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Read Slade Gorton's Biography

444 Pages · 2011 · 11.15 MB · English

  • Read Slade Gorton's Biography

    SLADE GORTON


    A HAlf Century in PolitiCs


    John C. Hughes


    5p.Slade Gorton.indd 1 8/2/11 9:34 AM First Edition


    Copyright © 2011


    Office of the Secretary of State


    All rights reserved


    ISBN 978-1-889320-24-3


    Book design by Suzanne Harris / Integrated Composition Systems


    Cover design by Laura Mott


    Printed in the United States of America


    By Thomson-Shore


    This is one in a series of biographies and oral histories published by the Wash-


    ington State Legacy Project. Other history-makers profiled by the project include


    former governor Booth Gardner; Northwest Indian fisheries leader Billy Frank;


    Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn; former first lady Nancy Evans; astronaut Bon-


    nie J. Dunbar; Bremerton civil rights activist Lillian Walker; former chief justice


    Robert F. Utter; former justice Charles Z. Smith; trailblazing political reporter


    Adele Ferguson; Federal Judge Carolyn Dimmick, and Nirvana co-founder Krist


    Novoselic. For more information on The Legacy Project go to http://www.sos


    .wa.gov/legacyproject/


    Cover photo: Gorton listens to testimony from National Security Adviser


    Condoleezza Rice at a 9/11 Commission hearing on April 8, 2004, in


    Washington, D.C. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak


    3p.Slade Gorton.indd 2 7/29/11 8:38 AM For Sally and Patsy


    3p.Slade Gorton.indd 3 7/29/11 8:38 AM 3p.Slade Gorton.indd 4 7/29/11 8:38 AM Contents


    Introduction: Slippery Slade? 1


    1. The Gortons and Slades 9


    2. Dumb and Dumped 22


    3. The Change Agents 28


    4. The Freshman 36


    5. A Power Struggle 45


    6. The Coalition 49


    7. Taking on Giants 61


    8. Weird and Wonderful Shapes 65


    9. Majority Rules 75


    10. General Gorton 80


    11. Unhappy Days 96


    12. Riding with History 108


    13. Gorton Agonistes 114


    14. The Jolt from Boldt 120


    15. Designated Hitters 134


    16. Bicentennial Follies 139


    17. A Gold Watch for Maggie 150


    18. The Giant Killers 162


    19. Deficit Hawks 171


    20. Ship Shape 180


    21. The Year of Living Dangerously 189


    22. Déjà vu All Over Again 198


    23. Gorton v. Zappa 203


    24. Let’s Make a Deal 209


    25. Trick or Treat 214


    26. Post-mortems 228


    27. The Comeback 231


    3p.Slade Gorton.indd 5 7/29/11 8:38 AM 28. Who Gives a Hoot? 253


    29. Back at Bat 268


    30. New Friends and Old Enemies 274


    31. A House Divided 284


    32. Messy and Unpredictable 288


    33. Close Calls and Tragedies 295


    34. Refuse to Lose 299


    35. The Council of Trent 304


    36. ‘Dump Slade 2000’ 310


    37. High Crimes or Misdemeanors? 318


    38. A Dubious Honor 324


    39. An Outbreak of Candor 337


    40. Commissioner Gorton 340


    41. Confrontation and Consensus 344


    42. The Nature of the Enemy 357


    43. Petroleum and Beyond 364


    44. Not So Super 370


    45. The Extraordinary Octogenarian 375


    Acknowledgements 385


    Donors 388


    Source Notes 389


    Bibliography 415


    Index 421


    About the Author 437


    4p.Slade Gorton.indd 6 7/29/11 4:13 PM Slippery Slade?


    KeLLie cARLson wAs coLd from her nose to her toes. Just out of col-


    lege, she was an entry-level legislative assistant on Capitol Hill at


    $14,000 per year. Washington, D.C., was a far cry from Pullman,


    Washington, not to mention the wide spot in the road where her dad lost


    his shirt in the forest products business when logging was slashed to save


    the spotted owl. Working for U.S. Senator Slade Gorton was her dream


    job. After rent, groceries and a car payment, however, she was always


    flirting with dead broke by mid-month.


    One evening in the winter of 1995 several staffers were accompanying


    Slade to a reception on Capitol Hill. “Kellie, where’s your coat?” he scolded


    fatherly halfway down the block. “Go back to the office and get your coat.”


    “I don’t have a coat,” she said so softly it was almost a whisper. “Please,


    Slade, don’t embarrass me.”


    “You don’t have a coat?”


    “Well, not a winter coat, but I’m going to get one when I get paid.”


    “Tomorrow,” he said when the event was over, “Sally and I are going to


    Delaware for a walk on Rehoboth Beach. You’re coming with us. There’s


    an outlet mall there, and you’re going to get yourself a coat.”


    Mortified, she wanted to say “Tomorrow isn’t pay day.” But she just


    nodded and worried herself home.


    Next morning they drove to the outlet mall—Slade, Sally, Kellie and


    Brig, a big old slobbery dog, stuffed into an un-senatorial Geo Prizm.


    At $70, the cheapest winter coats were still more than she could afford.


    “I just wanted to throw up. It was so embarrassing.”


    Then Slade handed her some coupons he’d been saving. “This is your


    contribution,” he said. “Sally and I will take care of the rest.”


    “They took me to lunch and we came home. It was a wonderful day.


    Whenever I hear someone from Seattle say what an arrogant, aloof man


    he is I want to shout ‘You don’t know the real Slade Gorton!’”


    It’s a green wool coat—a good Republican cloth coat—that she trea-


    sures to this day.


    1


    3p.Slade Gorton.indd 1 7/29/11 8:38 AM 2 slade gorton: a half century in politics


    Which brings us to the paramount duty of every biographer: Answer-


    ing “What’s he really like?”


    He’s complicated. There’s the man behind the coat, the boss who in-


    spired such loyalty, and he who does not suffer fools gladly; the nimble


    hardball-player who elevated running against Greater Seattle to an art form.


    If they got this far, his old enemies are still gagging over the coat story.


    it Was ed donohoe, the acerbic Teamsters union columnist, who hung


    “slippery” on Slade Gorton 50 years ago. Donohoe had a nickname for


    everyone. Governor Dan Evans, the Eagle Scout who led Gorton into poli-


    tics, was “Straight Arrow.” A. Ludlow Kramer, the secretary of state, was


    “Lud the Dud.” Watching Gorton at work as Evans’ legislative tactician in


    the 1960s, helping engineer a coup that overthrew the speaker of the


    House, Donohoe said the Democrats were left to grouse about how hard


    it was to win an argument with someone “so goddamn smart.” Gorton’s


    redistricting battles with Bob Greive, the Senate majority leader, were a


    high-stakes political chess match the likes of which the State Legislature


    has seldom seen.


    As Washington’s attorney general, Gorton was one of the first major


    Republican officials to call for Nixon’s resignation. He was also a far-


    sighted consumer protection activist. As a U.S. senator, his insistence on


    deficit reduction infuriated Ronald Reagan. His support for the National


    Endowment for the Arts left Jesse Helms sputtering. He outraged Native


    Americans. Environmentalists intent on curtailing logging and breach-


    ing dams elevated him to their “Dirty Dozen” even while he was preserv-


    ing vast tracts of scenic land and pressuring Detroit to adopt higher mile-


    age standards. He was 6–2 in statewide races, defeating a legend to get to


    the U.S. Senate. The two he lost were remarkably close.


    One of Gorton’s heroes, Teddy Roosevelt, always said the spotlight


    comes with the territory when you’re “the man in the arena,” living the


    strenuous life, doing things. Gorton has been in the arena without inter-


    ruption since 1956 and shows no signs of slowing down.


    the alarM is set for 6:45. It rarely goes off. At 83, he’s clear-eyed at


    dawn, checking the Weather Channel to see if he should wear tights un-


    der his running shorts. Then he’s out the door, rain or shine, for a two-


    mile jog with Trip, his faithful Yellow Lab. When they return some 30


    minutes later, he shaves and showers before breakfast. When it’s chilly,


    he wants oatmeal. Usually, though, it’s the same concoction he learned to


    love at Boy Scout camp—shredded wheat, corn flakes, Rice Krispies and


    1r.Slade Gorton.indd 2 8/23/11 8:42 AM intRoduction 3


    fruit, garnished with Grape Nuts. Sally surveys the hall to see how well he


    and Trip wiped their feet. “I used to tell my friends I’ve done more than


    most people have done by the time I get him out the door,” she sighs.


    They’ve been married for 53 eventful years.


    He usually heads to one of his offices or the airport. As a lawyer, lob-


    byist, foundation member and political strategist, he still spends a lot of


    time in D.C. Fun is a good book. They’re piled high everywhere. Spring


    is his favorite season because baseball begins. Without him, Seattle


    wouldn’t have the Mariners.


    Capable of breathtaking political somersaults, he is slippery. But defi-


    nitely not in the sense that Bill Clinton was “Slick Willie,” his silver


    tongue and roving eye compromising his brilliant promise. Clinton’s in-


    tellectual equal, Gorton is virtually viceless, except for his impatience,


    which can morph into arrogance if things get tedious. He bristles when


    his integrity is challenged.


    After his crushing first defeat in 1986, his friends staged an interven-


    tion that rinsed out some of the hubris. He learned to resist the temptation


    to finish your sentences; stopped telling reporters they had just asked sin-


    gularly stupid questions; grew more thoughtful. His first grandchild, a


    chubby-cheeked charmer, was a revelation. She’s now an officer in the U.S.


    Navy. The fourth, a handsome boy who turned out to be autistic, taught


    him even more. The coupon-clipping closet softie made more appearances.


    Confronted by a dullard, however, his eyes still reveal that he’s weighing


    whether to respond with a large butterfly net or a blow dart.


    “You may have noticed that I’m not the world’s warmest person,” he


    quipped to his biographer.


    Do tell.


    “He’s not a schmoozer,” says Sally, chuckling at the understatement.


    “When he plays Pickleball, he always aims for your toes. He hates to lose.”


    Besides books, baseball and dogs, he likes York Mints and meat loaf.


    The man often accused of being humorless actually laughs a lot, espe-


    cially at himself. He can be spontaneously mischievous. Shortly after Al


    and Tipper Gore’s famous passionate kiss at the Democratic National


    Convention, Slade grabbed Sally at a Republican gathering and gave her a


    smooch that brought down the house. She wanted to kill him.


    with his LeAn fRAMe, tall forehead, angular chin, toothy smile and big,


    bespectacled eyes, Thomas Slade Gorton III is a cartoonist’s dream. For a


    roast, admirers commissioned a Bobblehead from David Horsey, the Seat-


    tle Post-Intelligencer’s Pulitzer Prize winner.


    3p.Slade Gorton.indd 3 7/29/11 8:38 AM


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