Press Talk: Is McKenna a RINO, and what is an ideal candidate?

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Labels are everywhere.

America’s Team, organic, meathead, Southside Hit Men.

For better or for worse, we all attempt to categorize folks and causes. I plead guilty myself.

I also get labeled. I’m either a liberal or conservative, depending on whom you speak to or what day it is. I’m usually called a liberal on odd-numbered days. Don’t ask me why.

I was thinking about all this labeling stuff after interviewing Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.

McKenna has been labeled a RINO by some of our right-wing friends. This, of course, stands for Republican In Name Only and is clearly a pejorative term. Today, our friends in the Tea Party throw it around.

The Tea Party didn’t invent it, of course. The concept that a Republican might not be conservative enough has been with us for decades.

Back in the day, Republican presidents Nixon, Ford and Eisenhower would have been considered not Republican enough. A RINO. And Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater would have been one of those making the claim.

Then I began to wonder who exactly gets to decide who gets to be called a Republican. Heck, if I were building the ideal candidate — either a Republican or a Democrat — they would look nothing like what is being offered up today. Hmmm. Maybe they would look something like someone who:

• Agrees there are far too many guns on our streets.

• Agrees to stay out of our bedrooms.

• Makes sure women understood the consequences of their medical decisions and then lets women and their doctors decide.

• Is willing to put the hammer down on health care bigwigs who continue to squeeze us with outrageous health care costs. (We just reported the health care system squanders $750 billion a year. Come on, man!)

• Would continue swinging the hammer at the oil industry. Oil is yet another area where folks raise prices outrageously “because they can.” It must end.

• Sees that we don’t need a military conglomerate that is 20 times stronger than the next several countries’ … combined. Someone who agrees that we don’t have to be the world cops.

• Would finally ensure that private and government workers equally sacrifice during our difficult times. Government workers must move to defined contributions — 401(k)s — just like most private workers.

• Sees the painfully obvious. Stop spending money we don’t have! Voters understand the more you politicians give, the more votes you get. But think first of the country, and don’t always worry about getting re-elected. We simply can’t be all things to all people.

As I thought about this make- believe candidate, I began to wonder if he or she is the real Republican? Maybe the RINO is that right-winger, not the other way around?

Of course, my above make-believe candidate could just as easily be a retooled Democrat.

Don’t make no difference to me.

Wouldn’t that be a pretty cool candidate? OK, OK, it ain’t never gonna see the light of day. But if he or she did?

Here’s the label: ULARO! Count me in!

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, or

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