NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Flashback: Eight years ago, the Seattle Times deemed Dino Rossi wrong on many big issues

Read­ers, wel­come to anoth­er install­ment in our Flash­back series, where we enlist the help of past Seat­tle Times edi­to­r­i­al boards to debunk short­sight­ed and poor­ly rea­soned edi­to­ri­als pub­lished on the Times’ op-ed page in the present day.

Today, 2010 Seat­tle Times is going to help explain why 2018 Seat­tle Times’ endorse­ment of Dino Rossi for the U.S. House does­n’t make sense.

Rossi — one of the best known fig­ures in the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty — is fac­ing Issaquah pedi­a­tri­cian Kim Schri­er, who is mak­ing her first run for office. Schri­er edged out two fel­low Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lengers in the Top Two elec­tion and is run­ning in the gen­er­al with their unequiv­o­cal sup­port. Health­care is her sig­na­ture issue, and she promis­es to be a check on Don­ald Trump’s pow­er if elect­ed.

The Times edi­to­r­i­al page opposed Don­ald Trump’s can­di­da­cy for Pres­i­dent, and has on many occa­sions crit­i­cized his regime along with his col­lab­o­ra­tors in Con­gress.

Yet the Voice of the Blethens now sees fit to rec­om­mend Rossi to their sub­ur­ban and rur­al read­ers in the 8th Dis­trict, know­ing full well that if mil­i­tant­ly pro-Trump, Repub­li­can can­di­dates like Rossi win around the coun­try, the result will be a House that remains under Repub­li­can con­trol and thus under Trump’s con­trol.

So much for split gov­ern­ment, which the Times edi­to­r­i­al page repeat­ed­ly tout­ed the virtues of dur­ing last year’s spe­cial elec­tions for the state Leg­is­la­ture.

The Times has of course endorsed Rossi before — for gov­er­nor in 2004 and again for the same posi­tion in 2008 (Rossi was defeat­ed by Chris Gre­goire each time). But in 2010, when Rossi made his first run for fed­er­al office, the Times passed him over in favor of U.S. Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, say­ing she had earned anoth­er term.

Let’s com­pare what the Times said about Rossi back in 2010 with what they’re say­ing about him now. Here’s 2018 Seat­tle Times:

Con­gress needs more peo­ple like Rossi, a prag­mat­ic law­mak­er with a demon­strat­ed record of work­ing across the aisle with Democ­rats for solu­tions that work for the greater good.

Okay, 2010 Seat­tle Times, what’s your take?

On too many domes­tic and for­eign pol­i­cy mat­ters, Rossi has not dis­tin­guished him­self suf­fi­cient­ly from the Repub­li­can Par­ty line. He has missed numer­ous oppor­tu­ni­ties to estab­lish him­self as a North­west brand of Repub­li­can.

Good obser­va­tion, 2010 Times. Rossi likes to por­tray him­self as a rea­son­able, sun­ny Repub­li­can in his tele­vi­sion adver­tis­ing and on the debate stage. But that’s not the real Rossi. We know the real Rossi from his time in the Leg­is­la­ture.

The real Rossi is an extreme­ly rigid, uncom­pro­mis­ing extrem­ist who oppos­es allow­ing women to make their own repro­duc­tive health deci­sions, oppos­es tak­ing action to reverse cli­mate dam­age, oppos­es LGBT rights, and oppos­es fair rev­enue. The real Rossi is an enthu­si­as­tic backer of hostage-tak­ing Tim Eyman ini­tia­tives and would be a rub­ber stamp for Don­ald Trump’s agen­da if elect­ed.

The real Rossi is also real­ly bad at inter­act­ing with peo­ple he does­n’t agree with. As a state leg­is­la­tor (rep­re­sent­ing the 5th and 45th LDs), Rossi went out of his way to make him­self unavail­able to con­stituents with dif­fer­ing views than his own.

And on many occa­sions when he did make him­self avail­able, he would monop­o­lize the meet­ing time by con­de­scend­ing­ly reel­ing off talk­ing points instead of lis­ten­ing.

Let’s move on. Here’s anoth­er bit from 2018 Seat­tle Times:

While Schri­er wants to fight, Rossi promis­es not to. He wants to go to D.C. and put his bud­get exper­tise to use. Giv­en his two past statewide elec­tions and nation­al rep­u­ta­tion in GOP cir­cles, there’s a bet­ter chance he will advance more quick­ly onto com­mit­tees and posi­tions where he can make a dif­fer­ence than Schri­er would if elect­ed.

Okay, 2010 Seat­tle Times… your take?

Rossi has impres­sive cred­i­bil­i­ty bal­anc­ing a state bud­get. He would bring real skills to that task in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Yet on too many big issues, he is on the wrong side or too vague about his inten­tions.

These two pas­sages are very inter­est­ing, aren’t they?

We can see that the Seat­tle Times has always bought into the Rossi bud­get expert mythos. On that score, they have been con­sis­tent. But Rossi’s sup­posed fis­cal exper­tise was­n’t enough to rec­om­mend him back in 2010. Eight years lat­er, it’s being pitched by The Seat­tle Times as an asset, along with his par­ty expe­ri­ence.

If Repub­li­cans wind up in the minor­i­ty in the House after these midterms, it will not be to the dis­tric­t’s advan­tage to be rep­re­sent­ed by Rossi, regard­less of his polit­i­cal con­nec­tions and his lengthy involve­ment in Repub­li­can par­ty cir­cles. It is com­mon knowl­edge that he minor­i­ty in the U.S. House wields very lit­tle pow­er.

Here’s the kick­er, though.

Even if Repub­li­cans do retain their House major­i­ty (which the Blethens and their edi­to­r­i­al writ­ers seem to be open­ly wish­ing for with this endorse­ment), it would still not be to the dis­tric­t’s advan­tage to be rep­re­sent­ed by Rossi because of his poor track record of leg­is­lat­ing and pro­vid­ing con­stituent ser­vices at the state lev­el.

Let’s turn our focus to pol­i­cy.

2018 Seat­tle Times acknowl­edges Rossi has a dif­fer­ent posi­tion on repro­duc­tive health than the edi­to­r­i­al page does, but, incred­i­bly, brush­es that aside because Rossi would not be in the Sen­ate vot­ing on judi­cial nom­i­na­tions. Um, what? (We look for­ward to hear­ing Planned Par­ent­hood’s response to that state­ment.)

Then, just when you’d expect they might address some of the oth­er major issues fac­ing the coun­try, the edi­to­r­i­al sim­ply ends!

Yes, Trump needs to be checked. But the fight­ing and the divi­sive­ness has led to a hope­less­ly dys­func­tion­al Con­gress, where peo­ple fight over issues, not push for solu­tions. Rossi has done that — and he can again.

Turns out, 2010 Seat­tle Times had a lot more to say about the issues than 2018 Seat­tle Times. For exam­ple, net neu­tral­i­ty was dis­cussed:

On the issue of net neu­tral­i­ty, which involves unfet­tered access to the Inter­net, Rossi did not have a clue, even though this issue is press­ing with­in the tech indus­try.

Ouch! Finan­cial reform was dis­cussed, too:

Mur­ray ris­es to the chal­lenge. She believes in rea­son­able gov­ern­ment help for the econ­o­my, includ­ing finan­cial reforms to avoid anoth­er eco­nom­ic col­lapse. Rossi joins oth­er Repub­li­cans in oppos­ing them. How can any­one watch the finan­cial melt­down and not want to tight­en the rules to pro­tect the sys­tem and con­sumers?

It’s not enough to say these weren’t the right reforms.

Bam!

Net neu­tral­i­ty went unmen­tioned in 2018 Seat­tle Times’ endorse­ment of Rossi. So did finan­cial reform, which like­wise remains a press­ing issue today.

Dur­ing his cur­rent cam­paign for Con­gress, Dino Rossi has not pledged to vote to over­turn Ajit Pai’s ter­ri­ble deci­sion to erad­i­cate net neu­tral­i­ty rules, nor has he com­mit­ted to break­ing up the big banks or do any­thing, any­thing at all to pro­tect Amer­i­cans from Wall Street’s greed and unscrupu­lous busi­ness prac­tices.

Sup­pos­ed­ly, these are issues the Times cares about. Eight years ago, the edi­to­r­i­al board implied they were lit­mus test issues.

But this year? Rossi gets a pass.

Any­one who is an obser­vant long­time read­er of The Seat­tle Times has prob­a­bly noticed that the news­pa­per’s endorse­ment ratio­nales are just not con­sis­tent­ly well writ­ten. Some­times they can be good and thought­ful­ly argued, but just as often, they’re real­ly bad. Embar­rass­ing­ly bad. Piti­ful­ly bad.

I think it’s because in key races, Blethen decides who he wants to endorse (or what posi­tion he wants to go with in the case of a bal­lot mea­sure), and then one of the edi­to­r­i­al writ­ers has to cook up a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to go with the rec­om­men­da­tion, which may or may not square with the posi­tion pre­vi­ous­ly tak­en by the news­pa­per.

If the Times’ endorse­ments were based on the log­ic of a val­ues sys­tem of some sort, there would prob­a­bly be more con­sis­ten­cy and con­ti­nu­ity from year to year and cycle to cycle, but the endorse­ments appear to be based on oth­er con­sid­er­a­tions — like Blethen’s obses­sion with get­ting rid of the estate tax.

And so here we are.

For the third time in four­teen years, Dino Rossi has received the endorse­ment of The Seat­tle Times in a bid for high­er office. He’s three for four with Frank Blethen. Not bad. But while he has suc­cess­ful­ly sold him­self to the Times’ own­er­ship repeat­ed­ly, he has­n’t been able to win statewide. He’s now bet­ting he’ll have bet­ter luck in the 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, which Dave Reichert has held since 2004.

Rossi will no doubt wel­come this endorse­ment from the Times. But odd­ly enough, so may Democ­rats. After all, the high pro­file Repub­li­cans the Times usu­al­ly backs don’t win. If they did, we would have had Sen­a­tor Mike McGav­ick, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Rea­gan Dunn, State Sen­a­tor Jiny­oung Englund, and yes.… Gov­er­nor Dino Rossi.

This poor­ly writ­ten edi­to­r­i­al might well help moti­vate Democ­rats who are hun­gry for a vic­to­ry in Wash­ing­ton’s 8th to work even hard­er for Kim Schri­er. We’ll see.

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