The Scuba Diver of Politicians

Joni Balter and Steve Chapman

The Scuba Diver of Politicians

Joni Balter and Steve Chapman

The Scuba Diver of Politicians
An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 18 1999 1:45 PM

Joni Balter and Steve Chapman

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Steve,

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Good morning. Our Little Leaguers fared better than the Steve Chapman Cubs. No score, no game, a rain out. February weather in May will do that. But we cope and we chortle about our newcomers, including those new Microsoft employees who have to stay indoors and count their millions.

You think this Breakfast Table between you and me is a little awkward, separated by computer screens, 2,500 miles and all that. Imagine the sound of crunching toast and slurping coffee over at Liddy and Bob Dole's house. What gives? Bob may give a campaign donation to his old Senate buddy, John McCain. Yet Bob Dole really really really believes in Liddy's candidacy--if she can raise the dough.

I appreciate Dole's interest in having more candidates than George W. in the race. I like McCain a lot. He is a straight shooter. But there is Bob Dole on the cover of the New York Times admitting Liddy's candidacy is having trouble getting out of first gear. Is Dole trying to tell us he may not be First Husband after all?

After much prodding and thought, I have concluded that our most obnoxious editorial-board visitor was former Congresswoman Linda Smith, a Republican from southwestern Washington. She is the sharp-tongued maverick once courted by Ross Perot as a vice presidential running mate. A match made ... well, somewhere.

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I used to call Smith the scuba diver of politicians. She rarely comes up for air when talking. You know how these editorial sessions go. Everyone waits for the pause at the end of a visitor's sentence to ask a question. With Linda Smith, there are no pauses. One time, I clocked her. She spoke nonstop for 12 minutes before any of us--all respectable tongue-waggers--could fire off a question. I can handle that, but she spoke in this sugary-sweet manner when there is nothing sugary sweet about her. She also wore one-inch-long fake nails and drummed them incessantly on the table. Anyway, she talked her way out of office by running against Patty Murray (the famed Mom in Tennis Shoes) for the U.S. Senate last year. Murray, first elected in the 1992, the Year of the Woman, beat her handily.

Our big news today--no we didn't kill another whale--is about affirmative action. I guess a libertarian--even a moderate, reasonable one like yourself--has no use for such programs. Last year, our state passed a measure rolling back affirmative action in public hiring and education. My editorial board vociferously opposed the initiative, fearing results like those surfacing today. The University of Washington, one of the top federal research institutions in the country, announced a sharp drop in minority applicants for next year.

We editorial writers are taught to respect a public vote. But whenever a fact comes up and supports our unsuccessful argument, we have to be allowed a moment to say told you so.

Desperately seeking doughnuts,

Joni