Occasional comments about business and politics in Portland, Oregon, mixed in with stories from our city's colorful if not always compliant past.
"The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly." -- Touchstone
Having the famous Kennedy-Nixon debate of 1960 in mind, where radio listeners thought that Mr. Nixon had won, and television viewers thought that Mr. Kennedy had won, I listened to the first half of the debate on radio, and watched the second half on television. I had the sense that President Obama was the better debater when I was listening, and that Governor Romney was better when I was also watching. Herewith some impressions:
First, Governor Romney made a solid move toward the center, as he must do if he is to have a reasonable chance of winning the election. He laid little stress on the more extreme positions of his party, backed off from his tax cut proposals, and identified two (admittedly small) programs that he would cut. I also got the sense that he was trying to look and sound a little like Ronald Reagan, in hair, cadence, and style.
By contrast, President Obama was off of the form that he displayed in the 2008 debates. Several of his long answers wandered far from the topic without making a definite point. He told the story of his grandmother well, and he claimed the word "Obamacare." However, he missed an opening when Mr. Romney joked that "Maybe I should change accountants" to give a clear comparison of the Romney and Obama tax plans. Mr. Obama's biggest loss, and Mr. Romney's biggest gain, was that the challenger came across as careful, prudent, and informed, far from the extremist corner into which the Obama campaign has tried to paint him.
OregonLive reports that the protesters who are camped out in front of Portland City Hall have been told to move. I chuckled over the headline, which reads: "Portland City Hall protesters reminded to comply with code, will be moved Monday for power-wash." Ah, the nanny state. They looked fairly clean to me.
Today's Oregonian brought a front-page story on how Suzanne Bonamici is settling in as the First District's representative following her election in January to fill out the unexpired term of David Wu. It's a very favorable story for Rep. Bonamici -- almost a puff piece -- especially the day before ballots are due back.
Eight paragraphs in, the story, by reporter Charles Pope, features this gem:
Tuesday, Bonamici faces her third election since November. This one is largely a technicality; she faces no primary opposition and Republicans haven't fielded candidates for a primary. The campaign free ride allows her to concentrate on her new job in Congress.
Mr. Pope doesn't read his own newspaper. As Jeff Mapes reported on February 29, conservative activist Lisa Michaels filed for the Republican nomination, and a day or two later, D.R. Delinda Morgan also filed for the Republican nomination. The editorial staff can count; it endorsed Ms. Michaels for the Republican nomination on April 17.
This isn't the first time that the Whimperer lost track of the First District race; back in October its reporter Harry Esteve disposed of five of the eight Democratic candidates for the January special election. This is, however, the first time I can recall the newspaper blithely omitting an entire party.
Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times on Sunday, credited the blogosphere with the idea of requiring our elected representatives to wear the names and logos of their largest corporate contributors, rather like the logos on the suits and cars of NASCAR drivers.
I can't imagine that I was the first to think of that particular campaign reform, but it did occur to me back in 2005, and I wrote about it here on February 9 of that long-past year. So I'm delighted to see the idea appear in the Times six-and-a-half years later. That's faster than it usually takes ideas to get from Portland to New York, but slower than it takes news to make the return trip.
I'd written in September about how the Oregonian anointed four of the thirteen candidates for David Wu's seat as the "major candidates," apparently basing its decision on their ability to raise funds, or possibly on their support for the $4 billion Columbia River Crossing project, rather than on their campaign efforts. Then last week the Whimperer increased its tally of major candidates to six of the thirteen, three in each party.
I'm sorry to report that the Whimperer has backslid. In this article in today's print edition, Harry Esteve of the Oregonian disposed of five of the Democratic candidates altogether. He started his article thusly: "Anyone looking for clear differences among the three Democratic candidates in the race to replace former Oregon Rep. David Wu probably came away disappointed after Tuesday's televised debate," and again referred to the Democratic race having only three candidates -- actually, only three polite candidates -- later in the article.
In the unlikely event that Mr. Esteve or another Oregonian reporter might stop by, the other five Democratic candidates are Saba Ahmed, Dominic Hammon, Robert E. Lettin, Todd Lee Ritter, and Dan Strite. I don't know whether they are polite candidates, but they were brave enough to file and shouldn't be denied continued existence simply because corporate America hasn't rallied behind them.
The late Ken Rinke (1913-1997), political consultant extraordinaire, was famous in Oregon politics for many things. His best-known exploit was to design a campaign to oppose Ballot Measure 6, centered on the slogan "Beware of Tricks in Number Six," and then wait for a suitable Measure 6 to come along that he could be hired to oppose. (The particular Measure Six turned out to be a precursor to the Oregon Beach Bill that would have imposed a small gasoline tax to fund the purchase of Oregon's beaches. It failed in November 1968.)
I was considering how voters could remember which of the two competing measures to vote for. They have similar numbers: 3-386 and 3-388. Mr. Rinke's example made "There are no tricks in Six" come easily to mind. A few moments later, I hit on "Don't take the bait / Vote NO on Eight." Who knows? Those slogans may show up elsewhere too.
I'd written on September 19 about an Oregonian story that identified as "major candidates" four of the thirteen people running to replace David Wu. I observed that the newspaper's definition of "major candidate" appeared to be someone who can raise a lot of money from people who want the ear of an elected official, and (in the newspaper's judgment) only four of the candidates had raised substantial sums of money.
The Whimperer is broadening its definition of "major candidate": today's story by Jeff Mapes identifies Rob Cornilles as the heavy favorite, but goes on to name as his "main Republican opponents" Jim Greenfield and Lisa Michaels. I'd like to think that the newspaper opened its eyes because of my September 19 piece, but more likely it was because Pacific University and the Portland Tribune hosted a meet-the-candidates event this past weekend to which they invited Messrs. Cornilles and Greenfield, Ms. Michaels, Suzanne Bonamici, Brad Avakian, and Brad Witt, all of whom spoke. Still, the newspaper has taken a step in the right direction; instead of letting money identify the major candidates, it's letting its competition identify them.
Sunday's Oregonian included a story about the Interstate 5 bridge replacement that opened with this intriguing line: "The proposed Columbia River Crossing project is controversial in some quarters, but not among the major candidates running in Oregon's special congressional election." The Oregonian helpfully identified the "major candidates" as Republican Rob Cornilles and Democrats Brad Avakian, Suzanne Bonamici, and Brad Witt.
The Oregonian didn't, however, identify how it selected three of the eight Democrats and one of the five Republicans as being the "major candidates." Perhaps it based its determination on fundraising potential, in which case the major candidates aren't being identified by the media, nor by the voters, but by how well they can court contributions from people who would like their ear in Congress.
Equally possible is that the major candidates are those who support the Columbia River Crossing project, implying that a candidate who is less than gung-ho about spending $3 billion or more on the bridge, light rail, and freeway ramps can't be a major candidate. I think I like that alternative even less than the first.
Last year I bought a car that came with Sirius satellite radio installed. "An interesting feature," I thought, as I tested it out, but all I received was one channel, which played an endless loop advertisement for Sirius with information on how to subscribe.
I didn't give Sirius another thought until May 23, when I received a letter from Sirius, dated May 20, telling me that my introductory trial subscription to Sirius will end on June 16, and imploring me to extend my subscription. "What trial subscription?" I wondered. "All I receive is the advertisement - no music, no sports, no talk radio." Then on May 24 I received a second letter from Sirius, also dated May 20, welcoming me to Sirius and saying that my complimentary 3-month subscription to Sirius had just been activated. (I still get only the channel with the endless advertisement, however.)
Delightful as I'm sure the dozens of channels that Sirius didn't include in my trial subscription must be, the company's less than stellar customer service doesn't make me confident enough to give it unfettered access to the Laquedem credit card.