In politics, perception can raise more questions than reality can clearly answer.
That’s why the absence of beleaguered Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon on the receiving line for President Barack Obama on Friday morning created a stir.
When Obama descended the stairs of Air Force One Friday morning, several distinguished Democratic politicians greeted him.
First, he shook the hand of the Gov. Chris Gregoire, then her husband, Mike.
Next up was Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, then King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.
The one hand he didn’t shake belonged to Reardon, the highest ranking Democratic office-holder in the county. His MIA status was made glaringly obvious by the presence of those other two guys from the county south of here.
Was he snubbed? Did those making arrangements for the commander-in-chief’s visit not want to see the president photographed with a Democratic pol whose personal and political behavior are under intense public scrutiny these days?
The perception among some of the political class at the event was indeed that Reardon got left off the VIP list for the plane-side welcome, a point with which Reardon disagreed.
I emailed the White House to find out but didn’t get a response.
Reardon didn’t miss the event; even he wouldn’t let a small snub prevent him from seeing the president.
He wound up hanging out with Deputy County Executive Gary Haakenson, staffer Kevin Hulten and 2,000 others on the floor of the factory where the president spoke.
And Reardon didn’t try to make himself scarce. At one point he stood next to the barrier separating guests from the press corps.
That’s when I approached him to ask about his not being on the tarmac. Certainly he had been invited, right?
Reardon said he could have been there with the others but arrived after the assigned check-in time, delayed by a need to take care of an ill family member.
Without questioning his whereabouts, there’s reasonable doubt his arrival time made a difference. The window for when those with tickets to the speech had to get through security closed a bit sooner than for the dignitaries who braved the chilly morning to be on the tarmac.
Showing up at all certainly had to be awkward, if not for him, for others who know him, given all that’s going on his life these days.
Yet if reports in The Herald of his campaigning on the public dime and on television of an alleged affair provided a good excuse to stay home, the executive, now in his third term, didn’t use it.
Before the speech, I pressed him on whether this had been a difficult day, given the circumstances.
Not surprisingly Reardon, his attire and appearance as manicured as ever, did what he does better than most in his trade — answer a question not directly asked.
“This is a great day. The president is in Snohomish County to talk about the manufacturing jobs he wants to create and he’s using this place as a showcase,” he said. “Yes, this is a great day.”
To each their own perception.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.