Read Slade Gorton's Biography

444 Pages · 2011 · 11.15 MB · English

  • Read Slade Gorton's Biography


    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


    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.


    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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