I’ve had my fun teasing insurance industry lobbyist cum executive cum candidate Mike!™ McGavick about the exclamation point typographically appended to his first name, but his recent fender-benders with the truth suggest that we’ve all been using the wrong punctuation. Indeed, now that the actual police report has been shown to contradict his supposedly “courageous,” “candid” and “Socratic” confession of a 1993 DUI, Mike?™ and his clever campaign consultants seem to be creating more questions than they answer.
There’s a lesson to be learned from Mike?™’s less-than-candid candor: never lie to reporters. Never. Never ever. It just plain pisses them off. And once you’ve blown your credibility, it’s hard as hell to earn it back.
(And oh yeah… lying is just plain wrong.)
At first Mike?™’s preemptive mea culpa seemed to have achieved it’s desired end, airing the worst of his dirty laundry in the dead of August while earning the candidate brownie points for candor. The initial press coverage even prompted the fawning folks over at (un)Sound Politics to kvell that “McGavick’s civility theme is paying dividends while others keep playing politics as usual.”
The problem is, it was Mike?™ who was soon proven to be playing politics as usual with the airing of a radio ad that deliberately misrepresented Sen. Maria Cantwell’s position on the sales-tax deduction. Perhaps another candidate in another campaign may have gotten away with such all too typical tactics, but not “Mr. Civility” — and especially not after making such a show out of public regretting a similarly deceptive political ad he ran some 18 years ago.
This new misleading ad was swiftly and roundly condemned in the press, with even the presumptively pro-McGavick Seattle Times editorial board advising the candidate to “pull the ad” in no uncertain terms, calling it “an age-old political trick” and a “politician’s version of highway robbery.” My guess is that many journalists really wanted to believe Mike?™’s civility schtick, and that the Times editorial board’s disappointment is deep and genuine.
But perhaps no other local journalist’s reaction to last week’s events more clearly illustrates the credibility bridge Mike?™ has built and burned than that of Seattle P-I columnist Robert Jamieson, who all but swooned over McGavick’s “refreshing candor” in last Saturday’s column, only to eat his words in today’s:
A week ago, in this column, I praised him for coming clean about a 1993 DUI in Montgomery County, Md.
McGavick’s gesture, I wrote, showed that he had examined his life and talked with candor about personal successes and failures.
Boy, was I mistaken.
Who could have known that McGavick’s pre-emptive confession would blast open a Pandora’s box?
In the incident from 13 years ago, McGavick said he was driving when he “cut a yellow light” too closely.
It turns out the light was “steady red,” according to a Maryland police report first obtained this week by The Herald in Everett.
McGavick told my P-I colleague Neil Modie last week that during the DUI incident he received a citation — that’s it.
This turns out not to be the full truth. McGavick was cited — and arrested.
Now that’s a mea culpa I can accept at face value.
Mike?™ made a fool out of Jamieson and his colleagues, but they won’t so easily be fooled again. In fact it only makes sense that a candidate who campaigns on civility — on character — and who demands a higher standard of political discourse, be held to that higher standard himself.
And even though the candidate isn’t talking about his DUI anymore, it’s a standard that Mike?™’s campaign still refuses to live up to.
“There is no effort to hide anything,” McGavick spokesman Elliott Bundy told me Friday. “That was how Mike recalled it at the time. It was an event from 13 years ago.”
What about the traffic light?
“I don’t think that is a large discrepancy,” said Bundy, who called the color of the light “a distinction without a difference.”
The important thing was that McGavick offered a voluntary mea culpa to begin with.
“You said this yourself,” Bundy pointed out to me.
What about McGavick’s citation versus arrest?
“Maybe it’s a terminology issue,” Bundy hedged.
To hear it from the McGavick camp, it would seem facts are “fudgeable.”
The problem for Mike?™ is not that these were big lies on their own, but that he chose to frame his entire confession as an exercise in public candor. “Cutting a yellow” is not the same thing as “running a steady red” — it is a turn of phrase intentionally chosen to soften the offense. Neither is “citation” versus “arrest” merely an issue of terminology, and it’s hard to believe that a man who was arrested, handcuffed, read his rights, and booked could remember the experience as anything but.
For Bundy to attribute the discrepancies to the passage of time is simply laughable… although a more credible excuse — that Mike?™’s supposedly faulty memory is due to the cumulative impact of years of heavy drinking — is probably politically unpalatable.
And besides, the police report itself incontrovertibly documents at least one McGavick lie: when asked if he’d been drinking Mike?™ told the officer he had only “two, maybe three beers,” but his 0.17 blood-alcohol level an hour and a half after the stop suggests he consumed at least 8 or 9 drinks, and possibly more than a dozen.
If a man is going to lie to the police, what’s to stop him from lying to a reporter or a voter?
Sure, it’s the dead of August, the news of the police report breaking on a Friday before Labor Day weekend, perhaps the deadest news weekend of the year. So I guess in that regard, Mike?™’s strategy was a success.
But the campaign only going to get harder for Mike?™ from here on out. And so will the questions.