Republican Rob McKenna kicked off his 2012 gubernatorial campaign last week by kicking The Stranger out of his press conference. Specifically, he kicked me out.
"I don't think David Goldstein qualifies as a journalist," a flustered McKenna explained to my fellow Stranger reporter Eli Sanders two days later, when they crossed paths in the hallway at KUOW. "He's a hack. He's a partisan hack. He's just there to parrot points from the other side."
In his defense, The Stranger will probably never get behind an anti-gay, anti–reproductive rights, anti-worker teabagger like McKenna. But he's trying to label someone else as a partisan hack—as a derogatory term? That's an awfully ironic accusation coming from one of the most obviously partisan political hacks in the state (one who is attempting to cast himself as a moderate).
I'm not sure where McKenna gets his definition of "journalist" (certainly not from the reporter shield law he allegedly authored, which covers "any person" in the employ of a company "in the regular business of news gathering and disseminating news"). But look up "political hack" in the dictionary ("a person who is part of the political party apparatus, but whose intentions are more aligned with victory than personal conviction"), and McKenna's campaign kickoff speech provides a perfect example.
Speaking at Bellevue's Sammamish High School before an invited audience whose ethnic diversity was nearly doubled by the presence of KIRO TV's Essex Porter, McKenna spent the evening farting rainbows and unicorns in a speech that focused mainly on solving our state's budget woes through the powerful magic that is "reform." McKenna correctly diagnosed the greatest threat to our state's long-term economic health—our dramatic underinvestment in K–12 and higher education—before prescribing the usual Tea Party panacea: fuck state workers. Pandering to the mainstream, McKenna promised to spend billions more on education, the one program virtually everyone supports, but without raising taxes, the one consequence of state spending nearly everyone hates. All that is necessary to make such magical thinking a reality is some lazy math and an equally lazy audience.
McKenna starts by cherry-picking data from before the Great Recession, and before two straight all-cuts budgets forced several rounds of state worker pay cuts, givebacks, layoffs, and forced furloughs.
"I looked at one 10-year period, 1998 to 2008," McKenna told the credulous crowd of old white people. "And what I discovered is that, in that 10-year period, every single year, the state increased the amount it spent per employee by 5 percent. Every year, for 10 years." It may sound shocking, but it's not surprising considering that health care costs skyrocketed during this period. Yet McKenna breaks out employment benefits, as if they were a separate expense: "In that same 10-year period, the state increased the amount it spent on state worker benefits by 9 percent a year, every single year for 10 years." (The audience groans under the mistaken impression that these costs were compounded, rather than the latter being the largest component of the first.)
And then McKenna gets really clever: "And at the same time, in that same 10-year period, they increased the number of state employees by 13 percent."
The audience gasps again under the mistaken impression that this, too, is per year. But this 13 percent increase is spread out over 11 years (1998 to 2008). And it's less than the 15 percent increase in state population over the same period. I might've asked McKenna a follow-up question, giving him the chance to defend his numbers... had I been allowed into the press conference.
McKenna didn't stop there with his partisan hackery, going on to raise the specter of ballooning health care costs for state workers, which is both doubly redundant (health insurance is the largest component of the previously redundant benefits) and ironic, considering that McKenna launched his campaign on the same day oral arguments began in the federal lawsuit he joined to kill last year's historic health care reform act and the billions of dollars it would save our state.
It's all classic McKenna.
He's the kind of politician who can declare to reporters that it is "inconceivable" that his lawsuit could bring down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the same time his own legal filings asked the court to "declare the entire ACA unconstitutional." He's the kind of politician who can blame our state budget woes on the rising cost of government workers at the same time his office paid more bonus money to employees than any other state agency, almost $600,000 in 2009 alone. He's the kind of politician who claims he sup ports gay rights but defends DOMA and opposes same-sex marriage, and who insists he's pro-choice while endorsing parental notification and fighting health care reform that would guarantee access to family planning. He's the kind of politician who had no problem talking to me live on-air back when I had a radio show and could offer him the broad reach of 710 KIRO, but who kicks me out of a press conference on grounds that I don't "qualif[y] as a journalist," now that I write for The Stranger and its overwhelmingly urban, progressive audience.
You know, a partisan hack.