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January 31, 2007

What a vote cost in the 2006 elections

Posted by David Postman at 5:29 PM

National Journal has analyzed spending in the 2006 mid-term elections to see who got the most bang for their buck. (You need a subscription to read it at National Journal but it's also posted at MSNBC.) Patrick Ottenhoff took total spending, according to FEC reports, and divided that by how many votes each candidate received.

Among the thrifty was unsuccessful Senate Republican challenger Mike McGavick. He spent $13 a vote, including his own money, according to National Journal. McGavick spent far less per vote than his fellow '06 millionaires who had their own unsuccessful self-financed campaigns.

The 8th District House race, though, was one of the most expensive per-vote campaigns in the country. Ottenhoff called it one of the "fully charged, free-spending affairs" of the 2006 campaign. Reichert spent $49 a vote, tying for second among winning candidates. Burner spent $51 a vote, second among unsuccessful candidates.

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Tunnel lite to get a design and cost review

Posted by David Postman at 3:50 PM

Gov. Christine Gregoire has restarted the review process to have the experts look at Mayor Greg Nickels' narrower tunnel option. She and a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter today to the Department of Transportation and the Expert Review Panel asking them to do a limited review of the design and cost estimates before Feb. 13.

There is a list of questions they want answered. And the letter says:

Separate from the questions above, we would like the Expert Review Panel to review the cost estimates for the hybrid tunnel proposal based upon the answers to the above questions. What is the real cost difference between the hybrid tunnel and the elevated alternative? The City has identified some cost savings that could be also applied to the elevated option. Please make a cost comparison of the elevated option and the hybrid tunnel proposal using common scheduling and cost savings assumptions.

The letter says, "We do believe that voters should have the opportunity to, as much as possible, make an informed decision."

The review is something Nickels has wanted. I don't read the letter as Josh Feit does as a demand that DOT "get some answers from Nickels about his tunnel lite option." But I also have reason to doubt that everyone who signed the letter did so with an open mind.

Here's what House Speaker Frank Chopp just told reporters about the letter:

"The idea is to point out the ... inconsistencies of the tunnel lite plan."

He said there are numerous questions about the feasibility, cost and capacity of the city's plan. And he thinks the review will bolster his argument that a new elevated structure is a better idea.

"I think when people see the answer to all those questions, they'll be convinced even more."

Feit says the letter is not a bad idea, but adds to what he says is sloppy policy-making.

This affair is the most uncouth and embarrassing stint of governance and "leadership" (from the city council, the mayor, and the governor) that I've witnessed since I began covering politics in Seattle nearly 10 years ago.

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This is what democracy sounds like

Posted by David Postman at 2:03 PM

At his Eye on Olympia blog, the Spokesman's Rich Roesler has collected some entertaining sound bites of legislative action that are worth a listen.

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China space weapon test puts spotlight on trade deals

Posted by David Postman at 10:51 AM

Congressman Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, will co-chair a briefing Friday on China's recent satellite-destroying missile test. It's also a test of sorts for the U.S.-China Working Group that Larsen co-founded 18 months ago as a way to "build diplomatic relations with China and to make the Congress more aware of U.S.-China issues."

The Chinese missile test has alarmed some in Congress and Larsen worries that could lead to trouble for U.S.-China trade. He told me:

"There are many relationships we have with China. Some of them are going very well and some of them are not. ... What a test like this does is give some members of Congress another reason to try to tighten the screws down on trade with China. And that isn't good for China, and I don't think it's good for the U.S. either. My personal view is that we need to engage China on all fronts."

Soon after the Chinese test, Larsen and co-chairman Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., convened the bipartisan working group in a closed session for a briefing from U.S. intelligence officials. Friday they will hear in open session from a panel of academics.

It's the sort of issue the working group was formed to deal with. There are about 48 members, Democrats and Republicans, with varying views on China. Larsen is a strong proponent of trade with China. And with a Boeing plant in his district that's no surprise. But the working group is not all free-traders, he said.

"We don't have a litmus test for members. We have members who are strictly focused on the military relationship who are hawkish and some are focused on human rights. We're not panda huggers or dragon slayers."

In a trip to China last year Kirk and Larsen visited the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Not many outsiders have seen the remote spaceport and the trip attracted attention from those who watch space developments. Back in D.C., Kirk and Larsen made a joint appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies where Kirk said:

I would just say, my impression is the military developments in
space by China are profound and not well understood by the West.

Already critics of free trade with China have suggested the space weapon test calls for a rethinking of the U.S. economic relationship with China. At the American Spectator, Ralph Reiland closed a recent critique of free trade with this:

Still, we're getting better-than-ever bargains on those white-wire reindeer at Wal-Mart, except it's China that's getting the money. And the Chinese just conducted a satellite-killing missile test, successfully, on Jan. 12. In theory, it's all okay, i.e., economically efficient, unless they nuke us.

The China test didn't create huge headlines in the United States, in part because news in Iraq and of the Democratic takeover of D.C. was dominating media coverage. But it worried Japan, prompted calls for space treaties, a more aggressive U.S. military presence in space, as well as a warning about anti-satellite, or ASAT, weapons from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Moreover, the development and use of ASAT weapons threatens to undermine relationships and fuel military tensions between space faring nations.

The response by the Bush administration has generally been described as muted, both what came from military officials and diplomats.

Underlining the complicated politics of U.S.-China relations, Larsen supports the administration's response, while a leading Republican say it fell far short of what was needed.

Said Larsen:

"What the administration has done is express our concern that this test took place, express our concern about the way this took place and that it was inconsistent with our efforts to encourage the Chinese military to be transparent. They also said it's inconsistent with China's publicly-stated policies about peaceful uses of space. These are the kinds of messages the U.S. rightly needs to communicate to the Chinese."

On Monday Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation where he criticized some Democrat's response, but said the Bush administration response missed the point of the test and showed a "level of confusion in our government." During a Q & A, Kyl said:

Since the test was reported, there has been no public statement by the president or any cabinet official, no mentioned during the State of the Union speech, no congressional hearings have yet been scheduled, no indication has come out of the Pentagon that the space budget is being in any way revisited.

The State Department has provided no specific information about what our diplomats are or are not saying in response to the Chinese provocation.

Kyl wants congressional hearings to determine if any U.S. technology is being used in China's space missile program. And if it is, he wants tighter export controls on that technology. (You can watch his speech here.)

Kyl also was critical of some U.S. businesses doing China trade. He said that in pushing for fewer export restrictions on technology, American businesses become lobbyists for the Communist Chinese regime:

During debate on technology transfer, for example, many American business constituents came to my office, arguing the Chinese point of view, that there should be relatively unlimited tech transfer, arguing against limitations.

And some made it quite clear that a condition to their ability to do business in China was to successfully change American policy. And therefore they became the lobbyists for the Chinese government, in effect, to try to change that policy.

Larsen hopes to protect trade with China. But he worries over the effect of the missile test and is critical of a lack of openness on China's part.

"If the Chinese were hoping to get our attention with this test, they did and it may not be the attention they wanted. From a defense perspective we have pushed China to be more transparent with its military modernization and its military budget so we can understand their capability, of course, but also their intentions.

"This military test occurred and the foreign ministry is itself silent for 10 days. That's a problem. That's a problem for us and it becomes a problem for the Chinese because it begins to run counter to their recent efforts to try to be transparent."

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January 30, 2007

Light blogging today

Posted by David Postman at 10:30 AM

I'm going to be mostly away from the blog today and not planning to post until maybe late in the day.

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January 29, 2007

Cantwell cultivates on-line base

Posted by David Postman at 3:36 PM

Earlier this month, on-line donors to Sen. Maria Cantwell's re-election campaign received an e-mail with the subject line: "Credit where credit is due." It opened with the standard post-campaign platitudes, with a bit of TIME's Person of the Year thrown in:

Since Election Day pundits have come up with every explanation under the sun for why we won. Well we have looked over the numbers and can now say that the factor that made the difference in Washington state, and helped up re-elect Maria, was you.

There's no money pitch in the e-mail from "Team Cantwell," closing instead with the promise that Cantwell will have more to say soon:

You will get more information in the coming months about what she wants to accomplish and how you can help.

And that's what's interesting about the e-mail. It is a piece of a long-term strategy by Cantwell to develop a powerful on-line presence. She has the tech credentials for it, if not the standard political makeup for the net roots. Surprisingly for a tech-center like Seattle, no local politicians have been able to do that on a national scale. (Democrat Darcy Burner may have come closest in her race against Rep. Dave Reichert, though without a win she never had a chance to see if there was longer life to her on-line base.)

There was a three-prong approach to building the Cantwell list. Before her re-election campaign officially kicked off, Cantwell began sending out calls for people to sign on-line petitions backing her positions on energy -- helped by on-line power -- the environment and technology.

In March it was a bulletin about forest road policy:

Now I need to show the administration and other senators that the American people do not support destroying our forestland for a corporate giveaway. This week, I will be asking my fellow senators to cosponsor the legislation and today I ask you to join me as a citizen co-sponsor of the Roadless Area Conservation Act:

Sign as a Citizen Co-Sponsor now:

In June it was net neutrality:

I need you to join me now. We must tell my Senate colleagues we will fight for the principle of nondiscrimination on the Internet.

Sign the petition now.

Cantwell spokesman Katharine Lister told me by e-mail:

"Senator Cantwell believes in the strength of netroots activism and throughout the campaign she talked to online supporters about real issues that matter to her. During attempts to drill in the Arctic Refuge, remove protections from our national forests, and to eliminate net neutrality, members of the community weighed in with the Senator and helped lead the public pressure that delivered important victories. Now that Senator Cantwell is in the Democratic majority she looks forward to continuing her work with online activists in pushing for real change."

Money played a part, too. Canwtell e-mailed her list during the campaign to raise more than $90,000 for Democratic Congressional candidates challenging Republican incumbents in the state.

That's key in building an on-line presence. It can't just be about raising money for yourself. Cantwell benefited from that approach, too. Her e-mail to donors specifically thanks Democratic senators Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer and John Kerry for using their lists to raise money for her re-election campaign. She also credits Sen. Barack Obama who, without his own powerful list, e-mailed Cantwell supporters to ask for donations for her.

There's no thank you to Sen. Hillary Clinton who appeared in Seattle for Cantwell, or for Sen. Patty Murray. The e-mail was all about cultivating an on-line presence. And, I'd wager, doing that with something of a progressive bent.

So far it seems to have worked pretty well. Cantwell's on-line list grew from about 2,000 people as the re-election campaign began to more than 100,000, according to Lister.

The challenge for Cantwell now is to maintain and build the list absent her own re-election campaign. With Democrats in the majority in the Senate there'll likely be less call for the sorts of petitions Cantwell circulated to pressure Republicans. Will she use the list to push the Democratic majority? I could see that if there were circumstances similar to the dust up over earmarks where Cantwell found herself disagreeing with Democratic leadership.

There will also be an opportunity to flex the power of the list in the Democratic presidential primary. If Cantwell has a list of 100,000 Democrats, that's something that any Democratic presidential candidate would want to use, particularly in the early days. But that would require Cantwell to publicly declare a favorite, something she has been reluctant to do.

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New GOP chairman visits Capitol

Posted by David Postman at 3:21 PM

Luke Esser stopped by the office in Olympia today. He was here visiting the House and Senate Republican caucuses on his first day as chairman of the party. He is also still working for Attorney General Rob McKenna, but will be phasing out of that job over the next couple of weeks.

The party job will likely mean a raise for Esser. He is paid $84,000-a-year working the AG and the state party chairman's job pays between $85,000 and $90,000, he said.


Esser in Olympia Monday.

Esser said he stopped by party headquarters in Tukwila this morning. He told the executive director and communications director they will be replaced. The political director position is vacant, so Esser gets to fill that, too, with his own choice.

Republicans will have a higher profile in Olympia under Esser. He said the party's communications director will be down full-time during the session as part of an effort to combat the Democratic communications operation.

"We as the Republican Party haven't done enough in Olympia," he said. That, he said, includes pointing out good things Republicans propose and bad things the other party does.

"As a state party our priority needs to be state government; Olympia and county courthouses. National stuff is important, but it is more out of our control. Some day I'd like to return us to the majority party. But first we need to return the state to two-party government. We're just barely over a third of the House and the Senate."

Esser said he ran into Dino Rossi today who also was visiting House and Senate Republicans. He said he encouraged Rossi to run for governor, as he does everytime he sees the party's '04 gubernatorial candidate.

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January 27, 2007

Tebelius out as GOP party chair

Posted by David Postman at 2:27 PM

State Republican Party Chairwoman Diane Tebelius was voted out this afternoon and replaced by former state Sen. Luke Esser. The vote of the state committee was 71-43.

Tebelius immediately left the meeting as a group of Esser's backers headed immediately to the party headquarters in an office building adjacent to the Tukwilla hotel where the vote took place.

Esser is presiding over the meeting and has not yet come out to talk to the press.

Tebelius, who yesterday said she'd be available for an interview no matter which way the vote went, said only:

"They made a decision and good for them. I'll support Luke."

Esser released this statement:

"The first step towards recovering from our defeat in 2006 is recognizing that we have a problem, and today we did that," said Esser. "Though we face difficult times I'm confident we will rebound. The Republican Party is overflowing with ideas for making Washington more prosperous and secure."

"The Democrats are using their majorities to restrict the initiative process and spend a massive 30 billion dollars on state government. They're governing way to the left of Washington voters."

Doug Parris of The Reagan Wing said that applause for the two candidates seemed pretty evenly split after their speeches. He said that Tebelius focused much of her speech on criticizing Gov. Chris Gregoire. Esser focused on Tebelius, and criticizing her financial management of the party.

Also: Doug Roulstone is here. He's the Republican who ran against Congressman Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens. He got 36 percent of the vote. But he's already running again. Roulstone said that he is not discouraged by his finish in November because of the national tide working against Republicans.

Roulstone said that the Republican candidates in the 1st, 3rd and 9th Congressional Districts have also said they will run again, too.

UPDATE: State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz was re-elected today in a meeting in Olympia. He had no opposition.

UPDATE: Esser just came out to talk for a minute. He said he was surprised by his margin of victory. "The late votes broke my way, which has not always been the case," said Esser, who lost his Senate seat to Republican-turned-Democrat Rodney Tom.

Esser said he focused on finances in his campaign because "we did not raise enough money to have a statewide get-out-the-vote effort." But there were more general issues, too, he said:

"It was a terrible year and people are looking for a way to make sure that never happens again."

Esser said he will meet with party staff Monday.

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January 26, 2007

The campaign for state Republican Party chairman

Posted by David Postman at 5:27 PM

State Republicans meet tomorrow to elect a party chairman for a two-year term. Chairwoman Diane Tebelius, who won an election a year ago to fill out the last year of former Chairman Chris Vance's term, is being challenged by former state Sen. Luke Esser.

Tebelius won a year ago despite a lot of prominent Republican leaders backing her opponent, Wenatchee activist Fredi Simpson. When she won, Tebelius said:

"It was a great victory for the grassroots of the Republican Party. You can have all of the important people, but it's really about the message."

So where are the elite now? Quiet for the most part. Esser told me he's tried to run on his own as much as possible, though his boss, Attorney General Rob McKenna, will release an Esser endorsement letter tonight or tomorrow morning. Esser said:

"I know there was some concern last time around that there was too much reliance on endorsements from elected officials and others. I have tried to make certain that I am making my case myself, directly to the voters, and not so much relying on what others say."

Tebelius is glad not to have elected officials and prominent candidates involved.

"Basically I have recommended to most of them that they stay out of this. Most of them don't want to be involved. They know both of us, and I'm sure some of them are supporting my opponent."

Esser's campaign theme is to tell people that while it certainly was a bad year for Republicans everywhere, it was particularly bad in Washington state. "It is not the case that every state suffered equally," he said.

Tebelius says Republicans here were a victim of a national wave, not any shortcoming on the part of the state party. She says she had only 10 months to prepare for the election, including having to "resolve a lot of major financial issues." Tebelius tells members of the state committee who will vote tomorrow:

"Is it really time to change the chairman or should I be given a full two-year term to do the job that needs to get done. ... Sure everyone makes mistakes, no matter what business you run. But I have a great team, we have a good relationship with our legislators and I think that record is significant enough that people will not choose to throw the baby out with the bath water."

At the Herald, Jerry Cornfield points out that big Republican legislative losses didn't bring any upheaval in GOP leadership in Olympia.

In December, Sen. Mike Hewitt and Rep. Richard Debolt earned re-election as leaders of their respective and diminished caucuses. Their victories bode well for state Republican Chairwoman Diane Tebelius, who will seek to retain her job this week.

If you read Sound Politics, the campaign against Tebelius seems to be mostly about money. In fact no place has devoted as much space to the race as SP. Stefan Sharkansky and other writers there have kept up a steady beat of critical posts about Tebelius and her tenure, both as chairwoman and earlier as one of the attorneys challenging the 2004 governor's election.

The most significant allegation that Republican insiders have raised against Diane Tebelius is that she's been a disaster at all aspects of the #1 task of managing money — raising it, spending it wisely and accounting for it properly.

Esser talks about party finances, too, though at least with me in a less accusatory tone than you find at the dozen or so Tebelius posts at Sound Politics. Said Esser:

"The point I make is there is a lot of debate and dispute as to where money has come from and what it was spent on. And one of the things we definitely have to get to is to have our books more transparent. ... Another general conclusion I can draw is that fundraising was not robust enough for us to compete with Democrats as a state party."

There are 117 voting members of the state committee. They meet at 1 p.m. in Tukwila. The actual vote will be closed to reporters, but Tebelius and Esser said they'd talk to the press after the vote. I'll be there to see what happens.

Democrats meet tomorrow, too. They'll be in Olympia, but I've heard of no discontent with Chairman Dwight Pelz.

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In other news

Posted by David Postman at 8:25 AM

  • At The Spokesman-Review, Rich Roesler says on his blog that support is building for delaying all WASL graduation requirements, not just math.

  • Phil Talmadge and Richard Sanders still disagree, even years after Talmadge left the Supreme Court. This time, says Adam Wilson at The Olympian, about public financing of judicial campaigns.
  • To get Josh Feit out of the office in Seattle, The Stranger has sent him to hang out in Olympia this session. I don't know yet if his bosses sent him with the right clothes to pass the dress code in the chambers, but he's been seen all over the committee hearings. And he's reading bills. He found one pushed by Democrats to "allow industry to get tax credits for limiting carbon dioxide emissions." It's voluntary, which Feit says doesn't go far enough.

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January 25, 2007

UW's best finish of the year

Posted by David Postman at 8:29 AM

Out of some 1,200 entrants in Dana Hork's State of the Union Quiz, a University of Washington official — and PoP reader — tied for second place. Randy Hodgins, the UW's director of state relations (lobbyist), scored 37 on the 50-question quiz. Two other people got the same score. And they were only one point behind the first place finisher.

Hodgins said this morning he thinks he chose wrong on tie color, guessing Bush would wear red after going blue in 2006. Bush, though, chose to stay the course.

Speaking of going blue, in his other life Hodgins hosts a comedy radio show with his pal Steve McLellan on KAOS, The Evergreen State College radio station.

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Librarians reject call for Bush impeachment

Posted by David Postman at 7:52 AM

Delegates at the Seattle conference of the American Library Association defeated a resolution calling for impeachment of President George Bush. Seattle librarian Lynn Lorenz, an active supporter of the resolution, said there was a move to rule it "outside the purview of the ALA" and avoid all debate. But after some yelling, it was brought up for consideration before the ALA Council, debated, and rejected.

Lorenz reported by e-mail last night:

Many ALA Councilors who spoke against the Resolution felt compelled to preface their opinion with comments like, "I hate Bush more than anybody." But the Resolution is not about hating Bush, it's about STOPPING Bush! It's about whether you allow a president, any president, to stay in office who, by any legal and moral standards, is subverting the Constitution and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity that are unprecedented in the history of this country. Those of us who brought this Resolution, and the dozen or so Councilors who voted to adopt it, believe the ALA has a social responsibility to take a decisive position aimed at reversing these grave abuses of our core values.

They'll try again in six months when the ALA meets in D.C.

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January 24, 2007

Chopp on basketball, stock cars, Iraq, math and more

Posted by David Postman at 5:19 PM

House Speaker Frank Chopp covered a lot of ground at his media availability today. And he said, "We're working for one Washington" just one time, so all around it was a successful event.

On the Sonics and a NASCAR track, he said no one in the House seems to be pushing either of the projects.

"Actually, the silence is sort of deafening. It's amazing. ... I really haven't had anyone come to me in the caucus, or in the House, including Republicans, and ask for them."

When asked to react to the Sonics' proposal, Chopp said:

"We haven't gotten a proposal from them yet. They haven't picked a city. They haven't revealed the sources of funding they want to go after. So what are we responding to?"

The P-I's Chris McGann: "The amount."

Chopp. "You know, imagine what $300 million could do for school construction in this state. Imagine."

Chopp was confident that Gov. Christine Gregoire's call to delay the math WASL as a graduation requirement would pass the House. He sounded pretty ticked off about the math curriculum. In fact, he used just those words to describe his feelings about what he called a "war now among math curriculums." He said it's similar to the old ideological battles over phonics.

But Chopp said there is support to delay the reading and writing WASLs, too. "Clearly some people think it was a mistake to tie the WASL test to graduation," he said.

Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced resolutions opposing sending more troops to Iraq. Chopp tends to steer the House away from national political debates that the Legislature really has little say on. But, in part, because of the role of the Washington National Guard in Iraq, Chopp seems open to having the House debate the resolution.

"A lot of people talk about the speech last night and also how badly President Bush has led this country. ... So in the case of the war, yeah, it affects our folks and the fact that the National Guard, Gen. Lowenberg and others have told us it has affected their ability."

Chopp said Adjutant General Timothy Lowenberg will meet with House Democrats on Friday. He said Democrats will ask about Bush's Iraq policy and "how does that mistake affect our ability to help our citizens in times of emergency."

And one more: Chopp said he told Democrats in an early caucus meeting this session that "everyone in our caucus is going to be a leader." Just about. Of 62 Democrats, 58 are either committee chairs, vice chairs or hold a leadership position. I don't know who the four are that aren't leaders, but I'm sure they get plenty of direction from the 58 that are.

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Chopp says few in House want a Seattle tunnel

Posted by David Postman at 3:39 PM

The fight over the viaduct is twisting political ties. It's hard some days to even be able to figure out where all the different players stand. It is even making some people turn on friends:

After 50 years as the ugly duckling of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has the opportunity to become the beautiful city it is destined to be. Yet, politically we still have a long way to go, with some of my favorite politicians (Frank Chopp, Chris Gregoire & Nick Licata) acting as the obstructionists to this possibility and creating a smoke screen to the real issues involved.

That's from Ezra Basom writing at The Urban Environmentalist. Basom says environmentalists are stepping up to "save the Seattle waterfront" and opposing an elevated structure. He supports a tunnel, similar to what he says is now touted as "tunnel-lite" and backed by the mayor.

Since Friday, Mayor Nickels has been given the credit for proposing a 4-lane tunnel for the waterfront, popularly titled "tunnel-lite." This proposal, which has been known as the Urban Environmental Stakeholders Proposal, has been on the table for 5 years, as part of a center city strategy focused on improving mobility and transit in the downtown area. Why no elected official has pushed for this proposal in the past is because the state has refused to consider what they call "reduced capacity."

The governor, legislative leaders and WSDOT can be blamed for their refusal to consider any option that would reduce the current number of lanes on the viaduct.

Frank Chopp says he's no obstructionist. He just met with reporters and, of course, was asked about the viaduct. Most of his answers on that subject were some form of saying that he stood by the statement that Gov. Christine Gregoire released last week on behalf of her and legislative leaders.

When I asked him what he does next, he stood by the statement and then added this, in a slightly sarcastic tone:

I might want to add one other factor, one little factoid. There's this House of Representatives, I don't know if you knew about that, and it has 98 members. And I think at this point, I went though the list yesterday and I think there are about 90 who would oppose a tunnel and maybe eight that would support a tunnel. So you've got 90 opposed, eight in favor. If you want to do some of the counting, go down the list, you could count them yourself.

Me: There are some in Seattle, including some environmentalists, who focus their sort of criticism on you largely at this point, and say you are an obstructionist to what they want to see happen to the waterfront, to saving the waterfront.

Chopp: Oh, that's odd because I'm working very closely with the environmental community on a four-part environmental agenda that they're just ecstatic about.

Me: But not the viaduct. They're not on the same side you are.

Chopp: Actually, the environmental community says they're split on the issue. A lot of them are staying out of it. There are some who support a tunnel, also some support just simply nothing being built, but just have a surface transit option. And, as I said, that was some time ago, I said I was open to that sort of alternative if it was workable.

P.S.: I first read Basom's post at Evergreen Politics.

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SOTU, an expert's view PT 3

Posted by David Postman at 7:00 AM

After the President finished his speech last night I e-mailed Clark Judge for his review. (You can read earlier posts here and here.) I asked him:

What'd you think? It seemed to me to have come off a little laid back, sober maybe. Maybe previous speeches that focused so much on the war were the same, but this one seemed more so. On NBC, Campbell Brown mentioned that this was the president's first State of the Union not written by Michael Gerson. She said White House aides told reporters "he's a tough act to follow." Do you think that played any role?
Judge responded:
I liked the speech. I thought it was much better than the last two State of the Union addresses.

The domestic proposals dealt with big issues. The era of midnight basketball and school uniforms is over. We are now looking the challenges of continued economic growth, entitlement reform, energy independence, immigration and health-care policy full in the face. Big issues — and ones that must be addressed.

His handling of Iraq and the Middle East struck me as clear, realistic and, yes, sober. Of course, I feel he is doing the right thing — replacing the commanders on the ground, developing a strategy aimed not at getting out (as too many congressional Democrats appear bent on doing) but at getting the job done. For months I've felt that our operation in Iraq was defensive and drifting. Now the president is giving it focus and a sense of urgency.

Last night he was much better than before in explaining the dynamics on the ground, how they would play out if we pulled out and how and why he arrived at the new course.

The current team of writers is first class. It is not generally appreciated, but more than senior speechwriters in the past, Mike wrote as part of a team. Most of that team remains in place or comes back for big speeches. Those who are new rank among the best writers of their kind in the nation. This White House does not suffer from a talent gap in speechwriting.

So I thought the president and his writers did the job they had to do and did it well. I liked the president's graciousness at the top and his gracefulness at the bottom. I felt it all worked.

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January 23, 2007

Bush calls again for rewriting immigration laws

Posted by David Postman at 6:55 PM

For the third time in as many years President Bush used his State of the Union address to call for reform of America's immigration laws, including a temporary worker program. Bush tonight called for a civil debate on what has been one of the country's most divisive issues.

Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America — with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country. To secure our border, we are doubling the size of the Border Patrol — and funding new infrastructure and technology.

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border — and that requires a temporary worker program. We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won't have to try to sneak in — and that will leave border agents free to chase down drug smugglers, and criminals, and terrorists. We will enforce our immigration laws at the worksite, and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers — so there is no excuse left for violating the law. We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. And we need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country — without animosity and without amnesty.

Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate — so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.

This is an issue where Bush likely has more support among Democrats than Republicans in Congress. I hope to talk to Congressman Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, after the speech to see what he thinks about the President's immigration proposal. In the past, Hastings has been a supporter of a guest worker program that other Republicans opposed.

The White House has some more details on Bush's proposal here.

In the temporary worker program, employers could hire temporary workers only for jobs "that Americans have not taken." The program "must be truly temporary" and workers would have to leave the country when the job ends.

Bush also renewed calls for one of the proposals that has been the most controversial piece of immigration reform, earned citizenship. He's trying to find a middle ground, as he said in the speech, a program that would treat undocumented workers "without animosity and without amnesty." The White House said that would require any worker who crossed the border illegally or overstayed a visa "to pay a substantial penalty for their illegal conduct." The briefing paper also says:

In Addition To Paying A Meaningful Penalty, Undocumented Workers Must Learn English, Pay Their Taxes, Pass A Background Check, And Hold A Job For A Number Of Years Before They Will Be Eligible To Be Considered For Legalized Status.

Any Undocumented Worker Seeking Citizenship Must Go To The "Back Of The Line." The program should not reward illegal conduct by making participants eligible for citizenship ahead of those who have played by the rules and followed the law. Instead, program participants must wait their turn at the back of the line.

Bush has tried this before. He has argued for immigration reform and a guest worker program as an economic boost, on fairness grounds and as necessary for national security.

In 2004 he said:

Tonight, I also ask you to reform our immigration laws so they reflect our values and benefit our economy. ... A temporary worker program will help protect our homeland, allowing Border Patrol and law enforcement to focus on true threats to our national security.

In 2005:

America's immigration system is also outdated — unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny businesses willing workers, and invite chaos at our border.

And 2006:

Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy. Our nation needs orderly and secure borders.

So what will be different this year? At a White House briefing today, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Joel Kaplan was asked by a reporter if the president would just be giving a rerun of earlier immigration talks.

Q: Will he be breaking any new ground at all on immigration? Or is this just going to be recasting of the longstanding proposal on that issue?

MR. KAPLAN: Well, what's new ground is that we've got a new Congress, and it's a Congress that we're hopeful will be very eager to take up in a serious, and as I said at the outset, conclusive way, this issue. The president is going to recognize that this is an issue on which convictions run very deep. But he thinks now is the time for the administration and the Congress to work together. He's laid out the principles of reform that, when packaged together, make up the type of comprehensive reform that's essential to really fix the problem. And I think he's hopeful, and we're all hopeful, that this new Congress is going to want to take up the challenge.

UPDATE: Hastings told me he is hopeful something can happen on immigration this year, but he didn't hear anything new from Bush.

I think that the President has been absolutely consistent on this, particularly as it related to my district. We do need a guest worker program for our agriculture-based industry.

Hastings said that there remains a lot of middle ground between what the House passed last year -- without his support -- that focused only on border security and what the Senate did that had a guest worker program, earned citizenship and other provisions opposed by the previous House GOP leadership. Any bill this year, he said, will have to be bipartisan because Democrats will not want to carry the full burden of the controversial issue. Besides, he said, both parties have members who will oppose Bush's plan and it will take consensus to pass anything meaningful.

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Only in Congress are manners a "ritual of democracy."

Posted by David Postman at 6:19 PM

Given the TV commentary, you'd think that President Bush and Congress just brought peace to Iraq, and maybe made America energy independent to boot. And the speech hasn't started yet as I write this.

Said Tim Russert just now as NBC showed Bush greeting people as he entered the House chambers:

It's a wonderful ritual of our democracy, ... a backslap, handshake; saying to the country and the world, "You know, we really are in this together, at least for tonight."

Somehow I am less than impressed that Democrats and Republicans in Congress can "set aside partisan differences" for about an hour while on national television. Seems that should be a minimum qualification for the job, don't you think?

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SOTU, an expert's view, Pt. 2

Posted by David Postman at 5:24 PM

More on crafting a State of the Union address from former White House speechwriter Clark Judge. Turns out he was at the White House Monday for a briefing on tonight's speech and may have better information about what the speech will focus on than some of what's been in the news.

I asked him:

How much outside input does the White House get for a State of the Union? Do the speechwriters meet with Republican congressional leadership, or RNC people or interest groups?

I wonder what you think about this take from TIME Magazine's political blog about lesson's for Bush from Bill Clinton's 1995 speech?

Twelve years later, aides to George W. Bush are studying the ways previous administrations salvaged presidencies that seemed to some to be beyond salvation. One of the lessons of the Clinton recovery, both in 1995 and later, during Monica, in 1999, is that Americans reward presidents who, even in the face of enormous distractions, focus on issues that matter to them.
Which is why, according to leaked previews, Bush won't spend much time tonight talking about surging troops in Iraq or the Global War on Terror. Instead, he'll put forward what for him will be progressive and bold policy proposals on health care, the environment and immigration reform.

And a question about those "leaked previews." Are those all authorized leaks designed to build interest in the speech?

Judge responds:

Re. Outside input: The White House is in some respects a giant ear — listening to everything and everyone it can around the country. That's what polling is about. That's what offices of congressional relations and offices for interest group relations are about. For that matter that's what the press office is about. So for the State of the Union as for everything else there is an attempt to respond to what the White House is hearing. Tonight's speech is an example. The president and his staff have heard and understood the criticism of the administration. On a number of fronts, they will be trying to respond.

Having said that, it is best to shield the speechwriters themselves from most of this consultation. The writers get readings of the public from the various White House offices and may be encouraged to talk with a member of Congress, a professor or someone else who might offer valuable insight. But if everyone in Washington had direct access to them, no speech would never get written.

Re. The Time blog: Yes. The President's agenda should and must focus on matters of interest to the American people. On the other hand, from what I heard at a White House briefing I attended yesterday, contrary to Time magazine, half the speech will be about the Middle Eastern situation.

Re. Authorized leaks: I am not sure what leaks there have been. The White House has conducted numerous briefings over the last week, but these are so public and so complete, I wouldn't call them leaks. The purpose is to seed discussion wherever it occurs, to build understanding of proposals and official thinking, including, for example, in blogs.

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TV commercials push for action against Iran

Posted by David Postman at 4:10 PM

A hawkish D.C. think tank is running TV commercials in the Beltway area pushing the White House to get tough with Iran. The American Foreign Policy Council has bought time to run two 30-second spots for a week on D.C.-area cable news channels, going up in time to coincide with tonight's State of the Union address.

The council says the ad is "aimed at educating the American public about the growing threat posed by a nuclear Iran." I'm trying to get copies of the ads. In the meantime, here are the scripts:

The nuclear clock is ticking... and time is running out.

Iran is the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism — supporting attacks that have killed hundreds of Americans.

An Iranian group boasts 25,000 members who are ready to become suicide bombers in the U.S. and Europe.

Now, in violation of the U.N., Iran is developing a dangerous nuclear capability and has threatened to share it with others.

Stand up for peace. Call the White House and tell them to enforce sanctions against Iran today.


Iran's President denies the Holocaust, says he wants to wipe Israel off the map and has supported attacks that killed hundreds of Americans.

Iran sent thousands of children marching to their deaths to clear minefields, armed only with plastic keys to unlock the gates of heaven.

Now, in violation of the United Nations, Iran is trying to go nuclear and has threatened to share the technology with others.

Stand up for peace. Call the White House and tell them to enforce sanctions against Iran today.

Annie Swingen, AFPC's director of communications, told me that these are the first TV ads the group has ever run. It has done print campaigns in the past, but went to cable now because "our principals strongly believe that this is a critical issue that merits more public debate."

The AFPC and its Iran Freedom Initiative have been pushing a tough line with Iran for some time. A report it did last year described Iran in terms that echo the build up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Iran is also actively expanding its ballistic missile arsenal, and will soon be capable of holding at risk targets far beyond the Middle East. At the same time, Iran has become a serial proliferator, demonstrating both the capacity and the intent to transfer WMD technology and know-how, including those related to nuclear weapons, to rogue states and terrorist organizations alike.

Among the recommendations the group had for the U.S. government was to:

Reestablish credibility vis-à-vis the Iranian regime by making clear, both in word and in deed, that continued rogue behavior will carry adverse consequences, up to and including the use of force.

And the use of force seems inevitable to at least some people at the Council. Ilan Berman, vice president for policy, is a frequent TV guest when news turns to Iran. On CNN Jan. 8, host Glenn Beck and Berman agreed it was only a question of whether the United States or Israel struck first. Asked Beck:

Am I being too fatalist to say that at some point, this is going to happen? Somebody is going to strike Iran?

BERMAN: That's certainly the way it's looking.I mean, let's be clear. What we're doing at the U.N. right now is far too little, far too late.

BECK: Right.

BERMAN: If there are sanctions that have passed — have run the gauntlet of the Russians and the Chinese, they`re not likely to offend Moscow or Beijing, and as a result, they`re not likely to offend Tehran either. And that means that when the Israelis look at this land to land. And right now they`re OK with subcontracting and allowing us take the lead. But when — when the Iranians cross the red line, an important red line, like for example, in March when they say at the end of the Iranian calendar year, which is in March, that they will be ready to begin industrial uranium enrichment. When the Iranians cross the red line — they`re about to — and the Israelis look at us. If we`re not doing anything serious, then they`re going to conclude, and rightly so, that they need to do this.

In the summer, the McClatchy News Service quoted Berman on Iran:

We are creating a situation where everything we're going to try short of military force is going to fail. ... By the spring of next year, we're going to be looking at very serious discussions about next steps, including military options.

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An expert's view of the president's speech

Posted by David Postman at 1:55 PM

To help set up tonight's State of the Union Address and to put the speech into some historic context, I contacted former White House speechwriter Clark Judge. He was a speechwriter and special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush.

Judge is now managing director of the White House Writers Group, a D.C. communications firm that includes other former White House speechwriters.

Judge agreed to take some questions from me and I hope to be able to do several posts today on how speeches like this come together, how the expectation game is played and how he views tonight's speech.

Q: One thing I've been curious about is how long it takes to write a speech like a State of the Union address. How long ago do you think a draft was begun? Can you tell me a little about the writing process? Is it a group effort from the beginning, or initially more the work of one person?

Is the speech locked down at this point, seven hours before, or are changes still being made right up until delivery?

Judge: Each State of the Union is handled differently, even within administrations. Sometimes the chief writer does it all. Sometimes two or three writers draft. Sometimes everyone on staff has a hand.

This year, as in the past, work began in December. According to media reports, the president identified major areas to touch on. Writers would then, as in the past, consult with the primary policy advisors for each set of issues. The writers would be, of course, very familiar with most of these questions anyway, but there are always policy initiatives to be understood and considerable thinking to be done about core themes and the balancing of sections.

Once a draft is complete, the State of the Union address — like all presidential speeches — goes into staffing. For a speechwriter, staffing is a tricky, sometimes infuriating, sometimes stimulating process. Comments come flooding back. Invariably a staffer who can barely compose a coherent sentence will edit for style. Imagine how speechwriters react to that. But more challenging is reconciling conflicting staffers. Several years ago, speechwriters in the current White House took heat for supposedly not accepting a CIA edit. But in fact speechwriters often must reject edits from supposed experts, usually when there are other equally credible experts involved. Typically — at least for me — the writer makes an effort to get the experts together and looks for a way to resolve the dispute. When differences can't be resolved, he or she may look to senior staff for guidance. Mediation and negotiation are among the least appreciated aspects of the craft.

Tonight's speech has been with the president for some days now. He has been rehearsing it and making edits of his own. If there are last-minute changes, they are personal ones, probably having to do with style and cadence. The main thing by now is not to tinker but to master, so that the president's performance does justice to all the many days put in by so many talented and truly brilliant people to give him a text worthy of delivery to the American nation.

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Dems in Oly say no more troops to Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 11:57 AM

If librarians can argue for President Bush to be impeached, why shouldn't Democratic state lawmakers vote to stop a troop increase for Iraq? Senate and House resolutions were introduced this week calling on President Bush to get "explicit approval from Congress if he wants to send more American troops to Iraq" and telling Congress to pass a law "prohibiting the President from spending taxpayer dollars on an escalation in Iraq, unless the President first seeks Congressional approval."

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Viaduct roundup

Posted by David Postman at 8:36 AM

Would the Legislature and the governor really reject the will of the voters on the viaduct?

Ask the people who were in the majority voting against a new Seattle baseball park. A little history:

In September 1995, King County taxpayers voted against a hike in the sales tax to pay for a new ballpark as well as repairs to the Seattle Kingdome, present home of the city's baseball and football franchises.

But just weeks later, the Mariners entered the American League playoffs for the first time and triumphed over the New York Yankees. This exciting performance stirred state and local officials to reject the vote of the people. In October of that year, the state Legislature and the King County Council approved a $320 million plan for a new stadium.

Gov. Christine Gregoire's and House Speaker Frank Chopp's refusal to commit to abiding by the Seattle vote has people ticked off. Gregoire's statement that she wants to hear what voters say, but won't necessarily follow their direction, prompts The Stranger's Erica C. Barnett to say, "Well that's big of her."

The Friends of Seattle Blog takes the Speaker on, saying:

Chopp Doesn't Give a Damn about Viaduct Vote Results

Given Speaker Chopp's position, the Council should have skipped the charade of a public advisory vote and stuck to its guns by telling the state that the City does not want a rebuild, period. And then left it at that.

There's some sense that the fighting, stubbornness and lack of clarity as Democrats fight amongst themselves is providing an opportunity for political gain by Republicans.

"The Republicans must be licking their chops," they say at City Comforts, temporarily known as Viaduct, The Blog."

Randy Stapilus at Ridenbaugh Press thinks state GOP chair Diane Tebelius may get some traction on her criticisms of Gregoire's viaduct leadership.

She has been issuing a string of press releases likely to get a bunch of Western Washingtonians nodding their heads.

Republicans probably have been over-using the "flip-flop" verbiage the last few years, but it sticks this time: "After Governor Christine Gregoire tossed her decision back to voters on how to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct ... [she made] a major 'flip-flop' by saying 'no tunnel' choice for Seattle voters."

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January 22, 2007

Deadline approaches for State of the Union quiz

Posted by David Postman at 5:00 PM

You only have until tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. Seattle time to enter this indepth State of the Union Predictions Quiz. You have to guess all sorts of things, including the color of Bush's tie and Nancy Pelosi's suit, which presidential candidate will be shown in the audience cut-away and who will be seated with the First Lady.

Dana Hork, a photo-blogger and municipal bond trader at J.P. Morgan, has been doing SOTU quizzes since 2004.

(Hey, Bill the Ump, thanks for the tip.)

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McMorris to head womens' caucus

Posted by David Postman at 11:49 AM

Fifth District Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane is the new co-chairwoman of the Congressional Women's Caucus. The Democratic co-chairwoman is Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif. They officially take over tomorrow.

The caucus has gone through several iterations since its founding in 1977. First, it was women only and later men were invited. But in 1995, the new GOP-majority voted to end funding caucus organizations and the women's group created a non-profit, Women's Policy, Inc., and the membership is now back to women only.

The caucus has pushed for pay equity, tougher child support enforcement, women's health programs and law protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

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Librarians to debate Bush impeachment

Posted by David Postman at 10:46 AM

A group of librarians want the American Library Association to go on record during its Seattle convention this week in support of impeaching President George Bush, who they call a war criminal.

Lynn Lorenz, a Seattle librarian, e-mailed to say the impeachment resolution was adopted by the ALA's "Social Responsibilities Round Table" Saturday. Tomorrow it will be introduced at the ALA Council by Washington state members. The ALA also has a resolution calling to stop funding for the Iraq war.

There was a similar effort at the ALA's summer meeting in New Orleans — which I wrote about here — but it was not successful.

A statement from the anti-Bush librarians says, in part:

If the president is allowed to finish out his term, then everything he has done — the doctrine of preemptive war, the legalization of torture, the obliteration of basic constitutional protections — will be legitimized and may be made permanent, no matter who becomes the next president.

If we don't look at this question with historical sweep, we risk missing the forest for the trees. The most important way to ensure the future of Libraries, is to ensure that the society they reflect and serve is a Democracy.

When I wrote about this in June the question was asked, why are librarians involving themselves in national politics? The resolution tries to address that by saying:

WHEREAS, Open and unfettered access to information created and held by the government is a prerequisite for a free and democratic society (Resolution on Security and Access to Government Information); and

WHEREAS, The broad social responsibilities of the American Library Association are, in part, defined in terms of the contribution that librarianship can make in ameliorating or solving the critical problems of society, and the willingness of the ALA to take a position on current critical issues with the relationship to libraries and library service set forth in the position statement (ALA Policy Manual, 1.1);

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What the Legislature can mean in the real world

Posted by David Postman at 7:29 AM

If you missed it, go back and read this story in Saturday's paper about the first people charged in the state "under Maria's Law, named for Maria Federici, a Renton woman who was blinded and permanently disfigured when a piece of particleboard flew off a trailer and into her car in 2004."

The law was passed in 2005. You can't read the story and not feel the pain of the victim's family. But it also will give you a hint of what it must feel like to have been the grandfather and his grandson responsible for the death of Gavin Coffee.

With tears, hugs and a 13-year-old's somber poem, two families said goodbye Friday to a father of five and accepted what they felt was justice for the two sorrowful men who caused his death.

Surrounded by her children, including the 6-week-old son her husband, Gavin Coffee, would never meet, widow Heidi Coffee told a grandfather and grandson that she forgave them for failing to secure a shelving unit to the bed of their truck in August. The unit flew out of the truck while Brian W. Campbell and William E. Clark drove along Interstate 5, causing a multicar accident that killed Gavin Coffee, a 43-year-old Lake Forest Park father and children's pastor.

In Olympia it is not unusual for the most high-profile crimes and accidents to prompt legislative action. And those bills are often named after victims. There is the Becca Bill, the Joey Levick Bill, and others.

The push for these laws often come from the victim's family, trying to work out their crushing grief — the victims are almost always young —: and working to prevent any similar tragedies. Lawmakers' rush to push these laws can seem at times, I will admit, a little opportunistic. And some have criticized the reactive nature. One former lawmaker launched into a tirade about the trend in a 2000 story in the Times, "mockingly referring to the Legislature as the 'Nannyslature.'"

But as I read the story in Saturday's paper by Natalie Singer, it all seemed like the best idea, prompted by the best motive, accomplishing a real public service. It brought attention to the crime and created penalties for the men responsible. It obviously meant something to Federici.

Federici said she felt good about the sentence and hoped the tragedy brings awareness to the problem of unsecured loads.

Tough laws can't prevent all crimes or accidents. It can't give Maria Federici back all that she lost on I-405. But if there were no Maria's Law, another grieving family would be wondering why there was nothing on the books that might have at least lessened the chance they would lose their father and husband, nothing on the books to punish the people responsible, nothing to give comfort that maybe their tragedy could help prevent someone else's. They'd be left to wander the Capitol halls, pushing for the Gavin Coffee Law.

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January 19, 2007

Who invited this guy?

Posted by David Postman at 9:30 AM

UPDATE: Someone is posting comments under the name of others. I am trying to figure out who did it and will be sure to ban them. But until then, and until I can verify others, I'm going to suspend comments on this thread. I don't have time over the weekend to babysit every single comment. And until now it hasn't been a problem.

UPDATE: Other than the first "Toby Nixon" comment the others all seem to be legitimate. Still hunting for the phony Nixon.

At a press conference yesterday to promote election legislation, three state Senate Democrats sat in front of photographs of two famous political figures inscribed with quotes about voting. When Sen. Jeannie Kohl-Welles was speaking, this shot was often what you'd see if you watched on TVW.


Sen. Jeannie Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, left, and Joseph Stalin, murderous dictator-USSR.

Freshmen Sen. Eric Oemig, D, Kirkland, opened the press conference by explaining the presence of the photos:

"Voting is a fundamental right, because it's preservative of all are other rights. Our ability to vote and make an informed choice is the foundation of democracy. Referring to some props over here, Lyndon Johnson said that 'voting is the primary duty of democracy.' But Jospeh Stalin warns that 'it's not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes.' And that's why this is such an important issue. Our election system must not obstruct the citizens' right to vote."

You can see when TVW shows the wideshot of Kohl-Welles, Oemig and Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, that Kohl-Welles is sandwiched between the LBJ and JS photos.

I heard that Stalin quote tossed around during the fight over the 2004 governor's election. But it was always Republicans using it to cast aspersions on the state's election system. Isn't it a little alarmist to equate any of our election problems — even without legislative fixes this year — to one of the most brutal regimes in history?

UPDATE: Oemig left a comment tonight that I thought should be moved out here. He wrote:

Why does David Postman support the murderous regime of Joseph Stalin? After all, he's got a picture of him on his website. By using his same logic, that's the conclusion we must draw.

That's just the kind of false association I would expect from Sound Politics, but I expect better of Postman.

Sen. Kohl-Welles came to a press conference late, grabbed an available chair in the corner and made a statement about some election reform legislation she's sponsoring.

She is such a beautiful and compassionate person that to mischaracterize her this way is just shameless.

Why I what to know is, how did Postman miss the irony of the inclusion of LBJ?

My response is in the comment thread.

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Cantwell aide joins Dotzauer's firm

Posted by David Postman at 6:47 AM

Charla Neuman, Sen. Maria Cantwell's press secretary, is leaving to take a job with longtime Cantwell associate Ron Dotzauer. Neuman stopped by the office yesterday to say she would be working for Dotzauer's Strategies 360 firm doing PR work for the Regional Transportation Investment District.

Cantwell and Doztauer have a long and complicated relationship. He has been her employer, consultant, campaign manager, boyfriend and donor. He has also lobbied Congress while Cantwell was in office, and she gave him a personal loan.
That all raised some questions during Cantwell's campaign last fall as Republicans tried to draw attention to the relationship.

Before joining Cantwell's staff, Neuman was the spokeswoman for Congressman Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens.

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January 18, 2007

Welcome to the (new) working week

Posted by David Postman at 7:55 PM

In D.C., I see the House adjourned for the night about 20 minutes ago. The House works a full-time schedule now now, though — "Culture Shock on Capitol Hill: House to Work 5 Days a Week" — so they'll be back tomorrow. For an hour.

Monday, business resumes at 6:30 p.m. There are full days of votes scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. But no votes Thursday or Friday when there is a Republican retreat. No votes the next Thursday and Friday either, when the Democrats have their retreat.

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Demo legislators say money should stay with viaduct

Posted by David Postman at 11:31 AM

The viaduct stalemate continues to splinter Seattle politicians. Democratic House members from the 36th District, Helen Sommers and Mary Lou Dickerson, just issued a statement opposing moving viaduct money to a 520 bridge project. That was one of two options proposed by the governor. Dickerson and Sommers point out that funding for the viaduct was one reason Seattle voters supported a statewide gas tax increase.

The people in our district -- as well as in most Seattle districts -- voted in 2005 to sustain the increased transportation revenues because they had confidence that the viaduct was a priority project. We need to respect that confidence.

Sommers and Dickerson said that they're hoping "cooler heads will prevail" soon and they can convince the governor to support rebuilding the viaduct.

Sen. Ed Murray said yesterday he'd support moving viaduct money to a 520 project.

UPDATE: Republicans from East King County are hoping to have their area benefit from the viaduct logjam. Reps. Reps. Fred Jarrett, Jay Rodne and Glenn Anderson issued a statement today saying they "joined the governor in rejecting the City of Seattle's proposed timeline." They say they money for the viaduct should go instead to the 520 bridge and to widen I-405.

Jarrett, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee said moving money "from the less traveled Alaskan Way Viaduct to the congested I-405 and 520 bridge makes fiscal sense, particularly when Seattle can't even come up with an acceptable timeline to bring the question before voters."

THIS SHOULD SOLVE THE PROBLEM: From a press release:

Seattle Democratic senators met today to discuss the Alaskan Way Viaduct and mutually agreed that it will be a top priority for them to find a solution amidst the recent meetings among legislative leaders, the City of Seattle, and the governor.

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Court: City Light can't charge ratepayers for global warming reduction program

Posted by David Postman at 9:20 AM

The state Supreme Court today ruled that Seattle City Light cannot charge ratepayers for its program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The court's 5-4 decision strikes at the utility's practice of paying other public and private organizations to reduce emissions to make up for pollution City Light creates through power generation.

The majority decision, written by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, says:

We hold that combating global warming is a general government purpose, albeit a meritorious one, and not a proprietary utility purpose. Therefore, such mitigation expenses must be borne by general taxpayers rather than utility ratepayers.

Today's ruling reverses a King County Superior Court decision that granted the city summary judgment in the class-action suit. The case was brought by a group of ratepayers.

The program began as part of the city's efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. The City Council passed a resolution in 2001 saying it was more expensive to do that locally than in other areas and that City Light should pay others to cut emissions to offset greenhouse gases related to the city's power generation and use.

From a Times story in 2005:

For example, City Light is helping to pay for low-emission biodiesel fuel for garbage trucks in South Seattle, city government diesel vehicles and King County Metro buses. The utility also helped pay to enable Princess Cruises ships to shut off their diesel engines and plug into the city electrical grid while docked in Seattle.

All those measures cost roughly $600,000, said Lynn Best, City Light's director of environmental affairs.


The city also recently reached a deal with Delaware-based DuPont Fluorochemicals to cut that company's emissions for a payment from the city. Seattle City Light officials Wednesday declined to say how much the utility paid DuPont, saying the contract prohibits releasing its terms. In all, the utility budgeted $756,000 per year for 2005 and 2006 to pay others to cut emissions. That breaks down to about $2 per customer annually, according to the utility.

As part of a series of lawsuits, ratepayers challenged the program in the fall of 2004. Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong sided with the city:

I think that City Light has the authority to reduce its own emissions. It can do that by managing its own facilities, its own producing facilities, or it can spend money to have its emissions, its contribution reduced by someone else. This all makes sense only because of the unusual nature of the greenhouse gas canopy; the fact that it is an envelope around the entire globe; that it's not localized.

The State Supreme Court said today: "It is not for us to evaluate the
scientific merit of the city's offset contracts." Instead the court looked at whether that was "closely related to the purpose of supplying electricity to City Light customers."

Joining Alexander were justices Charles Johnson, James Johnson and Mary Fairhurst.

Justice Richard Sanders concurred in the decision, but wrote separately to dispute the majority's statement that fighting global warming is a "meritorious" goal.

On this record Seattle City Light's program of paying others not to emit greenhouse gases has about as much effect on global warming as making a bonfire out of ratepayers' hard-earned dollars.

Justice Susan Owens dissented, in an opinion also signed by justices Tom Chambers, Barbara Madsen and Bobbe Bridge. Owens wrote:

I would hold that City Light's greenhouse gas (GHG) offset program serves a proprietary function and provides special benefits to City Light and its ratepayers in addition to the common benefits that reductions in GHGs have for the general public.


Mitigation of GHGs emitted as a result of the ratepayers' consumption of
electricity provides a special comfort to City Light's ratepayers and benefits City

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Ethics debates in both Washingtons

Posted by David Postman at 8:32 AM

In Olympia, Democratic state Rep. Chris Hurst wants to ban lobbyists from giving lawmakers gifts or buying them dinner or drinks. Sean Cockerham in The News Tribune reports:

"I think you would be hard-pressed to find a single constituent saying 'that's how I want my legislator to behave,' " said Hurst, a Democratic state representative whose district stretches from Auburn through East Pierce County.

His bill to ban such practices for legislators and other state officials isn't popular with leaders of the Democratic-controlled state House. House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler of Hoquiam said the bill is overkill and gives the public a bad impression of the Legislature.

"It makes it look like we accept a lot of gifts," Kessler said. "I don't see a problem right now. If there was a problem and it was rampant, I'd say absolutely."

And there's trouble in D.C. for the Senate ethics bill. The new Democratic majority has had a tough go trying to pass ethics reform. It was supposed to be the first thing passed this year. But the bill stumbled first over an intra-party fight about earmarks. Then the bill faced an onslaught of opposition from conservative Christian lobbying groups that claimed the new restrictions were designed to hamper their access to Congress.

And now the bill looks dead because of a fight over the line-item veto.

From this morning's Washington Post:

"It's as obvious as the sun coming up somewhere in this world that they tried to kill this bill," a furious Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said last night in an interview. "And all 21 Republican senators up for re-election are going to have to explain how they brought down the most significant reform ever to come before this Congress. They brought this baby down."

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said insistence on a line-item-veto vote was proof that the GOP is serious about passing the toughest possible overhaul of the way Congress conducts its business. Efforts to give Bush power to strike individual items from spending bills have been struck down by the Supreme Court, but Senate Republicans insist that the latest version will pass constitutional muster.

The bill could still be revived. And I bet it will, given that without it a large piece of the Democrats' campaign promises cannot be fulfilled. The bill contained lobbying gift bans, travel restrictions, and greater transparency on earmarks and other Congressional spending practices. The House already passed a similar measure.

Now begins the business of blame assessment. And it's a tricky business, as you can see in this exchange between NPR reporter Peter Overby and Morning Edition host Renee Montagne:

Overby: The Democrats say that the Republicans never really wanted ethics reform. The Republican say no, they do want ethics reform but the Democrats are being hypocritical because if you're going to have real ethics reform you need something to control the little earmarks that get snuck into a bill and a line-item veto would give the president a chance to knock those out.

Montagne: So this proposed amendment brought down the entire bill.

Overby: Yeah, it did. Reid and McConnell negotiated late into the night and they thought they had reached a deal. But a deal like that needs the unanimous consent of the Senate. That's the way the Senate works. And one other senator objected.

Montagne: And that senator was?

Overby: Robert Byrd, Democrat, the longest-serving senator in office now. And he's chairman of the Appropriations Committee and he's a fierce defender of the congressional power of the purse. So one interpretation is Byrd is the one who killed the bill and the other interpretation is that Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, managed to kill this ethics bill without leaving any fingerprints.

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January 17, 2007

No Decider on viaduct

Posted by David Postman at 5:27 PM

The top political leaders of the city and the state spent three hours behind closed doors this afternoon discussing one of the region's thorniest issues - what to do with Seattle's crumbling viaduct - and emerged to say they still disagreed. A statement Gov. Chris Gregoire read to reporters said, in part:

This leaves us with a very difficult decision.

The city and the state have had a difficult decision before them for some time now. Some thought this could have been the big "I'm-the-decider" meeting. As today's statement said:

No action is not an option.

But it turns out it is. The joint statement says there are two options, build an elevated replacement or, "Reprogram funding to the 520 replacement project." Doing nothing is now an official viaduct option. So something did happen today.

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Inslee wants Plame to get her CIA retirement

Posted by David Postman at 3:35 PM

Congressman Jay Inslee has introduced a resolution calling for former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson to get her government retirement, even though she left the agency before she was old enough to collect it. Inslee says she was "pushed out of public service for reasons unrelated to performance, but instead seeded in politics."

Inslee introduced H.R. 501 Tuesday, according to the Congressional Record. He said the loss of Plame Wilson's retirement benefits was one of the "human impacts caused by the indiscretion of government officials regarding" her covert indenity. Wash Dishes

Wilson is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. She was a CIA agent, known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame Wilson, until her name showed up in a newspaper column by Robert Novak. The leak of her name to journalists spurred a federal investigation after allegations that it was done to punish Plame Wilson's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. He had written an op-ed article saying the Bush administration has purposefully distorted intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.


Retired CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, hold a press conference where they announced a lawsuit against senior members of the Bush administration last July in Washington, DC.

Former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby is on trial facing charges that he lied about his role in leaking Plame Wilson's name to the press.

Inslee said in his speech:

While the media, Congress, and the judiciary have gone to great lengths to discuss the impact of this unfortunate act on politicians, bureaucrats, agents in the field, and the suspected perpetrators of the outing, few have looked at the impact that the outing has had on Mrs. Plame Wilson and her family.

Inslee said Wilson's career was "irrevocably ruined." She voluntarily resigned from the CIA in January 2006. More Inslee:

Despite Mrs. Plame Wilson's 20 years of federal service, she does not meet the minimum age requirement to receive her retirement annuity. She has been left without a career.

I am introducing legislation to allow Mrs. Plame Wilson to qualify for her annuity, as one who has served her country for two decades, and waive the age requirement for collecting it.

Figures from the CIA in a document Inslee included in the Congressional Record show Plame Wilson would have been eligible for an annuity of $21,541 if she had worked until her minimum retirement age of 56. She was 42 when she left the CIA and is now 43.

Even before people saw what the bill said, its title alone was angering some conservatives.

Inslee held a small part in the Wilson/Plame saga. At was at a 2003 forum Inslee held in Shoreline that Joseph Wilson first accused someone in the White House of being involved in leaking the name of his wife. The forum was to look at intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war. Wilson said at the event:

"I don't think we're going to let this drop. At the end of the day it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me when I use that name. I measure my words."

Slate later reported that it was that event that first raised the "question of whether to investigate who in the Bush administration blew Plame's cover."

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National Dems push energy bill

Posted by David Postman at 7:44 AM

In D.C. later this morning Congressman Jim McDermott will take part in a Democratic press conference touting what looks to be the last piece of House Democrats' 100-hour agenda: cutting subsidies and ending tax breaks for the oil industry.

McDermott had tried last year to repeal the subsidies, and that failed bill is incorporated into what Democrats are calling the Clean Energy Act. It would would repeal $14 billion in subsides.

McDermott's prepared comments for the press conference say the bill is "one small step on a long road toward curing America's addiction to oil."

We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels in the 21st century as we did in the 20th century. Global warming is real, and our response had better begin sooner rather than later. We have no time left to equivocate.

The L.A. Times today looks at some of the numbers, and politics, behind the move.

The measure would raise about $14 billion over 10 years by repealing the tax breaks and by closing a loophole that allowed royalty-free offshore oil leases. The money would be used to promote energy conservation and develop alternative fuels.

Currently, the government spends about $1.2 billion a year on projects to promote energy efficiency and renewable fuels.

It's no surprise that the oil industry doesn't like it. The American Petroleum Institute says:

HR 6 would be a step backward for U.S. energy security. Imposing taxes on the U.S. oil and natural gas industry is contrary to the goal of providing stable and cost-effective supplies of energy for American consumers and discourages the tremendous capital investments needed to meet the nation's growing energy needs.

But the Washington Post editorial board doesn't like it, either. The Post is glad to see tax loopholes closed, but calls the bill a "low-watt" effort at energy policy.

The bad part of the bill would effectively revoke lease contracts granted in 1998 and 1999 for offshore drilling. The leases mistakenly omitted a standard clause requiring energy companies to pay royalties to the Treasury if the price of oil rose above $34 per barrel. Now this omission is costing the budget an estimated $10 billion over the life of the leases. The administration, rightly, has tried to renegotiate the terms, and some leaseholders have cooperated. But Chevron and ExxonMobil, the companies with the most money at stake, feel that their responsibility to shareholders compels them to get something back if they are to give up large expected profits.

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January 16, 2007

Abramoff friend, Christian conservatives fight lobby bill

Posted by David Postman at 5:11 PM

As the U.S. Senate debated an ethics bill tonight, anti-abortion groups and other organizations of social conservatives were unleashing a major cyber-lobbying effort to amend the bill, which they say is "written to isolate pro-family and conservative Christian organizations."

They were getting some help from a longtime friend of Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist whose scandal spurred the reform moves.

The groups say that proposed restrictions and regulation of "grassroots lobbying" would put heavy burdens on citizen groups wanting to lobby Congress. They worry that the section in question defines a constituent contacting a lawmaker as "grassroots lobbying."

The National Right to Life Committee sent an "urgent congressional alert" this afternoon criticizing the ethics bill:

Its sponsors say that its purpose is to tighten up regulation of lobbyists in Washington, D.C., in response to certain lobbying scandals of the past several years, associated with Jack Abramoff and others. But within the 56-page measure, certain special-interest groups are trying to smuggle in sweeping new restrictions on free speech regarding what is going on in Congress.

Focus on the Family said to send a fax, the American Family Association, urged e-mails and telephone calls to senators and discussion about the bill in Sunday school classes. The AFA told its members:

Senators favoring this bill are simply tired of hearing from you. That is the bottom line. They don't want to hear from you. They don't want you to be informed. They want to silence you. How? By simply keeping you from receiving information that AFA provides.

All the groups support an amendment to the ethics bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, that would eliminate the restrictions on "grassroots lobbying."

Grover Norquist, a long-time Abramoff associate, supports that amendment, too. He runs Americans for Tax Reform, a non-profit that found itself smack in the middle of the lobbying scandal. ATR says the lobbying restrictions are a "de facto gag order against legitimate grassroots activism."

The clear intent of this language is to frighten legitimate grassroots activist organizations into inaction. The result would be that much communication between members of Congress and their constituents would come to a halt.

In June, the Washington Post reported how Abramoff secretly gave money to non-profits like Americans for Tax Reform.

According to an investigative report on Abramoff's lobbying released last week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Americans for Tax Reform served as a "conduit" for funds that flowed from Abramoff's clients to surreptitiously finance grass-roots lobbying campaigns. As the money passed through, Norquist's organization kept a small cut, e-mails show.

A second group Norquist was involved with, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, received about $500,000 in Abramoff client funds; the council's president has told Senate investigators that Abramoff often asked her to lobby a senior Interior Department official on his behalf. The committee report said the Justice Department should further investigate the organization's dealings with the department and its former deputy secretary, J. Steven Griles.

The Senate adjourned for the night without taking final action on the ethics bill.

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On radio and TV

Posted by David Postman at 3:16 PM

KUOW's Weekday with Steve Scher will be broadcasting out of Olympia Wednesday and Thursday. I'll be on tomorrow at 9 a.m. with The Olympian's Brad Shannon and public radio's Austin Jenkins.

KUOW says it is looking for "a behind the scenes look the state capital." So tune in and hear me tell all the secrets I know about Brad and Austin. We'll be taking calls from listenters, too.

The program will be broadcast from the new studios of TVW, which will also tape it for future showing.

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More party money wouldn't have helped, Nixon says

Posted by David Postman at 11:45 AM

Count Toby Nixon out when it comes to complaints about the state Republican Party being stingy with its money. Nixon was one of the GOP candidates who lost in races where the party could have spent more under state limits. He was beat by Democrat Eric Oemig.

The spending question was raised by critics of Party Chairwoman Diane Tebelius. She's being challenged by former Sen. Luke Esser, another suburban Republican victim from '06.

I've been exchanging e-mail with Nixon and he says he had all the money he needed to do the advertising he planned. He didn't ask the party for any money he didn't get. Money was not the problem.

If I had raised more money, what would I have spent it on? Voters were already complaining that they were feeling overwhelmed with mail. Some people might assume that if we had more money we would have run negative attack pieces against my opponent, but that's not my style and the people of the 45th know it. Many voters told me that they've just stop reading all campaign mail, assuming that it is just lies.
The one thing Nixon would have liked to see from the party was the 72-hour get out the vote campaign that had been promised.
As far as I can tell, it didn't happen, at least not in the 45th.

Even there, though, Nixon isn't sure it would have made a big difference. He said Democrats were energized, independents furious and Republicans discouraged "by the failures of Congress and the administration in so many areas."

In many ways, I'm surprised Republicans did as well as we did in Washington and didn't lose even more seats, given the kind of reactions we were getting.

That's largely what Tebelius has been saying — it's not any individual money decisions that doomed GOP candidates.

Nixon had about $16,000 left over after the election. He said most of that came in during the final days, and was not in response to any solicitation from his campaign.

I'm not exactly sure why people think sending a candidate $700 on election day is going to help them win!

He has plans for the surplus. He will mail a thank-you to voters, some has gone to gifts for volunteers and he commissioned a poll to find out more about what happened in the 45th.

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Green-leaning GOP group and unions join forces

Posted by David Postman at 10:37 AM

So reports Blaine Harden in today's Washington Post.

SEATTLE — In a first-of-its-kind alliance that could fundamentally reshape the environmental movement, 20 labor unions with nearly 5 million members are joining forces with a Republican-leaning umbrella group of conservationists — the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership — to put pressure on Congress and the Bush administration.

The Union Sportsman's Alliance, to be rolled out in Washington on Tuesday after nearly three years of quiet negotiations, is to be a dues-based organization ($25 a year). Its primary goal is to increase federal funding for protecting wildlife habitat while guaranteeing access for hunters and anglers.

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Liberal bloggers work to save the PI

Posted by David Postman at 8:41 AM

Yesterday, in a sidebar, I mentioned an advertisement for the P-I on the Northwest Progressive Institute's Official Blog. I thought it was an ad because it used the P-I logo and typeface along with the headline, "Support a two newspaper town" and linked to the P-I circulation page.

But Andrew Villeneuve posted yesterday to correct me:

Postman is actually mistaken. That's not an advertisement from the Post-Intelligencer, it's a badge we created ourselves — and without a "please" or "thank you" from the P-I. We don't accept or allow advertising and have no plans to change our policy.

Villeneuve says NPI won't take advertising. I'm not sure if that makes his promotion of the P-I charity or a political campaign. Whatever the case, Villeneuve repeats an old canard that has been discredited by an anti-trust investigation.

Because the Seattle Times Company manages the P-I's business operations — advertising, classifieds, marketing, circulation, delivery, etc. — its owners are and have been in an excellent position to sabotage the P-I's circulation and position the Seattle Times as Washington State's newspaper of record.

After two years of investigating, the feds "did not find sufficient basis to conclude that the Seattle Times Company engaged in improper conduct that is likely to lead to monopolization of the Seattle newspaper market." It's not clear if Villeneuve has done subsequent work to back up his claim of sabotage.

He continues:

With respect to Times journalists, including David Postman, and columnists like Danny Westneat, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is simply a better newspaper at present. That is in part because management at the P-I cares greatly about what is best for the community and not just what's best for its ownership.

Andrew, by perpetuating a fiction that somehow journalism at The Times is compromised by our local owner while the P-I's New York owners allow them do what what's best for Seattle, you insult all Times writers, this one included. And I'm sure your dismissive comments about journalism at The Times comes as a surprise to Pulitzer Prize judges who have given the paper numerous reporting awards in recent years, as well as other groups that have awarded the paper a long string of the most prestigious journalism prizes in America. Is Frank Blethen sabotaging the P-I in those instances, too?

UPDATE: Villeneuve says he didn't mean any offense, but ...

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January 15, 2007

Rush says Gregoire & Arnold are selling out Americans

Posted by David Postman at 3:51 PM

Rush Limbaugh read Ralph Thomas' story from last week about Gov. Chris Gregoire's plan to expand state-funded health care for children of illegal immigrants. Limbaugh thinks that'd be a bad idea. Gregoire -- though Limbaugh butchers her name -- gets the radio host worked up into full lather.

Now, we've talked recently about Governor Schwarzenegger and his effort here to cut -- his suggestion to cut welfare benefits for American citizens. Now, I don't want to get into an argument here about welfare be it good or bad because he may be able to make the case that what he's trying out there is California's version of welfare reform that was done nationally. But He's promised to reduce welfare benefits for American citizens in order to pay to extend health care insurance to illegals and their children.

Now get this. This is from the Seattle Times: "Republican lawmakers are protesting a proposal by Gov. Christine Gregoire" -- I hope I'm pronouncing that right. I don't know how to pronounce it. I haven't heard her name pronounced. As you know I'm deaf -- "and Democrat lawmakers to expand state-funded health coverage for children of illegal immigrants. Rep. Bill Hinkle, ranking Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee in the state of Washington said, 'They're not even citizens.' Hinkle said it doesn't make sense to cover illegal immigrants when there are so many other shortcomings in the state's health-care system. 'This just drives folks back home nuts.'"

But guess what? "The move is drawing widespread praise from hospitals, doctors and children's advocates. 'In our opinion, every child should have medical coverage and be able to get medical care,' said Jon Gould, the deputy director of the Children's Alliance. 'We shouldn't play politics with children.' Cassie Sauer, spokeswoman for the Washington State Hospital Association, said hospitals are required to treat any child who comes in with a medical emergency. If that child happens to be an uninsured immigrant, the costs simply get passed on as a 'hidden tax' to other patients who have insurance. It's far less expensive, she said, to include those kids in health programs that provide basic preventive care, such as immunizations."

Now, the reaction to this, if yours is, "What the hell?" is quite understandable and normal. What the hell is going on here? Well, I'll tell you what the hell is going on here, folks. It is time for us to face it. Politicians, for now in California and the state of Washington, are selling out American citizens for illegal aliens. It certainly appears to this correspondent, to this reporter, to this commentator, to this celebrity, certainly appears to me, that they care more for Mexico's citizens and children than they do American citizens and children whom they are supposed to represent.

Again, I don't want to have an argument about welfare, but if you're going to cut welfare to Americans to give health care to Mexicans who are not legal citizens, what the hell are we to conclude? And the same thing here in the state of Washington. And then, you've got the deputy director of the Children's Alliance saying, "We shouldn't play politics with children." And then the spokesman for the hospitals association saying, "Hey, it would be cheaper." It would be cheaper. Cheaper. Um, how in the world, how does that add up? All these people talk about a zero-sum game. I know a little math here. How in the world is it cheaper to extend health insurance to everybody, particularly illegals who don't have it?

"Now, Mr. Limbaugh, it's because they're required by law to treat them in the emergency room when they show up anyway, and that cost has to be passed on." Oh, so that cost is no longer going to occur? "That's right, Mr. Limbaugh, because they're all going to have healthcare." Well, who the hell is going to pay that, Mr. New Castrati? As my friend the rabbi says, "Oy!"

You can listen to it here.

Any Ditto Heads out there who can tell me what he meant by "Mr. New Castrati?" Also note, when Limbaugh role-plays -- When he says, "Now, Mr. Limbaugh ..." --he talks with a lisp. Also, Rush is sort of reading from the article but he changes "Democratic lawmakers" to "Democrat lawmakers." It's all about the language, folks.

And does Limbaugh think that an anti-immigration stance will help Republicans? Didn't seem to work very well in the '06 elections.

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Times editorial spurs Dem debate on Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 10:09 AM

Two Friends of the Blog are engaged in an exchange elsewhere about how Democrats should best respond to President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq. And the exchange between Chad "The Left" Shue and Stilwell --among my favorite bloggers, commenters and correspondents -- was spurred by a Seattle Times editorial.

The Times editorial ran Friday. It was headlined, "Step up, Democrats, the war is waiting."

Democrats in Washington's congressional delegation are crystal clear about their frustrations with President Bush's dismaying speech announcing more of the same in Iraq. They need to bring the same clarity to legislative efforts to move the country away from war.

Political arm-waving and high-profile votes on nonbinding resolutions and other artfully worded parliamentary expressions of opposition are worthless. They do not inform the public about the nature of the president's military escalations, and more importantly they do nothing to turn off the flow of dollars that keep the administration's disastrous mission alive.

At the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog, Stilwell saw the editorial as a hypocritical jab at Democrats.

The attack poodles at The Seattle Times foul their kennel with a bizarre piece of Democrat-bashing in this editorial.


This is Bush's war. The Times knows that, and they endorsed Reichert and McGavick anyhow.

At a certain point, publications destroy their own credibility with their transparent bias, and dare we say it, partisanship. I'm not quite certain where this leaves The Seattle Times, besides twisted into pretzels most of the time.

At Washblog, Shue said he thinks Stilwell is trying to let Democrats off the hook and says the debate is "an interesting case of how Democrats and Progressives seem to keep getting our messages crossed."

It's almost as if Stilwell is setting up an escape clause for Democrats who do not want to confront the task before them.


Progressives should not be divided over this issue. Rather, we should be leading the charge to help our newly elected majority do the job they were sent there to do.

There are interesting comments at both posts if you're interested in seeing how Democrats are split on how the new Democratic majority should respond to Bush.

SIDEBAR: Stilwell has been writing more recently at the NPI blog, which has been a real good thing for the blog and made it a more interesting read. (Why is it the "Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog"? Is there a proliferation of unofficial NPI sites?)

I also see that my friends at the PI are marketing to the blog's liberal readership, with an ad that says, "Support a two-newspaper town." I'm not sure I've seen any local papers advertise on independent blogs before. Interesting development.

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After I clean my desk I'm going to read this

Posted by David Postman at 10:07 AM

From BoingBoing.

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Was GOP stingy with its campaign money?

Posted by David Postman at 8:48 AM

Eric Earling dug into the state Republican Party finances and says "there are indeed some troublesome issues with the State Party's 2006 fundraising." Earling says that under Chairwoman Diane Tebelius, the party did not spend what it could on close races where Republicans lost in November. Instead, the money was saved until after the election and used to pay off remaining debt from the legal fight over the governor's election.

Earling found:

Rep. Jon Serben lost by 260 votes in the 6th LD; the WSRP spent no money of the $57,280.30 possible under the cap

Don Anderson lost by 1,139 votes in the 28th LD; the WSRP spent no money under the $42,459.90 possible under the cap

Rep. Jan Shabro lost by 2,196 votes in the 31st LD; the WSRP spent $20,803.47 of the $49,609.70 possible under the cap

Sen. Dave Schmidt lost by 2,064 votes in the 44th LD; the WSRP spent no money of the $54,489.40 possible under the cap

Rep. Toby Nixon lost by 2,780 votes in the 45th LD; the WSRP spent $9,403.20 of the $53,234.30 possible under the cap

Mike Riley lost by 1,633 votes in the 47th LD; WSRP spent $28,209.60 of the $46,069.10 possible under the cap

Earling is writing about the fundraising in the context of the race for state party chair. Tebelius is facing a challenge from former state Sen. Luke Esser, who was defeated in November.

Questions about money management are clearly part of that campaign. A Republican friend mentioned to me Friday about the list of races where the state party could have spent more.

There is often a tension between party chairs and campaigns. Party officials are criticized by field operatives as being too concerned about internal operations and not willing to be bold in campaign spending. This was a major issue four years ago with former Chairman Don Benton, who lost his post, in part, because of complaints he had held back money from competitive races.

UPDATE: In the comment thread, Curt Eidem writes:

Even more interesting is the rumor that Dave Schmidt didn't spend $50,000 he had collected, holding it for a run at Snohomish County Auditor.

I just checked the Public Disclosure Commission site and Schmidt has more than that left over. Records show he has $67,627.28. There could still be bills to pay. (I don't see Schmidt's year-end report on the PDC site that would say for sure.)

Seems hard to criticize Tebelius for not spending all she could on a race if the candidate doesn't spend everything on hand, too. Schmidt has more left-over dough than any other state Senate candidate -- $8,000 more than the next closest.

Toby Nixon has $16,000 in surplus funds. He ranks 16th of 52 Senate candidates in terms of the amount of campaign funds left over.

UPDATE: I just talked to Tebelius. She said she wouldn't talk about specific funding decisions. But she says whatever happened, it wasn't on her say-so alone.

"It is really silly for anyone to believe that spending decisions are made in a vacuum and that they are made by one person. They are made in consultations with many different people because the Republican Party is a body of many. ... I cannot and will not reveal why certain decisions were made other than to say the decisions were made and they were right at the time.

"This year was difficult for everybody and unfortunately we came out on the short end " but not because of money."

Tebelius pointed out that Esser was able to raise $407,000 for his campaign. That makes that the third largest legislative campaign account in state history.

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January 12, 2007

It depends upon what the meaning of the word is means.

Posted by David Postman at 5:44 PM

From Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Sen. Chuck Hagel: My question was the escalation of American troops in Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: But I think you asked who was supporting it. And I said the Kurdish parties, Prime Minister Maliki and his Shia allies, and the IIP support a plan to do this. And they know that the augmentation of American forces is part of that plan.

Now, as to the question of escalation, I think that I don't see it, and the president doesn't see it, as an escalation. What he sees...

Hagel: Putting 22,000 new troops, more troops in, is not an escalation?

Rice: Well, I think, senator, escalation is not just a matter of how many numbers you put in. Escalation is also a question of, are you changing the strategic goal of what you're trying to do? Are you escalating...

Hagel: Would you call it a decrease, and billions of dollars more that you need for it?


Rice: I would call it, senator, an augmentation that allows the Iraqis to deal with this very serious problem that they have in Baghdad.

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Posted by David Postman at 4:11 PM

The show I host on TVW during the legislative session begins its 2007 season tonight. "Olympia On-Call" airs tonight at 9 p.m. and then repeats through the weekend.

Each week the show has either two Senate or two House members who appear in the studio with me and questions come from a rotating panel of journalists around the state.

Tonight's guests are Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla.The journalists tonight are Elizabeth Hovde from the Columbian, Deirdre Gregg from the Puget Sound Business Journal, and Rick Eskill, editorial page editor of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

I'd appreciate any feedback you might have.

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McDermott gets chairmanship

Posted by David Postman at 3:07 PM

Congressman Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, was named today as chairman of the Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. McDermott had expected to get the post and it was made official by a vote of the Democratic Caucus.

The subcommittee deals with welfare, unemployment insurance, some parts of Social Security, and, as McDermott told me last week, "All the things as an American you are entitled to."

McDermott said he knows that entitlements have become something of a bad word among Republicans. But — not unlike Patty Murray's defense of earmarks — McDermott said that he won't let that rhetoric get in the way of protecting what he says is the "foundation of our economic justice in his country."

The panel will be renamed the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support.

Also today, Congressman Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, was named a deputy to House Majority Whip James Clyburn.

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Murray/Cantwell split on earmark reform

Posted by David Postman at 10:36 AM

The U.S. Senate fight over earmark reform has Washington's Democratic senators on opposing sides.

Sen. Maria Cantwell voted with a small bloc of Democrats and a large group of Republicans to keep alive a GOP-sponsored measure widely viewed as a crackdown on abuse of Congressional earmarks. (And a mirror of the House Democratic package approved last week.)

In the parliamentary moves that bollixed the Senate Thursday night, though, the state's senior senator, Patty Murray, voted with leadership to try to kill that version, instead backing one with a narrower definition of what an earmark is.

The vote was an early and high-profile stumble for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

After the move to kill the DeMint language failed, Democrats refused to allow the amendment to be approved by voice, a normal procedure, and an hour later Reid called the entire Senate to the floor to beseech them to reconsider. He did not set a time for a final vote.

Cantwell joined eight other Democrats to support a move by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina to have the Senate back the House approach. You can read the whole proposed rule and the sections on earmarks here.

Reid's proposal, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was backed by Murray and most Senate Democrats. You can read it here.

The Reid version has two major differences from the DeMint/House proposal. The Reid rule would cover only earmarks to a "non-federal entity." That would mean any money — and there is a lot of it — that lawmakers earmark for local projects but send through the Pentagon, Department of Transportation or the Army Corps of Engineers or any other federal agency would not be covered. It does go further in prohibiting earmarks for any projects they have a financial interest in.

But it also would only cover earmarks in the text of a bill, which would exclude the many earmarks added in House/Senate conference reports.

There appears to be wide agreement across ideological lines that the House version is a more substantive reform. From TPM Muckraker:

According to Craig Holman of Public Citizen, Reid's version, if it had been applied to earmarks as part of legislation passed last year, would have disclosed the sponsor of only approximately 500 earmarks. DeMint's amendment would have forced sponsors to be known of roughly 12,000.

And from AP:

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said that of some 12,852 earmarks found in bills last year, only 534 would be subject to Senate disclosure rules.

The fight in the Senate last night was over a move to table the DeMint measure. It produced an interesting roll call. The nine Democrats voting against their leadership were Cantwell, Barack Obama of Illinois, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Tom Harkin of Iowa, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jon Tester of Montana and Jim Webb of Virginia.

There are a few potential presidential candidates in that list as well as Tester and Webb, freshmen who ran on reform platforms.

Cantwell spokeswoman Katharine Lister said:

"Senator Cantwell believes that how our government operates should be open and clear to the public. Transparency in government can only add to the public's confidence that Congress is doing its job for them. If additional transparency also helps to make Congress more aware of its actions and accountability to the public — all the better."

There's little surprise in Murray's vote. She is a top member of Democratic leadership. She is the new chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee for transportation. When I talked to her last week in D.C. Murray made it clear she was not ready to crack down too hard on earmarks.

She said they had "gotten out of whack," but that "earmarks have a very important and specific function." Murray said it wouldn't be realistic to end the practice of members getting specific appropriations for hometown projects.

"What's the option? We could send the money to the Department of Transportation and then let the bureaucrats decide whose projects should be built. Or we can do what we were elected to do and fight for our constituents."

In a foreshadowing of the last night's Senate debate, Murray also said "earmarks are very hard to define."

I hear the debate may resume Tuesday.

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January 11, 2007

The strategy for winning gay marriage

Posted by David Postman at 11:37 AM

To help win benefits for same-sex partnerships, lawmakers have included heterosexual senior citizen relationships in a bill due to be introduced next week.

Five Democratic lawmakers — the Legislature's unofficial caucus of openly gay members — just held a press conference to promote two bills: One that would legalize same-sex marriages and another creating a domestic partnership registry that would give gays and lesbians the same health-care and death benefits as married couples.

Rookie legislator Jamie Pederson, an attorney, did much of the speaking at the press conference.

The legislation says that for a couple to obtain domestic partnership benefits they either have to be of the same sex or in a heterosexual relationship where one person is at least 62 years old. (They would also have to be at least 18 years old, be living together, not to be married to anyone else, be capable of consenting to the relationship and not be blood relations.)

The bill would allow non-married partners to be involved in health-care decisions, funeral arrangements, authorization of organ donations and other benefits.

It's seen as a first step in marriage equality, said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle. As he and other lawmakers pledged to continue pushing for same-sex marriage, they said they would also work to incrementally increase domestic partnership benefits. They recognize that gay marriage will be difficult to get approved by the Legislature and could take years.

In the press conference, Murray said that he and others had met with legislative leaders and Gov. Christine Gregoire to discuss the strategy and got what he termed "positive responses." I asked Murray later what Gregoire said about the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. He said that while she was supportive of the partnership registry, she was "silent on marriage."

Gregoire has never said much about gay marriage. Until the Supreme Court acted last year she wouldn't say anything at all. After the decision was released she said:

"Family is about love, family is about nurturing, family is about giving your all to your children," she said.

The strategy of leading with the domestic partnership bill may be a way to win support from Democrats who wouldn't support gay marriage. But it won't lessen opposition from conservatives.

Watching the press conference today was Jon Russell from the Faith and Freedom Network, a conservative religious group. Afterwards he told me:

"It's all conditioning and grooming."

Russell uses the same language that some conservative Christians use to describe what they believe is a gay agenda to turn others gay.

"They are conditioning and grooming the public to accept gay marriage."

Russell said the political agenda laid out by Murray and others today was an attempt to get the public used to accepting the idea of same-sex relationships, with an incremental and constant increase in benefits.

"They didn't disguise it at all. They said they weren't going to go away until gay marriage was legal."

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January 10, 2007

Did Bush change any minds?

Posted by David Postman at 8:08 PM

I wonder if President Bush's speech tonight swayed anyone's thinking on Iraq, even a little. Is there anyone out there who was arguing to cut off funding for more troops who heard something that made them think this strategy might be worth trying? If you're someone who has stuck close to the president's line in Iraq, are you still willing to do that?

In the first statements I've gotten from delegation members tonight, I found some similar sentiments from Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris. Both talked about the importance of shifting burden to the Iraqis.

Cantwell's statement said in full:

The president's statement tonight hangs our Iraq policy moving forward on 20,000 troops to stabilize Baghdad. Our strategy must be to significantly change the course by holding Iraqis to sooner timetables on taking security control, passing an oil law, and making the other political compromises necessary to ease disagreements among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

McMorris said in part:

The Iraqis need to take action to prove their commitment to securing and governing their own country. In addition to the plan to address sectarian violence, the Iraqis must also step up to new security responsibilities, equitable distribution of oil revenues, a new de-Ba'athifcation law, and make progress on their constitution.
McMorris also said she has "concerns about the duration of increased troops levels, and the strain and pressure this plan might place on National Guard units."

Congressman Jim McDermott reiterated his opposition to the plan and tried to raise doubts about Bush's claim that the Iraqis back the plan:

The President has turned the U.S. into an occupying force in Iraq, and the President's claim that the Iraqis are behind his proposal is just like the President's earlier claim that the U.S. had irrefutable evidence that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

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Liberal groups to campaign against Bush Iraq plan

Posted by David Postman at 4:19 PM

A coalition of liberal organizations will announce tomorrow a multi-million dollar media campaign against President Bush's call for sending more U.S. troops to Iraq.

Many of the groups were part of an effort that bolstered Democratic opposition to Bush's 2005 Social Security plan. The "National Campaign Against the Escalation of the War in Iraq" includes's PAC, anti-war groups, the powerful Services Employees International Union, and the Campaign for America's Future, which has opposed Social Security privatization and pushed for an increase in the minimum wage.

The campaign will be unveiled at a press conference in D.C. tomorrow. Organizers say it will be "a massive effort in at least 20 to 25 states" that will include paid advertising and "a firestorm of grassroots mobilization."

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Legislative pay raise proposal due today

Posted by David Postman at 1:00 PM

Do you think it's a coincidence that the Democratic lawmakers who publicly made the case for legislative pay raises this week ran unopposed for re-election? I doubt there's any way a politician could ask for a raise without someone getting mad, so it makes sense to have it come from legislators in the safest of safe districts.

According to Brad Shannon at The Olympian, it was two Seattle Democrats who made the pitch this week before the Washington Citizens' Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials. Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson said legislators should be given a raise of at least 10 percent.

Dickerson said she calculated her hours worked and effective pay — just over $18 an hour at the $36,311 annual salary — then looked at other jobs that pay that amount.

"Payroll clerks make something in that neighborhood. Law clerks do as well. Jailers make a little more. Animal control officers make pretty much the same. ... Butchers and meat cutters were the closest I could come to. Embalmers? A little bit more," Dickerson said.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles said lawmakers should be paid for the hours they put into the job:

Kohl-Welles said the number of constituents in her district keeps growing and the use of e-mail has exploded, requiring her to spend some five or six hours in a day to answer the correspondence. It's making the job more full-time, and Kohl-Welles said she would like to consider redefining the job of legislator as a full-time job — asking voters to amend the Constitution.

State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, issued a statement today saying lawmakers shouldn't lobby for raises and "should just let the commission do its work."

The commission is meeting in Olympia and expected to make salary recommendations today. The commission will then hold a series of public hearings on the proposal before adopting a salary schedule to take effect in September. The Legislature has no official say over its salaries, or the pay of other elected officials under the purview of the commission.

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Dems split on funding for new troops

Posted by David Postman at 8:07 AM

Democrats in D.C. seem generally united in their opposition to President Bush's expected call tonight for more troops in Iraq. But they're not sure what to do about it. Some say Congress should cut off funding to stop the president from sending any additional troops. But others, including Reps. Adam Smith and Norm Dicks and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell say it could be difficult to selectively withhold money just for new troops.

Congressman Jay Inslee is clear he wants to stop funding for the president's plan. He spoke on the House floor earlier this morning to say Congress needs to "stop George Bush's disastrous policy in Iraq."

"The president has refused to listen to the bipartisan panel calling for a chance in Iraq. He has refused to listen to the American people. But he cannot refuse to listen to a Congress that fulfills its obligation under the Constitution to exercise the power of the purse to stop this misguided escalation.

"The U.S. House should vote in clear and no uncertain terms to fund the troops that are there and to cut off funding for any escalation. It is our constitutional obligation. It is a commonsense policy to insist on Iraqis standing up. That is the direction of change we need in this country."

Veteran activist Jon Soltz, right, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday to discuss President Bush's Iraq policy. From left are, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Soltz.

UPDATE: Murray is taking a high profile in the Democratic opposition to Bush's plan. She one of three senators who appeared at a pre-speech Capitol press conference with Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark and an Iraq war veteran, John Stoltz.

In remarks prepared for the event, Murray said:

For far too long, this president has ignored the American people, the realities on the ground, and even his own generals. Unfortunately, we didn't have a Congress willing to stand up and hold him accountable. But the days of congressional blank checks for a failed policy are over. Our country and our troops deserve better.

Unfortunately, all we're hearing from the White House is talk of escalation. Many of our generals have said escalation is not the answer, and the American people have rejected it. Our troops are working hard and sacrificing for us. They deserve a new direction — not an escalation that will put more brave Americans in harms' way.

Clark, a once and maybe future Democratic presidential candidate, is taking some heat for recent comments he made to Arianna Huffington about "New York money people" lobbying for a U.S. attack on Iran.

Huffington ran into Clark at last week's opening of Congress. The retired general has been vocal about his opposition to a troop increase in Iraq. But he told Huffington that he was even more concerned about what he thinks are likely U.S. air strikes against Iran.

When we asked him what made him so sure the Bush administration was headed in this direction, he replied: "You just have to read what's in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers."

The Wall Street Journal's on-line Opinion Journal said Friday that Clark obviously meant "rich Jews."

As we've frequently observed, there is an element of hatred on the Angry Left that goes beyond mere partisanship. Now that the Democrats are the majority party in Congress, one can only hope that the rigors of responsibility will help to temper it.

UPDATE: If you want to gauge liberal's reaction to Democrats' dilemma over how best to stop Bush, watch the comment thread on Rep. Smith's guest post at Smith sums it up this way:

I don't want to put the troops in a political fight between Congress and the president, and Congress should carefully consider the consequences of any attempts to block funds for a surge. We cannot put our forces in Iraq at greater risk. But a troop surge is not the answer in Iraq.

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January 9, 2007

"Surge" would be led by Iraqi troops, Bush tells Dems

Posted by David Postman at 3:44 PM

President Bush pitched his plan for sending more U.S. troops to House Democrats today by saying it "it is an Iraqi plan" and will happen only with "Iraqis taking the lead," said Congressman Adam Smith, just back from a White House meeting.

Smith was at the White House with a dozen Democratic lawmakers, mostly Armed Services Committee members. The administration's civilian and military leaders were there, including Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the secretaries of defense and state.

Bush said he wanted to send about 20,000 U.S. troops to Iraq, but that "there will be more Iraqi forces than U.S. forces," Smith said. The plan would be to "surge in Baghdad" to retake the city in what was described as a "clear and hold" strategy.

The next step would be to work with Sunnis in the Anbar Province to drive out al-Qaida fighters. Smith said that "apparently the Sunnis have decided that al-Qaida is a bad thing" and are willing to work with U.S. and Iraqi troops. (This BBC story from last month has more on the Sunni's drive against al-Qaida.)

But Bush told the Democrats that before any U.S. escalation, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would have 30 days to follow through on commitments he made to the joint effort. Said Smith,

"The primary commitment is that they will use their forces to secure Baghdad, irrespective of the tribe and sect involved. Basically, Maliki won't show up and have al-Sadr's back once there is a conflict like there was three months ago. They need to act like a country instead of a collection of separate groups."

The administration hopes that in addition to the military gains to be made, having an Iraqi-led effort will have important political benefits, too.

"The argument is that the Iraqi government will have proven that it can do something right and that will increase confidence in both Sunni and Shia that this is a government that is worth working for and a government worth working with."

Smith is doubtful it'd all work out as Bush says. But he's not sure what Congress can do to stop him. Some Democrats have said they want to cut off funding for any new troops. Smith said it'd be hard to craft a plan that would continue to fund existing troops but not others.

"We could have a vote on whether or not we think this is a wise thing to do. We did that in Kosovo when Clinton was president and the House did not endorse the plan and he went ahead anyway. ... So how do you implement that without interfering with military operations that could place our troops at greater risk? I do not want a political fight between Congress and the President to get in the way and make things more difficult for our troops."

Smith said he saw a different tone today from the administration.

"The change is there seems there's some intellectual rigor going into this. There is none of the cockiness. But it's too little too late."

Democratic opposition to the troop increase is growing. In Iowa, Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democratic candidate for president, used his Condition of the State address to ask state lawmakers to pass a resolution against sending any more troops to Iraq.

"I ask you to use your collective voice to pass a resolution urging our president and our Congress not to make this tragic mistake for those who will unnecessarily die."

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Gay marriage debate to return to Olympia

Posted by David Postman at 8:34 AM

The Legislature's five openly gay members are taking up the state Supreme Court's many hints that lawmakers could craft a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

Thursday, the five Democrats — Sen. Ed Murray and Reps. Joe McDermott, Jim Moeller, Jamie Pedersen and Rep. Dave Upthegrove — will hold a press conference in Olympia to unveil legislation "to extend marriage equality to same-sex couples," according to a release yesterday. They also will propose a different approach, with a bill to extend partnership benefits to same-sex couples.

Since July, when the state Supreme Court upheld a gay marriage ban, there's been much talk about what the next approach would be by supporters of same-sex marriages. The Democrats seem to want to provide two options to lawmakers.

And you can be sure that opponents will say this issue was settled by the state Supreme Court. Hardly. In a splintered decision, the court upheld the ban. But several justices went out of their way to say that in upholding the ban, they were not saying the Legislature could not legalize gay marriage.

Writing in the lead opinion, Justice Barbara Madsen said the Defense of Marriage Act met "the minimum scrutiny required by the constitution." And she added:

However, given the clear hardship faced by same sex couples evidenced in this lawsuit, the Legislature may want to re-examine the impact of the marriage laws on all citizens of this state.

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander filed a two-paragraph concurrence, largely, it seemed, to point out that the Legislature has the power to do what it wants with marriage:

I quickly add, though, that there is nothing in the opinion that I have signed which should be read as casting doubt on the right of the Legislature or the people to broaden the marriage act or provide other forms of civil union if that is their will.

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Nixon a victim of Bush?

Posted by David Postman at 7:46 AM

Former Republican state Rep. Toby Nixon was in the House chambers yesterday as the Legislature was about to convene. Had he become a lobbyist since losing his race to move up to the Senate? Had he taken a staff job? Maybe he forgot that he lost and showed up from muscle memory?

No, he was here to sing. The choir from his church, the Kirkland Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was here as part of opening festivities. Nixon said it was the first time anyone could remember that a Mormon choir had been invited into the chambers.

Nixon said he hadn't decided yet whether he would run again. That decision will depend in part on who his fellow Republicans nominate for president in 2008.

"What we learned in the election was that what happens in Washington, D.C., has a great impact on what happens in Washington state. Voters took out a lot of anger on a lot of Republicans."

Nixon says he won't become a lobbyist but will remain involved in part with his work with the Washington Coalition for Open Government, and the Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Voter Integrity Project.

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January 8, 2007

Conservative Republican backs speedy restoration of felon voting rights

Posted by David Postman at 5:26 PM

A comprehensive prison reform bill sponsored by a conservative Republican includes a provision to ease restrictions on felon voting.

The 31-page bill from Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, includes at the end a rather vague statement on restoring felon voting rights. It says:

The legislature recognizes that the restoration of civil rights to former felons is important in reintegrating those individuals back into the community after release. However, the legislature also recognizes the importance of an individual's continued compliance with the terms of release, including the payment of legal financial obligations. It is the intent of this legislature to restore a former felon's civil rights as early as practicable while optimally ensuring the payment of restitution to the victims of this state.

Under state law — now under review by the state Supreme Court — a felon cannot get voting rights restored until all terms of a sentence have been completed, including full payment of restitution, fines and court costs. The ACLU, representing a group of felons, filed suit, saying it's unconstitutional to tie the right to vote to a person's ability to pay.

Carrell said the goal is to find a way to restore voting rights sooner, while still ensuring that victims receive their compensation. He said if someone released from prison has been making timely payments and continues to do that, voting rights could be restored.

"It'd be trust, but verify," he said. Carrell said the bill he has been working on with Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, is meant to reduce repeat offenders, lessen the prison population, and drop costs for state and local governments. Restoring voting rights, he said, may help reduce recidivism among felons.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, chairman of the Human Services and Corrections Committee, told my colleague Ralph Thomas that the felon voting language in the bill is only a place-holder, with details still to come. He said Carrell's involvement in the issue is important, calling it a "Nixon to China" moment since many Republican have opposed speedier restoration of felon voting rights.

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An outsider compares the two Washingtons

Posted by David Postman at 2:54 PM

Author and liberal activist David Sirota was in Seattle last week for a forum on publicly financed political campaigns. The forum included out of state legislators and a couple local ones talking about the need to use public money to fund campaigns. And as Sirota was here, he was also reading the news from Washington, D.C., about Democrats taking control with promises of reform, and big-ticket fundraisers crowded with hundreds of lobbyists. He wrote on his blog:

As I sit here in a hotel room reading the MSNBC report after being at this terrific event here in Seattle, I am simultaneously embarrassed and proud to have worked in Democratic politics. I am embarrassed that, at a time state legislators are putting their political capital on the line to truly clean up politics, many (though not all) of their counterparts in Congress clearly think "reform" is the punch line of a joke. Public Campaign's David Donnelly says, "It sends a very mixed message to be on one hand saying that they're clamping down on lobbyists, but then raising money from those very same lobbyists that they say are part of the problem." I'd say that's putting it mildly — it's really making a mockery out of our party's name by insulting the public's intelligence and so openly trying to pull a fast one on the American people.

For more on the local forums, Chad Shue has two reports at the Democracy for Snohomish County blog, here and here.

ALSO: I wrote last week about Bill Clinton's pro-free trade talk to Senate Democrats. Sirota uses that as Exhibit A in what he says is a move by some Democrats to ignore the central message of the 2006 election.

Opposition to lobbyist-written trade deals provided Democrats their majority margin in the 2006 congressional elections. This is a truism, and you cannot really argue that it's not true — because the facts are very, very clear. Yet, there are many in Washington's Democratic Party circles who are trying to make everyone forget this election mandate.

Of course, many people say the Iraq war provided that margin. I certainly heard that from anti-war activists in D.C.

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Move to regulate paid signature collectors

Posted by David Postman at 2:28 PM

Rep. Sherry Appleton says she'll introduce a bill today prohibiting paying initiative signature gatherers a per-signature bounty. There have been several attempts in the past to regulate the signature business. Courts have said that the state cannot ban paid signature gathering all together, and proposals to require hourly pay and residency and age requirements have failed to pass the Legislature.

But Appleton's latest measure is simpler. It says:

A person who pays or receives consideration based on the number of signatures obtained on an initiative or referendum petition is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable to the same extent as a misdemeanor that is punishable under RCW 9A.20.021.

The findings section of the legislation says:

The legislature finds that paying workers based on the number of signatures obtained on an initiative or referendum petition increases the possibility of fraud in the signature gathering process. This practice may encourage the signature gatherer to misrepresent a ballot measure, to apply undue pressure on a person to sign a petition that the person is not qualified to sign, to encourage signing even if the person has previously signed, or to invite forgery.

This morning Appleton said she had 30 co-sponsors for the legislation, including four Republicans.

I've asked Tim Eyman, who has used paid signature gatherers extensively, for his reaction.

UPDATE: Eyman responds by saying he thinks the proposal would be unconstitutional and unfair.

The courts have ruled that as long as legislators and their staffs can be compensated, so too can citizens for exercising their political free speech rights. But politicians claim they're not banning compensation, only ONE METHOD of compensation. Bull hockey. They know this bill locks it up in the courts for years with their legal bills being paid by taxpayers. THIS REQUIREMENT WOULD DOUBLE THE COST OF GETTING INITIATIVES QUALIFIED FOR THE BALLOT.


This radically increases the cost of qualifying an initiative for the ballot. This won't impact the big guys -- doctors, lawyers, teachers'
unions, and other special interest groups -- they've got the money to overcome this doubling of the cost. Who's affected? Initiative campaigns like ours that draw thousands of small contributions from thousands of heroic supporters.

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Country quote machine returns to Olympia

Posted by David Postman at 10:16 AM

I see that when I was in D.C last week former state Rep. Jim Clements, R-Selah, was appointed to the state Senate seat left open by Alex Deccio's retirement. Clements released a statement that proclaimed, "The 'porch dog' is back."

As a leading Clementologist, I have to admit I don't know exactly what that means. As I wrote in 2000, Clements often talked about porch dogs in his countrified speeches on the House floor. But it was never exactly clear who the porch dog was supposed to be.

Sometimes he's the porch dog, looking sleepy but guarding the door closely. Sometimes Locke is the porch dog, afraid of the first sign of trouble. And sometimes the porch dog is just a porch dog. "My porch dog can run from the porch to the fence in three seconds," he says.

I suppose they're all back, along with other of Clements' corn-pone commentaries, like these gems:

On an explosion of gambling, he said: "They gave away the farm. The horse is out of the barn and running down the street." When the state agreed to a gambling review: "We're finally going to pull the sheet back on this corpse and take a look."

Of politicians who hog the glory, he says, "They're like the rooster that takes credit for the sun coming up."

My favorite was the cat in the stovepipe that Clements used to talk about. I had to ask him what that meant, and he explained that's how cats were castrated in the old days.

"You understand?" Clements said. "You wouldn't want to be that cat."

Clements will have to do more than just be colorful this session. This fall he has to run for election for the last year of Deccio's seat. And David Lester writes in the Yakima Herald-Republic that Clements already has competition.

Yakima businessman Curtis King, who narrowly trailed Clements in the ranking by precinct committee officers earlier this week, said he will run this fall to complete the final year of Deccio's four-year term

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January 7, 2007

Two views on bipartisanship in the new Congress

Posted by David Postman at 11:50 AM

Washington's Congressional delegation is trying to start the new year off with a resurgence of bipartisanship. The eight nine Democrats and three Republicans are re-starting monthly delegation breakfasts that have been mostly dormant for years.

Democrat Adam Smith and Republican Cathy McMorris met last week to talk about a medical technology bill they've been working on together. When Republicans were in control, McMorris was the prime sponsor, Smith the co-sponsor. Now, under Democratic rule, she still will have the top spot, the two decided last week.

"It's her bill," Smith said. "We need to be inclusive." He also sees bipartisanship as a sort of lobbying reform. He says if Republicans play a meaningful role under Democratic rule, lobbyists will not think they "need to give me money because I'm the only one who is going to deliver."

This is not to say all the glory will be split evenly, Smith said.

"Nobody ever said the majority is 50-50 with the minority party. We got elected to lead and we're going to lead."

(For several weeks it has been clear Smith will be chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities. I asked him if that news has brought a surge of contacts from defense lobbyists. He said that started last summer when Republican election fortunes began to dim and pundits began predicting a Democratic-takeover.)

Republican Dave Reichert acknowledges that Democrats are trying to include Republicans in these early days. He's glad for it. But he also is a bit skeptical.

He said that in his first term, "there were certain members of the delegation who wouldn't give me the time of day. They did not want me to succeed." He said those Democrats were not interested in co-sponsoring his legislation and did not ask him for help on getting bills through the Republican gatekeepers.

"Now they're in the majority and these two or three -- I'm not going to mention names -- all of a sudden they're coming to me and saying, 'We want to work with you.'

"Now they want to be seen as the party that brings people together."

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January 6, 2007

Reichert won't second guess military on Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 3:26 PM

The first I remember hearing about James Baker's Iraq Study Group during the 2006 elections was when Congressman Dave Reichert said he was awaiting its report as he looked for a new Iraq strategy. In October, his campaign issued a statement in response to a question about whether he still supported the President's Iraq strategy:

Congressman Reichert has been vocal in his support of a new approach in Iraq that takes into account the changing enemy in the region. He supports Congressman Frank Wolf's initiative, the Iraq Study Group that formed through the Institute of Peace. This bipartisan group led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former 9/11 Commissioner Lee Hamilton (D-IN) is looking on behalf of Congress at new strategies for victory in Iraq.

The report has been out for a month, and Reichert said he has read the executive summary. He was not impressed. He told me this week he didn't see anything new in the report:

"I believe a lot of it was common sense. ... I'm sure these things have been thought of before, considered before."

He wishes there had been an earlier and stronger push for international support for the occupation, but Reichert said he hasn't seen anything that shakes his confidence in the Pentagon's leadership.

"I always go back to what I said when I first ran: The decision about the number of troops, how they are deployed, where they are deployed, the technology that they need, is up to the generals."

Sen. Maria Cantwell said she supports what's outlined in yesterday's letter to Bush from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Though it's expected Bush will soon call for more troops in Iraq, Cantwell said she's unsure what the strategy will be.

"There are lots of changes in the administration right now. It's hard to tell what the heck they're doing."

I talked to Sen. Patty Murray about Iraq before the letter was released. Last month she was one of 14 lawmakers who met with Bush to talk about the Iraq Study Group report. She told the president that Americans are uneasy about the war and he now had a chance to find a new strategy.

Murray said that she hopes when Bush gives a speech about Iraq next week that he spends half of it explaining to Americans what they need to sacrifice for the war.

"Let's not just put the burden on those soldiers. We have not been asked to pay for this. ... I see it every day, people driving their BMWs to work, filling up the tanks, while our soldiers come back with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) The president has not defined for this country what the sacrifice is."

Murray said she didn't have a specific proposal for how to pay for it or how to make the sacrifice clear. When I asked if a special tax to fund the war would do that, Murray said, "It would make this debate more real."

The other day I wrote about Congressman Adam Smith's statement that he is close to deciding that the best thing for the U.S. to do is to get out of Iraq. I also wrote about his comment that voters are uneasy about Democrats' national security credentials.

But that shouldn't be read as Smith trying to balance between calling for a withdrawal and concerns about the party's reputation. I get the sense he is very close to supporting a withdrawal. He said that while he hates historic military metaphors, he had one himself for Iraq and what he says is a global war on terror: The U.S. left Vietnam, lost Vietnam to the Communists, but eventually won the Cold War.

ALSO: With all the talk of Bush about to call for an Iraq "surge," look for Democrats to try to change the terms in coming days. They say it's an "escalation," and that's what it should be called.

Congressman Jim McDermott made that point to me the other day. And I see in this morning's Washington Post:

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said the party wants to address even the terminology of the White House plan, defining it not as a "surge" but as an "escalation." "People are going to know [the president] has a very critical audience in the Democratic Congress on this proposal," he said.

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Republicans await committee assignments

Posted by David Postman at 7:08 AM

I didn't get a chance to sit down with Cathy McMorris or Doc Hastings while here in D.C. That's in part because they were busy organizing the GOP caucus. They each sit on the House Republican Steering Committee, which decides committee assignments.

There are 28 Republicans on the committee. McMorris is there as the sophomore class representative. She was selected last year by her fellow freshmen for the two-year assignment. Hastings is there representing the Northwest.

Just as Democrats didn't strictly follow seniority in making committee assignments, there are few sure things for Republicans. Rep. Dave Reichert told me yesterday he was hoping to be ranking Republican on the homeland security committee he chaired, but as of yesterday evening that was not yet decided.

I've got more to write about visits with Reichert, Patty Murray and other odds and ends. But now, it's going to be 70 degrees in D.C. today — (Note to self: Insert global warming joke here.) — so I'm off to play tourist.

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January 5, 2007

Senate Democrats get Clinton (Bill) pep talk

Posted by David Postman at 5:59 PM

Former President Bill Clinton urged Senate Democrats today not to give up on globalization and not to let growing opposition to free trade fracture the party.

Clinton was the star speaker in a closed-door Senate Democratic retreat. Democrats met at the Library of Congress where they also heard from former Majority Leader George Mitchell — who held the post under the first President Bush — as well current leader Harry Reid and Senate freshmen.

They talked about the Iraq war and Democratic leaders' letter today to President Bush opposing an increase in U.S. troops in Iraq. (Read the full letter here.) They talked about the challenges of having five of them —10 percent of the caucus — thinking about running for president.

Reporters weren't allowed in. But I talked to Sen. Maria Cantwell about it later in the day. She said Clinton spoke at lunch. "His message was, 'Don't forget the middle class,' " Cantwell said. Freshmen members who spoke repeated that theme.

Clinton pushed for a new energy policy that would create American jobs, and stressed the "changing role of global citizenship." He specifically mentioned pending free trade agreements and said dickering over the details should not get in the way of preparing the country for inevitable change.

There are plenty of questions about the future of trade agreements in the new Congress. Democrats are not as enthusiastic about them as when Clinton was president. John Nichols wrote in a recent article in The Nation (subscription required for full story) about newly elected Democrats in the Senate who "could take the lead in upending the corporations-first approach of the past several administrations." The article was headlined, "The 'Seattle Senators' " because Nichols argues that the WTO debacle there in 1999 set the course for this change.

Much has been made of shifts in the House makeup that augur changes in trade policies: DeLay is gone, Republicans are out of power and more than two dozen new fair-trade Democrats are ready to take the place of free-trade Republicans. But the changes in the Senate are just as sweeping, and perhaps more significant. Of the six Republican incumbents who lost to Democrats on November 7, five were steady free-trade voters. All were replaced by lawmakers — Brown in Ohio, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jim Webb in Virginia and Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island — who argued that past trade agreements have failed to deliver on the promise of more prosperity for U.S. workers and farmers. In addition, the seat held by Vermont Independent Jim Jeffords, who voted for CAFTA and other trade deals, was taken by Bernie Sanders, who for more than a decade has been one of the steadiest and savviest critics of the free-trade agenda.

Organized labor has been encouraged by the shift. The New York Times reported in November:

"We are at a point where the Reagan era might finally be over, including the eight years of Bill Clinton," said Jeff Faux, a fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research group partly financed by the A.F.L.-C.I.O. "The historic juncture here is whether the Democrats can come up with policies that get to the level of the problem."

Cantwell said that Clinton acknowledged that opposition. "He was saying, 'Don't let people divide us on that,' " Cantwell said.

The Senate Democrats had a long discussion about Iraq. And Cantwell said there appeared to be broad support for the positions laid out in the Reid/Pelosi letter to the president. But some of the Senate's leading voices on the war weren't seen at the retreat.

"Most of the presidentials weren't there," Cantwell said. That'd be the five Democratic senators thinking about running. But the nascent competition among Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and John Kerry was a topic of discussion.

Cantwell said Reid told the caucus, "I know having five people thinking about running for president in a 50-50 majority may be an issue." But he told Democrats not to worry, that he had talked to all the would-be candidates and he was confident that their ambitions and competition would not be a distraction.

Cantwell was elected to the House in 1992 when Clinton won his first presidential election. She lost two years later when growing discontent with Clinton and his policies helped fuel a Republican revolution.

But she remains a steadfast Clinton Democrat.

"I think he took the party where it needed to go and since he left I'm not sure where we've been," she said.

Want to know the full power of Clinton's popularity in D.C.? He can make the papers doing what most of us do with no fanfare at all.

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Pelosi warns of the "narcotic of incrementalism"

Posted by David Postman at 8:55 AM

Nancy Pelosi's selection as speaker of the House was celebrated this morning with the words, tone, and historic embrace of America's civil rights movement. That's not just to honor the moment of the nation's first female speaker, but to reassure those who worry the new Democratic regime will be too restrained in wielding its new power.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights pioneer, introduced Pelosi at an open house by saying that as a young Freedom Rider he never could have imagined a female at the head of the House.

"She kept her eyes on the prize," Lewis told a crowd of hundreds. He talked of her as someone who stood up against power. "Nancy Pelosi got in the way and that's why she's the speaker of the House today."

(He also said she is now one of the most powerful women in the world.)

Pelosi, in turn, said Lewis "comes from a tradition of being a disrupter." She said Democrats will not be afraid to do the same. She paraphrased the Rev. Martin Luther King, who said, "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism."

Pelosi called it the "dangerous narcotic of incrementalism." She said the House will strive for civility. But, she said, "where we cannot find it Democrats must stand our ground and Democrats are prepared to do that."

There's been some criticism from Democrats and liberals that the Pelosi House is treading too carefully, particularly with the focus on a package of bills to be passed in the first 100 hours. That includes a raise in the minimum wage, ethics legislation, and other Democratic campaign promises. "That's just the beginning," Pelosi said.

The absence of any focus on the Iraq war is one point of contention. Congressman Jim McDermott told me Thursday:

"People did not elect us to pass an ethics bill. They want us to be ethical. But they elected us because of the Iraq war."

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Watching McDermott at work

Posted by David Postman at 7:00 AM

Congressman Jim McDermott was on his way to an "Open House to Celebrate the People's House" this morning to celebrate the new Democratic majority and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ascension.

But he also had some business to do. He was looking to corner Pelosi or Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., to lobby to get 2nd District Rep. Rick Larsen a permanent seat on the Agriculture Committee.

Just then Miller walked by on his way into the Cannon Caucus Room. Or tried to. McDermott grabbed him, pulled out some notes, and gave Miller the pitch: Larsen would be the only Northwest representative on the committee and he's a good guy doing a good job.

Miller said he'd do what he could. And that was good enough for McDermott. "If you want to make sure Nancy hears it, tell George," he said.

I had been looking for Miller myself. There was a story in Wednesday's edition of The Hill that said Miller would include in a minimum wage bill a provision to undo a key piece of the Jack Abramoff/Tom DeLay legacy.

Abramoff had successfully lobbied Congress — in part while working for Seattle's Preston Gates — to get an exemption for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands so clothing factories there didn't have to pay the U.S. minimum wage. That was a key to the island's hoped for success as an off-shore location for "Made in America" products.

Miller, chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, said that will be gone in the House's first 100 hours of business. He said it's the right thing to do, and will help purge the taint of the Abramoff lobbying scandal. He told me the argument in the House will be a simple one:

"The Marianas hired Jack Abramoff to do this and they've been exploiting workers. People can cast their last vote for Jack Abramoff or they can vote for economic justice. It's not complicated."

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Dal LaMagna's one-man peace lobby

Posted by David Postman at 4:09 AM

My column in the paper today is about Dal LaMagna's efforts to get Democrats to call for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

LaMagna was Sen. Maria Cantwell's campaign co-chairman. In October I wrote about an "Iraq Reconciliation Plan" he was promoting.

LaMagna just pointed out to me there is an error in the column. I wrote that he and Congressman Jim McDermott had met with Sheikh Ahmad Awad Al-Kubaysi on a recent trip to Jordan. LaMagna says by e-mail:

Jim and I didn't talk with Sheikh Ahmad Awad. I spoke with him last August went I went to Amman with the Peace Delegation — detailed at Jim and I meet with Sheik Majed Abed Al-Razaq Al-Ali Sulaiman, who is a Chief of Chiefs, and Sheik Bzeigh Al-Gu-ood.

One of the things Sheik Majed told us:

"But the United States in reality is destroying Iraq. First is the humiliation of the Army, the Iraqi Army, opening the boundaries for everyone to come into Iraq from outside. No control on our boundaries..."

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January 4, 2007

A sensitive Senate moment

Posted by David Postman at 11:52 AM

While House Democrats and Republicans bicker about House rules, broken promises and hypocrisy, the Senate is taking a different approach to the 110th Congress. A more collegial, even sensitive, approach.

Democratic and Republican senators met in a rare closed-door joint caucus today. They gathered in the old Senate chambers, an ornate hall in the Capitol surrounded by statues of Washington, Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Dwight Eisenhower, and others.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., each spoke to the senators and gave what Sen. Patty Murray described to me as heartfelt calls for not just bipartisanship, but — yes, Mike McGavick — civility.

"They said we need to learn to respect each other again, learn to work together."

Incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) answers questions from the news media as incoming Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (L) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) (R) listen during a news briefing with other senators after a joint caucus today on Capitol Hill.

I wondered if those sorts of entreaties were met with skepticism from a roomful of mostly veteran pols. But Murray said senators were encouraged:

"I think people are tired of bashing each other. Everyone is tired of the caustic atmosphere."

There apparently also was some venting in the meeting, according to AP:

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell says the meeting gave senators from both parties a chance to "express some of their quiet frustrations" with the partisanship of recent years.

McConnell told a home-state paper that the atmosphere does seem different.

People, I think, really want to see if we can develop a better operating mode around here," McConnell said in an interview with The Courier-Journal.

The New York Times was outside for the stakeout. Getting along is not as interesting bickering:

After a couple of questions, Mr. Reid said they would take one more. No one asked, and with expressions of surprise, the senators faded back into the crowd.

Among those who were surrounded by the biggest scrums of reporters were some of the many senators running, or thinking about running, for president.

Murray is particularly close to one of those, Hillary Clinton. She said that several colleagues have asked her to support their presidential bids, but so far at least Murray is remaining neutral.

She said someone has to be the "designated driver in the caucus." As the No. 4 person in Democratic leadership, Murray says it's best to remain insulated from the political hubbub and make sure there is someone sober at the wheel.

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The push for surge builds

Posted by David Postman at 7:11 AM

The most visible protests in D.C. this week have been anti-war efforts aimed at Democrats, including Cindy Sheehan's appearance yesterday at Nancy Pelosi's office and her disruption of a press conference by Democratic leaders.

But will help try to turn attention to Republicans — and GOP friend Joe Lieberman — with a demonstration the group is organizing outside the American Enterprise Institute tomorrow.

Lieberman and John McCain are scheduled to speak at AEI tomorrow about the need for more troops in Iraq. Josh Marshall is encouraging attendance at the protest and says:

Make no mistake: this event is the official 'surge' roll-out.

The real star of the AEI event is Frederick Kagan, a resident scholar at AEI and the man the Washington Post calls the "intellectual architect" of the surge. AEI's announcement says:

At this important time, AEI resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan and former acting Army chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane will release the updated and final version of phase one of "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq." The study calls for a large and sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad.

Here's Kagan's report, though I don't know if it is the final version he'll unveil tomorrow. He does seem to have the President's ear.

At yesterday, Dan Froomkin wrote about the surge and asks:

Where's the outrage?

If the vox populi and the cognoscenti agree that throwing more American bodies at the problem will only result in more American deaths, then how is the apparent Bush plan anything short of a betrayal of the troops and an expression of contempt for the will of the people?

MoveOn is working on it.

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January 3, 2007

Smith leans toward Iraq withdrawal

Posted by David Postman at 6:51 PM

To understand the challenge facing Democrats who tomorrow will be in charge of oversight of the Iraq war, consider Congressman Adam Smith. Smith, the veteran Tacoma Democrat, will be the chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities.

In that role he will be in charge of authorizing key spending for the war. And he says he sees little future for the U.S. in Iraq. He told me earlier today he is "close to thinking the right answer is to pull us out." What stops him from joining calls for a quick withdrawal is the remaining conversations around the Iraq Study Group report and other discussions about war strategy.

It may only be a matter of time then. And already Smith wants to use his new chairmanship to push for a reassessment of the administration's Iraq strategy. He will have purview over spending on special operations forces, and he questions whether it's smart to let Iraq monopolize those elite troops. Smith said those forces may need to be redeployed to Southeast Asia, Africa or Latin America.

"When you look at the global war on terror, it is, in fact, global. ... And now a fair number of our eggs are in the Iraq basket. We need to ask, 'What aren't we doing? How are we weakening ourselves elsewhere because of the Iraq strategy?' "

But even as Smith — who voted for the war — leans toward an Iraq position that would hearten liberal, anti-war Democrats, he worries about the party's national security reputation. He says Americans have "long-term concerns" about that:

"I think it's fair to say the Democratic Party has national security problems. We want to show that Democrats are as smart, tough and focused on protecting this country as Republicans were, and we have not always done that."

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Republicans say Democrats ignore voter message

Posted by David Postman at 11:29 AM

House Republican leaders met the press this morning in a basement hallway of the Capitol to complain about Democratic plans to push through legislation this week without a chance for meaningful Republican dissent.

As soon as it was over, there was another press conference, with mostly a different slate of Republicans, offering similar criticism. This is the Republican theme for the week, as expressd by Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Florida, chairman of the Republican Conference.

"We are disappointed at this point in the game that half of the Congress has been cut out of the process."

As I noted yesterday, Democrats have said they will push their first 100-hour agenda by shutting out most debate or opportunity for Republicans to offer alternatives. And that gave Republicans fuel for their fight today.

But there was something odd about their message. Republicans talked passionately about the meaning of the 2006 Congressional elections. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Viriginia, the chief deputy Republican whip, said:

"The message from the election was very, very clear: The American people spoke out and said they wanted Washington to change the way it does business."

Outgoing House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the election was a chance to "restart how we do business." He said this was a time for "real fiscal responsibility here."

But if there was a message of change, and there's little argument about that, it was a change from the way Republicans have done business for 12 years. It struck me that they might have a credibility problem with those voters who see how defeat gave Republicans a new-found appreciation for openness and inclusion.

I asked Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, about the credibility gap.

"There is a challenge with that, without a doubt."

Price appeared at the second GOP press conference of the day where members used a "minority bill of rights" proposed by Rep. Nancy Pelosi when she was minority leader, to craft legislation they say would now give them a meaningful role. None of the more than half dozen Republicans at the event said they had done anything to promote the plan when they were in the majority.

He said, though, that most of the members at Press Conference No. 2 today were newer members, not part of the old guard or leadership, and had always wanted more openness.

"The frustration the American people had, we had too," he said.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-North Carolina, a sponsor of the new minority rights bill, took a similar approach in distancing himself from Republican leadership. And when asked why elected Republican leaders, like Boehner and others who had just finished their own press conference, did not join him, he said pointedly, "You'll have to ask them that."

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, chuckled at what he called the Republicans "surprising, but welcome epiphany." He said he supports Pelosi's decision to limit debate during the early days of the Congress to put through a raise in the minimum wage and bills that he said Republicans have blocked for 12 years.

But Inslee said that won't work with more complicated issues, like energy policy or health-care reform:

"I do hope we have more open rules then."

And Inslee said he is confident they will.

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Lobbying strap-hangers

Posted by David Postman at 8:16 AM

I'm not sure who the intended audience is for this, but riding the Metro this morning every ad in the car was promoting the U.S./Italian joint venture behind the C-27J Spartan cargo airplane. Boeing is a part of the venture hoping to win the contract for new Army and Air Force cargo planes.

I'm not sure how many members ride the Metro, so maybe this is a sign of the power of staff in Washington.

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Dems lobbied on impeachment

Posted by David Postman at 6:22 AM

Later this morning a group of activists will meet near the Capitol before heading to the Hill to lobby Democrats to impeach President Bush. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that's off the table in the new Congress. But the activists, including Cindy Sheehan, will press the case in meetings with members today, demonstrations and a forum tomorrow night.

The first protest is this afternoon in front of the White House, a familiar backdrop for such events. But tomorrow the protests, organized by the group World Can't Wait, will be near the Capitol protesting Democrats. They'll be "doing street theatre dressed in orange Guantanamo torture jumpsuits," according to a news release.

World Can't Wait says:

Millions thought they were voting against the war and the president, but the Democratic leadership of the new Congress has declared that impeachment is off the table. If war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity are not reasons to impeach, what is?
David Swanson, a spokesman for the group, told me that he expects some Democratic members to join at least the White House protest. The one name he shared, though, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia, is only a member for another day before her replacement is sworn in tomorrow. McKinney last month introduced a bill to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush.

The Washington Post this morning reports that there are some Democratic members sympathetic to the argument that the Iraq war will get scant attention in the early days of the new Congress.

Nowhere in the Democrats' consensus-driven agenda is legislation revisiting last year's establishment of military tribunals and suspending legal rights for suspected terrorists. Nor is there a revision of the civil liberties provisions of the USA Patriot Act, a measure curbing warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency or an aggressive confrontation of the president on his Iraq war policies.

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New chief of staff for Murray

Posted by David Postman at 5:47 AM

This is Jeff Bjornstad's first official day as chief of staff to Sen. Patty Murray, said Murray spokeswoman Alex Glass. Bjornstad had been working as chief of staff for Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, and earlier worked for Adam Smith, both in D.C. and during Smith's Olympia tenure.

Bjornstad replaces Rick Desimone. He had been Murray's chief of staff for eight years. Desimone is returning to Seattle to head up a new corporate communications office affiliated with lobbyist Steve McBee, a former aide to Norm Dicks and other Northwest lawmakers. McBee has emerged in recent years as a prominent defense lobbyist and was profiled in The Hill last year.

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January 2, 2007

On my way to Washington.

Posted by David Postman at 8:47 AM

As I get ready to leave for D.C., a quick look at news from the capital.

Today is a national day of mourning for former President Gerald Ford and official Washington is closed. Today is the funeral at the Washington National Cathedral for an invitation-only crowd of more than 3,000.

What do you think this conversation was like?

Jimmy Carter, the Democrat who defeated Ford in 1976, chatted with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the high-powered assembly waited for the procession.

Congress convenes Thursday with Democrats taking control of both houses for the first time since 1994. Remember the pledge by House Democrats to lessen partisanship and allow Republicans meaningful participation?

That'll have to wait.

The Washington Post reports this morning:

... Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories.

Nancy Pelosi, the Californian who will become House speaker, and Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who will become majority leader, finalized the strategy over the holiday recess in a flurry of conference calls and meetings with other party leaders. A few Democrats, worried that the party would be criticized for reneging on an important pledge, argued unsuccessfully that they should grant the Republicans greater latitude when the Congress convenes on Thursday.

Pelosi has big plans for the first 100 hours of her reign. She wants the House to pass new ethics laws and raise the minimum wage, among other priorities. After that, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly told the Post, Democrats will make good on the campaign pledge of inclusiveness.

"The test is not the first 100 hours," he said. "The test is the first six months or the first year. We will do what we promised to do."

I have little doubt, though, that the biggest issue to face the new Congress will be the Iraq war. After years of criticizing the administration's prosecution of the war and the lack of serious oversight by Republicans, Democrats will be in charge of an ever-increasingly unpopular war.

In an AP story in the Times this morning, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, still maintains, "This is President Bush's war."

But political experts say the public might not agree.

"When you're in the minority, you don't have to do much more than criticize the status quo that wasn't working," said Norman Ornstein, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. "When you're in the majority, people will look to you for leadership."

Stay tuned ...

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