"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

A solid rock, washed away

Norm Maleng

Norm Maleng

There must be some obscure trick, beyond simply doing the job well, to what King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng did: Remaining highly regarded, highly enough to be often mentioned as a prospect for statewide office (and did thrice, though not successfully), as a Republican prosecutor in the Democratic cauldron of Seattle. But doing the job well probably did have a lot to do with it.

He died Thursday night at Seattle.

Maleng was elected prosecutor in 1978 and has been there ever since. The quote from King County Sheriff Sue Rahr probably expressed it for a lot of people: “Norm was the Rock of Gibraltar for King County. It’s like the Rock of Gibraltar washed into the sea.” Think about that time span: Hardly other major elected official in the region (only U.S. Representative Norm Dicks comes to mind) has held such an important job for so long, and been so well regarded for so long.

A description from David Postman: “There’s a lot of talk these days about restoring civility to politics. Maleng never lost it. He had a small-town way about him. That served him well in his years as King County prosecutor. It wasn’t much of a benefit the three times Maleng ran for statewide office. On that stage, one needs a little flash, a little strut even.”

The idea of a prosecutor without it . . . sounds reassuring, especially these days.

The King County Council, which will fill the position, has one tough job ahead of it.

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