Senator Larry Craig and his staff – and they wouldn’t be alone – must still be wondering about just what the hell happened at their town hall meeting Tuesday night in Coeur d’Alene. They’d have good reason to, because a significant issue rides on it: To what extent did it reflect a substantial strain, or just fluke fissure, in the community?
Craig has taken heat for a few years now from parts of the conservative community – which for most of his years in Congress has given him unqualified support – for his stand on immigration and illegal aliens, a stance bearing some resemblance to that of President George W. Bush. Yes, there are a lot of people in this country who aren’t supposed to be, and that fact – and border security – need to be dealt with more effectively, Craig has suggested. But he also suggests that there’s no reason for a panic reaction, either.
As he was quoted by the Coeur d’Alene Press: “You can’t go door to door and force between 8 million and 10 million people to leave at gunpoint. For 20 years, immigration laws have failed. We know there’s a problem and we’re working on it. The first step is securing the border and we’re doing that.”
That seems hard to argue with, reflecting a general reality we’ve managed to live with for a long time, and yet the reaction has suggested it’s an edgy statement. In some places, as at Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint, audiences have been fine with it. In some places in southern Idaho, reaction was angrier. But the reaction at – and yes, this is where it was – the Human Rights Education Institute at Coeur d’Alene, was something else again.
The Press said that “of nearly 60 people in attendance, many wanted action, including immediate deportation. They said it was a crisis that was going to bankrupt the country and cited numerous examples of problems in Southern California, including drugs, rape, and gangs. Some went so far as to say he wasn’t doing his job to uphold and protect the Constitution and has failed the citizens of Idaho.” (Robert Vasquez, a Canyon County commissioner and recent congressional candidate, has for some years been saying the same thing; this year his message has expanded across more territory.)
The spearhead of the protest or at least the loudest protester apparently was Stan Hess, a candidate for office, opposing Denny Hague for a seat on the North Idaho College Board of Trustees. The Press said he “erupted with anger over the immigration issue. He screamed at Craig and the citizens, who tried to boo him down. Then Hess confronted a woman and yelled at her only a few inches away from her face. Several people stood up to diffuse the confrontation. Craig’s handlers said they were moments away from calling the police. Hess, who also blasted NIC professor and longtime Human Rights advocate Tony Stewart, stormed out of the meeting.”
And Hess is who, exactly?
Spokesman-Review blogger Dave Oliveria located an online bio, one written in what’s itnended to be a favorable tone, posted on the web site of the Adelaide Institute. The Wikipedia describes that organization as “a Holocaust revisionist group in Australia and is considered to be both a hate group and anti-Semitic by Australian and international human rights groups.” The Hess bio describes him as a Florida native who grew up in Texas, once enamored of leftist politics but switched to the very hard right, getting involved in anti-immigration issues in California and Alabama. And it notes, “For the last few years Stan has been a board member of the European American Cultural Council, a contributor to Community News, and the Idaho representative of EURO, the Civil rights organization founded by David Duke.” Yes, that David Duke.
It may be, as Oliveria suggests, that Hess’ performance at the Craig town hall provided ample information about who not to vote for in the NIC trustee election. Additionally, though, it – and the not-so-divergent views of others in the audience – shows that razing an Aryan Nations encampment has not yet erased some ugly strains in northern Idaho.Share on Facebook