Midday Scan: Inslee's inconvenient truth; Locke tells truth in China; school's junk food policy doubted

The election is nearly a year away, but the Inslee campaign for governor already looks like a sure loser against Rob McKenna. Should Inslee quit Congress to try to pull it out? And, there is almost equal doubt about the effectiveness of the Seattle Public Schools' stance against junk food in high schools.

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Commerce Secretary Gary Locke appears with President Barack Obama after his nomination as the U.S. ambassador to China. At left is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The election is nearly a year away, but the Inslee campaign for governor already looks like a sure loser against Rob McKenna. Should Inslee quit Congress to try to pull it out? And, there is almost equal doubt about the effectiveness of the Seattle Public Schools' stance against junk food in high schools.

Rep. Jay Inslee, the Democrats' presumptive 2012 gubernatorial nominee, faces an inconvenient truth. Most people think, know, or furtively realize that he will lose to Attorney General Rob McKenna. Inslee is an amiable soul, a kinetic lawmaker who has longed to be governor for a generation. Who wants to play killjoy and hold a mirror to an off-the-rails' campaign?

As the Everett Herald's Jerry Cornfield writes, there is one campaign-reviving strategy that demands Inslee quit Congress to barnstorm full time. "It's a difficult decision and a subject of conversation among those in Inslee's inner circle as well as a few orbiting his campaign," Cornfield writes. "It wouldn't even be a topic if the Democratic congressman appeared to be zooming effortlessly toward victory over Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna in 2012. But he's not." The problem with quitting is that you get pegged as, well, a quitter. Cornfield figures it's survivable. "He'll take his lumps. Certainly McKenna and operators of the Republican spin machinery will dump on him for not keeping his commitment to voters," Cornfield writes. "Most voters probably won't give it much thought. They've shown little propensity to punish those who sit in one elected office and run for another. At least not in Snohomish County."

Cornfield observes that no sitting member of Congress has been elected Washington governor with one exception, U.S. Sen. Mon Wallgren, who defeated Arthur Langlie in 1944, benefitted from statewide name recognition. As Cornfield writes, Inslee "risks letting history repeat itself if he stays."

Former Gov. Gary Locke missed a few opportunities while serving in elected office (take, for example, a reflexive, put-it-on-the-shelf-to-die response to the 2002 Gates Commission Report on tax structure.) Now, as U.S. Ambassador to China, Locke benefits from a groundswell of in-country goodwill, minus the burden of electoral politics. As the AP report, "The U.S. ambassador to China on Saturday urged Beijing to improve its human rights record, pointing to imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo as an example where China falls short. In a statement released on the U.N.’s International Human Rights Day, envoy Gary Locke said protection of human rights in China had not kept up with the country’s massive economic gains."

This is not an especially bold statement, but in the filigree of international diplomacy, it's a tectonic event. The AP notes that, "Locke said Washington wants to build a partnership with China that includes regular talks on human rights issues. He said U.S. support for China reflects a belief that rule of the law and protection of 'freedoms of expression, belief and assembly are critical to securing the growth, prosperity and long-term stability that China seeks and to realizing the full potential of its people.' " Bravo, Gary.

Junk food has symbolic value, at least when it gets commingled with a school board. As the Seattle Times Brian M. Rosenthal writes, "The Seattle School Board is considering relaxing its ban on unhealthful food in high schools amid complaints from student governments that the policy has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in vending-machine profits over the past seven years. The policy, approved in 2004 — before any state or federal regulations on school nutrition had been established — put Seattle on the cutting edge of the fight against childhood obesity."

As Rosethal notes, the restrictions are fairly severe, limiting selections to milk, natural fruit juice, and other healthy but dull foods. Will revenue needs trump nutrition? It's arguably more complicated than that, symbolism notwithstanding. Rosenthal writes, "Michael DeBell, the only current member who was on the board when the ban was approved, said that board was well-intentioned but that 'they went perhaps a little too far.' "

Is Congress that frustrating even when you're a celebrated freshman from the majority party? "For the tea party-backed Republican freshmen who took the U.S. Capitol by storm in January, it’s been quite a year. For Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, who vaulted past his party’s preferred candidate and a well-financed incumbent to get to Congress, it’s also been a difficult one," the Idaho Statesman's Curtis Tate writes. "Labrador, who turned 44 Thursday, rode a wave of discontent to Washington, and he and his fellow Republican freshmen have tried to shake up Congress." Labrador, a Tea Party favorite, seems surprised by the obvious. "I knew it was hard for politicians to make tough decisions. I didn’t realize how hard," Labrador said.

If a Republican rising star is this unhappy and hangdog-ish, maybe Jay Inslee would be prudent to bolt after all.

Lastly, the New York Times features an excellent capsule on why it's so difficult to gauge air quality in the American West. "The question of how clean the air is in the American West has never been an easy one to answer, strange to say. And now scientists say it is getting harder, with implications that ripple out in surprising ways, from the kitchen faucets of Los Angeles to public health clinics in canyon-land Utah to the economics of tourism," Kirk Johnson writes. "It is at least partly about dust, something that has been entwined with Western life for a long time, and now appears to be getting worse." At least Western Washigton is dust-free (or so it seems through the sheets of rain.)

Link Summary

The Herald, "Jay inslee faces challenges in governor's race"

Washington Post, "US Ambassador to China calls on Beijing to improve its human rights record"

Seattle Times, "Junk food may be returning to school vending machines in Seattle"

Idaho Statesman, "A frustrating first year in Washington for Labrador"

New York Times, "Air Quality Difficult to Gauge in Dustier American West"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson