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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Kids make imperfect political props

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee apparently is not a follower of W.C. Fields’ advice against working with children or animals. He may want to reconsider, at least when it comes to children.

To provide a backdrop to his recent announcement of setting up the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Delivery of Services to Children and Families, Inslee secured the help of a dozen or so youngsters of various ages that could be conveyed by raising fingers of one tiny hand. 

“I’m three,” said one as a way of greeting a reporter waiting for the announcement to start. She was clearly not awed by the long wooden table, the high backed leather chairs or the big blue banner on the wall of the governor’s conference room, which features the state seal with George Washington looking out at the assembly. 

Such young ’uns are the demographic that Inslee believes would be better served by the creation of a new cabinet-level Department of Children’s Services. But they showed varying degrees of gratitude, or even interest, as Inslee and other adult advocates for their welfare discussed the wisdom of such a move.

A wail arose shortly after Inslee had laid out the four reasons he thought the state needed the new department. “When this department is fully in place, no children will be crying about anything,” he quipped, drawing laughs from the adults but not from the youngster who was eventually hustled from conference room.

It wasn’t long before others took up the cry, as grown ups waxed eloquent about the history of the state discussing but ultimately rejecting such a department, quoted from legislation that failed in 1988 and stuck with prepared remarks. At least three more were hurried out of the room by parents while adults droned for more than 15 minutes. That may not seem like a long time to a politician, but for a toddler that would be enough to have a story read, start watching a video, get up to request a snack, play a game of peekaboo, pull six toys out of a box and play with four before abandoning all to ask for a drink of water and persuade an adult into giving a horseback ride.

When it finally came time to sign his executive order, Inslee invited the kidlets to join him around the conference table, then placed one on his lap and cajoled her name out of her before putting put pen to paper. Betsy complied, but occasionally gave him the look of a child who has been warned to have nothing to do with strangers. Meanwhile, to his right, two youngsters had a rather loud dispute over who had been there first.

If the Blue Ribbon Commission does come up with a plan for a department to look after all aspects of child welfare, it might want to include an office to regulate the use of youngsters in political photo ops. They might also address the use of charter school students press ganged into telling legislative committees about their educational experiences.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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