Friday, July 14, 2006

Crashing the Republican Gate at McGavick fundraiser

Taking inspiration from Maura in VA’s visit to a Lieberman event, I’ve decided to make it a point to attend Republican town halls and fundraisers in my county whenever possible to ask the questions that they don’t want to answer. I know I won’t change Republican hearts and minds, but the press is usually there, and if the questions are good enough and the candidate’s answers devious enough it will make the local paper.

Last night I crashed a fundraiser for ex-Safeco CEO Mike McGavick, who is hoping to unseat Senator Maria Cantwell. This morning I’m in the newspaper. The reporter was not kind to McGavick…

McGavick stopped in my town of Vancouver (Clark County – in SW WA) on his “OpenMike tour.” He is tooling around Washington State in a huge red rock star style tour bus (he folksily calls it his “RV.”)

I got there ten minutes early to get a good seat up front. I needn’t have worried. The only other folks there were staffers and the miffed political reporter from our newspaper, who was on deadline to file and didn’t appreciate that the event was basically a schmooze-fest. I’ll let her tell it:

It was billed as a “community town hall style forum,” but Mike McGavick’s campaign event proved to be more of a country club affair, complete with sun-dried tomatoes on toast rounds, crab cakes and a cash bar.


But though a press release had billed McGavick’s visit as an “Open Mike” event, the liquor and canapés weren’t intended for the general public. They were for the three dozen guests and potential contributors who showed up to meet McGavick.

In fact, the Vancouver event was a fundraiser—less an “Open Mike” event than an “Open Your Wallet” event, with McGavick chatting up potential donors for most of the evening before delivering a campaign speech. At the end there was time for three questions –two from Democrats. Then people were asked to get out their wallets.

Given the elaborate setup it was obvious they’d expected many more guests. I was surprised that besides me only one other Dem thought to show up. He asked about privatizing Social Security.

McGavick said he does not agree with Bush’s proposal, now shelved, to privatize Social Security. But he outlined a plan that sounded similar to the Bush plan. The difference, he said, is that it would use “voluntary means testing” to encourage people not to collect their Social Security and allow young people to create personal retirement accounts managed by the government.
So once again we’re trying to use the term “personal”. His idea that we could help Social Security solvency if wealthier recipients volunteered to toss their stipends back into the pot was laughable.

I shared the story of my brother-in-law who had worked as an engineer for Polaroid for 30 years but saw the value of his pension evaporate when a series of greedy CEOs bled the company dry with their multi-million dollar pay packages. Then he got laid off, and at 58 can’t find a job, has no health insurance and has no pension. I asked how we can protect loyal workers from pension theft and what we can do to unlink health insurance from employment so workers can take it with them.

McGavick commiserated but then went off on an irrelevant story of what happened when his 7-year old son took a bad spill on their last ski vacation, and how the doc wanted to do a lot of tests because they were insured and she wanted her ass covered, even though it was obvious the boy was only bruised. (The reporter noted his lengthy answer and that it didn’t seem to answer the question.)

I got the last word in the story.

The questioner said she planned to vote for Cantwell. “I feel the Republicans have done so much damage to our democracy that even though I don’t agree with everything Maria Cantwell stands for, I don’t feel I have a choice.”
I’m glad I went, glad I got to hear McGavick’s spiel. It’s important for us to witness what Koolaid is being dispensed so we can counter it.

I was lukewarm about Cantwell till this event but McGavick is so in the Republican mold (immigrant-bashing, family values, free enterprise and fewer regulations, lower taxes, strong defense[offense], etc etc) that I’m now going to work on Cantwell’s campaign.

He is taking his experience at turning Safeco around as evidence that he knows how to fix insurance problems. Since he considers Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare to be insurance problems, he says he’ll be in a unique position to help solve three of the biggest drains on the federal budget. Some voters may buy this logic.

I think he’s a real threat to Maria because he’s very personable and she’s a cool cucumber who doesn’t get down to our part of the state very often. Republicans have been winning our county, and part of the reason is that our elected officials forget that there are a lot of voters outside the Seattle metro area who deserve attention.


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