Writings and observations

idaho RANDY
The Idaho

Now that we’re properly into 2013, time has come – yes, it has – to start looking at the political races of 2014. In Idaho, that starts with governor.

The most day-glo prospect, as we sit in January, is that of a Republican primary pitting incumbent Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter against Representative Raul Labrador. It’s a prospect too that allows for a real choice for Idaho Republicans.

There’s absolutely no certainty it’ll play out that way. Otter has said he plans to run, but he may have been saying that for purposes of fundraising or avoiding lame duck status. Labrador has expressed some interest in running for governor, but the pull of Washington is often heady stuff. Neither may wind up filing for the office next year.

There are reasons it could happen, though. The guess here is that a big reason Otter ran for re-election in 2010 was that enough people (Republicans among them) had challenged his handling of the job, and Otter responds to challenges. He has one now. Otter is on the side of the Republican party that is more establishment-oriented and concerned with economic growth; while ideology is important to him, he has shown himself willing to bend on a variety of items. He, like the state’s senators and Representative Mike Simpson, could be put in the “realist/pragmatist” camp. You can put on the relevant bill of goods for Otter establishing a state health insurance exchange, dumping immediate reconsideration of the Luna school laws, and improving the state’s transportation system.

Those stands have put him distinctly and fiercely at odds with the part of the party that’s more ideology-driven. Otter’s recent intense lobbying of the state Republican organization for the insurance exchange, and party leaders’ repudiation of it, was but one recent example.

And Labrador (along with Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, who seems to have been almost cast off by Otter) is very much a central figure in that more insurgent ideology group, one overlapping with the Tea Party but extending beyond it. He and Otter were in opposition (over gas tax policy) even back when Labrador was in the Idaho, not the U.S. House. In the Labrador-Simpson dustup in the last few weeks, Otter would clearly be placed closer to Simpson.

If Labrador does decide to bag Washington and run for governor, Otter might feel hard-pressed not to contest him. If Otter doesn’t run, there’s a widespread presumption that his close ally and appointee Lieutenant Governor Brad Little will. A few years back, Little would have been considered a field-clearer, an easy winner. Today, he would sweep the general election, but the outcome in a statewide contested primary is harder to assess.

If it turned into an Otter-Labrador battle, the first big battle for a long time among sitting major Idaho political figures, how might it turn out? Hard to say. A general election-type electorate likely would decide for Otter, but this would be a closed primary, a much better group for Labrador.

That Simpson-Labrador spat you saw could well be writ large in 2014, if it mutates into an Otter-Labrador battle. If that happens, Idaho turns into a serious political battleground.

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Idaho Idaho column

rainey BARRETT


“Ignorance breeds anger.”

That’s my iconic shorthand for the outrageous behavior causing so many raised and uninformed voices in today’s national “discussion” of gun ownership responsibility. Not gun control. Gun ownership responsibility. How they’re used. Which ones should be generally available. Who should not have them. Who should not. The national responsibility we have to each other to see that guns are used properly for the safety of all concerned.

State legislatures – especially in the West – are being deluged by constituents who’re scared. Scared someone is going to take their guns away.

Who? Many will say “President Obama” or “the feds” or “Congress” or some other “they.” Angry? Yes. Ignorance In spades.

No one has – and no one will – take away anyone’s guns. No one. No time. No how. No one in the recent – very preliminary – federal examination of what can be done to stop shooting massacres and improve public safety is talking “gun control.” No one that is except those who aren’t paying attention. They’re angry. And the anger comes from what? Ignorance.

No one’s talking “control,” that is, except the NRA and others who have large economic interests in assuring guns are more available than ice cream.

Fear of the unknown is driving much of the public clamor. Fear because many causing the most noise and disruption have not looked carefully at what’s been done in recent weeks. And what’s NOT been done. For that, I blame the bloody NRA and the right wing nuts in public office. And – in many respects – a media carelessly dealing with the issue of guns and throwing around the words “gun control” where no such words – and no federal legislation – exist in today’s dialogue. Institutional ignorance causing public anger.

Case in point. In an attempt to be oh, so very clever – Idaho largest fish wrap “newspaper” topped it’s Jan. 18th editorial page with this headline: “SHOOTING FROM THE HIP CLIPS DEBATE.” Needless to say, the subsequent editorial below that journalistic crap didn’t measure up. How could it?

But what it did do was make an absolutely false claim – in black and white – in the first sentence. “Vice President Joe Biden … slapped together one of the most sweeping gun-control bills in American history.” Direct quote. Absolutely false. After meeting with more than 250 groups involved in any way with guns and public safety, Biden produced a report with some 27 recommendations. Not a “sweeping gun-control bill.” A list of recommendations. In it were two which would require legislation if – IF – the President wants to go forward. So far, no bills have been written.

Small point? No, it’s not small. Not when you add CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC and all the rest. All of whom are tossing around words like “gun control” and “pending legislation.” Words that distort. Words that are wrong. Words that inflame. Words that add to the ignorance. Words that anger and scare.

In a number of state legislature’s, the fear mongers are publishing proposed bills to let the states ignore federal laws regarding guns, health care and other things. Nullification. Some will be passed. But case law on nullification is stacked 12 feet high. It doesn’t work. It won’t work. But people elected to public office are adding to the bad information – spreading their own ignorance – which in the end will cause more anger. And fear.

So, some of the ignorant – some of the angry – fueled with false “information” – have turned to local law enforcement. In several western states, some sheriffs – especially ones with overly tender butts about keeping their core voting constituency happy – have added to the cacophony. They’ve made wild promises about not enforcing laws or regulations they deem “unconstitutional” and have promised to keep federal law enforcement officers from doing their job. The local media has relayed this paranoia on the front page of every little cage liner. More ignorant disinformation to stoke more anger. Instead of competent leadership, these badge carriers are showing their own lack of understanding of how our criminal justice system works. Of how American’s government works. About their own damned jobs!

I’ve long believed many of our nation’s ills have been caused by the lack of understanding by many people about government – how it works – what it does – what it can do – what it can’t do. Extensive polling supports that thesis. Now, from that under-informed – misinformed – pool, we’ve elected too many people to public office who continue to operate with little to no more understanding than they started with.

Systemically, our public education system has contributed to this problem of ignorance of our civics. Now, some of those civically illiterate former “students” are in our media. In Congress and the legislature. City hall and the court house. And some – as we’ve seen in recent days – carry badges.

More than discussion, this nation needs to act on the issue of responsibility with firearms. Not “gun control.” Gun responsibility. Just as not everyone should drive on our highways or pilot an airplane, not everyone should have a firearm. We must find them and isolate them as we do with highway and aviation safety. For the same reasons of public interest and public protection. There are medical issues. There are law enforcement issues. There are legal issues. There are responsibility issues.

A media that can’t accurately report – public office holders fanning verbal fires for their own self-interest – law enforcement officials who make ignorant statements with false and inflammatory promises – these we can’t afford. The subject is just too damned important.

We’ve kicked this can down the road for decades. We are at a national moment in which we need to pick up that dented can and dispose of it in a wise manner for our national interest. For our national survival.

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