Teds first speech: so far, so good
Welcome to the world of political buzz words.
By the time you read this, newly elected Gov. Ted 'Bowl With Me' Kulongoski should have rattled out a number of sentences using words such as 'PERS,' 'gridlock,' 'partisan,' 'budget' and 'stalemate' in various permutations.
If you haven't, don't worry. You will.
What's worth noting, however, is that Kulongoski's first week in office hasn't been Salem business as usual. The incoming governor's initial budget proposal and inaugural speeches both had noticeable ripple effects in the state's deep political pond.
Barely a week into his term, some of Kulongoski's biggest supporters during his campaign have come to the painful realization that he was dead serious when he said, 'I do not come bearing a party label on my sleeve Ñ or a quick fix in my back pocket. I do not come with a rigid ideology.'
Leslie Frane and Kathie Best, both leaders of the Service Employees International Union, unleashed the first public condemnation of the governor's proposed budget.
'Two months ago, our members overwhelmingly supported the candidacy of Ted Kulongoski, who pledged to be a governor for all Oregonians. Sadly, his budget belies that pledge,' read a recent SEIU news release.
I don't buy that for a second.
So far, the governor's primary sin is that he speaks a language that many who are used to government as usual don't understand.
When was the last time you heard a Democratic governor use phrases like 'Government will live within its means,' or 'The days of business-as-usual in the state government are over'?
Those phrases are never found in the Official Inaugural Address Handbook, which is usually the source of January pronouncements such as: 'A moment comes, which occurs but rarely in history, when we step out of the old and into the new, when an age of government waste ends, and when the good of a state long suppressed by special interest groups and excessive bureaucracy finds its utterance.'
That kind of sweet emotional rhetoric would have bought time for the governor.
But Kulongoski Ñ a Democrat, remember Ñ spent much of last week pounding home conservative themes of limited government and lower taxes.
So what about his symbolic gestures to the Republicans? It made for arresting TV footage and photo ops. But it may also have marked a deft seizure of some political turf. The new governor's tactics resemble those of past Democratic master Bill Clinton, who did a splendid job of seizing Republican rhetoric in the mid-'90s.
I listened as the new governor spun his speeches. And I came out pining for the good old days, just a few short years ago, when one of Oregon's most passionate debates revolved around establishing reserve funds or otherwise managing the state surplus.
I applaud the new governor for daring to be a different kind of Democrat. I hope he keeps his faith.
Kulongoski should attract a new broader majority Ñ and some credibility Ñ if he champions real tax cuts for middle-income earners.
Former Rep. Chris Beck, one of the most liberal Democrats who did not return to the Legislature this year, suggests that a way to move forward is for Democrats to accept responsibility for the PERS mess, as well as some other controversial aspects of public employee law.
I think this would make it easy for the new governor to push for reforms.