Politics Cantwell on Gay Marriage (not into it), Hezbollah, WalMart, and Snakes on a Plane.
Last month, I drove 3 hours east (to Moses Lake, WA) to watch Mike McGavick on the campaign trail.
Yesterday, I drove two-and-a-half hours south (to Woodland, WA) to watch Maria Cantwell on the campaign trail. Woodland is a small logging town about twenty minutes north of Vancouver, WA.
I pulled into town off exit 21 from I-5 around 1pm and landed at a strip mall on the main drag, Goerig Street. Cantwell was scheduled to speak across the street at Horseshoe Lake Park, a pretty beachfront park with a colorful playground, happy sunbathers, a gazebo, and a large picnic shelter—all hidden behind a towering batch of trees. First thing I did was get some food at the Eager Beaver Drive In, a burger shack in the strip mall parking lot.
“Hey,” I asked a curly haired blonde woman in blue jean shorts and a tank top with a tattoo stamped on her chest. (She was leaning into the screened burger shack window, flirting with a younger blonde, bearded guy working the grill.) “Washington’s U.S. Senator, Maria Cantwell, is doing a campaign event across the street later today,” I said. “I’m from a newspaper in Seattle, and I’m going to interview the Senator. What should I ask her?”
“I don’t know anything about her. Who is she? I don’t know,” the woman said.
The burger guy, in an apron and white tee shirt, chimed in: “Ask her what she’s going to do about all the tweakers living near my house.”
The woman laughed and then, to the chagrin of the burger guy’s co-workers, continued chatting away. She was adding burger guy’s cell phone number into her phone.
I jumped in again: “So, what kind of town is this? What’s the economy?”
The woman: “Logging.”
Burger guy: “It used to be a logging town. Now it’s a tweaker town.”
The Cantwell event didn’t start until 2pm, so I stopped a few people in the hot parking lot to ask them what I should ask Cantwell. Most everybody was coming in and out of Big Deals, the anchor discount store along this strip of guitar shops, tattoo parlors, manicure shops, a massage center (Serendipity Massage), and a dentist’s office.
The response from everybody—from the tiny white-haired old lady getting out of her silver Honda LX to the 50-something guy hauling a fan across the parking lot to his truck—was this: They didn’t know who Cantwell was, and they had nothing to ask her.
I walked across the street to the park. I asked an older guy pushing a little girl on a swing (“No comment.”) I asked a family eating sandwiches and cheetos at one of the red picnic tables. (“Don’t know anything about her.”) Nobody had anything to ask Cantwell.
Finally, I found two 50-something women sunbathing on straw mats, dressed in flowery green bathing suits. “Is she a Democrat?” they wanted to know. Yes.
The derisive follow-up: “Is she a liberal?”
I said that Cantwell was a liberal, but she voted for the war.
“Well, that’s good.”
“Where is she on abortion?” one of the woman, her name was Luella Viollette, asked.
“Well, then you should ask her what makes her believe that a fetus is not a human being,” Viollette said. “How do we have the right to murder children? It’s God’s choice, not our choice. We’re Christians.” The women thanked me for taking the time to talk to them.
I didn’t get a chance to put Viollette’s question to Cantwell. The Senator was running behind schedule, and my time with her was rushed. I got about three minutes at the end of the event as she walked with her entourage back to her car. (I’ll say this: Cantwell has a rep for being uptight. But she was relaxed. In a good mood. Comfortable. At the picnic shelter she had schmoozed the crowd with ease. My sense was more that her entourage is uptight. Prior to the event, a flummoxed woman in a Cantwell staff shirt named Karin appeared to be having a meltdown over logistics.)
Anyway: I asked Cantwell about the war—to reconcile all her positions. I asked her if she was willing to censure Bush in the wake of the NSA ruling. I asked her about Frank Blethen and the estate tax.
I’ll file a piece on all this in the upcoming Stranger, but I do want to Slog a brief outtake from the brief interview.
Realizing there wasn’t going to be time for a real Q&A, I went to Plan B. I played that pop psychology quiz game with Cantwell…where I would say something, and she had to say the first thing that came to her mind.
JF: I’m going to say something, and you’re going to say the first thing that comes to your mind. MC: Okay JF:WalMart? MC: Ucchhhhh. Can you write that? JF: Mark Wilson? MC: Good Guy. JF: Hezbollah? MC: Ouch. Need to change this. Out of control. JF: Mel Gibson? MC: Needs help. JF: CAFTA? MC: Better policy for labor. JF: Ummm… MC: Not that.. but we need better policies for labor. JF: But you voted for it. MC: Yeah. Listen, it was very good for the farmers of our state… taxes were already lifted on a lot of the products that were coming into our country. What this did is lift some of the tariffs on our products going into their countries. Matt Butler (Cantwell campaign staffer): Last one, Josh. JF: Snakes on a Plane? MC: I’m not watching that movie. JF: Last thing. On the DOMA ruling from Washington’s Supreme Court. Good ruling? Bad ruling? Basically, do you support gay marriage? MC: I support civil unions.