Politics insinuates itself, tendrilling into how we vote and why. The value of a secret ballot is we can keep mum or feign indecision. Politicians, however, need to strip down and reveal all, cabaret-like. A possible referendum on same-sex marriage is the latest how-you-gonna-vote litmus test.
"Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna has made no secret of his opposition to same-sex marriage since entering the [governor's] race and revealed this week he would vote to repeal a gay marriage law if it's on the ballot in November," the Herald's Jerry Cornfield writes. "McKenna does back the existing domestic partnership law but wants to uphold the state law defining marriage as between one man and one woman."
The problem with a (very legitimate) how-you-gonna-vote question is that it amplifies the political noise. In the governor's race and down the ballot, marriage equality is already a political football. (McKenna's Democratic rival favors the gay marriage measure.)
Be careful who you get your picture with! This is particularly true if the guy in the photo is a pill-popping, bunny-suit-wearing, ex-congressman forced to resign in disgrace. As the Oregonian's Jeff Mapes writes, "Republican congressional candidate Rob Cornilles on Wednesday, for the first time in his TV advertising, sought to tie Democratic rival Suzanne Bonamici to former Oregon Congressman David Wu."
Cornilles perfects the art of guilt-by-picture. (Another reminder to expunge most college photos.) There's also no better medium than television. As Mapes writes, "The new ad opens with an image of Bonamici speaking as Wu listens in the background, his campaign sign clearly visible. The photo was taken in 2006 when several Democratic candidates held a rally before participating in a Beaverton civic parade."
Nike's Phil Knight offered a heartfelt defense of Joe Paterno at the coach's memorial service on Thursday. "If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno. Who is the real trustee at Penn State University?" Knight said in his eulogy, the AP reports. Knight was greeted by cheers and a standing ovation.
For the Oregonian's Joe Canzano, it's a little much. "I'm not here to argue one bit with how someone wants to remember the coach. Knight has his memory. You have yours. I spoke with Paterno a handful of times on the job. Like you, I want to remember Paterno as nothing more than the legendary Penn State football coach who did a lot of good with those he helped," Canzano writes. "I wish that's all he represented to me. But every time I attempt to do that, I run smack into that grand jury report and see all that Paterno might have done."
Demagoguery is nonpartisan. Huey Long was a Democrat. Joe McCarthy, a Republican. And Newt Gingrich? A capital "D" demagogue. As Seattle's Tim Egan writes in the New York Times, "Gingrich, as he showed in a gasping effort in Thursday night’s debate in Florida, is a demagogue distilled, like a French sauce, to the purest essence of the word’s meaning. He has no shame. He thinks the rules do not apply to him. And he turns questions about his odious personal behavior into mock outrage over the audacity of the questioner."
Egan's takedown is trenchant and persuasive. Yes, it would be entertaining to watch Gingrich rant on for a few more months. But demagoguery cut with power is a combustible mix. Edward R. Murrow held the mirror up to McCarthy. Egan holds the mirror up to Newt.
Lastly, for a rich snapshot of life as a Northwest fire lookout, High Country News features an interview with "Lightbulb" Winders, the "last lookout on Green Mountain, in the Glacier Peak Wilderness." How did Winders earn the "Lightbulb" moniker? You'll need to watch to find out.
The New York Times, "Deconstructing a Demagogue"
High Country News, "A former Green Mountain lookout tells his story"