Midday Scan: War criminal or victim?; OR Dem crosses the aisle; Uneasy silence from Eyman

Is Robert Bales the William Calley of the Iraq War? Ore. Sen. Ron Wyden as GOP sympathizer. Is Eyman waiting in the wings? 

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Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D)

Is Robert Bales the William Calley of the Iraq War? Ore. Sen. Ron Wyden as GOP sympathizer. Is Eyman waiting in the wings? 

The ignominious Robert Bales, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Staff Sgt, is already stenciled in history, a latter-day Lt. William Calley. Bales, suspected of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians including several children, is a metaphor, a Rorschach test, a PTSD poster boy, an outlier, a victim, a family man, an aberration, a war criminal and, for now at least, a shattered composite of all of the above.

"This narrative has intensified debate about how long U.S. troops should stay in Afghanistan. It also turns some of the scrutiny back onto the Army, and on whether enough is being done to support combat troops as they face the physical and emotional tolls of lives split, often over the course of multiple tours, between combat zones and families," the Seattle Times' Hal Bernton writes.

Like Calley during the Vietnam War, Bales is both a pretext for debate and a force greater than himself. Vancouver, Washington, native Jere Van Dyk teases out several themes in his analysis for CBS News (including the possibility of more than one shooter.) Van Dyk observes, "Karzai said that he is at the end of his rope. I am sure he is angry and saddened, but he also is trying to stay alive. Almost all Afghan rulers since the 1970s have been murdered. He is trying to placate his people and to stay ahead of the Taliban in showing anger. If he cannot bring to Afghanistan justice — the central tenet of Islam — then the people may turn against him. He will be seen as even more impotent than he is."  

You say bipartisan, I say apostate. Bipartisan: Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is trying to fix Medicare by working in common cause with Republicans. Apostate: Republicans have no interest in fixing Medicare (it's Wyden as Neville Chamberlain.) The Oregonian's Charles Pope neatly captures the question with a rhetorical, "Trail blazer or traitor?" It's a vexing question for Oregon Democrats, who have been generally pleased by Wyden's leadership.  

"Wyden is in an uncomfortable place these days. Republicans discuss him with satisfied surprise while many Democrats bounce between incredulous and angry. The harshest assessments suggest he is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Even sympathizers question his thinking and election-year timing. Privately and sometimes publicly, the talk about the three-term senator has evolved into a Capitol Hill parlor game full of speculation about his motives, his health, and his future," Pope writes. 

What if you gave an election and Tim Eyman didn't come? Eyman could still be smarting from his Kemper-Freeman-financed misadventure, I-1125. Perhaps he's not found a flush patron this year or the return on investment is judged too low. Whatever unfolds, Washington voters can expect that Eyman will rise Nixon-like again from the prosaic slumber of watch peddling to the glory of rich-guy-underwritten-initiative shepherding.  

"Could this be a year Mukilteo's initiative impresario doesn't try to push an initiative onto the ballot?" the Herald's Jerry Cornfield writes. "Probably not, though, with each passing day the challenge for him getting a measure in front of voters grows. With an ever shrinking time frame to collect the required 241,000 voter signatures, he'll need a hot idea plus a boatload of money to hire professionals to gather those names."    

Cue Captain Louis Renault from Cascablanca. Readers will be shocked SHOCKED to learn that women in Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's cabinet are paid less than men. Maybe it's an aberration rather than a systemic pattern of gender discrimination. Either way, it's another untimely challenge to Republicans already battling the anti-female moniker.

As the Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey writes, "The median salary for 11 women in the Cabinet is $85,446; the median for the 33 men is $103,002." 

Lastly, Crosscut's own Lawrence W. Cheek offers an incisive critique of the creativity-kindling office design of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Sunday's New York Times. It's a fascinating read. Cheek notes, "These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential." 

Link Summary

Seattle Times, "Emerging portraits of Robert Bales changing debate on war"

Oregonian, "Ron Wyden's Medicare stand brings Republican allies, angers Democratic friends"

The Herald, "Will Eyman sit it out this election?"

Idaho Statesman, "In Gov. Butch Otter's Cabinet, women make less than men"

New York Times, "New office designs offer room to roam and to think"


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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