Earlier today Eli crossed paths with Attorney General Rob McKenna in the hallway at KUOW, where the Republican candidate for governor had some unkind words to say about me. "I don't think David Goldstein qualifies as a journalist," a miffed McKenna told Eli. "He's a hack. He's a partisan hack. He's just there to parrot points from the other side."
Wow. That's kinda harsh. Sounds like I hurt his feelers. Was it something I said?
To be fair, I am partisan and have never tried to hide it. But I don't parrot anybody. For those who think I'm some kind of Democratic Party tool, you've got it backwards. They're my tool, as they should be, and I spend a helluva lot more time and effort getting Democrats to parrot my messaging than the other way around.
As for the accusations of hackery, well, apart from a little foul language and an ideological divide, there's really not all that much that separates me from the editorial board columnists at the Seattle Times. You know, that and the ability to write a coherent sentence. So if Joni Balter and Bruce Ramsey are hacks, then I'm guilty as charged. But I don't see McKenna kicking either of them out of a press conference anytime soon.
Ironically, if you want an illustration of hackery, you need look no further than McKenna's campaign kickoff speech Wednesday night, in which he deliberately attempted to manipulate data for cheap, partisan political gain, causing his Republican audience to gasp in horror at his tales of pampered state workers bleeding taxpayers dry:
"I looked at one ten year period, 1998 to 2008. And what I discovered is that, in that ten year period, every single year, the state increased the amount it spent per employee by five percent. Every year, for ten years. In that same ten year period, the state increased the amount it spent on state worker benefits by nine percent a year, every single year for ten years. And at the same time, in that same ten year period, they increased the number of state employees by 13 percent."
First of all, 1998 to 2008 is not a "ten year period." It's eleven years. But see what he does there? "Every single year," McKenna claims, the state increased per employee spending by five percent. "Every single year," he repeats, the state increased benefits nine percent. And then he tags on a 13 percent increase in the number of state workers, allowing the audience to infer that that's every single year too. "Gasp!" Clever, clever.
Of course, it's 13 percent over eleven years, which really isn't all that much considering that over the same period, Washington's population grew by almost 15 percent, meaning that the state workforce is largely growing in step with population. Huh. Seems a little misleading, at best.
Almost as misleading as arguing that we need to slash the number of state workers in order to fully fund our state colleges and universities, when about 44 percent of state workers are employed in our state colleges and universities! I mean, only a hack would attempt to make an argument like that without further explication. As for McKenna's other assertions, I've yet to find the supporting data, but I suspect a similar level of hackery.
Yes, I'm partisan, just like McKenna, but unlike him, I'm somewhat obsessive about backing up my factual assertions with, you know, facts, and unlike some other political reporters, I'm willing and able to do the math. Which I'm guessing is the real reason why McKenna won't let me into a press conference: he's afraid I'll ask him a question he can't answer, or even worse, call him on his bullshit partisan hackery when he tries.