Thursday Scan: Suzan DelBene's latest campaign strategy: write checks.

One of the biggest supporters for Suzan DelBene's Congressional campaign is Suzan DelBene. And those already in Congress speak at a junior high to high school level.
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Rob McKenna

One of the biggest supporters for Suzan DelBene's Congressional campaign is Suzan DelBene. And those already in Congress speak at a junior high to high school level.

What happens when you cross the wisdom of the late Jesse Unruh ("money is the mother's milk of politics") with the deep-pocketed province of policy-wonk techies? Self-financed candidates, of course. It is a formula that worked just fine in the old-resource-based economy of 1984 when Pierce County Executive Booth Gardner wrote his campaign a $500,000 check to elevate his name recognition and successfully advance his gubernatorial bid (and a good governor he was, cruising to reelection in 1988.) It seems as Booth goes, so goes Suzan DelBene.  

"Congressional candidate Suzan DelBene wrote the first of what is expected to be a series of personal checks to her campaign, donating $300,000 last month," the Seattle Times' Jonathan Martin writes (following on Crosscut's Monday Morning Fizz report that a spokesman had acknowledged the donation.) "DelBene, one of five Democrats running for the 1st Congressional District, made the donation just days after first quarter fundraising totals were announced in mid-April. DelBene led the first-quarter fundraising race with $341,000 raised. Her campaign spokesman, Viet Shelton, said DelBene waited until after the fundraising totals were released to show voters that she has a 'broad base of support' — and not just a big personal bank account."

Code-word politics, unseemly at times, can also be effective. Proof of legal residency to obtain a driver's license, for example, telegraphs an aversion to identity theft (a good thing) or perhaps an intolerance of undocumented residents who need to drive (a wee murkier and something that can be demagogued). Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna is taking the law-and-order, we-need-proof-of-residency side. Democrat Jay Inslee is still pondering policy options and hoping for a "bipartisan consensus." 

As the AP's Mike Baker and Rachel LaCorte write, "Critics have long argued that Washington is a magnet for identification fraud — and is welcoming to illegal immigrants — because it allows applicants to use unofficial documentation to get a license. Lawmakers have moved to strengthen the rules, forcing people to show proof of residency, but McKenna said he believes the state should go further and require verification that the residency is legal."  

McKenna doesn't align with the Republican party's more extreme xenophobic elements. Like Inslee, McKenna is okay with providing in-state tuition to illegal aliens. In addition, Baker and LaCorte write, "While McKenna supported stricter rules on driver's licenses, he was not a supporter of stricter immigration rules endorsed by GOP leaders in Arizona and other states." 

No one wants to be diagnosed with a "disorder." It's freighted with unspoken assumptions, not unlike the word "disturbed." (As the Jets sang in West Side Story, "We're the most disturbed, like we're psychologic'ly disturbed.") So what of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? The Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro has a facinating blog on Ret. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who runs a local non-profit focused on brain research.  

"Talking with Seattle Weekly from L.A., he gives what he says is a common reaction of a young solider told he should see a therapist. 'The kid says: 'I don't want to be diagnosed with a disorder. What I'm suffering from is a direct result of a traumatic experience in combat.'" Shapiro writes. "'Disorder' implies that something is wrong with the person, Chiarelli suggests, whereas 'injury' would put PTSD on par with other wounds of war. 'We call it Traumatic Brain Injury, don't we?' he asks."  

The Seattle Times' Danny Westneat has an entertaining column on political speechifying, coming down a little hard on the intellectual level of contemporary political rhetoric. Rule number 1, students: Always write as if you're talking to a well-educated eighth grader.

"The Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, D.C., watchdog group that clearly has too much time on its hands, entered every congressional speech since 1996 into reading-comprehension software to judge the changing sophistication level of our national discourse," Westneat writes. "It's plummeting, you won't be surprised to hear. In its public utterances, Congress now speaks at the level of a high-school sophomore — a full grade level lower than it did seven years ago. 'The Dumbing Down of Congress,' the study was called."  

Lastly, fascinating anecdotes about tsunami debris from Japan may soon take a grim turn, another reminder of the tsunami's colossal human toll. As the AP reports, "An oceanographer who tracks flotsam says West Coast beachcombers may find floating athletic shoes with human bones as more debris from the Japanese tsunami washes ashore."  

Link Summary

Seattle Times, "DelBene gives $300,000 to her own campaign" 

The Herald, "McKenna wants tougher driver's license rules; Jay Inslee unclear"

Seattle Weekly, "Gen. Peter Chiarelli, now running non-profit in Seattle, wants new name for PTSD"

Seattle Times,  "In Congress, talking like a 12th-grade student makes you a brainiac"

Oregonian, "Beach bound? Beware of bones, shoes as Japanese tsunami debris washes ashore"



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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