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August 29, 2007

"First responders" day for presidential candidates

Posted by David Postman at 7:36 AM

The International Association of Fire Fighters is scheduled today to announce its endorsement of Democratic Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd for president. It's a big boost for Dodd who has run in the second tier, at best, among Democratic candidates. The Hartford Courant reports:

The 280,000-member union, whose backing was sought by most major candidates, will provide Dodd with an instant network of local workers throughout the country as well as some potential for more fundraising.


IAFF President Harold Schaitberger, a well-known figure in political and Washington insider circles, is expected to make the announcement today at a downtown hotel. Dodd will then immediately embark on a multi-state tour with firefighters, who are particularly active in New Hampshire, the nation's first primary state.

As the New York Times points out, only one major candidate had zero chance of getting the union's backing — former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

In fact, the union has made it a mission to attack his candidacy, issuing a video harshly critical of his management as mayor of New York in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Giuliani today will appear with his own firefighters and law enforcement types, including Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. Giuliani will hold a press conference in South Carolina with the chairmen of "First Responders for Rudy."

Giuliani will appear at a fire station in Greenville with Reichert, chairman of the Law Enforcement Coalition, former New York City police and fire commissioner Howard Safir and Jim Bowie, executive director of the South Carolina State Firefighters Association.

Giuliani spokesman Elliot Bundy said the event is in South Carolina because it is an important early primary state and because there are about 300 professional and volunteer firefighters who have signed on to the Firefighters Coalition for Rudy. Reichert is a former King County sheriff and has some national profile from his work investigating the Green River killer. Said Bundy:

"Reichert's involvement is a recruiting tool for building this coalition across the country. He will have a very active role in the campaign from here on out."

Reichert may be able to help with firefighters, too. The Seattle firefighters union and the State Council of Firefighters endorsed him for re-election last year.

There are benefits for Reichert, too. Said his chief of staff, Mike Shields:

"Its flattering. To be utilized as a surrogate in an important early primary state is exciting."

But I also think that if Reichert can have a meaningful role with the Giuliani campaign it may help take attention away from his close ties to President Bush.

It's interesting timing this week. Monday, Bush was here for Reichert, a visit that turned into a fundraising bonanza for Darcy Burner. Today Reichert appears with Giuliani on the other side of the country. Bush is the past, Giuliani the future — or so Reichert hopes.

Bush visit raised over $600,000

Posted by David Postman at 7:07 AM

Most of the money, $500,000, raised by President Bush's Monday visit was for Congressman Dave Reichert and the state party. Reichert Chief of Staff Mike Shields said they don't yet know how much of that was from maxed out Reichert donors and will have to be forwarded to the party.

But Democrat Darcy Burner also raised $122,000 from visit, said Burner aide Sandeep Kaushik. That came from 3,192 online donors and exceeded the goal of 3,000 donors to "Burn Bush for Burner" that had been set by the nation's top liberal blogger, Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. Kaushik told me the campaign was "still a little thunderstruck by it."

"It shows the growing power of the netroots. And their growing sophistication."

The protests or collateral money raised by Burner didn't diminish the Reichert camp's pleasure with having the president in the district. Shields said of the president:

"We asked him very early, put a request in in January, as soon as the last campaign was over almost, because we knew he would be able to come in and raise a tremendous amount of money for us."
August 28, 2007

Sen. Craig's arrest prompts local paper to tell more

Posted by David Postman at 1:05 PM

The Idaho Statesman interviewed Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, in May about an allegation that he had sex with a man he had met in a restroom in a D.C. train station. Craig denied that, as well as other allegations the paper had discovered in reporting on long-standing rumors about the senator's private sexual life. The paper said today:

Until Monday, the Statesman had declined to run a story about Craig's sex life, because the paper didn't have enough corroborating evidence and because of the senator's steadfast denial.

News in Roll Call yesterday, though, about Craig's arrest and guilty plea for allegedly cruising for sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom, prompted the paper to run its story today. The Minneapolis incident happened a month after Craig's denial to the paper.

In an interview on May 14, Craig told the Idaho Statesman he'd never engaged in sex with a man or solicited sex with a man. The Craig interview was the culmination of a Statesman investigation that began after a blogger accused Craig of homosexual sex in October. Over five months, the Statesman examined rumors about Craig dating to his college days and his 1982 pre-emptive denial that he had sex with underage congressional pages.

The most serious finding by the Statesman was the report by a professional man with close ties to Republican officials. The 40-year-old man reported having oral sex with Craig at Washington's Union Station, probably in 2004. The Statesman also spoke with a man who said Craig made a sexual advance toward him at the University of Idaho in 1967 and a man who said Craig "cruised" him for sex in 1994 at the REI store in Boise. The Statesman also explored dozens of allegations that proved untrue, unclear or unverifiable.

Light blogging ahead

Posted by David Postman at 10:52 AM

I am going to be taking some time off and working part-time, at best, for the next week or so. I am going to try to enjoy the final days of summer and hope you can do the same.

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August 27, 2007

Gorton for attorney general?

Posted by David Postman at 9:35 PM

CNN mentions former Sen. Slade Gorton among the names being floated as possible nominees for President Bush's next attorney general.

Gorton's work with the 9/11 Commission gave him his highest profile since his 2000 defeat. He was critical of the administration at times in that role, as well as more recently in regards to the firing of former U.S. Attorney John McKay. Gorton told the New York Times it was a mistake for the Justice Department to say that McKay had been fired for performance reasons.

I can see the attraction for the Bush administration in a Gorton appointment. He would bring a seriousness to the job that has been missing and no one would question his intelligence or experience. His stock with Democrats in Congress likely went up with his 9/11 work. I can't imagine Gorton would want the job, except to help out George W. Bush, who he has supported since the earliest days of Bush's first campaign for president. It's a longshot, no doubt, but the prospect gives Washington state a little extra interest in the late-summer news out of D.C.

An insider's view from Bush's press pack

Posted by David Postman at 4:35 PM

CBS White House Correspondent Mark Knoller wrote today on the network's blog about what it's like to be on President Bush's press plane when the news is happening elsewhere.

So what happens, while we're half-way to Central Texas? The president walks out to Marine One to announce the resignation of his senior advisor Karl Rove.

And again this morning, the President ends his two-week ranch stay and arrives at TSTC Airfield in Waco — to makes his first public statement on the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

But where was most of the traveling press? On yet another press charter just arriving in Seattle, where Mr. Bush would be coming later in the day to do a fund-raiser in nearby Bellevue for Congressman Dave Reichert, R-WA.

I've covered enough presidential visits to know reporters don't get much up-close access. But Knoller lifts the curtain a bit about what life is like in the press pack that follows Bush, though not always as close as you may think.

Truth be told, on most presidential trips, many of us in the press corps cover his statements and actions without actually laying eyes on him.

We hear his statements on audio feeds from the White House Communications Agency or see live video transmissions arranged by the TV Networks. We get written reports from our colleagues in the pool with the President and we get transcripts of his statements from the White House stenographers.

More often than not, we're always in the same city with him. So the dateline on our reports matched the place in which the President actually spoke.

Pool reports, stenography from the White House and watching TV? They could, and should, be doing their jobs poolside in Vegas.

Sen. Craig sorry — about his guilty plea

Posted by David Postman at 3:56 PM

Larry Craig has issued a statement about his arrest in Minneapolis. His site is down because of too much traffic. But the AP reports:

``At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions,'' he said. ``I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously.''

Sen. Larry Craig busted in airport sex sting

Posted by David Postman at 2:28 PM

Roll Call has the story.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men's public restroom, according to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call Monday afternoon.

Craig's arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.

A spokesman for Craig described the incident as a "he said/he said misunderstanding," and said the office would release a fuller statement later Monday afternoon.

Roll Call's site is unavailable due to high traffic. The arrest began when Craig entered a bathroom stall adjacent to where the undercover cop was. There was some activity that the cop said was well known to be signals from someone interested in sex in the airport restroom known for such things. Craig says it was a misunderstanding and he did not mean to signal anyone by moving his foot under the stall to touch the foot of the man in the next stall.

Craig stated "that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched mine," the report states. Craig also told the arresting officer that he reached down with his right hand to pick up a piece of paper that was on the floor.

Last year the Web site
claimed Craig was a closeted homosexual.

Craig's office told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that the charge was "completely ridiculous," saying that the allegations had "no basis in fact."

Burner capitalizes on Bush visit

Posted by David Postman at 10:37 AM

Democrat Darcy Burner is benefiting from an online, counter-fundraiser to President Bush's visit today for Congressman Dave Reichert. So far that has earned her $79,135 over four days. Burner has been promoting her fundraiser through well-established ties with the netroots. The campaign says the money has come from

ordinary Americans determined to "Send a Message" to President Bush and his close ally, Republican Congressman Dave Reichert, that the war in Iraq must be brought to a responsible close.

This afternoon, while Bush is raising money for Reichert in Bellevue, Burner will hold a "virtual townhall" meeting to "discuss concretely how to get out of Iraq responsibly." A panel discussion will feature military veterans, anti-war activists and UW law professor Clark Lombardi.

Burner showed in her run against Reichert last year that she has a strong online presence that can help her overcome the incumbent's traditional fundraising advantage. But her campaign sees the past days activities as something more. It's an attempt to nationalize the race and get money and attention from around the country from people looking to channel anti-Bush fervor. Burner campaign aide Sandeep Kaushik told me:

"We're talking about essentially a local congressional race that is going to develop a national profile and it allows for people concerned about the direction of the country to really engage to form a national community over the Web, to concentrate their efforts in a specific location."

The fundraising — tagged Burn Bush for Burner — has been organized and pushed by some of the best-read of the national liberal blogs, including DailyKos, and AmericaBlog. The local bloggers that have been among Burner's most ardent supporters have also helped organize and promote the effort. Says Kaushik:

"I think the way the bloggers see this is as a dry run or test run to create at template they can use in other places to push back against Bush visits. ... It's beyond money. This has been getting intense attention in the blogosphere. People have been seeing stuff about this race, people in D.C. We're engaging the netroots in part, frankly, to get around the jaded traditional media that doesn't quite get how campaigning is changing and what the impact the Web is having on organizing politically and getting messages out to folks."

In addition to the townhall, which will be streamed on her Web site at 3 p.m., Burner will hold a media availability in Bellevue to talk about Reichert and Bush.

The Bush visit is bringing a little negative attention to Burner from the left-wing of the Democratic Party.

There's only one thing wrong with Darcy: she refuses to talk frankly about impeachment.

That's from Bob Fertig.

Yes, I know Bush will be on his way out the door when Darcy is sworn in on January 6, 2009. But Darcy refused to talk about impeachment in 2006, when she could have impeached Bush had she won. If George Bush is not an issue for the 2008 election, then Darcy should apply that principle across the board and never mention his name — which is absurd because Darcy is happy to talk about Bush every chance she gets, and is happy to raise big bucks from the Netroots while he's visiting her district.

Fertig asks, "does she think the impeachment movement is made up of Dirty Hippies and she'll get the cooties by associating with us?"

Meanwhile, Burner's Democratic primary opponent, state Sen. Rodney Tom, has taken a much more low-profile approach to the Bush visit. He says he and his campaign have been helping to encourage people to attend protests near the Bush event. He will join the protest himself. He said:

"It surprises me that Reichert would want to be so blatant with his affiliation to Bush."
August 22, 2007

Nothing to see here

Posted by David Postman at 4:39 PM

I'm taking a few days off and will return early next week.

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Council race starts with an apology

Posted by David Postman at 11:46 AM

Seattle City Council candidate Tim Burgess kicked off his general election campaign this morning with an apology to his opponent, incumbent David Della. Last week, Burgess put out a press release accusing Della of voting against an increase in police staffing. The proposal never got a vote, though.

"I apologize for the mistake," Burgess said. "I had erroneously thought that Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck's proposal to significantly increase police staffing due to the extreme shortfall had actually gone to a vote, but it had not. Peter's colleagues did not support his proposal and it was not brought forward for a vote. I regret the error."

It's rare to see a politician issue such a clear-cut apology as Burgess did. The press release he issued this morning includes no shot at Della, doesn't blame it on poor staff work or rely on any of the other usual tricks for a political apology.

The press release on Burgess' campaign Web site has been rewritten. But I doubt the new version will make Della any happier. It now accuses Della and other city officials of having "neglected additional police staffing."

Della objected to Burgess' initial charge and issued his own press release last week with a supporter accusing Burgess of "doctoring David's record on public safety."

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If you're planning on protesting Bush's Monday visit

Posted by David Postman at 10:49 AM

The White House is ready for you, according to the counter-protest handbook the Washington Post read.

To counter any demonstrators who do get in, advance teams are told to create "rally squads" of volunteers with large hand-held signs, placards or banners with "favorable messages." Squads should be placed in strategic locations and "at least one squad should be 'roaming' throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems," the manual says.


"If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protesters (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."

But none of that is operative if the protesters can't be seen by reporters.

"If it is determined that the media will not see or hear them and that they pose no potential disruption to the event, they can be ignored. On the other hand, if the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the President, or has the potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken immediately to minimize the demonstrator's effect."

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Sen. Jim Clements defeated in primary

Posted by David Postman at 8:43 AM

One of the most colorful politicians in the state was forced into retirement last night. Republican state Sen. Jim Clements of Yakima was defeated by primary challenger Curtis King. I'm having a hard time accessing the Yakima-Herald site this morning. But the paper has the story and says, "Jim Clements, R-Selah, called it a career Tuesday night as political newcomer Curtis King easily swept past him after months of grass-roots campaigning ... ."

King got 56 percent of the vote n the two-way primary. He is a conservative businessman and he directed much of his campaign to the GOP base in conservative Yakima. Clements campaigned more as a pragmatist, reportedly telling voters of how well he works with the Democratic majority in Olympia. That didn't sell with primary voters.

Clements is well-known in Olympia for his country ways of speechifying. His comments during floor debates are always colorful, often funny and sometimes totally inexplicable. He referred to himself as "the old porch dog," but that was one of his favorite phrases and he often used it to describe others as well.

Clements is also unusually polite. We don't see that often in politics. I bet today he's feeling a little bit like that cat in a stovepipe he used to talk about.

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August 21, 2007

Big bucks behind regional transportation campaign

Posted by David Postman at 3:05 PM

The group that fought successfully two years ago to keep the state gas tax increase in place is fast raising money to help pass a regional transportation plan that would raise taxes to pay for nearly $18 billion in projects.

Keep Washington Rolling has raised $689,550 this year for the campaign to pass a three-county roads package and an expansion of Sound Transit. Microsoft is the top donor, having given $200,000 earlier this month. The list below shows all the 2007 donors and you'll see that many of the companies and unions are involved in the road- and rail-building business.


08/16 — $75,000 SEATTLE MARINERS


07/13 — $40,000 NAIOP WA STATE CHAPTER

07/17 — $35,000 ACEC WASHINGTON

08/09 — $33,000 WA ST. BLDG. & CONST. TRADES COUNCIL

08/09 — $30,000 HNTB CORPORATION

08/14 — $30,000 PB AMERICAS INC.



07/25 — $20,000 AGC OF WASHINGTON


07/19 — $20,000 PERTEET INC.

08/10 — $15,000 WOODWORTH & COMPANY INC.

08/16 — $10,000 AEROSPACE MACH. IND. DIST. LODGE #751


07/13 — $10,000 NAIOP




08/16 — $5,000 ARUP NORTH AMERICA LTD.





06/25 — $500 DOUG Levy

08/08 — $50 RICHARD D. ALMY

There is an opposition committee organized by the Sierra Club. The Slog looks at how the Sierra Club has split from the wider environmental community on the vote. But so far I don't find any money raised by that group, or by the Eastside Transportation Alliance
Association, which also opposes the fall ballot measure.

How much help did Rove give Reichert?

Posted by David Postman at 2:00 PM

It was obvious last year that the 8th Congressional District race was a priority for Republicans who badly wanted Congressman Dave Reichert to keep his seat. Since Reichert's re-election, details have emerged about the extent of that effort. When the House earlier this year began investigating Karl Rove's blending of politics and government operations, we learned Reichert was at the top of the list for help from D.C.

A PowerPoint done by a Rove deputy to the General Services Administration — made public by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — showed Reichert got a boost from 585,164 GOP voter contacts, 41,666 on election day alone and more than 100,000 above what was done in any other district.

Now the Washington Post provides the most detailed look yet at how hard Rove worked to make sure the Bush administration was doing everything it could to help Republican candidates.

The staging of official announcements, high-visibility trips and declarations of federal grants had to be carefully coordinated with the White House political affairs office to ensure the maximum promotion of Bush's re-election agenda and the Republicans in Congress who supported him, according to documents and some of those involved in the effort.

"The White House determines which members need visits," said an internal e-mail about the previously undisclosed Rove "deployment" team, "and where we need to be strategically placing our assets.

The Post says that Rove and his deputies gave political briefings more than 100 times so far in Bush's two terms in office. The paper points out that Rove and his deputies were careful about keeping their activities within the law and cautioned against violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity by federal employees.

The political sessions touched nearly all of the Cabinet departments and a handful of smaller agencies that often had major roles in providing grants, such as the White House office of drug policy and the State Department's Agency for International Development.

Was Reichert a beneficiary of Rove's work? A look at Reichert's press releases from 2006 show he had grants to announce and administration officials to appear at his side for press conferences and public appearances. (I've listed those below.) The "news" and events certainly sound like the kind of coordination Rove was looking for to help Republican candidates.

I asked Reichert's chief of staff, Mike Shields, if the campaign benefited from Rove's coordination of administration activities.

"The real answer to that is, you have to ask them. We would have no way of knowing why they are offering to help us with something, If they say, 'Would you like to have a cabinet person travel out to the district,' we don't know what the motivation would be. We just know they are offering to send someone out."

Obviously there are legitimate reasons for administration officials to travel to the Seattle area. This month alone, Shields said, there were seven or eight visits from administration officials. Reichert was not involved with any of those.

"It's hard to know, are they doing it because they are pursuing their own agenda or are they doing it because we are there? I would argue they didn't send the trade representative out last week to help us. They just give us a head's up that she was going to be here."

There have been plenty of offers of help from D.C. In fact, even given the administration appearances in the district and grant announcements, more often than not, Shields said, Reichert "respectfully declined their offer to have someone appear out here." Shields has a view of the White House political operation that differs some from the accolades Republicans have for Rove and Democrats' picture of him as the evil genius of the Bush political operation.

"Actually we have been quite frustrated with the administration when they did things that we didn't want them to do, or when they have done things that were politically not very helpful to us."

Here are a couple of examples. In 2005, the Office of National Drug Control Policy released some TV ads designed to fight meth. ONDCP officials appeared in Seattle, with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. Just last week the Department of Transportation announced it was giving King County a grant of $138.7 million as part of a new program to fight traffic jams. one of the first communities to participate in a new federal initiative to fight traffic gridlock. Murray was the only member of Congress quoted. The money will be used on SR 520, which is in Reichert's district. Shields said:

"I did ask the White House why that happened."

Shields said that Murray's office seems to have better communication with the administration than his office. (Shields says I overstated this. He said Murray's office does "seem to be able to get a heads up quicker than us very often" but that is not to say that in general her office has better communication with the administration. Fair clarification.) It matters, he says, because "there is a game played in Washington state about who can get their press releases out faster to make an announcement." That can determine who the press gives credit to for congressional action.

"Most of the time it appears that even though Dave is a ranking member on a homeland subcommittee in the House, many, many times we find that she has gotten a head's up about information like that from people before we have."

That said, Reichert last year had news and announcements throughout his campaign against Democrat Darcy Burner:

Oct. 25: Reichert issues a press release praising the Federal Emergency Management Agency "for their expedited action in signing a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) to allow the construction of a new biodiesel production plant" in Grays Harbor.

Oct. 11: Reichert appears at a Bellevue fire station with Admiral Thomas J. Barrett, administrator of the U.S Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. They announce a Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant.

September 25: Reichert issues a press release announcing "port security funds he has advocated for were awarded to the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma."

July 11: Reichert issues press release saying he helped to secure "a $2 million grant the City of Renton received from the U.S. Economic Development Administration."

April 10: Reichert holds a field hearing on emergency preparedness and appears at a press conference with George Foresman, Under Secretary of Preparedness for the Department of Homeland Security.

March 21: Reichert holds roundtable discussion with local law enforcement officials and John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. A press release says: "The topic of the roundtable will be the successes King County and Pierce County have achieved in their fight against meth."

Reichert and Walters also tour the Pediatric Interim Care Center in Kent and hold a press conference together.

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Have other Dems joined Baird in rethinking Iraq?

Posted by David Postman at 10:39 AM

Congressman Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, is featured in a front page Washington Post story this morning about Democrats' changing view on Iraq.

Not every Democrat has come back from Iraq supporting a drawdown of U.S. forces in the coming months, as party leaders have advocated. Staking out positions that could complicate efforts to achieve party unity in September, a few Democratic lawmakers have returned expressing support for a continued troop presence. One of them, Rep. Brian Baird (Wash.), said yesterday that he will no longer vote for binding troop withdrawal timelines.

But the Post has been hit with a common journalistic malady: Rampant pluralism. A careful reading shows that so far Baird stands alone with a substantive change of heart about Iraq. The Post points out that Republicans are eager to use any positive statements about Iraq from Democrats to show the party splitting on the war. (And this morning the Republican National Committee features on its homepage a Washington Times story, "Democrats See 'Results' In Iraq." But as the Post points out:

At times, such statements have been clearly taken out of context. When Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) returned from Iraq and said, "We're making some measurable progress," the GOP declared that the Democratic leadership had splintered on the war. What Republicans left out was the rest of Durbin's remarks: "We cannot win this war militarily. We just can't send enough troops."

The paper says "some Democrats have shifted their views" and use Baird as the best example. He clearly has changed his mind and no longer supports the Democrats' withdrawal plan.

That followed comments by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) suggesting that his trip to Iraq made him more flexible in his search for a bipartisan accord on the future U.S. role in the conflict. "If anything, I'm more willing to work to find a way forward," he told reporters late last month.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.), who was with McNerney, told his local paper that the troop increase "has really made a difference and really has gotten al-Qaeda on their heels."

But neither Mahoney or McNerney came back "expressing support for a continued troop presence" — at least not in conflict with the Democratic conventional wisdom.

The Contra Costa Times reported late last month:

Freshman Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney remains committed to a timeline for U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq but expressed willingness to be more flexible following a weekend trip to visit American troops and Iraqi leaders in Baghdad and Ramadi.

He did say he's more willing to work toward a bipartisan agreement on Iraq. But he remains committed to a timetable for bringing U.S. troops home.

Ready or not, McNerney says he delivered a clear message to the Iraqi leaders: The U.S. cannot remain in Iraq indefinitely.

"The timetable is really important," he said. "We do want to give them enough time to ... get them into a situation where they can resist (the insurgents) but we can't stay there forever."

And McNerney made clear in an essay on his Web site that he has not backed off a withdrawal timetable.

Even though we were shown some successes, Iraq is still engaged in a religious civil war. I believe we must keep the pressure on to end the conflict and bring our troops home. The most direct way to do this is through setting a timeline. We need to set a definite start date and a definite strategy to end our military involvement. And in between, we need definite benchmarks.

Mahoney also still supports setting a deadline for withdrawal, according to his homestate press.

Yet, for the U.S., the question is not "whether" to stage a drawdown of U.S. forces deployed in Iraq, but "how," Mahoney said Monday after a fact-finding trip to Iraq last weekend.

There may be a split among Democrats when Congress reconvenes and hears the much anticipated progress report on the Iraq surge. But it hasn't happened yet, despite a few encouraging words from a few Democrats.

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August 20, 2007

Top state Senate Democratic aide leaves for UW

Posted by David Postman at 8:59 PM

Carolyn Busch, the chief of staff to the state Senate Democratic Caucus and one of Majority Leader Lisa Brown's closest aides, is leaving to take a job with the University of Washington. Busch announced her depature in an e-mail this afternoon. Her new job will be with the UW's Planning and Budget Division.

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Rep. Baird's more optimistic view of Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 2:14 PM

Washington's Democratic delegation was united last month when Congress called to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq this year with a timetable that would have most out by April 2008.

But Congressman Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, said he only reluctantly voted for the resolution after failing to dissuade fellow Democrats from the tactic during closed-door caucus meetings. If he had to do it again, he said, he'd vote against the Democrats' move.

Now, fresh from a trip to Iraq and the Middle East, Baird is making his differences clear. He says there has been progress in Iraq in recent months due to the U.S. military surge and cooperation among rival Iraqi factions. He voted against the invasion of Iraq and says he's glad he did that. The invasion and occupation have included some of the worst diplomatic and military mistakes in history, he said.

But today Baird has trust in, and respect for, U.S. military and diplomatic leaders in Iraq. After years of doubts he said he feels he's getting "fully honest reports" about the war from the Bush administration.

At the core of Baird's evolution on Iraq is a fundamental change in his view of the "pretty standard wisdom" about the benefits of a troop withdrawal. That has been, he said, "if we didn't talk about pulling out there wouldn't be pressure on the Iraqis to make progress."

"I've come to see it almost in the opposite way."

Baird says a threat of a quick withdrawal brings a fear of a pending civil war. That, he said, could lead the Maliki government to foster closer ties to Iran out of "self defense." Forces on all sides in Iraq may decide to "retreat to the trenches and build their alliances."

"It seems to me the threat of withdrawal is not such a clean instrument and may be counter-productive."

Beyond strategic concerns, Baird says Americans have to remember the full story of Iraq.

"We have to really remind the American people that we destroyed their civil government, their police force, the military, their infrastructure; we left the borders unguarded and open ... and we also shut down most state industry, leaving people out of work and filled with resentment.

"We have a moral responsibility to try to help these people whose lives we have impacted."

Compare that to what one of Baird's Washington colleagues said after the July vote.

Rep. Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat, said the United States has given Iraqi leaders "a reasonable chance" to work out their differences, and it was time for American troops to come home.

"The moral obligation to Iraq has been completed," he said. "The moral obligation to our families now needs to be honored."

I asked Baird if his views made him an outlier among House Democrats. He said that's probably true, though he hasn't heard much from colleagues since he returned from Iraq last week.

Baird was in Iraq and the Middle East in May. He said after that trip he sensed some progress. But this time he said he saw even more improvements in the U.S. battle to calm the Iraq insurgency. He was in Yusufiyah, on the Tigris River, which he described as "one of the corners of the Triangle of Death."

It has been a "very, very difficult place to hold" for U.S. troops. There were regular rocket and mortar attacks on the U.S. base and, Baird said, "every time they'd go out they were hit with IEDs and ambushes and they were getting no cooperation from local community leaders."

The congressman met there with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Gen. David Petraeus and other officials. He said that last week he saw Sheiks and community leaders embracing U.S. troops figuratively and literally, whereas before they only met with military officials rarely and in secret.

Locals spray paint locations of IEDs and warn soldiers about the explosive devices. Mortar attacks are now rare, he said.

Baird said he would never say, as Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence did, that his visit was like going to his local farmer's market. Said Baird:

"There's a long way to go but the progress is real."

This will put him at odds with many state Democrats.

"You have to ask yourself on the progressive side, are we really comfortable leaving people -- who did nothing to have us attack them -- at the mercy of people who will cut heads off civilians and car-bomb schools because there are girls there? Are we really comfortable, morally, leaving that fate to those people and possibly allowing that to expand and spread?

"We are where we are and it's not about whether we like George Bush or not or whether we think one position will help win the next election or not."

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Insurance law repeal campaign hits the airwaves

Posted by David Postman at 11:18 AM

The insurance industry-backed campaign
to repeal a new state insurance law began airing a TV commercial statewide today.

The spot continues the story line of the law firm "Sooem, Settle & Kashin" — the insurer's parody of a greedy law firm. They used the same take during the campaign to collect signatures for the referendum.

There is going to be an expensive campaign around Referendum 67. The Olympian's Brad Shannon reports today that the insurance industry continues to give generously.

New data on file with the state Public Disclosure Commission shows that the insurer-backed Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates committee has raised $4.78 million for its no-on-Ref. 67 effort. The same group had collected signatures forcing the Legislature's action onto the Nov. 6 ballot.

Of the donations, more than two-thirds, or roughly $3.4 million, comes from out of state, led by the $1.6 million given by Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., according to an Olympian analysis of data filed with the PDC.

The other side, Approve 67, continues to rely heavily on trial lawyers, but has raised only $471,333,

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LaMagna heads back to Middle East

Posted by David Postman at 9:57 AM

Poulsbo's presidential candidate, Democrat Dal LaMagna, has left his New Hampshire encampment to return to the Middle East. His campaign said today:

Representatives of the Coalition Forces have responded to the proposal from various groups comprising the Iraq Nationalist Forces that Mohammed al-Dynee and Dal had submitted to General Paul Newton about a month ago.

LaMagna began his very long-shot campaign for president from Baghdad. He met there, and earlier in Amman, with various Iraqi figures, including a controversial leader of the Iraqi resistance.

Newton is a British general that LaMagna met on his most recent trip. That meeting is the focus of a piece on This American Life about LaMagna's one-man peacemaking venture.

Dal LaMagna, millionaire and creator of the Tweezerman tweezer, prepares to go to Iraq on a diplomatic mission he invented for himself — despite concern (and mocking) from his own sister.

It's an interesting piece and though LaMagna recorded all the conversations himself, it ends up presenting what struck me as a balanced view of his quixotic trip. After a long meeting with another British officer, Lt. Gen. Graeme Lamb, and his Iraqi connections, LaMagna stops on the way out to press the general to negotiate a ceasefire.

LaMagna: And I hope something useful can come from this.

Lamb: The answer is that for four years I have been having these conversations.

LaMagna sounded depressed and defeated about his efforts and decides that instead of trying to broker peace he would incorporate Iraqi voices into his presidential campaign back in the U.S. But in the message to supporters today, LaMagna says coalition forces are ready to talk about a cease fire between what he calls "nationalist forces" and the coalition forces. And Tweezerman has returned to his freelance diplomacy.

This would allow everyone to concentrate on al-Qaeda, the criminals at large in Iraq, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard members who have infiltrated the Militias, and even the Ministry of Interior in Iraq.

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August 17, 2007

City attorney to head public records panel

Posted by David Postman at 4:53 PM

Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr will be chairman of the state's new public records committee, says the AP. And that isn't sitting well with one prominent advocate for open records. The AP quotes Greg Overstreet, AG Rob McKenna's former public records ombudsman, as saying there is no "more polarizing figure."

Overstreet is unhappy with the Carr appointment largely because of two specific cases. One was the city's withholding of information when the PI made public records requests statewide in preparation for a story on police DUIs. The other was a case known as Hangartner that went to the state Supreme Court. The high court sided with Seattle that Sound Transit documents could be kept private because they were protected by attorney-client privilege.

Gregoire is not likely to be sympathetic to arguements that someone who iscompromised on the question of public records because they argued for that decision -- a ruling the media and public records advocates said was a major step back in disclosure law. Gregoire was on the same side as Carr.

As attorney general, she urged the justices to make sure that the privilege protecting conversations between lawyers and their clients be recognized for attorneys who represent public agencies."

That was one of the reasons that David Zeeck, executive editor of The News Tribune, once wrote about Gregoire:

When it comes to open government, Gregoire is -- as we say in Texas about people who play at being cowboys -- more hat than cattle.

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Baird says U.S. needs to stay in Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 2:51 PM

Congressman Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, is back from a trip to Iraq and says he'll be in no hurry to withdraw U.S. troops. Brad Shannon of The Olympian reports:

With Congress poised next month to look at U.S. progress in Iraq and a vote looming on U.S. funding for the war, Baird said he's inclined to seek a continued U.S. presence in Iraq beyond what many impatient Americans want. He also expects Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees U.S. troops in Iraq, to seek a redeployment of forces. "People may be upset. I wish I didn't have to say this," Baird said. He added that the United States needs to continue with its military troops surge "at least into early next year, then engage in a gradual redeployment. ... I know it's going to cost hundreds of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars."

Baird voted against the initial invasion of Iraq. He says that was the right decision. But, he told Shannon, "we're making real progress" and "I think the consequences of pulling back precipitously would be potentially catastrophic for the Iraqi people themselves."

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The new town hall meeting needs no town or hall

Posted by David Postman at 10:39 AM

Telephones were ringing throughout the 8th Congressional District the evening of Aug. 6. It was Congressman Dave Reichert calling 47,000 of his constituents. If they were home, they heard this recorded message:

Hi, this is Congressman Dave Reichert. I'm currently holding a live town meeting over the phone. We'll be discussing issues important to you and I'll be happy to take your questions. If you'd like to join, please press one on your phone. Again, I'm here on the line. To hear the latest updates on activity in Washington and ask me a question, please press one and we'll have a chance to talk.

About 400 people pressed "1" and joined Reichert for his first district-wide "tele-town hall." It was about an hour-long conference call that for Reichert has replaced the old-fashioned, in-person, town hall meeting.

Actually, Reichert, a two-term Republican, has never held a traditional town hall meeting. Early in his first term he convened a panel discussion to talk about Social Security. But that didn't go well.

"People started chanting and yelling," Reichert's chief of staff, Mike Shields, said this week. The forum was moderated by Times editorial page editor Jim Vesely. He wrote afterward that the event turned into a "hockey game." That was the end of any plans for open-door town halls for Reichert. Said Shields:

The old school town hall meting where Norman Rockwell-like citizens stand up to ask their elected representative a question just isn't possible. ... It'd be better to just say, "Let's have a rumble." It's political theater. That's what town halls have turned into.

Reichert has not stopped meeting with constituents. There are small-group meetings in the district. In D.C., Shields said, "he meets with anyone who wants to see him." That has included representatives of the liberal group, union officials and anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.

Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane has also used the tele-town hall, though she continues to do in-person events as well. I checked with a few other members of the delegation. Democratic Reps. Adam Smith, Brian Baird and Jay Inslee haven't done any conference calls and continue schedules of in-person events. Baird has done an online session. He has three in-person town halls scheduled this month, which will bring his total to 285 town halls since being elected in 1998. Smith has a town hall in SeaTac Aug. 22 and Inslee has three scheduled next month.

Tele-town halls are operated by a contractor who has a database of active voters in the district. For Reichert's event last week, only registered voters who voted in both of the two most recent elections — so-called two-of-twos — got calls inviting them to join the discussion. That provides an audience of the most regular voters.

If people have a question, they push a button on their phone and they talk to a call screener. Reichert's staff worked with the screener and a moderator to choose the questions, Shields said. Argumentative people can easily be cut off. Repetitious questions can be avoided. Shields said:

The tone, the demeanor is different. People aren't going on a rant. We just think that's a better way to communicate with people.

But it also allows Congressional staff to screen out any potentially embarrassing questions or even challenging or probing questions. Shields said they didn't do that. Reichert wasn't asked any questions about Iraq. But Shields said that's because no one posed a question about the war. He said there was no censorship.

There were questions about immigration, energy policy, campaign finance and a plea for Reichert to support a Constitutional amendment for congressional term limits. (He doesn't support that.)

The tele-town hall allows members to take instant polls of their constituents. About half-way through Reichert's call, the moderator announced there would be a survey that callers could answer by pushing buttons on their telephones:

An interesting feature of these conference calls is we can take live calls and get live feedback with folks who are on the phone and sort of hear about what you're thinking. And the congressman can get your votes on certain current issues and we can talk a little about how people are feeling and get live data reported right back to us.

The question was about what people thought should have happened with the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which Congress recently renewed.

Reichert voted against the renewal because he objected to how it would be financed.

Reichert said he could not vote for an expansion of the children's program that would be funded partially by cuts to Medicare Advantage, a Republican-backed program that provides seniors with health care from private insurers.

Reichert gave a lengthy explanation of the bill and outlined his objections. He said that he knew the vote would be used against him. He told callers:

Over the next few weeks you'll hear some media, they'll say, "Reichert doesn't support children's health care." Dave Reichert does support children's health care, but not at the cost of taking health care away from our seniors.

And that's how the question was posed:

Press the corresponding button on your phone to indicate your opinion: To pay for this critical children's health care program we should, 1) cut Medicare, 2) raise tobacco taxes or, 3) we shouldn't renew the program.

Reichert's position is No. 2, raise tobacco taxes. In an e-mail newsletter sent afterwards, Reichert said:

I wanted to poll the callers on how they would fund health care for children — giving callers the same choice I had when I took my vote: to fund the program through cigarette taxes or by cutting seniors' health care by $200 billion. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of taxing cigarettes. Not one person chose to cut seniors' health care, echoing my vote on the floor.

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August 16, 2007

A bridge to where, exactly?

Posted by David Postman at 2:54 PM

A day after the bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, Sen. Patty Murray joined other Senate Democrats to accuse the Bush administration of failing to maintain the country's bridges. And she had a dynamite anecdote:

"I have learned of a bridge where school buses have to stop and let all of the children out and pick them up on the other side because of weight restrictions."

The Hill reports that the anecdote was quickly repeated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

"The children have to walk across the bridge!" he declared in outrage.

The Hill's Under the Dome blog — third item — tried to get some specifics on the bridge.

So where's this limited-purpose bridge? Reid's office said to ask Murray. Murray said to call her office. Spokesman Mike Spahn looked into it. A couple of weeks later, where is that bridge?

Well, Spahn doesn't know. He said an unnamed member told Murray the story minutes before she addressed reporters, but she didn't hear where it was.

Ah, well, everybody loves a good story.

UPDATE: In the comments, Toby Nixon shows Murray's staff and lazy reporters like me how it's done.

Somebody needs to teach Sen. Murray's staff how to search the web. It took me about 30 seconds to find a reference to this school bus story in U.S. Senate testimony from the president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers in September 2002 (he says it was in Washington County, Alabama, but doesn't cite a source):

I also found this reference to a similar situation in Guam:

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Boeing blogger junket builds support for tanker bid

Posted by David Postman at 2:07 PM

Boeing is getting "buddy-buddy" with influential reporters as its campaign against Northrop Grumman/EADS heats up to see who gets to build the Air Force's new aerial tanker. David Axe, a D.C.-based military writer, tells all on his blog about a recent Boeing press junket for influential bloggers.

Some military news stories are the result of careful study of leaked internal documents. Some come from stomping around places like Iraq and Afghanistan in a helmet and body armor. And some stories are handed to you on silver platters. This is definitely the latter. Boeing is flying around a dozen bloggers out to Everett, Washington to schmooze with corporate big wigs and see the 767 assembly line. Food and transportation are covered. We bloggers pay only for one night in a moderately priced hotel.

Axe says Boeing spends $2 million a year on its media campaign around the bid for the new tanker. The recent D.C.-to-Everett trip included Axe, writing for Defense Technology International, and reporters for NPR, Reuters, The Hill, The Weekly Standard and a couple of military blogs. Some of those news organizations, he said in an addendum, donated money to charity to make up for the cost of the trip. Boeing said it could not accept reimbursement.

The Hill's Roxana Tiron included mention of the junket in her story.

The rally at Boeing's Everett facility was meant to bring awareness to the program and the job creation not only in Washington but also around the country. Part of Boeing's aggressive PR campaign was to fly a group of reporters based in the national capital to Everett for the event and a tour of the facility.

And the paper said in her tag line that she was one of the reporters invited on the trip.

The media outreach reflects a chance in the politics of military procurement. From the Harper's blog, where I found the link to Axe's work:

Traditionally it was a fairly small circle of defense insiders and key figures in Congress who influenced how federal military contracts were awarded. But in recent years competition for big contracts has grown more heated and that circle has widened. Now, many more members of Congress are part of the process, and today defense contractors routinely run media campaigns in order to influence lawmakers and the general public. (Hence those full-page ads for various weapons programs that are regularly placed in Capitol Hill publications like The Hill and Roll Call.)

The Everett trip was also part of an effort to improve Boeing's image in the wake of the scandal that erupted when the Air Force initially considered letting a contract for new tankers. A former Air Force official, Darleen Druyun, was convicted of showing favoritism toward Boeing in the competition while she was talking to the company about a job. Axe says Druyun's name came up during the bloggers' visit to a home of Boeing's vice president of communications:

Mary Foerster's lavish second home overlooks beautiful Lake Washington near Everett. Pleasure craft bob in the crystal-clear water; sea birds wing overhead. On the street, a small army of valets park just half a dozen cars. Inside, the caterer has set up a tidy little bar next to a table heaped with grilled salmon, fried chicken and corn bread. It sure is good to be Boeing's vice president for communications.

But then things take an unsettling turn. Foerster describes an encounter with Druyun in the ladies' room. Druyun, she says, wouldn't say good morning even if you greeted her first. A reporter chimes in, saying that Druyun had a reputation for being cold — a "dragon lady," the reporter says. The implication seems to be that a reserved personality means a corrupt person. By that line of reasoning, are nice people always ethical?

Shame on Boeing and its supporters for appealing to some Americans' jingoism — and for continuing to heap personal scorn on Darleen Druyun in hopes of somehow making the current generation of Boeing execs look saintly by comparison. Emotions shouldn't decide this contest.

Axe told Harper's Ken Silverstein that there didn't "appear to be much journalism taking place" at Foerster's house. It doesn't sound like there was much journalism during any part of the trip.

Then it was time to fly home on the Boeing jet, with a meal of beef cutlet and potatoes and chocolate cake for dessert. "The whole thing had a buddy-buddy atmosphere," Axe said. "There was a sheer shamelessness to the whole thing and I willingly participated."

Silverstein couldn't figure out why Boeing bothered to fly out the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb since he "long ago made his decision clear regarding the tanker matter."

"Airbus is a European company, and worse, it's closely connected to the French government," Goldfarb wrote earlier this year. "[T]he folks in Congress can find a way to award the contract to Boeing without the appearance of any impropriety. But how could they explain sending our tax dollars to France?" Truly, this is a man who knows the taste of freedom fries.

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The cheer heard around the world

Posted by David Postman at 11:20 AM

Comments from Times Executive Editor Dave Boardman about staffers cheering news of Karl Rove's departure has become a major topic of discussion among journalists and political commentators from the left and right.

I initially wrote that it was only two people who cheered. But now it sounds like it was likely a few more than that, though not many. One of those people was an opinion writer who I suppose can cheer in the paper so maybe no one should be shocked to hear it in person. (ADD: the opinion writer is a columnist, not someone from the editorial page given that those folks do not attend the news meeting.)

But cheering should not be heard in news meetings. As the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz wrote:

What an embarrassment.

The episode has been completely exaggerated by Rush Limbaugh. He talked to Rove himself about it yesterday. (Via blatherwatch)

RUSH: I would like to introduce you all to Karl Rove. Karl, welcome to the EIB Network. I cannot tell you how great it is finally to have you here with us.

KARL ROVE: Well, thanks, Rush. I'm honored you'd ask me and delighted to be with you.

RUSH: You haven't probably heard about this, although it won't surprise you, but I've gotta tell you something. It's a hilarious story. The editor of The Seattle Times was conducting a staff meeting when they learned of your resignation announcement, and everybody stood up and started cheering, and

KARL ROVE: Ha-ha-ha-ha! Was my wife there?

RUSH: (Laughing.)

KARL ROVE: Was my wife in that crowd?

RUSH: (Laughing.) And the editor said — this is what's funny. The editor said no politics in the newsroom. You've gotta keep this stuff to yourself. We've gotta remember there's a political year coming up. No politics in the newsroom!

At MSNBC, Joe Scarborough used The Times brouhaha to talk about booing he heard in the MSNBC newsroom during a State of the Union Address by President Bush.

And at the Stranger, news editor Josh Feit continues to show his opinions far outpace his reporting. Feit wrote yesterday about a follow-up note from Boardman. Feit wrote:

You can read the whole thing at Editor & Publisher, but there's one line in particular I found curious — especially given The Seattle Times claim on objectivity.

There's no claim on objectivity. And if Feit had read the Boardman note he quotes from he would have found this:

It's not about "balance," which is a false construct. It isn't even about "objectivity," which is a laudable but probably unattainable goal. It is about independent thinking and sound, facts-based journalism — the difference between what we do and the myopic screed that is passed off as "advocacy" journalism these days.

Feit calls the Stranger a partisan paper and says it is all but impossible for him to talk to Republicans. He does his reporting by only talking to Democrats. That's fine, but he should quit propping up this straw man of objectivity. He also should do some reporting before he gets up on his high horse. Boardman wrote this:

If we wore our politics on our sleeves in here, I have no doubt that in this and in most other mainstream newsrooms in America, the majority of those sleeves would be of the same color: blue. Survey after survey over the years have demonstrated that most of the people who go into this business tend to vote Democratic, at least in national elections.

Feit says:

Boardman is relying on some pretty out-of-date stereotypes.

He is actually relying on the most recent data. Studies after the 2004 presidential election showed what previous studies have as well: Reporters tend to vote Democratic.

Among all American adults, 33% say they are Democrats, 32% claim to be Republicans, and 22% say they are politically independent. 33% of journalists also claim to be Democrats; however, only 10% say they are Republicans and half say they are independent. Interestingly, 18% of Americans describe themselves as liberal and 18% of journalists say they are politically liberal. But while only 10% of journalists say they are conservative, 34% of Americans say they are conservative. 53% of journalists say they are politically moderate, while 40% of Americans describe themselves that way.

Finally, 68% of journalists say they voted for John Kerry in 2004, while only 25% voted for George W. Bush. Only 1% say they voted for Nader, and 5% say they did not vote.

A New York Times reporter did an informal survey of colleagues at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

When asked who would be a better president, the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1. Those results jibe with previous surveys over the past two decades showing that journalists tend to be Democrats, especially the ones based in Washington. Some surveys have found that more than 80 percent of the Beltway press corps votes Democratic.

Here's what I like best from all the words written about those who cheered the Rove news. It's from CBS's PublicEye blog.

Face it: News reporters are not shruggers. They are committed, interested and invested in the events that surround them. They're not cyborgs, they're human — with sympathies lying in different directions. I'm uncomfortable with the political donations — regardless of where it goes — and with the applause in the Seattle Times newsroom. But what I'm more uncomfortable with is the fact that we're losing sight of the fact that reporters are people, imbued with the same angels and devils that we all are. And it's worth remembering that every once in awhile.

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August 15, 2007

Why reporters shouldn't cheer

Posted by David Postman at 8:03 AM

I wrote yesterday about a couple of Times staffers who cheered in the news meeting when it was announced that Karl Rove was resigning. Times editor Dave Boardman was unhappy with the outburst and wrote a note to the staff reminding them to keep their political views to themselves.

At The Stranger, editor Dan Savage says Boardman has it all wrong.

Well, gee. Maybe the reporters cheered because they, of all people, are in the best position to recognize Rove's departure as a positive development for the nation — and for the ideal that all journalists everywhere honor the most: the truth.

In fact, Savage writes:

Any reporter that didn't cheer Rove's departure shouldn't be a reporter.

Savage has it wrong on several fronts. First, does he really think that Rove leaving in the final throes of the Bush administration is really some "positive development for the nation"? He's not that naive.

But more importantly, reporters should not be cheering. I have zero doubt about that. When you become cheerleaders for the Democrats, as an example, you will soon find yourself only talking to people who agree with you. That's something The Stranger knows well.

Last month I talked to the Republicans in the congressional delegation about where they stood on the Iraq war. That prompted this from Stranger news editor Josh Feit:

p.s. Good on Postman. I know you're all gonna holler about how the GOP frames the debate, but seriously, I don't think reporters talk to Republicans enough. I try to as often as I can, which is difficult at a partisan paper like The Stranger.

Also: There is some interest in who the guest was in the news meeting where the cheering took place. A Republican operative maybe, sent to give us our marching orders and to make sure no one smiled at the news of Rove's departure? No, it was a job candidate.

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August 14, 2007

A newsroom reprimand at The Times

Posted by David Postman at 3:26 PM

Seattle Times Executive Editor Dave Boardman wrote today in one of his morning notes to staff that there had been "an awkward moment at yesterday's news meeting." That's the meeting where editors and other staff from throughout the newsroom talk about the stories planned for the next day's paper. Boardman wrote in "Dave's Raves (and the occasional rant)"

When word came in of Karl Rove's resignation, several people in the meeting started cheering. That sort of expression is simply not appropriate for a newsroom.

It sounds like a conservative's parody of how a news meeting would be run. I wasn't there, but I've talked to several people who were. It was only a couple of people who cheered and they, thankfully, are not among the people who get a say in news play. But obviously news staff shouldn't be cheering or jeering the day's news, particularly as Boardman points out, "when we have an outside guest in the room."

Jokes get made in newsrooms, of course — even what you would call gallows humor. And Boardman wrote that he was "all for equal-opportunity joking at both parties' expense." But he was clearly ticked off by yesterday's display.

As we head into a major political year, now's a good time to remember: Please keep your personal politics to yourself.

What should Rove be remembered for?

Posted by David Postman at 11:57 AM

Grover Norquist writes in the Washington Post today about his friend Karl Rove and says the White House strategist should be hailed for two major accomplishments in his career. The first is turning Texas into a Republican stronghold.

Rove's second big accomplishment was the 2000 Republican primary. Arizona Sen. John McCain ran as a former prisoner of war with tons of charisma and several million dollars in network campaign contributions in the form of cheerleading thinly veiled as media coverage. A McCain win would have changed the Republican Party from the Reagan coalition of limited government into one led by a populist seeking approval from the establishment press on taxes, guns, energy and judges. Yes, Bush began the 2000 campaign as a "compassionate conservative" — whatever that was — but after losing New Hampshire with this strategy, he reenergized the entire Reagan coalition in South Carolina and beyond. He won a majority of registered Republicans voting in every single primary.

While Norquist credits Rove, no one really knows who was responsible for the Bush turnaround in South Carolina. But it's pretty widely known how it happened, as McCain's former campaign manager wrote in 2004:

Anonymous opponents used "push polling" to suggest that McCain's Bangladeshi born daughter was his own, illegitimate black child. ...

We had no idea who made the phone calls, who paid for them, or how many calls were made. Effective and anonymous: the perfect smear campaign.

Ron Suskind has written of other underground activity in South Carolina.

Bush loyalists, maybe working for the campaign, maybe just representing its interests, claimed in parking-lot handouts and telephone "push polls" and whisper campaigns that McCain's wife, Cindy, was a drug addict, that McCain might be mentally unstable from his captivity in Vietnam, and that the senator had fathered a black child with a prostitute.

The 2000 South Carolina Republican primary has become a prime example of sleazy campaign tactics. Now Norquist wants to elevate it — in honor of Rove — as an important and positive turning point for the Republic. I'm sure Rove appreciates Norquist using the Post to give him full credit for his work.

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In defense of Ted Stevens

Posted by David Postman at 8:42 AM

The Fairbanks Daily News Miner has come to the defense of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. I missed this when it was originally published, but saw it when it was reprinted in the Juneau Empire. The paper doesn't like the way the press has reported the federal raid on his house.

It's disturbing to see the incident portrayed far and wide as a "raid." Can it truly be called a raid when federal authorities notified the senator's attorneys in advance that they wanted to search the home?

And it's disturbing to see some people clamor for Stevens' head when it's not even clear yet that he is the target of the federal government's probe.

The paper is also unhappy with calls for Stevens to step down from his committee positions.

This is disturbing on more than one level.

It's also potentially devastating for Alaska. Not having Stevens hold his committee posts would further weaken Alaska's standing in an already hostile Washington setting.

We'll all learn the details of this federal inquiry soon enough. Until we do, however, calls for the senator to step aside from committee positions are premature.

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August 9, 2007

Heading south

Posted by David Postman at 11:50 AM

I'm on my way to California to celebrate my father's 80 extraordinary years on this planet. I'll be back in the cubicle Tuesday morning.

Happy birthday dad.

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State Dems pass on Inslee's move to impeach AG

Posted by David Postman at 10:00 AM

Rep. Jay Inslee's resolution calling for possible impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been hailed by liberals as a long-overdue move against the administration. (The P-I gave him "big ups" for the move. The resolution has
27 co-sponsors. But as of today, the list doesn't include any of Inslee's fellow Washington state lawmakers. (Oregon's four-member Democratic House delegation has signed on to the measure.)

There's no surprise that the three Republicans in the delegation aren't interested in impeaching a high-ranking Bush administration official. And it's not that state Democrats support Gonzales. Instead they side with House leadership who say impeachment — of Gonzales, President George Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney — would be a distraction from their agenda and unlikely to be successful.

The fullest answer I got to my question about Inslee's resolution came from the office of Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, the senior member of the delegation. His longtime spokesman, George Behan, said by e-mail:

There is clearly a lot of energy among Democrats around the country who have great expectations for a Democratic-led Congress. We are trying to make up for 6 years of lax (or no) oversight of the Bush Administration and several committees in the House and Senate are looking into the war, Halliburton, the U.S. Attorney firings, political manipulation of federal agencies, contempt of Congress and various other improprieties. The pace is obviously not fast enough for many in our party, especially the liberal base. And because we have yet to do anything visible to bring the troops home from Iraq, the restlessness in the party has occasionally been manifest in anger toward the Democrats in Congress and in calls for the impeachment of Bush, Cheney and/or Alberto Gonzales.

Nancy Pelosi has been Speaker for 7 months. As much as she (and many of us) may want the American people to know the full story of how incompetent and wrongheaded this Administration has been, she has reminded people that it is exceedingly unlikely that we would ever see an impeachment process culminate in 2/3rds of the Senate voting to impeach Bush or others in the Administration. Thus she has stated her view that it would distract Americans from the more positive agenda on education, energy, the environment and, of course, the debate over the Administration's lack of any plan to leave Iraq. That's where Democrats in Congress — Including Norm — are positioned at the moment, for better or for worse.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, doesn't support the impeachment move, said his spokeswoman, Amanda Mahnke:

Rep. Larsen has been calling for the Attorney General to resign since March — I believe he was the first member of the delegation to do so — and he supports the call by Senate leadership for an independent special counsel to investigate the Attorney General and whether he lied under oath to Congress.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, has not ruled out supporting Inslee's move. Says spokesman Derrick Crowe:

Adam co-sponsored a resolution (H.Res.417) that expresses no confidence in the Attorney General's performance and calls for his resignation. Regarding H.Res.589 (Inslee's measure) he thinks this proposal warrants serious consideration. Impeachment is a major step and one he does not take lightly, but this is an extreme case, and he will consider it. He will listen to constituents over the August district work period and will make a decision in September over whether to co-sponsor Rep. Inslee's resolution.

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, a supporter of impeaching Cheney, supports a Congressional investigation the attorney general. Spokesman Mike DeCesare said:

Jim sent a letter, signed by all the Ds in the delegation, into DOJ calling for the IG to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the still unsolved murder of Tom Wales and the firing of John McKay in Seattle, and we look forward to that response.

In mid-May, Jim spoke about all this in the House: "At this point, I believe there are two necessary and mandatory actions that must be taken. The Attorney General must go, now. His allegiance to partisan political interests above his oath to uphold the laws of the United States is outrageous."

For some time, Jim has openly and strongly supported the on-going efforts of Committee Chairs John Conyers (Judiciary) and Henry Waxman (Oversight) to appropriately investigate the Attorney General.

The outcome of all these efforts will provide a lot of information about where things go from here.

Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, is in Iraq and his staff did not know his position.

The Los Angeles Times wrote this week that some Democrats want Gonzales to stay in office. They hope he will serve as a useful reminder of the administration's problems.

Although they may prove fruitless, the Democrats' investigative efforts may help keep President Bush and his administration the center of attention in next year's elections, even as the Republican Party chooses a new standard-bearer and tries to move on.


Even if Gonzales survives until Bush leaves office, strategists hope his continued presence damages GOP candidates across the country.

"This becomes a piece of the race," said David E. Bonior, a former Michigan congressman who is managing Democrat John Edwards' presidential campaign. By highlighting Bush's allegiance to Gonzales, Democrats hope to make a point about how a Democratic administration would be different, drawing "the contrast of what we have and what we could have," Bonior said.

I'm not familiar with all the co-sponsors on the impeachment resolution. But I was surprised to see California Rep. Ellen Tauscher on the list. She's fairly conservative and often finds herself criticized by the left. On this one, it was the left that helped push her to support impeachment.

Despite the establishment "big ups," there is debate on the left about whether impeaching Gonzales is enough to make up for Democrats' reluctance to go after Bush or Cheney. Inslee has been criticized along with many other Democrats for not supporting those moves and for speaking against a state legislator's attempt to push for impeaching the president and vice president. The debate rages on, as you can see in this thread from the Democracy for Washington discussion group.

Inslee's is not the only effort to remove Gonzales from office. Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen is working on a different approach.

Cohen's Articles of Impeachment for Alberto Gonzales go one step further than the Rep. Jay Inslee's H.Res. 589 which calls for an investigation of whether Gonzales committed impeachable offenses.

MORE: RonK took a look at the co-sponsors and found a fair number of rookies and moderates who will have to defend seats in swing districts.

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August 8, 2007

Mayor Nickels on the radio with star-studded cast

Posted by David Postman at 5:21 PM

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels will fill in for 710 KIRO host Dave Ross tomorrow. A release from the mayor's office says his guests will include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Robert Redford, someone named Art Thiel, and Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. The topics will include global warming and I-5 construction, so tune in to find out what route Redford suggests through the downtown mess. (Bloomberg takes the subway so he doesn't have to worry about it.)

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Another straw poll

Posted by David Postman at 3:48 PM

I'm not a fan of newspaper stories about horse race polls. Generally I want to see an entire poll before I write about it. But I've decided I like straw polls. There's something about the obvious unscientific nature of them that appeals to me. I posted a King County Republican straw poll this week, and now Eli Sanders has one here from state Democratic activists.

Michael King, a spokesman for the state Democratic party, confirmed the poll's authenticity for me. "This was totally unscientific, more for fun than anything else," he said. "I wouldn't necessarily give a ton a credence to it, but it kind of tells us where everyone is at."

That's my kind of poll.

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Unions say Boeing should bring tanker jobs home

Posted by David Postman at 1:54 PM

Boeing backers always cite the number of U.S. jobs that would come if the company wins its competition against Northrop Grumman/EADS to build new Air Force tankers. Supporters say a Boeing tanker would mean Made in the U.S.A. and the joint venture would be a bit too foreign. EADS is the European group behind Boeing competitor Airbus.

This is from the Tucson Citizen. (Arizona, of course, is home to key tanker skeptic John McCain.)

Yet, we are on the brink of handing a key part of our defense capability to a government-sponsored French aerospace company that has persistently poked its fingers in the eyes of the U.S. defense policymakers.

The company — Airbus — blithely flouts multilateral international trade laws and stubbornly shrouds their American jobs plan in a suspicious veil of secrecy while arguably offering a subpar product.


By contrast, Boeing's tanker will be built in America, supporting 44,000 jobs and bringing in $530 million.

Right here in Arizona, Boeing's tanker would support more than 1,100 jobs and bring in an estimated $40 million.

But as the Air Force gets close to a decision, Boeing unions say they want Congress to require the company to build more of the plane in the United States. On the current 767 — which Boeing would modify to create the KC-767 aerial tanker — the fuselage and tail, or empennage, are made overseas.

The new edition of Aero Mechanic, the newspaper of the machinists' union, says in its lead story:

While the Washington Congressional delegation has long been supportive of a Boeing built Air Force tanker, the Coalition of Labor Unions at Boeing (CLUB) is asking our elected officials to do more than that. Union leaders want officials to make the case to return manufacturing of many of the major parts of the tanker to the U.S.


Congressional delegates were requested to ask the Department of Defense to increase domestic content requirements for the Air Force tanker.

The unions have also made the pitch directly to Boeing management. But CLUB "believes a push from Congressional reps, who will be voting on the tanker decision, could be more effective."

Boeing engineers are another key union in CLUB who are pushing for guarantees of more domestic manufacturing .

It'll be interesting to see how that plays out. Boosting the U.S. workforce was a major piece of Boeing's tanker PR campaign. The unions will now have to walk a careful line between still supporting the Boeing contract while pushing to bring manufacture of those major pieces back to the United States.

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Around the region

Posted by David Postman at 8:16 AM

  • Sen. Ted Stevens was back in Alaska yesterday for the first time since the FBI raided his home. He spoke to the Rotary Club, said he couldn't talk about the investigation, and refused to answer reporters' questions. Stevens ended his speech with a classic take on Alaska vs. the Outside. From the Anchorage Daily News:
    "I'm proud of the job I've been able to do ... working for you and with you every day, regardless of the slings and arrows I face attacking what I've tried to do for Alaska and Alaskans."

    The standing ovation went on for half a minute.

  • Ridenbaugh Press reports on polling in Idaho's 1st Congressional District where Democrat Larry Grant is running against incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Sali,
    The biggest rap on Sali (apart from philosophical or policy viewpoint) long has had to do with behavior - a generation of the kind of aggravation that translates to "does not play well with others." Since going to the U.S. House, though - it has to be said - we've seen little evidence of that: Any blowups or bad behavior have not surfaced. True, he's on the other side of the continent, and maybe much is happening that isn't surfacing in news and feature reports; but the reportage we have available has painted a picture of a conservative Republican congressman fitting fairly comfortably into his caucus. Not what we anticipated based on prior history, but there it is.
  • The Oregonian reports on its political blog that Democrat Ty Pettit dropped out of the U.S. Senate primary. (I didn't realize he was running.)
    Pettit said he would back House Speaker Jeff Merkley over Portland lawyer Steve Novick, the two Democrats currently in the race. "I think (Merkley) is the most qualified candidate running and the most likely to give Gordon Smith a run for the money," said Pettit
  • The Tri-City Herald's Chris Mulick went to a meeting of the governor's Climate Advisory Team and found Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, on the team. Mulick reminds us that when the Legislature debated a climate change bill, Delvin gave an "emotional floor speech in which he said he wouldn't 'drink the Kool-Aid' and that it's arrogant of mankind to believe it can alter the Earth's climate."

    Delvin says he didn't ask to be on the panel and will continue to be the skeptic.

    "I'm trying to swim upstream and everyone else is trying to swim downstream."

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August 6, 2007

Port campaigns and commission infighting

Posted by David Postman at 4:35 PM

Bob Young has a good story in today's paper about Seattle Port Commissioner Bob Edwards' re-election campaign against five challengers, "all blaming him for problems at the Port when they're not taking shots at each other."

Edwards is also opposed by Port Commission Chairman John Creighton. Creighton recently wrote Edwards a pretty nasty e-mail. Please excuse the (totally unnecessarily) profane headline on this Slog post. The e-mail, though, gives a good sense of the state of the commission.

MORE: Young forwarded me an e-mail he got today from Creighton. Creighton says he didn't send his e-mail to The Stranger and doesn't know who did. Creighton wrote to Young and a PI reporter:

While my emotion perhaps got the better of me in my email to Commissioner Edwards, I was not the only commissioner who felt that Edwards's actions -- in calling a press conference and presenting a motion without any prior notice to his fellow commissioners at a meeting that he knew two commissioners would be absent due to longstanding travel plans -- were neither respectful to his colleagues nor productive in moving forward full and fair policy debate on port issues.

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Machinists will make two-party endorsement

Posted by David Postman at 3:31 PM

The New York Times says on its political blog that the International Association of Machinists will endorse both a Democratic and Republican presidential candidate.

Rick Sloan, communications director for the 410,000-member union, said that endorsing a candidate from each party, after years of the union just endorsing a Democratic candidate, would improve the union's ties with the 35 percent of its members who vote Republican. He added that endorsing a Republican might also help his union come out of the political cold, "because for the last seven years we've been completely closed out from having any relationship with this president, this White House, this administration."

On the union's Web site members can vote for which candidates in each party they want to see endorsed.

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GOP straw poll shows Rudy, Hillary at top

Posted by David Postman at 2:11 PM

The King County Republican Party had a straw poll going at its Seafair booth over the weekend. Party spokesman Phil Bevis said 474 people, Democrats and Republicans, stopped to vote for their favorite presidential candidate. Here's how the straws stacked up:


Rudy Giuliani - 40%
Fred Thompson - 26%
John McCain -13%
Mitt Romney - 13%
Ron Paul - 4%
Mike Huckabee - 2%
Sam Brownback - <1%
Duncan Hunter - <1%
Tom Tancredo - <1%
Tommy Thompson - <1%


Hillary Clinton - 45%
Barack Obama - 38%
John Edwards - 7%
Joseph Biden - 3%
Mike Gravel - 2%
Bill Richardson - 2%
Dennis Kucinich - 2%

The only surprise I see is that Thompson didn't do better. Straw polls at party functions show him at top. Mix in the pirates, though, and Giuliani looks like a clear frontrunner.

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One local blogger's take on YearlyKos

Posted by David Postman at 12:24 PM

David Neiwert, a blogger and assistant editor at Crosscut, has been covering the big, liberal, bloggers convention in Chicago. He watched the presidential candidate forum and reports:

The candidate who probably helped himself the most at the debate was Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut senator who entered the hall already something of a hero for having taken on Yearly Kos critic Bill O'Reilly earlier this week on Fox News. Dodd displayed both real knowledge and a thoughtful approach to the issues, but most of all his passion about those issues came across to the audience, who responded enthusiastically at times.

I didn't realize until reading his dispatch today that local blogger Joan McCarter, "mcjoan" of DailyKos fame, was one of two moderators for the event along with the New York Times' Matt Bai. Neiwert has an interview with McCarter at his own blog.

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Darcy Burner talks about campaign No. 2

Posted by David Postman at 9:58 AM

Darcy Burner's second campaign for Congress will be more personal. She will talk more about herself, her family, and, she says, why she wants to be in Congress. But there's no dramatically different Burner 2.0 about to be launched in the 8th Congressional District.

I talked to Burner last week. She laughed when I asked if she feels suddenly unconstrained by the control of the first campaign and her overly careful media consultants who didn't show the real Burner.

Burner: Certainly it was a huge learning experience for me and I listened to the best advice I could get about how you run a campaign. I have a much better understanding at this point about how you talk to voters and I'm much more comfortable doing it. My experience so far is that the more people who understand who I am and why I'm doing this, genuinely, the better off I'm going to be in the election.

PoP: How much advice did they give you and is it hard when you get in a race to say to D.C., "Back off, it's my campaign"?

Burner: I don't view D.C. as ever being a problem in my race. The Republicans in D.C. were a problem. But on the Democratic side, to be honest, they never tried to tell us what we had to do or say.

PoP: Are there things that you now count as mistakes or missteps on your part?

Burner: I think we did incredibly well in taking the race from something that wasn't on anybody's radar in January 2006 and doing better than any Democrat has ever done in the 8th District. And I'm incredibly proud of not only what my campaign team did and what I did but also the enormous amount of volunteer effort was just phenomenal. That's the kind of race we've never seen before in the 8th.

PoP: OK, that's what's going well. Are there mistakes?

Burner: There are certainly things we learned. We have a lot more information about voters in the district and some of the issues and what dirty tricks to expect from the other side. I admit I wasn't expecting them to make 585,000 voter contact phone calls in the last 96 hours, some of which said things like, 'Darcy Burner is about to be indicted for a felony.' And yes, that's illegal.

(I hadn't heard about any "indictment" calls. Burner insists they happened, but couldn't say with certainty that they came from the Republican Party voter contact program.)

Circumstances have changed as well. Burner spent a lot of her campaign last year criticizing Reichert's support of President Bush's policies and agenda. Bush won't be on the ballot this year and it likely won't work to focus so much on him. But she says the biggest change is she can start the race with name recognition.

Burner: We have an opportunity this time out to give people a better sense of who I am why I am doing this. Almost every conversation I had with a voter last time out began with, 'Who are you again and what are you running for?' And it was so difficult to get past that in face-to-face conversations, in mail to people, in putting together television ads. That was a huge problem and this time we can talk a lot more about why I'm doing this.

PoP: And why is that?

Burmer: I feel a personal responsibility for the kind of world we leave my 4 1/2-year-old son and I don't know how I'd live with my self if I didn't try to do something to make it the kind of world that he and all of his peers deserve.

Talking about being motivated to run for her son's sake rather than just to boot out Reichert and take a poke at the president is one way Burner will personalize her race. She also has very personal anecdotes at the ready that she hopes shows that the major issues of the day are not abstractions.

Talking about health care, Burner brings up her sister's complicated pregnancy that led to doctor-ordered bed rest, which led to her losing her job and health insurance.

She and her husband went into bankruptcy. They basically lost everything. She had to get her health care at the local emergency room. When we talk about people not being able to get the kind of health care they need, that's not an abstraction to me. I was sending her money to make sure she could feed her family as she was going through this.

Same goes for the war, she says, mentioning her brother who left the Army after 20 years in the service, including time in Iraq.

He has not been able to find regular work to feed his family. The job placement that they say that they'll do for members of the military is not working. I strongly suspect he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and can't get the help he needs. The G.I. benefits have been cut so much he can't go back to school. So when we're talking about veterans coming back and struggling, that's my family.

When Burner brings up the April U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a federal ban on certain late-term abortions, she talks about her own troubles conceiving and the medical complications when she was pregnant with her son, Henry.

They considered it a medical miracle that we managed to survive it. It was incredibly complicated. But the thing was, at every step of the way when there was yet another problem that was potentially life-threatening or health-threatening, my doctor and I would sit down and talk about it. And I was completely committed to doing everything I could for Henry. But those decisions are mine, not some politician's.

Burner brought Reichert up a lot, and she is running as if he were the opponent. But she first has a primary opponent, state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina.

PoP: Do you talk about Rod Tom's recent conversion to the party? Is that an issue you raise?

Burner: I don't talk about him much at all, as you may have noticed. I mean, certainly Senator Tom and I walk in with very different things that we bring to the table and I don't think there are many people who are paying attention right now who aren't aware of what those ... are.

PoP: Are you talking experience? Tell me. I'm somewhat aware ...

Burner: Well, as an example; the question of the direction we want to take representation in the district. I'm not a professional politician and I've never made any secret of that. What I am is somebody who understands where the people in the district are coming from and what kind of things they're struggling with. I understand the economic engines of the district incredibly well as someone who is in technology in one of the most technology dependent districts in the country. And my values and priorities are different. For example, I would never have voted to override the voters' desire to provide cost-of-living increases to teachers. My dad was a public school teacher for 23 years after he retired from the Air Force and I wore hand me down clothes from my brothers because we didn't have enough money for clothes for all the kids. To say you are going to override those cost of living increases is something I would never do.

PoP: A lot of Democrats did, too, didn't they?

Burner: Haven't looked specifically at the vote. I know then-Representative Tom voted to override them.

PoP: The Legislature as a whole voted to suspend that initiative.

Burner: And I wouldn't have. I mean, teachers are obviously undervalued as it is. I would never take it out of their hides.

NOTE: Burner is just putting together her campaign organization. She said her direct mail consultant from '06, Blair Butterworth, will do the same this time as will her fundraiser, Colby Underwood. Consultant Sandeep Kaushik is doing some part-time press work for Burner and sat in on most of my interview with her.

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August 3, 2007

Kids today with their electric phones, Walkmen and voter guides

Posted by David Postman at 8:09 AM

Seattle Works, the newish civic group for the under-40 crowd has published a voters guide for the local primary. Candidates for county and city council and school board were asked some pretty good questions and given a fair amount of space for responses. The answers were published in full, and in their original state with typos and other errors left for all to see.

The candidates were asked how they have "worked effectively with someone from the Generation X/Y demographic" and other questions that get more at the philosophy of governing than positions on specific issues. I'm comfortably out of the target demograhphic, but I found the guide interesting, even entertaining, and I learned plenty about the candidates. (Confidential note to school board candidate Danaher Dempsey, Jr.: I can abide the Gregorian chant answer. But if you say you haven't lived here long enough to have a favorite coffee shop or hear a local band, is it really the right time to run for public office?)

I particularly liked this question asked of all candidates:

Some people describe the Seattle way of decision making as inclusive but inconclusive.

How would you describe Seattle's decision-making process and what, if anything, would you do to change it if you are elected?

Here's City Councilmember Jean Godden's answer:

The Seattle way of decision-making is accused of being cumbersome. However, the goal is to involve as many in the process as possible. Ideally, this reliance on citizen participation enables everyone to take ownership of decisions. I have been part of the civic-Involvement process and believe it serves us well. But would I change the process? Not a lot. While It might help to channel the and compress the process, I would hesitate to hurry to the point of not allowing sufficient comment. Ten years ago, citizens did not have an opportunity to address council except during hearings. Now there is time allotted for public comment on relevant agenda Items at all full council and committee meetings. I do listen. Several times, I have changed my mind after hearing citizen comment. One example: After hearing from more than 100 citizens at the Seattle Center hearing, I pushed successfully for enhanced funding for SCAN, the Seattle Citizen Action Network, programming, Channel 77.

Some of my other favorite questions and answers:

Where is your favorite coffee shop?

John Manning: I do not have one.

I can see the hit piece now: Venus Velazquez sits at Cherry Street Coffee in front of a steaming cup and says to the camera: "John Manning doesn't like coffee. What other Seattle values doesn't he like?"

Who is your favorite music group?

Godden: The Decemberists

That's either great staff work or Godden is a lot cooler than I've been led to believe.
Is the current school board model effective?

Darlene Flynn: It is as effective as the current U.S. Presidency or Congress "model".

Oh, "good."

Outside of funding, what in your opinion is the root problem with education?

Edwin Fruit: Capitalism. System is not to teach about life and cultulre but to vchurn out workers to puonch clocks and others who will perpetuate the current system. Schools teach to the test. Edcuation should be a life long pursuit not just what you do until you are 18. This society is not geared for real education.

Well, capitalism and faulty spell-check.

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August 2, 2007

Mike Gravel on Ted Stevens

Posted by David Postman at 4:24 PM

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel doesn't talk about it much in his long-shot campaign, but he spent his politically formative years in Alaska. He was a two-term U.S. senator and former state House speaker. In fact, he was the last Democrat to serve in Alaska's Congressional delegation — and he left office in January 1981.

Gravel had decades to watch Ted Stevens up close. When Gravel was House speaker, Stevens was Republican minority leader. When Gravel was elected to the Senate in November 1968, Stevens suddenly followed when Alaska Sen. Bob Bartlett died in office that December. Stevens got the appointment and had a one-month jump on Gravel to become the state's senior senator.

Gravel has gone back to Alaska infrequently since he lost the 1980 Democratic primary to the grandson of former Sen. Ernest Gruening, the man Gravel beat in the 1968 Democratic primary. I moved to Alaska in 1982 and he had all but disappeared. We've never met. But I called him today to talk about the burgeoning Alaska political scandal that comes closer to Stevens every day.

They were never friends. They certainly haven't stayed in touch. But Gravel has followed the news carefully.

"From a personal vein ... when his son's office was raided I just felt real sad about it. And then when the FBI told him not to shred any documents and to hang on to his papers, you could see it coming down the pike like a juggernaut. Now, with the raid on the house, so they can document visually for an indictment, it just gets really sad. I just felt pain for him. You can't help it. Though we fought like cats and dogs, I must tell you it emotionally pains me to see his whole life come unraveled at this point in time."

Gravel says he is confident that Stevens is a target of the federal investigation.

"Prosecutors go after the little fish to get them to rat on the bigger fish. And right now the biggest fish on the block is Ted Stevens."

Let's back up to the fighting like cats and dogs. Both men were in primary battles in the 1968 Senate race. Alaska had an open primary. Gravel beat the incumbent Democrat in his primary, but Stevens lost his race against an Anchorage banker. Gravel says Stevens blamed him for siphoning votes from Republicans who voted in the Democratic primary because they so wanted to defeat Sen. Ernest Gruening.

That fall, Gravel says, Stevens campaigned against him, "just excoriating me and telling lies, outright lies." But once in D.C., Stevens wanted to improve their relationship.

"He wanted to sort of make up but he had been so vicious against me. It may be a failing on my side, but I am just not built that way where I can go out and do you damage and then we can sit there with our families and have Thanksgiving dinner. That's just not me."

There were plenty of disagreements in the Senate. They both supported building an Alaska oil pipeline, but had different ideas about how to accomplish it. Stevens was a Vietnam hawk with Scoop Jackson, Gravel became an outspoken critic of the war. Gravel opposed the development of nuclear power, where Stevens saw it as a potential boom for Alaska. Gravel opposed the Alaska fishing industry in a move to have the U.S. control waters 200 miles out. That put him at odds with Stevens and a very powerful senator who teamed up to pass the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1976.

"In many respects he was more popular than I was in the Senate. I disturbed a lot of people with what I was doing."

Gravel was always a bit quirky. He wanted to use Teflon to cover a town at the base of Mount McKinley so Alaska could have a year-round tourist season. (He made it clear today he's still ticked at how the press covered that at the time.)

He still feels competitive with Stevens. He said he thinks that private sector jobs created by the oil pipeline — built after his version of authorizing legislation passed — did more for the Alaska economy than all of Stevens' subsequent federal appropriations for the state.

"Ted, who is a Republican and sometimes sails as a conservative or moderate — it makes no never mind, he's a Republican and they don't want the socialism of government. So what does he do? He raids the treasury wantonly to bring these funds to Alaska."

Gravel will be in Alaska later this month for a speech in Anchorage. He will appear before an Anchorage civic group, Commonwealth North. He goes north with mixed feelings. He's concerned about the corruption scandal and what that does to the state's reputation nationally. He says Alaskans were too fast to embrace all the federal largesse Stevens sent home, wasted too much of the money and instead should have invested in creating a world-class education system.

"Alaska's still my first love, no doubt about it. But in many respects I'm ashamed at some of the things they do."

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The buck stops across the street

Posted by David Postman at 1:50 PM

The Olympian's Adam Wilson wrote at his blog yesterday afternoon that Gov. Christine Gregoire used a press conference to accept "blame" for the state's failure to protect a Pierce County boy from abuse, but also to defend what she's already done to reform the Department of Health and Human Services.

But today yesterday, this was appended to the post, referring to DSHS Secretary Robin Arnold-Williams:

UPDATE: The blame buck stops at Arnold-Williams. The governor's spokeswoman says to characterize Gregoire as sharing in the blame is a bit of an overstatement.

"Obviously she's the governor and as such appointed Robin. But Robin was very clear yesterday that she accepted responsibility," said Holly Armstrong.

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New conservative Christian group forms in state

Posted by David Postman at 10:09 AM

Bothell Pastor Joe Fuiten announced today that he will merge his group, Positive Christian Agenda, with a new James Dobson-endorsed Family Policy Institute of Washington. It will be the 33rd of the state-level groups associated with Focus on the Family, Dobson's Colorado-based group.

The state groups have no financial ties to Focus on the Family.

However, they have a uniform purpose: serving as a voice for the family and assisting advocates for family ideals who aim to recapture the moral and intellectual high ground in the public arena.

The new state group will be headed by Larry Stickney, a Snohomish County conservative activist. He has worked as an aide to Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, ran Koster's 2000 congressional race as well as working for other conservative lawmakers. Stickney also managed the unsuccessful campaign to pass an initiative banning late-term abortions and ran the state campaign for presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

Fuiten, pastor of Cedar Park Church, is one of the most politically active conservative pastors in the state. He led the Faith and Freedom Network, but left to concentrate on Positive Christian Agenda and his Committee for Religious Freedom PAC.

I didn't know this until today, but Fuiten also heads a voter registration organization targeting conservative Christians. The effort,, includes guidelines on its Web site for what churches can do to register congregation members. The Web site encourages pastors to make monthly announcements about voter registration and weekly announcements in the final two weeks before a registration deadline. It also suggests that ushers pass out registration forms during church services.

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August 1, 2007

Jennifer Dunn on group to oversee Murdoch's WSJ

Posted by David Postman at 4:34 PM

Former Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn, R-Bellevue, is on the new committee designed to protect the editorial integrity of the Wall Street Journal under new owner Rupert Murdoch. The editorial board will insulate the paper from undue control by Murdoch and have the power to hire and fire two top editors at the paper.

It appears Dunn is the one person on the board with a political, not media, background. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The committee members are slated to be Louis D. Boccardi, retired CEO of the Associated Press; Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab; Jack Fuller, former president of Tribune Publishing; Jennifer Blackburn Dunn, a former congresswoman from Washington state; and Thomas Bray, the former editorial-page editor of the Detroit News and a writer for Mr. Bray will be chairman.

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McCain cancels again

Posted by David Postman at 3:15 PM

Arizona Sen. John McCain will not have a Seattle fundraiser tomorrow. I was told earlier today that the Washington Athletic Club event was off. And AP now reports that so is a fundraiser that had been scheduled for Portland.

He was in California on Wednesday but was flying back to Washington to participate in debate on a bill to make lawmakers disclose more details about efforts to fund pet projects and raise money from lobbyists.

Earlier: McCain visit postponed

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Christian group wants to convert Muslims

Posted by David Postman at 10:43 AM

A group of evangelical Christians who believe Islam is a terrorist religion will convene in Seattle this week to try to convert Muslims to Christianity. They will use what they call "confrontational evangelism" to try to convince followers of Islam to give up their religion and become Christians instead.

The Seattle conclave is the second such effort by the California-based Ministry to Muslims. The initial effort was in Dearborn, Mich., May. The Seattle meeting is timed to coincide with the city's annual Arab Festival at Seattle Center, which celebrates Arab culture and works to demystify it. MTM will canvass the festival to hand out Christian literature and spend three days "witnessing at Mosques and Arabic centers."

I learned about the MTM movement in an e-mail that Pastor Joe Fuiten sent to supporters of his group, Positive Christian Agenda. He wrote:

As Christians, we possess the most powerful weapon against Islam - not to mention social decay, moral depravity, and the like.

Ministry to Muslims was founded by George Saieg. He was born and raised in Sudan and, according to his bio, "is all too familiar with Islam." But it wasn't until 2001 when he had a vision that focused his mission to convert Muslims.

While Saieg stood in a shopping center parking lot in Southern California, he envisioned a tent overflowing with Muslims that needed to hear the truth. Saieg immediately asked the parking lot owner for some space to hold a book fair. The man granted his request and went a step further — he provided a location for an Arabic Christian bookstore.

That bookstore grew into the Arabic Christian Perspective, a clearinghouse for material designed to help convert Muslims. That includes greeting cards— "Show your Muslim neighbor you care ..." — for Islamic holy days that include a "gospel message specifically tailored to particular celebration days," including Ramadan.

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Oregon: New Democratic opponent for Gordon Smith

Posted by David Postman at 9:15 AM

Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley announced today that he will run against Republican U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith. He said in an e-mail that he filed papers today with the Secretary of Senate declaring his candidacy and will be organizing his campaign over the next couple of weeks.

He has a primary opponent, Steve Novick, who I wrote about earlier. But Merkley's announcement focused only on Smith.

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John McCain recruited local boy to spy on Chinese

Posted by David Postman at 8:05 AM

Pete Jackson, former gubernatorial speech writer and son of the late Sen. Scoop Jackson is prompted by John McCain's upcoming Seattle visit to write at Crosscut about their time together in the Gobi Desert and Mongolia and how McCain recruited him to be a teenage spy. Really.

For all of his personal mettle, gravitas, and integrity, though, McCain must shudder when he ventures to the Pacific Northwest. In the dark corners of his subconscious, he knows that I lurk nearby, slumped on a rickety barstool. I gesture up at the TV and extend my index finger like Marley's ghost. "There's 'ol John McCain," I say. "You know, John and I shot a couple rolls of film for the CIA in '79. My first work for the Company, and ..."

It is a great read.

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