David Horsey has a commentary in Sunday’s Seattle PI on Rep. Jim McDermott, Rep. Jay Inslee, and Rep. Dave Reichert. At one point, while interviewing Reichert, Horsey gives us a telling glimpse into the eyes and soul of Sheriff Hairspray:
[Reichert] described a meeting with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan during which one of her companions pointedly asked Reichert how many more soldiers’ lives he was willing to sacrifice to the Iraq War.
Recreating the moment, Reichert trained his hardest gaze on me as if I was that upstart activist and said, “That question offends me. Do you know how many partners I’ve lost as a cop?”
What the hell? What does the number of police partners Reichert lost have to do with soldiers dying in Iraq? And where is the offence in a concerned citizen pointing out that (1) soldiers are dying in Iraq and (2) as a Congressman, Reichert shares in the oversight responsibility, and consequences, for our actions in Iraq?
I have several theories about Reichert’s inappropriate (if not bizarre) response. I’ll call them the stupid theory, the fiction theory and the unmanaged anger theory.
The stupid theory is that Riechert simply fucking up his own talking point. He meant to use a talking point along the lines of this one from his DaveReichertForCongress web site:
We may disagree on the timeframe of that, but as a police officer who has lost friends and partners in the line of duty, I do understand how difficult it is for society to make sacrifices in the name of freedom and keeping Americans safe.
Nothing in the written version of the talking point would suggest that Reichert could be offended, per se, by the peace activist’s question. If the web site properly captures the position, Reichert should have sympathetically disagreed—something like this: “I understand your concern about more soldiers losing their life in the line of duty–I’ve experienced the tragedy of losing law enforcement partners. Still, I disagree with you about the best way to achieve a free and safe America in a way that minimizes such sacrifices.” Instead, Reichert forgot or misunderstood the proper response, and invoked faux outrage instead of sympathy.
The fiction theory is that the event didn’t really happen this way at all. Rather, the details given to Horsey constituted a “creative intrepertation” of a more mundane exchange. The purpose was simply to use the interview with Horsey as another opportunity to shape his image as playing the staring role in “Tough Guy Sheriff Goes to Washington.” We’ve seen this before from Reichert…you know, like the bus driver flipping the bird at Bush incident where Reichert bragged before a group of Republicans only to change the story to something more mundane when the “tough guy” version looked damaging.
The unmanaged anger theory is that Reichert really was insulted and outraged, and, therefore, responded irrationally. Reichert is widely known for being sensitive to criticism, being overly defensive when his failures are brought to light, and having a short fuse. In the face of such “insolence,” I can imagine Reichert reacting with a mixture of anger and defensiveness that clouded is thinking, resulting in a response that was a non sequitur. How dare they blame him for deaths in the Iraq war!
We saw this behavior in 2004 when Reichert walked out on a debate and refused future debates with his Republican primary challengers. We saw a little bit of this anger during the 2006 campaign season in his debate with Darcy Burner.
While still King County Sheriff, Reichert sometimes displayed this type of behavior. For example, after an African American man killed a white officer (Deputy Richard Herzog) with his own gun in 2002, Reichert made a series of bizarre media statements. As Geov Parrish put it:
King County Sheriff Dave Reichert bristled last week after the fatal shooting of deputy Richard Herzog—a white officer, allegedly “executed” by a naked, unarmed African-American man with the officer’s own gun. Here’s Reichert: “I’m just going to be blunt about it and get to the point: Race isn’t important. . . . We’re sick and tired of being labeled as racist.”
In other words, Reichert equated discussing race with calling people racists. And then he shut down all discussion.
The sheriff has since backpedaled….
At the time, I was struck by Reichert’s repeated use of the word “execution” to describe the actions of Herzog’s killer. The naked, stoned-out-of-his-gord killer shot Herzog during a struggle after Herzog’s gun fell out of its holster…not particularly the circumstances that go with the word “execution.”
Reichert’s lashing out at the media came on the heals of criticism after Seattle Police shot and killed Aaron Roberts, an African American man. Reichert’s angry, illogical statements prompted the Seattle Times (22 June 2002) to editoralize…
King County Sheriff Dave Reichert irresponsibly lobbed his own grenade when he rushed past an official denunciation of the killing to rail against African- American leaders who have frequently charged law enforcement with using excessive force against minorities. The sheriff’s emotions later cooled to those more befitting a leader, but it was too late. A debate has begun whether the region has seen its first incident of reverse racial profiling: the executing of white police officers by black men….
During Reichert’s entire career as a cop, only five King County officers died in the line of duty. Herzog’s death was the only non-accidental death of an officer in the line of duty under Reichert’s administration. (The only other death was of Deputy Mark W. Brown who died in a motorcycle accident in 1999.)
No doubt, Reichert took Herzog’s death hard. But there was more to it—the King County Sheriff’s office (i.e. Riechert) was taking some heat in Herzog’s death. His death was avoidable. Herzog was killed with his own handgun, in part, because he was allowed to carry a holster not designed for his weapon. The result was that his weapon fell out of the holster during the struggle. Later the state Department of Labor and Industries investigated the incident and fined the King County Sheriff’s Office for safety violations. The root of the problem was mismanagement and a failure to follow established procedure (Seattle Times Sep 9, 2005, B3). (Reichert appealed the Labor and Industries decision and lost.)
Reichert’s statements to the media following Herzog’s death were made under a cocktail of sorrow, some guilt, and denial. And he reacted angrily and irrationally.
My hunch is that Reichert’s reaction to the peace activist involved that same cocktail of sorrow, guilt, and denial. By pointing out the Congressman’s shared responsibility for the death of American soldiers in Iraq, the activist triggered the same kind of angry, illogical, and embarrassingly inappropriate retort.