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Posts published in March 2007

Behind McKay’s departure

John McKay
John McKay

Representative Doc Hastings may have some explaining to do: Was he pressuring the U.S. Attorney's office, then led by later-dismissed attorney John McKay, into doing partisan dirty work?

This might seem to come out of nowhere except for the context. A string of U.S. attorneys around the country (mainly around the west) were fired late last year; the one of the group from the Northwest was John McKay of western Washington, who was well-regarded locally. No explanation for the dismissal was given, either to McKay or publicly, and some weeks passed even before confirmation that in fact he was fired.

Since then, reasons for dismissal of several of the attorneys has surfaced, and they haven't been pretty. In New Mexico, for instance, firee David Iglesias said he felt "leaned on" by Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Heather Wilson to go ahead with prosecutions that would reflect badly on Democrats before than after the last general election. Other comparable stories have been emerging.

This morning, McKay, Iglesias and two counterparts from California and Arkansas testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is reviewing the dismissals. They prefaced by saying, "Recently, each of us was asked by Department of Justice officials to resign our posts. Each of us was fully aware that we served at the pleasure of the President, and that we could be removed for any or no reason. In most of our cases, we were given little or no information about the reason for the request for our resignations. This hearing is not a forum to engage in speculation, and we decline to speculate about the reasons."

But details of fact emerged anyway.


Straight Outta (Idaho) Journalism

There is a clear career path for journalists in Idaho – straight outta journalism. Is it more true in Idaho than most places? Our first impulse is to say yes (although that’s a point we want to explore more fully.)

And so we’ve compiled a list of Idahoans who worked in Idaho newsrooms once, but now work (in Idaho) doing something else. We've compiled a list of these former journalists - those we know about, to which will be added others brought to our attention. And it' a long list.

More on this page

Trends among Republicans

This is, logically, an apt time for reflection among Oregon Republicans, months after important reversals at election, and months ahead of the 2008 campaign season. Where to go from here?

The attendees at the Dorchester Conference at Seaside last weekend are not a perfectly representative group of Republicans - they are activists, funders and the heavily-involved - but they do provide a rough measure of thinking. And, in a series of votes at the conference, they did express some opinions.

Their presidential preference was former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani - he took a clear lead (he won 60). Second (with 34) was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who isn't in the race; and third was former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Whither Arizona Senator John McCain?

More significant were the attendees' take on issues. They proposed (121-73) amending the Oregon Constitution to ban the state lottery and related games. They overwhelmingly (204-36) supported the recent troop increase level in Iraq. They supported (119-105) strictly tying school funding to performance on No Child Left Behind tests.

Leaving aside the merits of those positions, they look from here like an improbable agenda for regaining political clout in Oregon.

Walking from viaduct

With days left till the big viaduct vote in Seattle, Times columnist Danny Westneat reports on something useful: A walk along and underneath the Alaskan Way viaduct, describing in some detail what (and who) he finds there.

He winds up where a seemingly growing number of people do, with the idea that the viaduct, or at least the most critical 10 blocks or so of it, could usefully be turned into a street-level expressway, a move that might make for some substantial spinoff inprovements in one of the least well-developed sectors of the city's downtown core. He makes one of the clearest cases yet for voting a double-no on the ballot barely a week away.

Philosophical rankings

For your amusement - or as an argument stopper, or starter - the National Review rundown of "liberal" and "conservative" rankings for all the members of Congress.

Readers of this site will recall our frequent argument that both terms of political philosophy have been so twisted and abused by the politics of the last generation that both are meaningless as a practical matter. As a loose descriptor of where these members fit into the policy picture, though, it's worth a look (and maybe as a case in point of our point). These are, we should note, reviews of 2006 voting; this year's activity isn't factored in.

Northwest overall, on the liberal side, the highest numbers went to Washington Representative Jim McDermott, with second place to Senator Patty Murray. Top conservative numbers regionally went to - you were expecting Idaho to show up here, right? - Washington Representatives Cathy McMorris and Doc Hastings, respectively. All of the Oregon and Idaho members ranked in between.

All depends on how you count.

Smith among the Republicans

Two sides will run politically on the question of how well Oregon Senator Gordon Smith latest stances astride parties - mainly on Iraq, but also to some extent on cigarette taxes - will play. One is, to what extent does he pick up support from the middle, from independents? That answer will await another day. But we have some feedback on the other issue: How well will Smith's fellow Republicans, whose support he has been able to rely on up to now, accept it all?

For an early answer, we go to reports from the annual Dorchester conference, already in progress.

The well-connected Republican blogger I Am Coyote (Ted Piccolo) said he missed the Smith speech last night owing to a card game, but afterward, "I did some asking around to find out the general consensus as to how Sen. Smith was received. In general most people were still angry and growling about him. Although he did receive points for at least showing up."

Jeff Hazen, a Republican who is a commissioner at Clatsop County who attended, said "It was interesting to watch the people in the crowd and you could certainly tell who was angry with him about the stance against the president on this matter. They would not rise during one of the standing ovations. Personally, I admire him for his conviction."

All this seemed to match with the Oregonian piece on the speech and its reaction, which led: "U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith defended his rapidly changing stance on the Iraq war to a roomful of Republicans on Friday night, drawing cheers but also some harsh questions at the annual Dorchester Conference. Won't pulling back in Iraq only cause more violence? Don't your words demoralize the troops? Aren't you empowering Democrats?"

Early indications. Primary anyone?

NW Presidential

More Northwest developments in the presidential run: Republican Mitt Romney will hold a fundraiser ($1,000 a plate, we're told) at Boise on the 13th. Early indications are that, with half the state's congressional delegation signed on, he will get plenty of support in the Gem state.

As in Washington the trend lines are looking good for Republican John McCain, who is picking up useful endorsements (former Senator Slade Gorton's, for one) and Democrat Barack Obama (who held a massive rally at Bellevue last month).

In part prompting us to launch our 2008 NW Presidential supporters list - a list of prominent (or at least politically active) supporters in the region, by state. The list of Northwest supporters is not extensive but likely to grow.

Sounds like a winner

Steven Thayn
Steven Thayn

So far Idaho House Concurrent Resolution 24 remains in the House Education Committee, but there's no denying it sounds like a winner in the Idaho House.

Here is its statement of purpose:

This concurrent resolution points out the importance of the parental role in the education and training of children. It emphasizes that early childhood education can be, and should be, delivered by parents in a home environment. It encourages the Idaho State Board of Education and the Idaho Department of Education to work with parents, rather than with the children under the age of five, except in unusual situations. It also encourages the Department of Education to post on its website, in a form that parents may easily access, the skills and attitudes they feel are necessary for children to learn before they enter kindergarten.

Reflecting, in that last sentence, an apparent need for the state to tell parents how to raise their early-age kids.

It is sponsored by freshman Representative Steven Thayn, R-Emmett (with support from House Majority Leader Mike Moyle). Introduced just recently, on February 22, it appears to be a response to several early-child measures this session which have been dealt with so far in the normal Idaho House fashion - deep-sixed.

This is not a group, of course, with much use for either social programs or regulation. But the core argument against the measures appeared to stem from variations on the comment by Representative Tom Loertscher, R-Iona: "What can we do to keep mom at home?"

The reaction to that has generated some unusually strong commentary. Could it be to the point that some of it actually sinks in on the solid Republican constituency?

Don't hold your breath on that last. But the comments are pretty strong.


The domestic vote

The Washington Senate vote today on the domestic partnership bill showed clearly who is in charge in the Washington legislature: An urban-suburban coalition decisive enough to write off the rest. And it may suggest more besides.

Senate Bill 5336, sponsored by Senator Ed Murray, D-Seattle, would create a state-backed registry for same-sex adult couples and unmarried heterosexual couples over age 62; registration would afford some legal rights ordinarily associated with marriage, including hospital visitation, burial, some insurance advantages and others. Passage in the Senate, on 28-19 vote, sends it to the House, where it is expected to pass more easily, and likely to Governor Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it.

It's a politically significant measure, throwing down a marker on one of the hottest of issues. One Republican senator, Don Benton of Vancouver, proposed sending the measure to a popular vote, but that was defeated. One wonders what the voters would have done.

Odds are, they would have passed it; on emotional measures like this one, legislators more often than not are fair barometers of what their constituency thinks, and the vote here was not close.

It was a partisan vote, and a regional vote.