Editor’s note: Today’s editorial originally appeared in The Yakima Herald-Repbulic. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
Interesting — if a bit curious — that we are now seeing a whole new side of Gov. Jay Inslee as he gallivants across the country on presidential windmill-tilting stops, landing prime-time TV appearances on “The Daily Show” and his own CNN “Town Hall.”
We here in his home state have long known he was a former high school football and basketball star and comes off as an all-around jock, and recently we’ve seen in the Governor’s Mansion the not-bad pastel landscapes he sketches as a stress-reliever.
What we didn’t know, until recently, is that Inslee also is as skilled a contortionist — at least when it comes to his positions on certain issues — as a yoga master, and that he has a knack of painting himself into the corner with his conflicting rhetoric.
Those attributes emerged front and center in the past two weeks, as Inslee has twice told national television audiences that his once-ballyhooed 2013 deal with Boeing, which gave the aerospace giant an $8.7 billion tax break and ensured that jobs would stay in the state, amounted to nothing less than a “mugging” and an “extortion” attempt.
Whoa. That’s quite a head-spinning 180-degree reversal by a governor. Remember, in 2013, Inslee called the Boeing deal, which he strong-armed through the Legislature, “a great step forward for the state of Washington,” one that makes “certain that Washington’s aerospace future will be as bright as its past.”
Now, fast forward to 2019, and there is Inslee, a little grayer but with the same square-jawed earnestness, telling Trevor Noah: “If you’ve ever been mugged, you understand what it feels like. ... These corporations put a gun to your ribs and say you’re going to lose 20,000 jobs unless you get (them) a tax break.” Then, during his CNN “Town Hall,” he lamented to Wolf Blitzer, “I made an unfortunately necessary deal,” adding that threatening to move jobs equaled “extortion,” and “I think we should be protected from that type of behavior.”
So, which way, Jay? Good deal or bad? We can still picture in our mind’s eye your 2013 photo op in which you signed Boeing’s tax-break legislation with a model airplane in the foreground. Now, as politicians of nearly every stripe are piling on Boeing in the wake of the two deadly 737 crashes, you suddenly are in league with the Bernie Sanders’ faction of the Democratic party that abhors corporate welfare masquerading as job-securing legislation?
Truth is, by this time, we don’t know where Inslee really stands. He’s being, in short, a consummate politician, a guy who raises a finger to the sky to see which way the wind blows. Maybe his position has evolved, as they say, over time. But the Boeing bashing comes off as disingenuous given the cheerleading he’d done for the company throughout his gubernatorial term.
Remember that it was Inslee who called a three-day special session of the Legislature in 2013 to prod them into action. It was Inslee who, in a 2015 Boston Globe interview called the deal good for the state. It was Inslee who, during the 2016 re-election race, defended the tax breaks. And in 2017, after the Legislature voted to lower the business and occupation tax rate for 10,000 state manufacturing firms to the same percentage that Boeing got in 2013, it was Inslee who vetoed the bill, telling the Herald-Republic editorial board that, unlike in the Boeing deal, the B&O tax break for businesses would not guarantee that jobs would be saved.
Consistently, right up until he announced his candidacy for the nation’s highest office, Inslee had been bullish on the Boeing deal.
Now, having to deal with the progressive, anti-corporate-bailout wing of his party, Inslee has embraced the corporate extortion angle. He advocates legislation that would prevent corporations from pitting one state against another for the sweetest deal, telling Noah, “No local community should be blackmailed by any corporation.”
How convenient to say that now, essentially kicking Boeing while it’s down.
This revisionist history by the governor has been assailed by state Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, told the news website Crosscut that Inslee “gave glowing reviews to his deal” back in the day, and “now there is a different Jay Inslee than the one who made that deal.” Then again, the Democratic sponsor of that 2013 bill, Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, told Crosscut that Boeing’s tactics really were “ruthless” and implied that Inslee didn’t want to risk the aerospace giant cutting and running if no deal was reached. The kicker is, since the 2013 deal, Boeing employs 17,000 fewer people in the state after attrition and buyouts, according to a Seattle Times story. The company still has 69,813 employees in the state.
Whatever the case, cynics among us are not surprised by Inslee’s reversal. From the Oval Office to a City Council chambers, words and deeds often don’t match, and positions are taken merely for political expediency.
Expect more verbal gymnastics from the governor as the campaign wears on. He’s a guy who knows how to play the game.