At his appearance Thursday at Cathlamet, and evidently eslewhere too, Washington Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick sent notice to area Democrats: no, I do not now support and never have supported privatization of Washington's universities. That statement was clear.
Less so, however, his statement from four years ago that led to the accusation.
Washington Democrats have been smacking McGavick upside the head with comments from his speech to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce in 2002, which were reported in the Seattle Times as backing a reorganization of governance and financing of higher education, and in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of supporting privatization.
Okay: Take this test and see what you think. The Times' David Postman performed the excellent service of reviewing - since the speech was captured on tape, and has been archived at TVW - the speech and pulling out the relevant quotes. There are two. Here they area, separated by elipses:
And here's the suggestion. It is time to explore seriously whether over the next decade we should either string the string or cut the cord and let the University of Washington and Washington State University operate more privately. Get them out of the budget fight and let them move on. . . . We need to explore independence for those institutions.
Reading those quotes, our first thought was: Huh? "String the string or cut the cord?" "More privately?" "Explore independence"? What the hell does all that mean? It sounds like CEO-speak freed from the constraints of possible inquiry by shareholders. It doesn't match well with the realities of university governance; you can't imagine a regent using such verbiage, whatever his views on restructuring. The truth is, no one but McGavick really knows what he was talking about.
McGavick said within a year of that 2002 speech that he wasn't calling for privatization. Our guess is that he wasn't, or at least wasn't intending to. But his words were so open-ended that you (and he) really can't blame the Democrats for trying to pin him to the wall with them.
A case study for clarity in political speak.