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Posts published in September 2007

No satisfaction

Darlene Hooley
Darlene Hooley

Acommenter had some questions about our account of last week's Brian Baird town hall meeting at Vancouver - it didn't seem so raucous to that person. It certainly did to us.

By way of comparison, we'd suggest viewing a town hall meeting at Salem yesterday, held by Representative Darlene Hooley.

Around 100 to 150 people attended, and mostly they were a good deal more supportive. But that's relative: There was a little shouting here and there - related to one kind of weaponry there, she was (after saying she was unfamiliar with some of the allegations) angrily asked, "how can you not know?"

Unlike Baird, Hooley remains staunchly anti-war, from her initial vote against the war to more recent votes for an exit from the country. "I won't allow another blank check for this war," she said. "I'm in favor of a rapid end to this war . . . We need to bring our troops home," and drew some applause on that.

Even so, this was a roiling audience. One Vietnam vet said that "I am more angry now than I have ever been with my government," and added that "I am angry with you" - for not being more visibly anti-war, for not delivering more speeches and showing up in the papers more often on the subject.

Several people called for impeachment of the president and vice president, and seemed no more than marginally appeased when she said, "impeachment is in the constitution and should never be off the table for any president." An attempt to invade Iran would probably result in impeachment action, she suggested. The crowd - and it seemed to be mostly uniform in view - did not seem to entirely think that was good enough, but she fended off open revolt.

Should note again, here, that this was in Salem, a place traditionally conservative and Republican (less so these day, true); and Hooley's district is politically marginal, maybe a little more Republican on balance than Democratic. But she's no doubt getting a good feel for where things are these days.

Balloting I-960

Washington courtsThere will be a temptation on the part of Washington I-960's supporters - where is that email from Tim Eyman; they're running late - to make of today's state Supreme Court ruling a larger endorsement than it is. You can hear it coming: Court backs I-960! Court upholds I-960!

What the court said in Futurewise v. Reed is that the initiative can go on the ballot. That's pretty much it.

The court's conclusion:

Appellants challenge the constitutionality of I-960. Such a challenge is not subject to preelection review. While the disputed sections of the initiative may be subject to constitutional challenge, if passed, the initiative does not exceed the scope of the legislative power. The initiative therefore may be placed on the general election ballot.

Elsewhere, the court specifically says that in this decision "we do not review the validity of I-960." And seems to leave open, almost to suggest, several lines of attack if it passes.

Will it pass? It might; but we suspect the public hasn't formed much of a view of it yet, since it sounds like an arcane procedural thing. Procedural it may be, but far from arcane, and it merits a spot near the top of the heap for serious political discussion in the weeks ahead.

Craig watch: Day 11/?

The perils of second-guessing what any individual may do: This morning's take from D.C. runs, "Sen. Larry Craig has all but dropped any notion of trying to complete his term, and is focused on helping Idaho send a new senator to Washington within a few weeks, his top spokesman said Thursday."

Maybe so. We'll just watch and see. Would you really want to bet on what happens next?

LATER IN THE DAY A few more odds and ends of note, as we watch all this play out.

bullet 2nd District Representative Mike Simpson, who also today took himself out of the running for a Senate appointment (or was he already out by then? We may never know) had a pungent but totally pertinent remark about the way Craig has been thrown overboard by his Senate caucus leadership. Speaking to The Hill, he said, “I hope I never stub my toe and they throw me under the bus. It kind of makes you wonder what party you want to be a member of . . . If that’s how they treat their own, that tells me they’re more interested in party than individuals, and the party is made up of individuals. How you treat them says a lot about your party . . . They have people over there [in the Senate Republican Conference] in far worse trouble that they haven’t said a thing about.” Simpson, we should note, always has been about as loyal a Republican as you could find; does this fit into a sense that he may be better off where he is?

bullet From that same Hill article: "Reflecting the scandal’s unpredictable nature, however, one member of Craig’s legal team said he believes Craig should stay in office 'for as long as it takes in Minnesota.'” See also this, from Politico: "'My view would be if something is proceeding on a good-faith basis, don't quit until it gets resolved — whether it takes 15 days or 50 days,' said Stanley Brand, a Washington attorney who is part of a high-powered legal team assembled by Craig. 'Come Sept. 30, if you don't have a resolution, wait for one. If the ethics committee wants to open a Pandora's box, bring it on.'"

bullet Today's consensus take is much like that on, oh, Sunday, that Craig will in fact be leaving the Senate at the end of the month. There are alternative views. Here's one we received from someone in Idaho who knows Craig fairly well: That Craig will "say he 'can’t' leave office – that the arrest was 'unconstitutional' and that he has a duty to keep serving (at least though Jan 09 – and most likely w/o a re-election need). It “deletes” the smudge on his record (at least in his mind) and would free him to stay there…retiring unsullied. Odd as it may seem, I’m leaning toward the possibility of this happening."

bullet Finally, in the unexpected consequences department, there's the case of the Craig daughter who, it turns out, had an Ada County bench warrant out: A point exposed when she went on national television in defense of the senator. All of this comes by way of the superlative Boise blog Boise Guardian.

Craig Watch: Day 10/?

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

The state of play - in this game most people thought had ended Saturday morning - over Senator Larry Craig is, if anything, intensifying. It is probably a lesser deal now for the talk show comics, but it has become more intriguing - by orders of magnitude - as a matter of politics.

What handicaps any evaluation is that we don't yet know what the end game for the central player - Craig himself - is supposed to look like; we can only guess. (Kevin Richert of the Idaho Statesman made that point in his blog today.) But we can speculate that it is evolving. And his role is crucial. Having lawyered up, and having an objective that remains obscure, he is driving this thing now, just as - a week ago - he was being bashed into the ground, in the couple of days after the Roll Call report about his men's room arrest and guilty plea in Minneapolis.

Last Tuesday, when he delivered his first (widely panned) defiant press conference, Craig was being buried under; he was entirely on defense, and the Alamo had been breached. He seemed and probably was at that point still in a mode somewhere between panic and shock, and probably thought that his friends and allies would help him through this. And then they did not - they joined the attacking the forces, led the attacking the forces.

Somewhere around last Wednesday or maybe Thursday, Craig began to come around and think strategically. And since then he has reversed position with his assailants in the Senate Republican caucus - he is consciously executing an extensive and complex strategic plan, while his one-time allies are being thrown back into confusion and panic mode. You get the sense, in sifting through the quotes from Republicans in Washington, that he can't be doing this. A pertinent quote following today's Republican Senate Policy Committee (which Craig once chaired), from an unnamed senator: "If he has the [courage] to fight this, then the least he could do is come here and feel the heat we're feeling." As an expression of mood, that one seems to tell it all.

True: Craig may resign at any point, including September 30; and we don't need to re-recite here why that may happen. You could even call it probable. But there are alternatives, and we don't really know right now toward which of them Craig is headed.

Let's review the sequence, and see what that suggests.


One on One

Looks like the Reichert-Burner rematch in Washington's 8th is - barring some really odd event between here and there - definitely on.

We'd suspected Darcy Burner likely would win her primary election next year against state Senator Rodney Tom, on the basis of a strong emotional backing from a goodly number of supporters. (Blogs have been an important part of her support, and they have delivered in serious fashion.) When Tom filed, he did so saying he might be more electable, and noting that Burner (the 2006 Democratic nominee for the seat) didn't take out Republican Dave Reichert, in a very Democratic year. He seemed to be moving into a position as a moderate and establishment Democrat, a "safe choice" to take on Reichert.

But this morning, in dropping out of the primary contest, he delivered a tribute to Burner's campaign so far: "Our fundraising was going great, but Darcy Burner's campaign has been phenomenal. Darcy has over 3,200 contributors, an incredible statement to her broad base of support."

That also suggests she won't be getting any more (serious) primary opposition. The rerun match appears to be set. And evaluation can reasonably proceed on that basis . . .

Jennifer Dunn

Jennifer Dunn

Jennifer Dunn

These days you couldn't say this about but so many Republicans in Washington state, but you can about Jennifer Dunn: Had she simply so chosen, she almost certainly would have been, right up to this week, a member of the U.S. House from a western Washington district.

Elected first in 1992, and most recently in 2002, she was as close to unbeatable as you get in the 8th district. The Republican who followed her after her opt-out in 2004, Dave Reichert, has had tough contests both cycles, a good deal tougher than she faced, and is headed into another at least as difficult next year. But even in the changing conditions of the King County eastside, we're pretty sure Dunn would have ridden the wave. She was well liked; her political skills were of an unusually high order; but she also had a fine sense for practicality.

Her death in Virginia - yesterday, we gather, though details are sketchy - was abrupt and unexpected, from a pulmonary embolism. At 66, she was still working actively and involved in politics, in both Washingtons. Washington state Republicans will feel a definite loss there, in addition to the personal.

And some of the shock that comes with the reminder that we none of us know when our time is up. Dunn, highly active politics for many years (she was a state party chair before her election to Congress), made a lot of the time she had. Her voters were among those who certainly seemed to know it.

The Specter scenario: Reality?

We were dismissive when he heard the speculation from Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, that the story of Larry Craig and the Senate may not be done as soon we'd think. He focused on a word in Craig's resignation speech at Boise last weekend, that he "intended" to resign from the office at the end of the month.

On television Sunday, Specter said "I'd like to see Larry Craig go back to court, seek to withdraw his guilty plea and fight the case." And he speculated that Craig's "intent" to resign might be overturned by month's end.

Which seemed pretty unlikely . . . except that this evening, Craig's Senate spokesman Sidney Smith was quoted by the Associated Press saying this: "It's not such a foregone conclusion anymore, that the only thing he could do was resign . . . We're still preparing as if Senator Craig will resign September 30, but the outcome of the legal case in Minnesota and the ethics investigation will have an impact on whether we're able to stay in the fight—and stay in the Senate." Separately, he is quoted as saying, "he is fighting these charges and should he be cleared before then, he may, and I emphasize may, not resign." Some reports have it that his new legal counsel has advised him not to leave the Senate before getting the legal issues resolved - if then.

Dennis Mansfield, the conservative Boise activist, evidently caught some of this too. From his blog, posted today:

Well, friends, I said so from the start on Saturday to many of you - Larry Craig chooses his words carefully. Always has.

To many of you who asked me what it was like to actually be at the Boise Depot Press Conference - beamed nationally by almost every station/network - there was the one single thing that stood out to me.

The pregnant pause after the word " resign" - and without a sound it seemed to say everything.

NOW - From national press, (AP, MSNBC, etc) word is out that Mr. Craig's new counselors may well be positioning a full blown fire-fight in the Senate Ethics Committee to keep him in office. A personal and political friend of mine on Saturday, at Congressman Bill Sali's annual Labor Day picnic, said it this way: "I'd advise Senator Craig to tell those SOBs in the Senate to force the Ethics Committee THIS WEEK - I'd take their hypocrisy and shove it ..."(well, anyway, you get my friend's rather descriptive picture).

If this continues to develop, watch for things to get real fascinating, real quick. Meantime, if you didn't earlier, you might check out this post on Craig's various options, explored or not.

AND MORE A good rundown of this evening's developments - a clutch of them - is easily gotten on Talking Points Memo, including the report of an intriguing recorded phone message. And a take from an Oregon defense attorney that "withdrawing a plea on a misdemeanor is far from impossible. The primary factor in Craig's case is that he didn't have a lawyer."

LATER/ALTERNATIVE While that legal theory could be iffy, there's another Craig's lawyers may pull out. Via Huckleberries Online, a report just up from World Net Daily pointing out that members of Congress traveling to or from a session of Congress (as Craig certainly was when he was in Minneapolis - he would appear on the Senate floor a few hours later the same day) are immune from arrest. Article I Section 6 says, in part, that members of Congress "shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same . . ."

Or does disorderly conduct constitute a "break of the peace"? . . .

Clinton’s Oregon group

First question about the new Hilary Clinton committee in Oregon (reflected on this site's presidential endorsements page) is, where's Darlene Hooley? The 5th district representative was the first public figure to endorse Clinton, yet she's nowhere on the list of the new Oregon committee, while a number of much less well known names are.

The second noticeable thing is the relative overall absence of elected officials - complete absence of officials elected as Democrats. There's Erik Sten, of the Portland city council (a nonpartisan office), and Sue Shaffer, elected as chair of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians; but most of the list is made up of activists (though who are, as promoted, scattered widely around the state). The closest link to a major elected official is the committee's chair, Josh Kardon, who is chief of staff for Senator Ron Wyden. (Should we draw from this a conclusion that Wyden is unofficially in the Clinton camp, or is that a jump too far?)

Unusual number of questions that abound, for such a simple announcement.

IN WASHINGTON Fewer questions, though, about the endorsement from King County Executive Ron Sims, who was also named a state co-chair (with Representative Jay Inslee). Her Washington group is small as yet - Representative Norm Dicks is the other endorsee - but they're strong names to have.

McKenna’s take

Rob McKenna

Rob McKenna

Notable tidbits from Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna on Thursday, when he chatted with the editorial board of the Tacoma News Tribune. Three worth some attention here.

One: That Dino Rossi is definitely re-running for governor. No shock there, certainly, though the long-running coy routine has long since worn old. Two: That Republicans are a "damaged brand," and that will hurt Republicans generally next year, including Rossi.

Three: On his own campaign for re-election. McKenna hasn't been seen as at serious personal political risk, and we'd generally conclude he's in strong shape for re-election. (We also continue to see him as one of the strongest Republican prospects in Washington for top-tier offices, in a few more years.) But he and the board did discuss a bit one prospective race and opponent: Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, who seems to be positioning himself for a move somewhere into the statewide ranks. Of him, McKenna remarked,"he's told other people he thinks I'm doing a pretty good job. I think I'm doing a pretty good job, too."