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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Seattle Times Editorial Page Editor James Vesely on Seattle Times McGavick Endorsement

posted by on October 25 at 14:28 PM

I’ve got an editorial coming out today criticizing the Seattle Times’ endorsement of Repubican Mike McGavick on the grounds that the record shows the Seattle Times editorial board disagrees with McGavick on most every issue (except publisher Frank Blethen’s pet estate tax repeal). The record also shows that the Seattle Times has praised Senator Maria Cantwell and criticized McGavick on issues (media consolidation and civil campaigning, respectively) that directly contradict what they wrote in their endorsement. The endorsement itself also states that the board disagrees with McGavick on fundamental issues like the war in Iraq and Social Security. Given all this, I wanted to know just what the Seattle Times editorial aboard agreed with McGavick about.

I called Seattle Times editorial page editor James Vesely for the story yesterday morning and yesterday afternoon (leaving detailed messages about the story I was working on), and I didn’t hear back from him until this morning. He was apologetic about that and had a good explanation for not calling back sooner.

You should read my story to make sense of Vesely’s quotes and our discussion, but here’s what he told me this morning.

He said the estate tax came up in the editorial board’s deliberations, but it “wasn’t the tipping point.” He said, “it always comes up, but it’s like 10th on the list…it’s not critical.”

He pointed out that the Seattle Times strongly supports Sen. Patty Murray, and she’s against the estate tax repeal.

He also said that the “sense of the ed board, not just [board member and publisher] Frank Blethen, was that McGavick was the better candidate.”

I asked him to name the issues where McGavick was more aligned with the ed board than Cantwell was, and he said McGavick was better on Eastern Washington dam issues (McGavick wouldn’t take them down); they liked McGavick’s private sector experience; and they didn’t like that Cantwell “follows the [Democratic] party line…McGavick displays more independence.”

I told him that the Stranger Election Control Board also looks for independent thinking (although Vesely did not cite any examples where McGavick breaks with the GOP), but ultimately, for us, it comes down to the issues themselves. That is, it’s kinda cool when a Democrat comes in and bucks the D party by saying they’re for charter schools or they don’t agree with the teachers union on this or that issue. But it’s more important that we agee with them on the issue itself. For example, if a Democrat came in and told me they were for privatizing Social Security, I’d respect their independence from the Democratic Party line, but I’d be wary of sending them to Congress. And again, the record is clear: McGavick’s positions—drilling in ANWR, anti-gun control, restrictions on choice, pro Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage—are hardly independent of the GOP and don’t jibe with the Seattle Times stated public positions.

Vesely acknowledged this, saying: “We said in the endorsement that we agree with Senator Cantwell on a lot of issues like on ANWR, and we disagree with McGavick on ANWR and the flag burning amendment and gay marriage and stem cell research…and the question comes to mind, ‘What on earth are we doing?’ … and it comes down to how much potential does the candidate have for the next six years.”

He said it was part a “gut feeling” on the board’s part, but they felt McGavick had better “leadership” qualities.

In what I considered a contradiction, Vesely also stated that the Seattle Times ed board, wary that 81% of voters lived west of the mountains and that Washington was increasingly in Democratic hands—thought McGavick would better represent the whole state because he wasn’t a Democrat.

RSS icon Comments


It's a lot simpler than that. The owner just told them to vote that way.

If they didn't, they'd be fired. It was never said that was the result, but that is what would have happened.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 25, 2006 2:27 PM

Gut instinct? Are they fucking serious?

I mailed my ballot this morning (Team Cantwell) and I'm STILL cancelling my Times subscription.

Posted by monkey | October 25, 2006 2:33 PM

Good job exposing the Times on their BS, Josh.

Will is correct. Blethenstein said "Grrrr, death tax, grrrr!", and they duly endorsed McLimpdick.

I mean really, "We agree with Cantwell 80% of the time, but our guts, man, our guts! They tell us vote for Mike!" wtf?

Posted by him | October 25, 2006 2:38 PM

What Vesely failed to mention is that a vote for McGavick is a vote for the knee-jerk wedge issues (gay marriage, flag-crapping, etc.) of the Partisanocracy -- which for some reason has been moderately successful in cleaving the populace into two divergent groups, a la the Sunnis and Shiites. We've heard it before. And frankly, I'm tired of a Senate that resembles a Miami/FIU football game. Can we vote for people who legislate to help us, rather than those who are paid to call each other terrorist-supporters?

(Speaking of that, as I type here in Bothell, a small plane flying a Stephen Johnson banner is hovering over my office ... wow ... )

Believe it or not, there are actual candidates in many other states -- Republican and Democrat -- who eskew this technique in favoring of representing their actual constituents, presenting thought leadership and exemplifying the reasons why many folks run for office in the first place. Check this month's Esquire (no, really) for a great rundown.

For this and other reasons, I too canceled my Times subscription this morning.

Posted by HoSSerif | October 25, 2006 3:01 PM

I'm hep to this month's Esquire. Check my post from 2am this morning. Anyone that gives out Rep. Cynthia McKinney Awards for the worst members of Congress is worth checking in with.

Posted by Josh Feit | October 25, 2006 3:08 PM

Josh, you are my hero!

I'm so glad I got me some edd-yu-cayshun so I could see through that "repeal the estate tax" smoke screen of an endorsement by the ST editorial board.

Thank you Josh for putting exposing this big fat liar in your paper.

Posted by matthew | October 25, 2006 3:20 PM

What's your point, Matthew?

Posted by Stalker of Celery | October 25, 2006 3:25 PM

Keep in mind Annie Wagner said on the Buju issue: "...I do want to address the complaints about the The Stranger’s perceived “hypocrisy” on this issue. Point number one: The Stranger is not a monolithic entity. Sometimes we speak with one voice (political endorsements, for example—which are only issued after vociferous internal debate), but generally, we’re all responsible for our own opinions."

Couldn't the editorial board have come together, discussed the issues and ultimately come to the conclusion that McGavick is the man? Couldn't the other articles have been written by individual reporters being their "own person"?

What makes all the previous articles the sole voice of the Seattle Times?

Posted by Perceived “hypocrisy” | October 25, 2006 3:25 PM

Good job, Josh. The bit about McGavick's private sector experience should be blown to hell as well. Ms. Cantwell has plenty of that herself and, like McGavick, became quite wealthy from her experience.

Posted by B.D. | October 25, 2006 3:46 PM

The Times is not a monolithic entity—agreed. Neither is the Stranger. But we're talking about the unsigned editorials, written collectively by the entire board, and signed off on by the entire board. And Josh's article consistently refers to the Seattle Times' editorial board and its—its, singular—stated position on the issues.

The McGavick endorsement, like all those editorials that take positions opposite to the ones McGavick has taken, was written by the board and reprsents the paper's official, collective position.

The paper's unsigned editorials are not one writer's opinion, and neither is the McGavick endorsement.
Annie was quite clear—did you even read the quote you included in your comment? "Sometimes we speak with one voice (political endorsements, for example—which are only issued after vociferous internal debate), but generally, we’re all responsible for our own opinions."


Posted by Dan Savage | October 25, 2006 3:47 PM

I've been queasy about the Times' editorial board since my own campaign. I went in for my endorsement interview, which was held jointly with my opponent, debate-style, rather than privately. They fawned all over my opponent, sitting and shooting the shit with him, asking about his health, blah blah blah. Then they turn to me and snap, "so why should anyone vote for YOU?"

Wow. Thanks for making the non-millionaire in the race feel like an unwelcome interloper, guys. Guess I should have been groveling at their knees in pathetic gratitude that they mentioned my name in their crappy birdcage liner at all.

Then again, even though they endorsed my opponent (imagine my surprise), they did say a couple of nice things about me. Sigh...

Posted by Geni | October 25, 2006 4:32 PM

Nice work on this issue, guys.

Posted by H | October 25, 2006 11:54 PM

Nice one. The Times endorsements across the board seem to follow that paranoia and dysfunction are a healthier economic environment for their enterprise than better governance is. Or BlethanCo have finally gone full on with the dementia.

Posted by ben | October 26, 2006 2:52 PM

Then times is a mediasaur that will walk for a few decades even after it's dead. What it's good for is to read for free off the Internets or if you're eating breakfast somewhere there's no Little Nickel. Voters haven't given a rusty fuck who the times endorses for as long as I can remember.

Posted by michael | October 27, 2006 11:47 AM

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