Arrow-right Camera


Rhetoric springs a leak as Washington legislative session gets under way

Sun., Jan. 17, 2010, 1 a.m.

OLYMPIA – With only a week down in the legislative session, it’s too soon to make solid predictions about anything meaningful. It’s not too soon, however, to predict that the quality of rhetoric can only get better.

That’s because it probably can’t get worse.

There have been quite enough references, thank you, to the Founding Fathers. No disrespect to the Dutiful Dads, but they were mentioned last week on everything from legalizing pot to checking names on initiative petitions to rejecting federal health care plans.

A legislator at the tea party rally on Thursday talked about getting back to the country the founders intended, and since the speaker was a woman, it seems that would mean she’d be out of a job because the founders didn’t allow women to vote, let alone run for office.

What would have happened, mused Rep. Christopher Hurst as he made a pitch to keep signatures on petitions public, had the Declaration of Independence been sent off to London with the names blacked out. “Would we even be here today?” the Pierce County Democrat wondered. That was more likely a reference to the grand sweep of American Manifest Destiny extending the country from 13 original colonies to the Pacific Ocean than a question of why everyone was stuck for two hours in a hearing room.

It does seem worth noting, however, that the French army and fleet helping the Continental Army at Yorktown had more to do with starting a new country than whether King George III could read names at the bottom of the parchment.

Not to be too picky with words, but there is much talk of “incentivizing” business, or sometimes “incenting” it. Almost makes one wonder about the need to offer incentives to the legislative and executive branches to hire some English grammarians, or perhaps stimulate the economy by purchasing dictionaries.

There were a few odd nautical references by Republicans, who sometimes view their minority status in both houses in dire terms. After Gov. Chris Gregoire’s State of the State speech, GOP leaders gathered to explain – here’s a shocker – that they’d handle the budget crisis differently: No tax hikes, more budget cuts, boost jobs except if they are state jobs, in which case cut them.

Gregoire was asking for suggestions, Sen. Joe Zarelli, a top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said, and they’ll make some. “But at the end of the day, we’re passengers on the Titanic,” he said. They can’t make the captain and crew change course.

“It’s more like the Lusitania,” corrected Rep. Richard DeBolt, House minority leader.

The what? asked Zarelli.

“The Lusitania. It’s the torpedoes that are going to get us,” DeBolt said.

It’s unclear at this point whether the Republicans will spend more time debating on which sinking ship they find themselves. One could make a case for the Andrea Doria, which collided and sank in the fog, if one likes to think of government bureaucracy as an obscuring element. Or the Normandie, which was a really nice ship when it was in the private sector, but a real disaster when taken over by the government.

No one is yet singing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” but at least Zarelli avoided his slip-up from the previous week, when he referred to the USS Titanic, which wasn’t the ship that went down in 1912, but the ship in a 1960s ballad that might be better used to convince the state not to legalize marijuana.

Spin Control is a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden. It also appears as a blog at spincontrol, with daily posts, reader comments and videos, including a video that helps explain the reference to the USS Titanic.

There are two comments on this story »