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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.


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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