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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Frank Blethen seems bent on destroying the Seattle Times' credibility

The Seattle Times' march towards complete and utter irrelevance continued this week with the paper's endorsement of Mike McGavick for a U.S. Senate.

Many observers were confident the Times would endorse the incumbent, Senator Maria Cantwell. After all, to endorse her challenger would be an insult to the Democratic city and state where the Seattle Times calls home.

Seattle Times Endorses Mike McGavick
Above: This Associated Press photograph of Mike McGavick against a patriotic background - the American flag - appeared in the print edition of the Seattle Times at the top of the editorial, but not the online edition.

But we saw something else in last week's endorsements of Dave Reichert and Cathy McMorris - as I wrote in a post criticizing the Times for endorsing the latter:
Don't be surprised if the Times endorses Mike McGavick for Senate next Sunday, despite the fact that Seantor Cantwell is the incumbent. If the candidate is against the estate tax (and McGavick is), that's the only qualification that matters.

Besides, Mike! should have no trouble getting the Times editorial board to believe that he's a change agent instead of a rubber stamp. Why wouldn't the Times eagerly buy the faux moderate, independent candidacy he's been trying to sell?
The Seattle Times was not the only paper to endorse Mike McGavick. The Walla Walla Union Bulletin and the Yakima Herald Republic have followed suit, and that's not a coincidence - Frank Blethen owns them, too.

A sizable number of the state's other non-Blethen owned dailies have given encouraging endorsements to Senator Maria Cantwell: the Seattle P-I, the Tri-City Herald, the Olympian, the Tacoma News Tribune, even the Vancouver Columbian.

And the Portland Oregonian (which enjoys a sizable readership in SW Washington) has also endorsed Senator Cantwell for reelection.

Like the Times' endorsement of Reichert, its McGavick writeup is filled with little but nonsense. Repeatedly, throughout the editorial, the writer points out that the Times ownership agrees with Senator Cantwell on issues, but then says she's been "ineffective". More bizarre were passages like this:
Some see this election as a referendum on George W. Bush. If we did, we would be for a solid Democratic ticket. But like most Washington voters, we take our candidates one at a time.
Yes...you take your candidates "one at a time." That's why you endorsed a straight Republican ticket in a year when Republicans are extremely unpopular and already in control of every branch of the federal government.

There are three competitive races in Washington State. Two of those are House races where our Democratic challengers are making strong runs at freshman incumbent Republicans. The other is the U.S. Senate race, where the outcome seems more certain. Republicans don't seem to have much faith in McGavick - their national party committee isn't even buying any advertising to help him out.

Even the Times seems to admit that McGavick will likely lose...and they also finally admitted what's been shaping their endorsements:
Critics will note that McGavick supports the elimination of the federal estate tax, a cause for which The Seattle Times has campaigned many years. That is part of why we endorse him, but not most of it. We endorsed Cantwell six years ago, knowing her position on the estate tax, and could endorse her again.
In six years there have been many attempts to completely gut the estate tax, and despite some success, Republicans have just not managed to get it permanently repealed so their wealthy friends can enjoy a huge tax break.

This year, the estate tax is factoring heavily into Blethen's decision making. He's so anxious and desperate to see it repealed that he doesn't care about endorsing an all-Republican ticket in a year when the political climate suggests doing so would be foolish and unwise.

The Times has proclaimed that Congress is need of change, but their idea of change is more of the same. Stay the course, stand pat, maintain the status quo.

Send even more Republicans to Congress. In truth, Frank Blethen is making endorsements based on what he himself wants - not what's best for the community or the state. He is no better than the corporate media titans he so frequently criticizes in editorial after editorial.

Blethen and his editorial board must know that McGavick will be just another vote for the Bush agenda, but they endorsed him anyway. Here is what we're supposed to believe helped convince them he's independent:
To demonstrate his independence, McGavick has called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He also shows realistic thinking on a range of issues.
The pairing of these two sentences in the same paragraph is ironic. How realistic is it that Donald Rumsfeld is going to resign or be fired from the Bush administration? He has in fact already offered his resignation to Dubya, and Dubya has refused it.

But amazingly, the Times then had the gall to bizarrely criticize Cantwell for taking positions they deemed "not realistic":
Cantwell would have other countries pay for a multinational occupation, and have Turkey and Egypt send troops. That is wonderful but unreal.

[...]

Cantwell calls for energy independence through renewables like biodiesel and wind. We are for these ideas to the extent they are real, but we agree with McGavick that "when you study renewables you don't see big numbers relative to economic need."

[...]

On Social Security, Cantwell says the system should retain its mandatory, fixed-benefit structure. We agree — and McGavick does not — but we note that Cantwell proposes to make Social Security's cost-of-living adjustment more generous. Given Social Security's long-term deficit, that suggestion is unrealistic.
(Empahsis ours). Several times, the editorial board criticized Cantwell for positions that were unrealistic.

That's right, friends. Heeeeere's the Seattle Times....Grounded in Reality!

So Frank Blethen & Co. have a double standard - what else is new?

On the issue of media consolidation, the Seattle Times again dismisses Cantwell's record, saying that she "once again has not shown significant leadership to a very real problem" (and notice the use of the word real in that sentence).

But actually, this just isn't true. Cantwell has been a strong voice for media diversity and has taken a great interest in the issue. Just last June, her office issued several lengthy news releases outlining her position and her leadership role in specific detail.
  • Cantwell, like another great Democratic candidate, Darcy Burner, strongly supports Net Neutrality and has been a leader in the Senate fighting for it,
  • Cantwell offered an amendment to legislation before the Commerce Committee to help keep free voicemail service accessible to homeless Americans, whith the committee adopted,
  • Cantwell has worked with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to file a measure based on the senators' Local Community Radio Act (S.312). The legislation would greatly increase the affordability of low-power FM radio stations for community groups unable to obtain expensive full-power radio station licenses on very scarce broadcast spectrum.
  • Cantwell backed another amendment along with Senators Dorgan and Lott to require the FCC to move forward with proceedings regarding localism and minority media ownership before it proceeds with its broad rewrite of regulations.
Finally, Cantwell in 2004 joined with a bipartisan group of senators to oppose new FCC rules which would have allowed large media conglomerates to control a greater number of newspapers and radio and television stations.

This information is all publicly available. Senator Cantwell's positions and leadership role have not been a secret. And what's more, the Seattle Times knows it. They have editorialized on it. Why, just last July, they pointed it out:
Sen. Maria Cantwell has sent a letter to [FCC Chairman Kevin] Martin requesting a hearing in Washington. Our state is a logical location for hearings designed to gain a regional perspective outside the Beltway. It also makes sense to come to Washington because of Cantwell's previous opposition to rule changes and her seat on the Commerce Committee, which oversees communications issues.
(Emphasis below and above is ours) And then there's this, from another Seattle Times editorial, which is even more damning:
Special notice goes to this state's U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell. In June, the Democrat was one of three senators to sponsor an amendment to suspend the FCC rules. The amendment was dropped in conference, but it did put the Senate on the record as voting against the FCC.

"No one should be allowed to corner the marketplace for ideas," Cantwell said last week. That is exactly right.

The issue could come up again, either by the Supreme Court accepting the media moguls' appeal or by further FCC action.
That was from last year - Sunday, February 6th, 2005. "Special notice", eh?

So the Seattle Times is on record having praised Cantwell on its editorial page for being a leader on this issue, but in their endorsement of her opponent, they wrote:
Cantwell understands the issue, but once again has not shown significant leadership to a very real problem. We believe McGavick's independent mind would be useful in untying the knot of media consolidation.
Frank Blethen and his editorial board are nothing less than deceitful hypocrites. This, right here, is all we need to completely write them off.

This endorsement of Mike McGavick just doesn't make any sense at all until you remember that Cantwell has voted to oppose tax breaks for wealthy Americans (including repeal of the estate tax) and McGavick has declared he's for them.

Frank Blethen wants us to believe that the estate tax issue is only "part, not most" of why they endorsed McGavick. But he has not offered any meaningful justification to prove that that's the case. So we're inclined to believe the opposite is true. McGavick's position on the estate tax was mostly why the Times endorsed him, but not all of why.

It is the Times' criticisms of Senator Cantwell which are disappointing, not the Senator's record. Cantwell has been a true leader on issue after issue. She is not just the Senator who stopped Arctic drilling or Enron.

She shows an appreciation for delving into policy and listening to constituents. Even now, during the home stretch of the campaign, she is working for the people of this state. Some recent headlines:
  • Cantwell, Murray, Baird Ask Congressional Leadership to Make Sales Tax Deduction First Priority in November
  • Cantwell-Requested Report Confirms Recent Spokane Gas Prices Exceeded Seattle’s by Largest Margin in Last 57 Months
  • Cantwell Plan to Help Keep National Guard Equipped Signed Into Law
  • Cantwell Port Security Proposals Become Law - Cantwell provisions to invest in bomb detection R&D, improve ferry security, container inspection, and border security have all become law in recent days
  • Cantwell Calls on President to Back Large-Scale Investment in Alternative Energy Technologies - As president prepares 2008 budget, Cantwell and 23 other senators call for new direction in energy policy to break U.S. oil addiction
  • Cantwell Plan to Test Use of Unmanned Aircraft for Northern Border Patrol is Now Law
  • Congress OKs Cantwell Interoperable Communications Plan to Boost Security, Safety at 2010 Olympics
And all of those headlines are from just this month - October 2006!

Frank Blethen seems clearly bent on destroying the Seattle Times' credibility, and he's doing a fine job of it. His endorsements are indefensible, his rationale is ludicrious, and his criticisms of Democrats have been bizarre, false, and one-sided.

Frank wants his "family-owned" newspaper to be a monopoly, the only game in town, even though he claims to be against media consolidation. To that, we say no thanks. This organization hereby renews its pledge to fight and work for a region that has at least two daily newspapers and two editorial voices.

The Seattle Times may as well start editorializing daily on repeal of the estate tax, and only repeal of the estate tax - because that's all their owner really cares about.

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