Respect dear leader
A few days ago, a story broke out of Washington state saying that a school bus driver got fired by a local school board last June for giving the finger to President Bush. The story's set off a lot of buzz in Washington political circles, because of an unanswered question at the center of the tale: Did Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), who was with Bush when he got the finger, engineer the driver's firing behind the scenes as retribution for insulting the President? His spokesman has been saying that he didn't. But now Reichert -- who's fending off a tougher-than-expected challenge from Dem Darcy Burner -- has been caught on tape boasting to an audience of Republicans that, yes, he did engineer the driver's firing as retribution for the insult to Bush.
A recap: The 43-year-old driver was bussing a load of middle-school kids back from the Seattle zoo when Bush and Reichert, who was sitting next to the President, passed slowly by in the Presidential motorcade. As this Associated Press story puts it, that's when the driver "extended the old one-finger salute." The driver was subsequently fired by the school district's board in Issaquah, and her union has filed a grievance for wrongful termination.
Now that the story has just come out and gone national, Reichert spokesperson Kimberly Cadena -- and the school district rep -- have both been insisting that Reichert didn't engineer the firing, and that it wasn't political. From the AP:
Reichert later called [the school superintendant] to tell her about the incident, but by the time he got her on the phone, the bus driver had already been fired. District officials had already learned about it because the driver bragged to her colleagues about what she had done, Cadena said.
District spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said the firing was not politically motivated.
"The bus driver was not terminated for making an obscene gesture at the president. The bus driver was terminated for making an obscene gesture in view of the students," Niegowski said. "That's not the role modeling we need for our students."
The Reichert campaign further denied responsibility for the firing by telling local KIRO TV that Reichert called the school superintendendant "one week after it happened." The news channel also claimed the decision to fire the driver had already been made.
But uh-oh -- it turns out that Reichert told a rather different story to a group of Republicans on August 12. A tracker for the Washington Democratic Party recorded the talk, and the party has now sent TPM a copy, which you can listen to right here. Here's what Reichert said:
As the motorcade went by the President and I drove by on I-5. The President was having a great time. He was waving at everybody. And waving at the kids he got the biggest kick out of the kids leaning out the window to say hello to the President of the United States. The sad part of it is, though, we got to the last bus...the bus driver flipped the President off. So the very next day, you know what I did? I called the superintendent of that school district. And that bus driver no longer works for that school. That's the old sherriff part of me still around.
One day after? One week after? Which is it? Taking Reichert at his own word, it looks as if Reichert did get the woman fired for giving the Prez the finger. We've checked in with the Reichert campaign to see if they can account for this, shall we say, inconsistency.
posted by Steve @ 12:57:00 PM