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When and in what context exactly did John Kitzhaber say Oregon was "ungovernable?" That was a prominent quote used by Chris Dudley's campaign. On today's show former Secretary of State and Kitzhaber supporter Phil Keisling questioned the veracity of the quote.
Here's how Kitzhaber explained it in a primary season interview with Willamette Week. In an Oregonian commentary earlier this year former Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts compared it to President Jimmy Carter and the word "malaise." From Roberts' column:
For John Kitzhaber, the word he can't seem to shake is "ungovernable." As with Carter, it can be traced to a single speech in which the word itself never appeared. The speech was before the Eugene Rotary Club on Jan. 7, 2003, six days before turning the reins of the governor's office over to his successor, Ted Kulongoski.
Kitzhaber believes this connection is based on his response to a question after the speech in which he explained how the initiative process and extreme partisanship in the Legislature had so hindered effective leadership as to render the state virtually ungovernable. Although neither the question nor answer were recorded at the time, the speech itself -- the text of which is still available in the gubernatorial archives accessible on the Oregon secretary of state's website -- conveyed the clear sense that he believed Oregon was "ungovernable," just as Carter's speech exuded "malaise" without ever using the word.
Here's the text of Kitzhaber's 2003 speech. At the top, he says he's talking about the challenge of governance. One quote:
Increasingly we see a politics of scarcity and conflict that creates winners and losers. Our political system, and the governance structure through which it acts, contributes to this problem by creating a sense of separateness rather than a sense of community. Citizens are becoming alienated from their government – seeing it as something separate and apart from themselves. They view it with distrust, cynicism and outright hostility. This attitude is reflected in widespread apathy and low voter turnout. Politics in general, and politicians in particular, are viewed with disdain. Money and special interests have moved in to fill the vacuum left by a disengaged and disenchanted electorate. The result is a state fragmented by ideology and partisanship, unable to take effective action on any front and without any sense of community or common purpose.
Despite no record of the exact context of his first use of the word, Kitzhaber defended that overall assessment during the campaign. In a few months we'll find out how he feels with a big budget hold and an almost evenly split legislature.
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