Here's my mid-summer working list of goods and bads. I find myself rooting for Seattle mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan, County Executive candidates Ross Hunter and Fred Jarrett, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Don Wakamatsu, Jenny Sanford (wife of philandering South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford), and Congressional Democrats and Republicans making good-faith efforts to sustain economic recovery and also arrive at practical health-care and energy plans.
I already have heard and seen enough about Mayor Greg Nickels and City Council member Jan Drago, incumbent County Council members seeking to become County Executive, Sarah Palin, the Boeing Dreamliner and Boeing's continuing attempts to extort local taxpayers and workers, Sound Transit light rail, Seafair, Gov. Mark Sanford (husband of Jenny Sanford), Al Sharpton, Daddy Joe Jackson, and others seeking to enrich and promote themselves in the aftermath of Michael Jackson's death. Media coverage of Jackson's death, and aftermath, has been over the top. Yes, enough.
One thread runs through these goods and bads. The "goods" all involve people trying to do something positive in the face of uphill odds. The "bads" mainly involve people and institutions either useless or with track records of self service and of wasting our time and money.
At local level, I am concerned that Joe Mallahan, though having a financial advantage (his own wallet) over other mayoral challengers to Nickels in next month's primary, has not waged the well-managed campaign I would have expected. Voters clearly want a positive change from Nickels, and Drago is Nickels in drag. Mallahan, however, has not stepped smartly into the breech and established himself in voters' minds as the hard nosed, businesslike, managerial type — with actual knowledge of economics and budgets — badly needed after eight careless tax-and-spend years of city governance. I have been surprised by Mallahan's seeming lack of knowledge of city issues that have been on the front burner for several years. With his funding advantages, I had anticipated that by now he would be running in the front of the Nickels-challenging pack. He has a month left to get there.
I am equally concerned that state Rep. Ross Hunter and state Sen. Fred Jarrett will split the reform vote in the County Executive race and allow another Democratic challenger to emerge as the alternative to political tyro Susan Hutchison in the fall general election. Hunter, as Mallahan, has his own money to spend that other candidates do not. Also, as Mallahan, he will need to spend it wisely in the month ahead if he wants to reach the November finals.
At national level, President Obama's domestic agenda is at a balance point. On the positive side, he has helped mobilize public opinion around the notion that health-care and energy reforms cannot be postponed. But he has left drafting of health and energy plans too largely to a Democratic Congress which, as expected, has loaded them with expensive provisions devised to attract votes from key committee members and constituencies. Time is running short for passable, bipartisan bills to find success in the House and Senate. A couple weeks back I gave pared-back versions of those plans a 60-40 chance of passage by the August Congressional recess. I now make that 55-45.
Looming in the background is the fact that economic revival has been slower, and the economic downturn deeper, than Obama promised when he urged passage of his stimulus plan shortly after his inauguration. Congressional Democrats, among others, are now complaining that the $787-billion plan's impacts have been too slow. They should have known it, since House Democrats were the principal authors of the plan. Its spending always was expected to be felt more in 2010 than in 2009. Tax cuts, with more immediate impact, accounted for only a third of the plan. Only $60 billion of the remaining $500 billion has been committed and only a small percentage of that sum is actually in the spending pipeline.
The projected deficit for the fiscal year is now $1.8 trillion. Obama thus far has refused bipartisan calls for a second stimulus package. He is defending the present one while, at the same time, pressing health and energy plans which themselves will add to federal deficits over the next decade.
Obama and senior House and Senate leaders are trying to reconstruct the health and energy legislation so as to make it less expensive. But, as they do so, they are having to entertain cutbacks in health coverage and/or new taxes, both of which are unpopular with legislators facing reelection in 2010. The longer the health/energy agendas lag, the greater their chances of abandonment. Events of the next fortnight will tell the tale.
Special recognition should go to Jenny Sanford, wife of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who disclosed he was philandering (sometimes at state expense) while at the same time serving as a poster boy for Moral Majority types and pondering a 2012 Presidential candidacy. Rather than take the normal stand-by-my-man posture, smiling painfully during Sanford's over-revelatory press conference, Mrs. Sanford did not bother to show up there and made it known she was concerned with her marriage and children and not with his ambitions. She wasn't entirely sure, she made it known, that she even wanted to hang around. South Carolina voters, to their credit, have cottoned to her more than to their governor, whose political career appears properly near an end.
Finally, I am on my feet cheering for Zduriencik and Wakamatsu, who have kept the Mariners in a pennant race with a bailing-wire lineup and weak hitting. They have preached fundamentals, dumped malingerers from the roster, and not sacrificed young talent in a now-or-never attempt to make a short-term run. Zduriencik has proceeded wisely in leaving the team well positioned to either acquire or trade talent before the July 31 trading deadline. He has some blue and red chips still on the table if, between now and then, the Mariners drop out of contention and he wants to use those chips to bring in young talent for 2010 and 2011. On the other hand, if the team still is contending July 31, he can use a chip or two to add immediate hitting help without crippling the future.
Good guys doing a good job where, in the past, we have grown accustomed to fumbling incompetence.