Sunday, August 26, 2007

Darcy and the sheriff

-- by Dave

I'm going to admit to a big bias about Darcy Burner right up front. I had the great good fortune to spend a couple of months this past spring working weekly with Darcy on a startup business project, and I can tell you that however smart and personable she appears on the public stage, that only is the faintest impression of how smart and how personable she really is. Most of all, Darcy's values -- her deep conviction on issues, and her unerring ethical compass -- tell you everything you need to know about her as a politician.

As longtime readers know, I'm not much in the business of endorsing politicians. You can usually tell which way I'm voting by what I write about a given politico, but I'm wary of getting behind individual politicians because so often they disappoint. I have no such wariness with Darcy Burner.

Watch this clip and you can see why. It's from her 2006 debate with Rep. Dave Reichert, the Republican ex-sheriff who holds the 8th District seat currently, and narrowly defeated Burner that year. The question arises -- because pharmacists have made it a legal issue -- whether pharmacists should be required to fill prescriptions that run counter to their personal religious beliefs. It's a real minefield of an issue, and the response of the typical triangulating Democrat in such situations is to offer up some kind of middle ground and namby-pamby their way around the issue.

But Burner doesn't mess around. "No," she insists, and then lays out clearly exactly why pharmacists have no business making moral decisions regarding the health of a patient because that's a decision for her doctor to be making -- someone who knows her medical history; indeed, someone who may be prescribing birth control mediciations for reasons (often hormonal) unrelated to contraception.

It's clear, direct, easy to understand, and a perfectly ethical position to stake out -- nor easy to answer. It's also heartfelt; you can see she is speaking as a woman, like most women, with some experience in this issue. Which may be why Reichert responds as he does.

First we see Reichert, early in the video, interrupt Burner, declaring "Yes!" loudly when she says "No," forcing her to wait to finish her response. Then, after her erudite reply, he has to ask: "Jim, what was the question again?"

The moderator, James Veseley of the Seattle Times, rereads it: "Do you think it is OK for a pharmacist to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions for religious or moral reasons?"

Reichert again answers only: "Yes."

And that's it.

The paternalistic arrogance of that reply -- a simple insistence without any accompanying logic or reason -- really put Reichert's approach to minority issues, including most importantly women's issues -- on stark display. Just give 'em the ol' authoritative "yes" from the sheriff, and don't bother with explaining yourself. It's the John Wayne style of governance.

I have made a point of showing this video to a number of friends. The educated men I know laugh knowingly; but the response from women has been more interesting -- more visceral, more angry. They all know men like the sheriff. He reminds them of bad old bosses or bad boyfriends or divorced husbands.

Which, of course, fits rather perfectly with Monday's visit on Reichert's behalf by President George W. Bush -- who also tends to remind people of soiled relationships gone by.

So I hope everyone on Monday at 3 p.m. PDT goes to Darcy's site to take part in the Virtual Town Hall on the Iraq war that she's sponsoring as a fund-raiser for her campaign. McJoan of Daily Kos, who has the complete rundown on the participants, will be moderating.

And while you're at it: Pitch in for Darcy at ActBlue.

UPDATE: Darcy topped $100,000.

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