Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Reichert's boast keeps finger story alive

The story of how Dave Reichert bragged about getting a school bus driver fired for flipping off the Preznit appears on the USA Today web site this morning.

If McNewspaper has picked it up, the story ain't dead.
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., bragged at a Republican Party picnic last summer that the day after a school bus driver flipped off President Bush, he called the district's superintendent, leaving picnic-goers with the impression that he was responsible for getting the driver fired.

That differs from a version of the story told by Issaquah School District officials and Reichert's staff this week: That Reichert didn't speak to the superintendent for weeks, and that by the time he did, the bus driver had already been fired. His press secretary said Friday the discrepancy was "not a big deal" and that at the picnic Reichert was just telling a story, not trying to reconstruct the timeline exactly.
Niegowski also said the firing was not about who the driver flipped off, but because she made the gesture in front of students.

Chris Dugovich, president of Council 2 of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees, disputed that Friday. No children saw the driver's gesture because she held her hand high out the window while the children were all looking at the president, he said. He added that when the district fired the woman in September, officials cited "a presidential aide" as the source of the complaint.

"She did this in a manner in which the kids clearly would not see it," Dugovich said. "She also apologized immediately to the school district. In 25 years I can't recall an instance where that type of incident would warrant that type of penalty."
What's not funny is that The King County Journal has decided to open up the bus driver to possible harassment by revealing the driver's name and current employer. (We could play the "find the link yourself" game, but it's already been reported in the national media, and there is some reporting that impacts on the actual campaign in WA-08 in The Journal article.) From The King County Journal:
The Burner campaign isn't planning to use the incident as political fodder in the waning days of the race, according to its spokeswoman, Jamie Smith. Smith isn't even sure Burner has seen the press reports about the bus driver.

Voters will decide whether this matters, she said.

"This isn't a big deal," said Kimberly Cadena, Reichert's spokeswoman.

It is, she said, another example of how the Burner campaign and the Democrats are trying to make the race about Reichert and Bush, not Reichert and Burner.
Give Cadena a brownie and a juice box for pointing out the obvious.

This is not a good way for the Reichert campaign to be closing, to say the least. The media seizes upon narratives that seem to enforce pre-conceived notions about candidates, and in Reichert's case he has done himseslf no favors by going around bragging about getting someone fired for such a relatively minor thing.

Remember how in 2000 the Bush campaign went around re-assuring the national media that Bush would be surrounded by "grown-ups?" And then we found out that the "grown-ups" who lead the GOP are a bunch of immature, spiteful crybabies who can dish it out but not take it?

Same deal with Reichert. Here is a man who boasts of his long career in law enforcement. He even used it when telling people at the picnic he got the driver fired.

So Reichert either decided to use his power to exact revenge on someone who disrespected him, or decided to make up a story that he did so. Either way, it's pretty pathetic and damaging in a race this close.

Naturally Republicans will continue to sputter about "respect for the office," but most people know Bush has disrespected the presidency more than any simple gesture could convey.

My crystal ball is still in the shop, but if Reichert loses by a narrow margin, "Finger-gate" could be one thing wags look back on as a minor but crucial gaffe. When will politicians learn that in the age of camcorders and digital technology, you can't lie?

Reichert is paying a heavy price for a few guffaws at a picnic last summer.

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