It’s bizarre. Really, really bizarre.
Rob McKenna has largely been a cautious politician. He has mastered the technique of being as inoffensive as possible—an absolute necessity for a Republican running for statewide office in Washington state. So, when asked to comment on an inflammatory partisan issue, McKenna skillfully responds with the most vacuous, inoffensive answer imaginable.
But the façade has been showing cracks. They became apparent during McKenna’s gubernatorial kick-off event, when Goldy was barred from entry to the press conference. The campaign was specifically targeting Goldy or The Stranger for exclusion.
What the fuck?!? That’s the kind of petty shit I expect from Tim Eyman, not a serious person asking to be the next Governor of Washington. My impression at the time:
There are warning signs here. The McKenna campaign, right out of the starting gate, is engaging in thuggery. “Open government champion,” my ass.
Two days after McKenna’s kick-off, The Stranger’s Eli Sanders ran into McKenna outside the KUOW studios and asked him about excluding Goldy. McKenna responded:
“I don’t think David Goldstein qualifies as a journalist,” a miffed McKenna told Eli. “He’s a hack. He’s a partisan hack. He’s just there to parrot points from the other side.”
Legally, McKenna is simply wrong. Goldy is a journalist under the laws of our state.
You would think the Attorney General would know that!
McKenna was about 40 seconds into his talk—he was outlining the state’s dismal job numbers—when a young man in a blue Cougars baseball cap, blue sweat jacket, jeans, and Tevas walked in, sat in the front row, took out a camera and started filming.
McKenna stopped and asked the man who he was with. The man gave his name, Zach Wurtz, and said he was with the Washington State Democrats. The Young Republicans club president, Jennifer Fetters, asked him to leave. Nope. McKenna told Wurtz to turn off the camera. Wurtz refused. McKenna’s voice got sharper, “You need to put the camera away. Now!”
Through the cracks is revealed a peevish—and possibly paranoid—man.
That same mix of peevish and paranoia was seen when he barked, “Get a job!” to Kendra Obom, a woman asking him questions about his position on the Reproductive Parity Act:
McKenna first tried to blow off her question, stating that as a lawyer for the state — he is currently Washington’s attorney general — he wasn’t allowed to comment. Then, apparently flustered, he went after Obom personally, asking her if she thought she was being honest and accusing her of trying to gain a political advantage.
Despite Obom identifying herself as a youth worker, McKenna ends his interaction by telling her “Why don’t you go get a job?”
A candidate has the right to be dickish, of course. Perhaps McKenna was picked on too much in school. Or maybe being a partisan Republican in a moderate’s clothing has rendered him a little skittish and paranoid. But these events strongly suggest that McKenna has serious character flaws that are, at the very least, unseemly in a Governor.
It becomes totally unacceptable when a candidate’s character flaws infect his judgement as a public official. This is precisely what happened last Thursday, when McKenna’s staff specifically targeted Goldy for exclusion from an AG press conference. Goldy’s news editor, Dominic Holden, the person who had assigned Goldy to cover the conference reported:
“They are physically blocking me from entering,” Goldy told me by phone, seven minutes before the 11:30 a.m. press conference was scheduled to begin. A spokesman for McKenna, Dan Sytman, had told Goldy a few minutes before that Goldy wasn’t a journalist and then blocked him from entering. A McKenna staffer had also grabbed Goldy by the shoulders and turned him away from the door.
Goldy offers two competing hypotheses:
- McKenna wasn’t aware of the legal issues of barring a member of the press (or even the public) from public meetings.
- Our State Attorney General, out of some mix of personal vendetta and sense of invulnerability, used his office to illegally intimidate a citizen into giving up his rights.
This latest episode goes beyond “warning sign.” It’s a danger sign. Rob McKenna has some serious flaws in his temperament that make him paranoid and vengeful—to the point of abusing his office.
It is something voters really ought to know about.