As the campaign season nears its end, some awards are in order. We may get some more worthy nominees here in the final days, but my guess is that no matter the late-breaking competition, we already have some winners.
& & Most Disingenuous & & & &
Another slam-dunk. I give you our very own George "Ah Shucks" Nethercutt and his lame excuses for failing to live up to his three-term pledge. He begins with something like, "Golly, gee whiz, I sure tried hard for term limits, but, hey, we couldn't get it through and I guess I should run again, right? I mean my district needs me, doesn't it?" Well, no, not really George, for you see, the pledge that you made back in 1993 wasn't contingent. You didn't say that you would try hard, rather, you promised us that you wouldn't serve more than three terms. Read my lips -- that sort of pronouncement.
And it turns out that several other Republicans made the same pledge and, true to their words, are leaving. But not you George. Turns out while you ran against government, you like the D.C. area. And how about your recent conversion to the importance of seniority? My, my, George. And just what were you doing during the time you worked for the Senator from Alaska? Do you really want us to believe that you could work in the U.S. Senate and not understand seniority?
But surely you must understand the frustration and anger of many voters. After all, this term limit pledge wasn't just another piece of campaign rhetoric back in 1993. George, you know that you won because of this issue. This one and, lest we forget, gun control. Our Speaker Tom Foley had the temerity to vote to ban machine guns, and boy, did you beat Tom over the head with that one, didn't you?
& & Most Inscrutable & & & &
What's going on over at our daily newspaper? They seem to be stepping gingerly around the heated politics of the current scene. It is as if the paper has become so traumatized by the garage issue and their failure to cover it when it mattered three years ago, that they are going out of their way to take a hands-off stance. Down at the Review Tower, we seem to be seeing an exercise in abdication, but why? If the answer to that one can be traced to the paper's linkages back to the property side of the Cowles dynasty, then we no longer have what can be called a newspaper. Rather, we have a self-conscious exercise in damage control.
Especially in their endorsements, the paper seems to want to be all things to all people. For example, how can the paper that endorses George W. Bush turn around and endorse Gary Locke? There doesn't appear to be any set of core principles at work here, as Locke is perhaps as close a political clone of Al Gore as you can find anywhere. So Locke is good enough for our state, but Gore is not? Or, to look at it another way, John Carlson seems to be cut from the same nice-guy-on-the-outside-but-crusty-conservative-on-the-inside cloth as Bush. So why not endorse him? Maybe Locke was this year's designated Democrat to get their nod. Weird.
& & Most Outrageous & & & &
This is an easy one. I give you the soft money campaign being waged by the so-called Citizens for Fair and Open Government against mayoral candidate John Powers. Have you seen the garbage that they're running in an attempt to discredit him? Let's begin with the obvious lack of substance. Not only do they traffic in lies and innuendo in their mailers, but they can't even come up with graphics that look like much more than murky black on gray, which causes the recipient to mutter, "Huh?" before dropping it in the trash.
& & Most Annoying & & & &
I give you the talking head pundits -- all of them (Mark Shields and Paul Gigot perhaps excepted). Instead of praising Al Gore and George W. Bush for having had such a thoughtful exchange, our spin doctors have been critical, even snide. Words like "boring" are being used, instead of the word that most accurately describes what happened during the second debate. I refer to the word "reflective." Okay, so Bush's observation about the nation being "humble" was a goofy (as was Gore's concurrence), but other than that what I saw was two candidates trying to grapple with complexity, even trying to elevate the debate to concept and principle. But the pundits? Ah, one of them dismissed the entire debate by calling it "too PBSish." Need anything more be said?
& & Most Ignored & & & &
No competition here. I think I've heard Bush mention his name two or three times during the debates. But the vice president only invokes Bill Clinton's name under duress. I'm not even sure that Hillary is mentioning her husband. Can you in your wildest dreams imagine Richard Nixon running in 1960 and not wrapping the aura of President Dwight Eisenhower around him at every opportunity? Or what about the elder Bush in 1988? Even with Iran-Contra, can you see him entertaining the thought of running away from Ronald Reagan?
So this is what Clinton fatigue feels like. Here we are, in eight years of unparalleled prosperity, not at war, no civil unrest to speak of, a certainly well qualified vice president as heir apparent, and we have a close race. Class, what's wrong with this picture?
& & Most Oblivious & & & &
Joe Lieberman's otherwise solid performance at the vice presidential debate could have been made more compelling had he seized on Dick Cheney's amazing statement that government has had nothing to do with the private sector success that he and his company, Halliburton, has enjoyed these past eight years. Oh really? Come on Dick, you were secretary of defense. Not a bad resume, guvmintwise. Then, about your "bidness," we know that it has done ever so well by the Import-Export Bank -- a governmental entity. And just for good measure, surely you would agree that you have benefited greatly from the absence of inflation and relatively stable interest rates that the Clinton-Gore administration produced since 1993. Put another way, Dick, how much do you think you would be worth today had the economy performed the past eight years like it was performing under George Bush Sr. -- you know, back in the good old days, the last time you were near the helm? Half as much? A third is more like it. But Lieberman, ever the gentleman, let the moment pass.
& & Most pandering & & & &
Another easy one. A tie between Nethercutt and Slade Gorton regarding the Snake River dam issue. First off, the question of breaching is off the table for at least five years, courtesy of the National Marine Fisheries recommendations to try to improve habitat. The tribes may sue, in which case the matter will be resolved in court, not in Congress. And as for these dams, all built between 1961-75 (hardly monuments to either the Depression era or World War II), they aren't worth much. They serve no useful flood control purpose, they don't generate much electricity compared to other dams, irrigation was going on before they went up and the barge industry they spawned is just as much of a monopoly as were the railroads that the barges replaced. The Army Corps of Engineers, way back in 1936, recommended against these dams, but then, two years later changed that recommendation, citing as the principle reason Lewiston's desire to become a port. A swell reason for doing in the salmon, don't you think?
& & Most Boring & & & &
Have you been following our gubernatorial race? Honk if you know of anyone who has.
& & & lt;i & Robert Herold is the former vice provost of Eastern Washington University. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &