It’s all in the art of the dance

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

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photoLou Brancaccio

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Check out a video of “Boogaloo Down Broadway” by the Fantastic Johnny C

photoPoliticians love to dance.

In a world where most of us would love to see black and white, we are awash in grays.

Maybe the idea of simply saying yes or no is, well, not an option.

Maybe.

Let’s be honest, we all do it. But one group has pretty much perfected it.

Politicians.

I call what they do the art of the dance.

My elected friends and those who work for them are experts at spending 10 minutes answering a question — without doing so.

Why, I’ve seen political types boogaloo down Broadway better than the Fantastic Johnny C.

Just recently, in fact, my friend Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, was seen doing the boogaloo.

He was sort of answering a question about whether he was interested in running for secretary of state. An intern for us — Justin Runquist — asked him about it. It resulted in a story saying Pridemore was considering it.

But was he?

After the story appeared, Pridemore said he absolutely was not.

So what happened?

Well, we got involved in — you guessed it — the art of the dance.

If Pridemore had simply said no, life — and the story — would have been easy.

But Pridemore said something like “never say never.” He danced.

So was there an advantage, in Pridemore’s view, to dance? Yes.

You see, there was indeed a rumor floating around Olympia that Pridemore was considering a go at the secretary of state’s job and he felt that was good for him.

“It was good for me politically. It built up political capital. It showed I was a player in Olympia.”

And being a player in Olympia translates into power for Pridemore. And power for Pridemore means he can deliver better stuff to his constituents back here.

So rather than knocking the rumor down, when our reporter asked, he let it live. And that resulted in our story saying he was considering it.

When Pridemore saw our story in print, the statement felt way too strong to him. So he was left with no choice but to knock it down.

A second story was written quoting Pridemore as saying he had no interest in running for secretary of state.

I give Pridemore high marks for talking about the art of the dance. Some of his elected brothers and sisters would have you believe dancing doesn’t exist, kind of like how the mafia doesn’t exist.

In this case, Pridemore sees how it all got a little sideways.

“Maybe as a politician I was being a little more subtle than I should have been, but I didn’t want to actually quash the rumor, I just didn’t want to feed anything into it.”

So what’s a journalist to do?

We’re sometimes too easy on these guys. We often have great questions and ask them, but we don’t always ask the tougher follow-up question to try to pin them down.

Oh, they still can dance around that second question, but we simply need to keep pushing.

Hey, I love the boogaloo as much as anyone. But I could only suggest to politicians that unless they can really cut the rug, stay off the dance floor, please.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.