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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Nethercutt not always so cozy with Foley site

Jim Camden The Spokesman-Review

Gonzaga University proudly announced last week that former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt is donating the papers and much of the other memorabilia from his 10 years in Congress to the school’s library, where they will be catalogued and eventually made available to the public. The school has received 182 boxes of materials, plus pictures, awards and other things.

Among the highlights could be the records from those early days after his first election, when the House shifted to Republican control for the first time in 40 years, and his papers from the time surrounding President Clinton’s impeachment, which include thousands of cards and letters from constituents on both sides of the issue.

“The thoughtfulness that went into those letters and mailings that I received were really helpful for me as a person sitting in Congress trying to sort out what’s right and wrong in that whole impeachment process,” he told the university. “I thought it was a dark day for our country to go through. It was unpleasant for me because I did not want to see the country have to face that very difficult decision. But, that is the beauty of our system. It allows the impeachment process to work, judgments are made and the country moves on.”

Spin Control isn’t sure what to make of this donation.

On the one hand, it’s great these historical records will be close at hand, and it’s not a surprise that Nethercutt would donate them to the school where he, his wife, and his late father got their law degrees.

On the other hand, the facility is the Ralph E. and Helen Higgins Foley Center Library, named for the parents of the man he beat in the historic election of 1994.

Not that there’s any lingering bad blood between Tom Foley and Nethercutt. Foley moved on with his life after that defeat, as Nethercutt will surely do after losing the Senate race to Patty Murray.

But during the 1994 campaign, Nethercutt was pretty clear about what he thought of the library, which got $10 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: To him it seemed like pork that “benefits the Foley name.”

“I think it just smacks of perhaps a federal expenditure that’s not appropriate,” he said when asked about the library during a debate.

Of course, minds change over time.

Eyes of the beholders

The inauguration of Gov. Christine Gregoire was all a matter of perspective. That much was clear as Spin Control was ensconced in the back of the House chambers while the new gov – or as Lt. Gov. Brad Owen kept saying, “her excellency” – gave her kickoff speech.

From that standpoint, it seemed Democrats and Republicans were hearing two different speeches. The Ds applauded loudly about 20 times, and leapt to their feet several more. The Rs were much more reserved, applauding only about half those times, and keeping it well restrained when they did.

So what do the parties agree on? Republicans universally joined the applause when Gregoire acknowledged the former governors in the gallery (even though only the Democratic ones attended). They also applauded when she mentioned her former English teacher, her church group, Republican successor Rob McKenna and – here’s a shocker – Dino Rossi. A rousing ovation went up on both sides of the aisle when she talked of thanking and welcoming home the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Republicans were largely silent when she talked of cost-of-living increases for teachers, or when she suggested the recent close election showed the need to “overcome our differences and solve the problems of the state.”

Just a matter of timing

While the Democrats clapped to that particular exhortation, Rep. Lynn Schindler swung her chair around to the legislator behind her and said quietly: “How about a revote?”

Schindler had been in her seat as the statewide elected officials filed into the chamber and began taking the oath of office. Shortly before Gregoire’s turn, she got up, left the chamber, and didn’t make it back until after the gubernatorial swearing was all in.

Some sort of silent protest? she was asked later. Not at all, she replied. Republicans had agreed to be respectful of the office of the governor, and she wasn’t going to go back on that promise. She actually thought there was a little more time before Gregoire took the oath, and “I had to go to the ladies room.” She said she was surprised it happened while she was gone.

Having known Schindler for more than a few years, Spin Control is inclined to believe her. Sure, she’s a strong partisan, but she’s also polite. And she wouldn’t ignore the latter, to make a point about the former.