Campaign objective: Stay awake
Midway through the big debate of Campaign 2006, one person in the room summed up my feelings about this election exactly. It was the KING-TV...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Midway through the big debate of Campaign 2006, one person in the room summed up my feelings about this election exactly.
It was the KING-TV cameraman. He passed out, falling in a heap on the floor. The debate was delayed while he was led out for fresh air. Someone speculated he grew dizzy from the heat.
But it wasn't that warm in the studio. There was just no reason to remain conscious.
This is the 10th local or national election I've covered as a journalist, dating to 1990. It's the shallowest, most platitudinous campaign I've ever seen.
Take this U.S. Senate race. (Please?) The big issue is supposedly the war in Iraq, which, as everyone but Dick Cheney has noticed, is not going well. So there was a buzz this week when the Republican candidate, Mike McGavick, called for "a new direction in Iraq."
Was someone finally going to confront this quagmire? Call for more troops? To withdraw? To partition the country?
No. McGavick wants to form a blue-ribbon panel to figure out what to do. Even though there's already such a blue-ribbon panel, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker.
Not that McGavick's plan is any more flaccid than that offered by the incumbent, Sen. Maria Cantwell. She said at the debate that we could change the course in Iraq if we could get international help. Yes, a great idea. If only someone had thought of that, say, 3 ½ years ago?
OK, I'm being harsh. Truth is I have no idea what to do about Iraq, either.
So let's take another crisis that's not so complex. Since Ross Perot famously went on TV in 1992 with his budget flip charts, the national debt has more than doubled, to nearly $9 trillion. The yearly budget is chronically in the red, even without paying for Iraq.
I believe the decision to wage war, cut taxes and boost federal spending — all at the same time — will go down as the most irresponsible act of government of our lifetimes.
And here's the thing: Every candidate knows the way out of this mess. It's either higher taxes, big cuts in programs or reduced Social Security and health benefits. It's probably a mix of all of the above.
Yet who will say this? Nobody dares. Cantwell implies she'll raise taxes on the rich but doesn't talk about specific spending cuts. McGavick pledges to slash taxes even more. He talks vaguely about reducing spending but won't say what gets the ax.
After the debate, there was talk here at the paper of fact-checking what the candidates had said. Until we realized there were scarcely any facts to check.
Why is our politics so vacuous? The blame goes around, from the nabobish press like me to the superficiality of TV. A top culprit is political consultants, who have market-tested and focus-grouped candor right out of modern campaigns. On issues, everyone sounds as if they're reading from national party talking points.
It's enough to make a voter black out. When I come to, here's all I ask for 2008 — that some Democrat or Republican will level with us. And mean it. At least it will be something completely different.
Danny Westneat's column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or email@example.com.
About Danny Westneat
Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.