This week’s special Newsmaker Interview is with our good friend, former Congressman Rod Chandler. Rod earned a reputation as a highly respected television journalist (on KOMO TV) and state legislator before becoming the first representative from Washington State’s 8th Congressional District (1983 – 1993). After his public service, Rod worked as a lobbyist and then a schoolteacher and baseball coach. Rod and his wife Joyce have lived in Nevada, Colorado, and Oregon before moving back to Washington State last year. His love of nature comes through in his amazing photography. (Rod’s pictures are featured every Monday in Shift’s Daily Briefing.) In his interview, Rod provides an update on his life, gives advice to those interested in photography, describes how politics and journalism have changed in the past decade, why he joined with many former and current Republican officials to oppose President Trump’s re-election, and who he would like to see lead the Republican Party in 2024. Rod also provides a history lesson by sharing the interesting story on how Seattle’s Convention Center is connected to Washington State’s apple maggot quarantine laws.
First, tell everyone what you have been up to since you departed Congress in 1993. You have lived in a few different places before settling back in Washington State?
We remained in Washington, DC and I worked as a lobbyist for about 15 years. It was far from my first choice of occupation, however, it was a good way to restore our family financially. We had a son and daughter to help through college and a retirement for which we were anything but prepared. After leaving Washington we lived for five years in the Las Vegas area near our son and his family. When they moved to Colorado we relocated to Aurora and lived there for thirteen years. Our daughter Amanda married an Australian man and has lived in Sydney for 25 years. We have two grandchildren here in the states and two in Australia. Regrettably, we lost our son to cancer a year and a half ago. He was only forty-nine. Since July of last year we have lived in Sedro Woolley where my brother founded a small, manufacturing company, TruckVault. We invested in the company and I serve on the board. We are delighted to be living here in the state and we LOVE being away from the big city.
What motivated you to obtain a teaching certificate once you left politics?
I always had in mind to teach one day. Two teachers in particular had an enormously positive influence on my life and I felt that I would like to, perhaps, help a youngster the way they helped me. I taught U.S. Government and coached baseball. It was a great experience and I know that in a couple of instances, at least, I was able to encourage a young person.
We realize this is a complex question, but what are the biggest changes in American politics? Also, since you additionally had experience in TV journalism, what do you see as the biggest difference in how the media covers politics?
The night I was elected to the U.S House of Representatives, I received a call from Senator Henry Jackson. He told me that he had campaigned for my opponent but congratulated me on my victory. He said that he looked forward to working with me in the delegation. I recall, during evening floor session in the summer, congressional families would picnic on the lawn east of the Capitol. Democrats-Republicans and their kids would be out there enjoying nice weather and one another’s company. We played pickup basketball together. We got to know other members and we became friends. My son dated a Democratic member’s daughter for a year or so. In the 1980s, that was the way it worked. Today, politics has become incredibly toxic. A common tactic is to absolutely demonize the opposition. Both parties are guilty of it so that the kind of bipartisan cooperation that got things done years ago simply does not exist today.
As a reporter in the late 1960s and 1970s, I did my best to keep my personal viewpoint from influencing my reporting. I think most reporters did. Today, journalists seem to feel it their duty to tell people what happened and what to think about it. While I am certainly no fan of Donald Trump, I also believe the media was never fair to him.
Have you noticed how, today, reporters on FOX, CNN, MSNBC and others interview one another? Who cares what those reporters think? Interview the newsmakers and let me decide what to think.
Shift readers love our weekly feature of using one of your beautiful photographs in our Daily Briefing every Monday. Tell us how you became interested in photography and what advice do you have for those who want to take up the hobby?
My parents gave me a Kodak Brownie camera when I was eight years old. From that point on I took pictures. When I worked at KOMO-TV I learned photography from the cameramen there and I also took an extensive course in photography at the University of Washington. I later studied photography manuals and learned from a few workshops. I also travel today with a group of five other photographers, all quite advanced in the skill, and we all learn from one another. We call our group “The Breakin’ Wind Photographers.” Our next outing is a September trip to the Badlands of South Dakota. I love sharing my pictures and appreciate you displaying one of my images each week.
A good way for beginners to learn is to join a camera club. Very often, club members will critique a newcomer’s work and help them understand how to improve. Purchase a good camera. However, it is not necessary to buy expensive equipment; most manufacturers offer entry level camera-lens-kits that provide a great way to learn while producing good quality images. I believe a photography course is advised as well. A person can usually find a course on photography and digital processing at a nearby community college. Manuals on basic photography are available as well. The main thing is to learn how to integrate shutter speed, aperture opening and ISO. Once a person understands those basics they are on the way.
Last Summer, Governor Inslee caused serious problems when he illegally brought maggot-infested apples into Eastern Washington. We understand you had something to do with the road signs informing people not to transport fruit across the mountains. What is the story behind your involvement?
During the 1981-82 legislative session the Republicans got behind the idea of building a convention center in Seattle. The state was experiencing a major recession and it was believed that a project like that would bring business, jobs and tax revenue to Washington. We needed one more vote in the Senate to get the bill through. I went to see the late Senator Max Benitz from the Yakima Valley area. He told me that he needed to get the “Apple Maggot Quarantine Area” bill out of the House before he would even consider voting for the convention center. I was Ways and Means Chairman and the bill was in my committee. I called an emergency meeting and we passed the bill out. Speaker Bill Polk immediately brought the bill to the floor and we passed it, probably within a couple of hours of my conversation with Max. Senator Benitz was good for his word; he voted for the convention center. As predicted, the facility has attracted thousands of people and millions of dollars to Washington. I hope the Apple Maggot Quarantine Bill has been as effective.
You joined a large group of current and former elected Republicans in opposing President Trump’s re-election last Fall. Why did you do this? What has been the reaction to your opposition of President Trump?
I opposed Trump’s nomination in 2016, believing him to be nowhere near qualified to govern a great nation like our America. In the following four years, to my estimation, he proved that judgment correct. From the moment Trump entered the White House, the government in Washington, DC became a chaotic mess. Our allies were offended while dictators were embraced. Our country has not been this divided since the Vietnam War. I endorsed Joe Biden because I wanted to bring a responsible, experienced person to the White House to restore common sense, order and a measure of respect for our country that had been forfeited by the senseless tweets of the last four years.
I am sure there are people who know me and disagree. I respect them and their opinion. But principle is critical. My father always taught me to stand for what I believe is right. I do not believe he would be disappointed that I took the stand that I did. I am for more concerned about what my dad would think that I am with anyone else’s view.
Taking a look ahead to 2024, who would you like to see be the Republican nominee for President?
We need a candidate along the lines of Ronald Reagan. President Reagan took strong, unequivocal stands on numerous issues. He presented his views, however, with a smile and a warmth that made him popular with Americans from all walks of life. He told Americans that he liked them and respected them. Americans returned the respect and the affection. Reagan would never have referred to Democrats, let alone fellow Republicans, with derisive terms such as “crooked Hillary” or “Pocahontas.” President Reagan would never have stooped to that nor would he have attacked a fellow Republican, like John Mc Cain, because the senator voted against his wishes. President Reagan understood that there will always be a “next time.”
We desperately need to reestablish fiscal responsibility at all levels of government but most particularly in Washington, DC. The spending rampage did not begin with Joe Biden, it has gone on for years and Donald Trump exacerbated it. We need a candidate who realizes that people are afraid today, a person who will stand up to the thugs – right and left – who are out to steal, terrorize and destroy. We need a candidate who understands the fact that climate change is with us and who will work with scientists and our allies to reduce carbon emissions globally. We need a compassionate conservative who recognizes that education is critical to our nation’s future and who will support public education at all levels. Our candidate needs to embrace those who have come across the border and who toil at jobs most naturalized citizens would never accept. We need to appeal to citizens with a promise of opportunity not a handout. We need a candidate who understands the importance of alliances with countries around the world and who will face China, Russia, Iran and other adversaries with the strength of unity. Our candidate must never attempt to divide Americans along racial, religious or any other lines. We need a candidate who respects every American citizen whether that person be white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native, Christian, LGBTQ, liberal or conservative. Republicans need to stop demonizing the news media. Coverage of politics is far from what it should be, but picking unnecessary fights only results in greater enmity.
I served in the Congress with John Kasich of Ohio. I supported him in the 2016 primary. John is a fiscal conservative but is able to display a compassionate, understanding of human needs. He served as governor of Ohio and did very well so he not only knows the Congress but he has important executive experience. If John steps up I will most certainly support him. The LAST thing we need is for Donald Trump to be nominated. I believe he would lose decisively and take many Republicans with him.
For more examples of Rod’s photographic skills, please visit his website RodChandlerPhotography.com
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