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Shawn Vestal: Inslee can stand up to Trump, but can he stand up to the Legislature?

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 26, 2018

Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., right, speaks about school safety during an event with President Donald Trump and members of the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room of the White House, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., right, speaks about school safety during an event with President Donald Trump and members of the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room of the White House, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

If Gov. Jay Inslee was not going to spend Monday vetoing the public records end-run the Legislature granted itself last week, at least he was doing the next best thing.

Speaking truth to glower in the White House.

At a meeting between President Trump and governors, Inslee took a well-deserved swipe at the president’s proposal to arm classroom teachers. Inslee presented what should be considered the conventional, obvious reality – arming teachers is neither sensible, nor practical, nor safe, nor affordable, nor even really serious.

Trump crossed his arms and pouted like a child in timeout.

“So I just suggest,” Inslee said, “we need a little less tweeting here, a little more listening. Let’s just take that off the table and move forward.”

If only. A zinger or two – even delivered, delightfully, right to the president’s face – won’t really matter, in terms of dissuading the president and those who like to talk about schools as “gun-free zones” and “soft targets.” Too many in D.C. are in the grip of a twisted, anti-social philosophy – a vision of a world where troubled, red-flagged kids can buy all the military-style firearms they choose, with the largest ammunition magazines, and the common-sense response is to create “hard-target” schools with turrets and razor wire and armed teachers.

No, at this stage of the game, rejoinder and riposte are not going to move the ball. The discussion around gun safety has been made farcical by the bright, immovable line drawn by zealots and their legislative enablers. If change is possible, it won’t be a productive debate with zealotry that brings it about. It will be changing out the zealots.

Still, there remains a power in the truth, a need for the truth, even as degraded as it has become.

Inslee’s comments served that end, and it drew national attention as a result. Of course, Inslee is said to be thinking of a presidential run. I don’t know that he’s generated that kind of political passion, but it might well have contributed to his decision to speak up.

But good for the governor, either way. Now he should extend his war on terrible ideas when he returns to Olympia, by vetoing the Legislature’s effort to largely exempt itself from the Public Records Act – a bit of self-dealing that shot through the House and Senate last week with the speed and aroma of goose poop.

Based on last week’s evidence, the desire to avoid public disclosure in Olympia is roughly as widespread as the desire to mollify gun zealots in D.C. Inslee should take the same approach – reject the bad idea in no uncertain terms. He should veto that bill, and dare lawmakers to override it.

Inslee’s remarks Monday came at the same event where Trump said, in criticizing the horrible law enforcement response to the Parkland shooting, that, “I really believe that I myself would run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”

This is roughly as swallowable as the idea that if some percentage of teachers were armed, they could provide “major retaliation” when shooters enter a school. “And if that happens, you’re never going to have a problem again,” he said.

We’re never going to have a problem again. This thinking is now at the forefront of the national response to Parkland.

Inslee wasn’t having it.

“Whatever percentage (of armed teachers) it is, speaking as a grandfather, speaking as a governor of the state of Washington, I have listened to the people who would be affected by that. I have listened to the biology teachers and they don’t want to do that,” he said. “I have listened to the first-grade teachers who don’t want to be pistol-packing first-grade teachers. I have listened to law enforcement who have said they don’t want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agencies, which takes about six months.”

Trump folded his arms, pursed his lips and nodded, listening the way you listen when you’re not listening.

Inslee continued, “Now I just think this is a circumstance where we need to listen, that educators should educate and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first-grade classes. Now I understand you have suggested this, and we suggest things and sometimes then we listen to people about it and maybe they don’t look so good a little later.”

And then he took his tweeting jab, which, well – who could blame him?

So thanks, governor. Sometimes it’s important to simply call a stupid idea a stupid idea.

Now let’s see that same approach to the public records bill waiting on your desk.