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Posts published in October 2008

OR: Pushing?

We've not gotten any of these yet - though we might, living in a partisanly-swing region - but there are reports now about push-polling in the Oregon U.S. Senate race, on behalf of Republican Senator Gordon Smith.

The most detailed report just appeared on the Talking Points Memo blog: "A spokesman for Western Wats, a Utah-based market research firm, confirmed to TPMmuckraker that his firm was conducting calls on the Oregon Senate race, and named NMB Research as the client, would not give additional information, citing a non-disclosure agreement." No indication at this point that the client was Smith's campaign; could be another party (and others are highly active too).

Or Sen: Attack attack attack

Gordon Smith

Gordon Smith

Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley

There was a point, about 36 minutes into the debate between Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith and Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley, when the debate threatened to become an actual debate.

They had got into a question about tax policy, and they were into sluggo mode, as Merkley warned that "Gordon Smith wants to give away the bank to the wealthiest and most powerful, and Smith countered that "You're gonna have to prepare yourself for a bait and switch" on Merkley's part (tlking about not rising taxes and then voting for them).

Then, as the topic morphed into the national debate and the bailout, Merkley asked - directly of Smith - "Do you understand that our children are going to have to pay" for the debt being amassed?

It was a direct comment, candidate to candidate, something the rules didn't contemplate, but no one objected when Smith replied back - directly - "So what would you have me do, Jeff?" The alternatives, he warned, could be economically devastating.

Then - again, rules be damned - Merkley directly shot back: Smith should say no, "the next time that powerful international corporations" want tax cuts: That money should be used for health care and other needs of working people. In the meantime, "This economy has been run into the ground."

It went on from there.

It was a surface exchange, and it didn't occupy even two minutes of the debate, but it was riveting: Two intelligent candidates putting forth their ideas on a subject of critical importance and usefully skewering, where they could, their opponent's take. It was high drama, and an hour's worth of such exchanges would have been educational as well as wonderfully enlightening about which candidate had more on the ball.

For the most part, we got - and this is the structural part - something less useful, the "press conference" debate format, which envisioned no interaction between the candidates and only short, canned answers to questions.

[NOTE As of about 90 minutes post-debate, the Oregonian's on-line poll - self-selecting - had Smith winning the debate, 54%-40%.]

But enough hard feelings have developed in this race, so many negative TV spots and so many shots back and forth and from scattered sources, that the candidates often seemed right on the edge of busting through those rules. Both of them were tense and stiff at the debate's opening; close to halfway through, Smith seemed to ease up and talk more colloquially, and soon after Merkley did too. Maybe the tension eventually needed some release. (more…)

Even worse

Clark County in Washington - anchored by Vancouver - has for the last decade been one of the fastest-growing, and evidently prosperous, places in the Northwest. So bad off is the newspaper industry today that Portland's Willamette Week today reports this about Vancouver's locally-owned daily newspaper:

"Three months after news of layoffs across the river at The (Vancouver) Columbian there's this latest blow to the paper, in which the daily is moving from its new building back to its old office, as part of a cost-cutting move. And in an even more ominous note, Publisher Scott Campbell is quoted as at least considering the prospect of the business seeking 'temporary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors' as one option."

Where will we be two years from now?

Or Sen: A lotta money

Will be interesting to see where the contribution/spending totals in the Oregon Senate race kick out after this. From an e-mail this money by the Democratic Jeff Merkley campaign:

"We raised more than $2 million in the third quarter of this year, more than any other Democratic candidate in Oregon history. Of that, over $850,000 was raised online. Furthermore, more than 21,000 people have contributed to my campaign since it started over a year ago."

$2 million in a quarter is very impressive.

Endorsements: SR for McCain

The Spokane Spokesman-Review makes its presidential endorsement for Arizona Senator John McCain: "Sen. Barack Obama is an impressive political figure, but his rapid rise to eminence has left Americans with large gaps of information about him and put him at a disadvantage. John McCain's long service has armed him with a broader grasp of federal issues, which in turn gives voters a more detailed picture of him."

The endorsement comes at a time of big newsroom changes, including departure (because of financial cutbacks) of several top editors. Dave Oliveria, who runs the SR blog Huckleberries and formerly sat on the paper's editorial board, offered some thoughts: "I'd guess most of the Editorial Board was in favor of Obama - at least, I'd say Doug Floyd, Gary Crooks, and Rebecca Nappi were/are. Steve Smith's gone, of course. Dunno where Lynn Swanbom stood. But I remember our great debate when we came down 4-2 in favor of John Kerry in the Bush 2 sweepstakes - and I was assigned to write a convoluted editorial explaining why we supported Bush. I don't miss writing editorial endorsements."

The bailout case

We've focused here more on the skeptical side than than supportive side of last week's bailout bill vote, and the skeptics probably have had more of the conversation and visibility. But the aye side will be heard too, in the weeks ahead of the election.

So - and also because we've seen precious little campaign video from Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith - a link here to video from a press conference at Roseburg, in which Smith outlines his view on the bill, and more briefly on other matters.

Figure this as preface to the Senate debate with Democrat Jeff Merkley on Thursday.

County fallout

The passage of the $700 billion mega-bailout bill has impact all over the country (not to mention around the world), of course, but the 400 or so pages of attached goodies include at least one item of notably special interest to the Northwest - inclusion of extension the county timber payments, something Northwest legislators have been trying and failing all year to get included.

High irony: The inclusion of the provision in the bailout bill seems to have been most principally the doing of a senator who voted against the overall bill - Oregon Senator Ron Wyden: "I promised the people of Oregon that I would attach it to every single bill that was moving through the senate. I made it clear that I couldn't make any commitments to vote on the overall bailout bill."

From the Association of Oregon Counties:

The Governor’s Task Force on Federal Forest Payments and County Services is about to release a final report containing more than 50 recommendations for the Legislature to consider. Those recommendations offer the opportunity for the Legislature to craft administrative and statutory changes to give counties more flexibility in providing effective and efficient services to Oregonians.

The next big challenge for Oregon counties is to work toward making our federal forests healthy. Federal forest payments were originally enacted to help counties with the loss of revenue from declining timber harvests. The lack of responsible forest management has left federal forest lands in a weakened and generally unhealthy state. The risk of wildland fire has increased dramatically. It is time to turn our attention to the health of our federal forest lands – forest lands that can provide healthy local economies, biofuels, productive watersheds and much more.

Now that the President has signed the Emergency Stabilization Act, government agencies will begin the process of determining the amount of payments counties will receive and when those payments will be sent out. AOC will be working closely with the National Association of Counties and the federal agencies in the process. At this point, we are certain that Oregon counties will continue to receive federal forest payments for another four years, but those payments will be decreased by about 10 percent a year.

Of all places around the country, southwest Oregon probably has been the most severely hit by the abrupt cancellation of the timber payments. The county association seems, in its initial statements at least, to take a pragmatic view, that the new extension may be the last, that it provides a time to phase out rather than simply a continuation. From that perspective, as the association indicates, the work on replacing the money is only beginning.

Silly season

Part of what's not missed around here, out of working in a newspaper newsroom: In those places, you have to deal with the loony toon stuff that tends to accumulate especially toward the end of campaign season.

From a column by James Wright, editor of the Twin Falls Times News:

I spent some time reading Barack Obama's birth certificate Tuesday.

Why, you ask?

A gentleman from Rupert called me - twice - to ask why the Times-News wasn't reporting the shocking news that Obama wasn't even an American citizen, and thus cannot legally become president.

Either we weren't paying attention or - start the scary music here - we must be part of the coverup, he intimated.

OR: Endorsements, gradually

The flow of newspaper endorsements running out of Washington state is off to aa slower start just to the south. But a possibly significant one did emerge today.

The Eugene Register-Guard filed its endorsement in the U.S. Senate race, for Democrat Jeff Merkley: "That background, with its invaluable international seasoning, combined with Merkley’s extensive legislative experience, make him superbly qualified to represent Oregon in the U.S. Congress. Oregonians can help bring real change to Washington, D.C., by voting for Jeff Merkley for U.S. Senate."

Offhand guess is that the Oregonian will stick with Smith. But we'll see.

WA: Endorsement round

Got a batch of endorsements dropping in the Nortwest on this Sunday. From the northern reach, some views . . .

bullet Governor. A couple of endorsements in the governor's race, both for Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire, one a surprise and one not. The non-surprise was the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which leans Democratic anyway: "Especially for uncertain times, she's a much more proven leader than her Republican rival, former state Sen. Dino Rossi." (Our guess offhand is that the Seattle Times will go to Rossi, as it did in 2004.)

The relative surprise is the Vancouver Columbian: "Gov. Gregoire has served well, particularly in matters affecting Clark County, and The Columbian today endorses her for reelection. Such was not our recommendation four years ago when we endorsed Rossi in a battle of two candidates who were seasoned politicians, but first-time applicants for the governor’s chair. Now, though, Gregoire is armed with a dossier that shows significant progress."

bullet Initiative 1000. The "Death with Dignity" initiative is picking up editorial support. The Wenatchee World concludes, "It already is legal in Washington to prescribe medication for relief of pain, even if it hastens death. It is just that death cannot be the intended purpose. Initiative 1000 will make legal what can be done indirectly. For a few unfortunate people, who wish only a less painful or more dignified journey to their inevitable end, this law provides a new option that compassion says they should have. Yes on Initiative 1000."

And at the Seattle Times: "But for the voters to reject I-1000 is to deny the patient the right to make the decision at all. On the grounds of compassion for the suffering, and recognition of the individual as a moral agent, death with dignity is a right that should be allowed."

The meaning of clean

Everyone wants a "clean" political campaign. But what does "clean" mean?

Here, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story about a group of legislative candidates making promises, and doing a little discussion, about what that might mean . . .

A reducible minimum

How do you know a newspaper cutback is getting really bad? Here's one way: The editor quits because he can't stand this anymore.

And that's what Steve Smith, the editor of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, has done, in the course of talking about still more layoffs (is this the third or fourth round of layoffs at the SR this year?). Looks as if it could amount to a fifth of the staff, including several newsroom managers.

The bureaus in Coeur d'Alene, Boise, and Olympia remain. For now.