Over the next few days a bunch of public officials around the Northwest and elsewhere will be sworn into office, and public spectacles will be made of few of those events.
That Idaho's new governor and third in the last eight months, C.L. "Butch" Otter, did his formal swearing-in today behind closed doors (a public repetition, with inaugural speech, to follow on Thursday) rather than out in public didn't really a say a lot, last week's press upset about the matter notwithstanding. It was a formal procedural; we don't ordinarily insist on observing over-shoulder the governor' s signings of various official papers, either.
It was a symbolic event, but in connection with that, a few other elements of symbolism connected with this first day of the Otter Administration might be noted. (The transitional period between election and inauguration, in other words, now over.)
One was the "because we said so" response to reporter requests to observe the swearing-in: It suggests a certain odd tone-deafness in relations with the press and public statements (the sort of thing Idahoans saw several times during last year's campaign, and probably cost Otter several percentage points of support along the way). Had we been offering advice, we might have said: Could it have really hurt that much to let one reporter into the room, acting as a pool observer, at the moment the swearing-in occurred, and then ushered that person out? A pile of ugly news stories - never mind whether valid or not in their point - would have been blown away. Simply put, that would have been the practical, useful tactic of realistic politics. How will Otter and his people react when the issues are more serious and substantive?
Two other curious points of symbolism.
One is that Otter followed up his long-sought swearing in by - in his first official act - temporarily abdicating by leaving the state, to attend a Boise State University game in Arizona.
The other was his choice of a judge to swear him in: Not the usual Idaho state supreme court justice, which has ordinarily been the case, but - to swear in this politician who has run against the federal government as much as any - a federal district judge, Edward Lodge. We have, certainly, no brief against Lodge, who is highly respected (and served for many years as a state district judge too). But the choice of a federal judge by Otter surely should be worthy of some note . . .
ADDITIONALLY: Otter wasted absolutely no time getting his administration on the web - the revised Otter governor's web site is up and running, and has a clean, classy, and easily navigable, look and feel.