elections in 2001 and 2003.

    Councilman Ken Berger will pay $20,000 in fines and fees under an agreement reached with the Public Disclosure Commission, which enforces state campaign finance laws.

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Careful readers dog the NY Times

Posted by David Postman at 7:49 AM

People read The New York Times very carefully, particularly conservatives looking for bias or error. Two locals chalked up recent gotchas.

Republican consultant Todd Myers, who also runs the Center for Environmental Policy at the Washington Policy Center, caught a New York Times freelancer in a conflict of interest. And after hearing from Myers, the paper added this editor's note that makes it clear he was right.

Editors' Note: Oct. 29, 2006

An article in Real Estate on Oct. 15 featured homes in the Pacific Northwest that were constructed with environmentally sensitive building methods and materials. The article reported that the United States Building Council had begun a national certification program for these "green" houses, and quoted Tom Kelly, a Portland builder whose home was the first in the West to receive certification.

After the article appeared, a reader alerted The Times that Mr. Kelly had made financial contributions to a nonprofit organization in Seattle for which the writer of The Times article, a freelancer, had worked. The group, Sightline Institute, which promotes a sustainable economy in the Pacific Northwest, had hired the freelance writer to help with editing and writing projects.

The writer did not list her work at Sightline when she filled out a contract that The Times requires of all freelancers. She later told The Times that she had not been aware of Mr. Kelly's connection to Sightline when she quoted him in the article. Had Times editors been aware of her association with Sightline, they would not have given her the assignment.

Myers said he reads environmental groups' Web sites as part of his work for WPC. This one was an easy catch, though. He read about the writer's conflict on the blog of the Sightline Institute the day after the piece was published in The Times:

Full disclosure: the house is owned (and I think built) by Tom Kelly, who's a Sightline donor.

Fuller disclosure: the article was written by Colleen Kaleda, who's the back-up editor for Tidepool (operated, of course, by Sightline) and who contributed hugely to Sightline's recent report, Property Wrongs.

Yes, Sightline is everywhere.

Myers told me what surprised him was "that the blog bragged about this, not seeing the obvious conflict. From my perspective, the environmental groups feel a kinship with the reporters who cover them, so such a crossover doesn't raise alarms. "

I'm not sure the other NY Times fact-checking is about bias. Stefan Sharkansky, who I'm beginning to think has committed the King County voter database to memory, raises a good question about this story about the 8th Congressional District race from The New York Times.

Among locals quoted in the story are a couple, "Pia and Bong Bernadino."

This year, as always, they are voting for candidates "with a strong family orientation," Mr. Bernadino said ... To their delight, the ballot they received in the mail this year had translations in seven languages, including their native Tagalog. "This is paradise, the land of opportunity," Ms. Bernadino said of Bellevue.

Sharkansky, though, says that can't be true.

Oops. Their name is spelled Bernardino. They do have a Bellevue address, but I doubt they're Bellevue voters. They're not registered to vote in the state of Washington, at least not under any last name that includes "Bernardino" or "Bernadino". Tagalog ballots? I don't think so. King County issues ballots in English and Chinese, but not Tagalog.

I checked with King County elections spokeswoman Bobbie Egan and she confirms there are no Tagalog ballots in King County.

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