Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT


A few days ago, Barb asked me what I wanted for dinner and I said I was hungry for her wonderful goulash.

A couple of hours later, without paying attention that she had started dinner, I called out that meatloaf sounded even better.

Now, nearly everyone knows I had just “stepped in it.” Here she was draining spaghetti, browning hamburger and going through her seasoning checklist. Discussion of anything to eat at that moment was to be centered strictly on the goulash at hand and nothing else.

In this example, I had “flip flopped.” As I thought about her previous question in the ensuing 120 minutes, and as I rolled around the options in my mind, my thinking “matured.” I had new, more thoughtful – flavorful – visions. A change of mind as it were. Hasn’t that happened to you?

This little story about a threat to marital bliss is simple enough. But the process is much the same when some politicians change their mind about an issue. As a result, most are labeled “flip floppers.” It’s a quick, easy condemnation of someone in or seeking public office. At times true; at times not. At times good; at times not.

Take Ronald Reagan for instance. For much of his adult life, he was not only a Democrat but an ardent one, heading a labor union and walking picket lines. Then Barry Goldwater “appeared” to him and he was converted to Republicanism. A flip flop. But no one condemned him for it. Just a matter of adult reasoning. Personal choice.

Take former Oregon Governor Tom McCall. Republican by nature and philosophy, he put on a plaid tux jacket in the early ‘70′s and went to Idaho to campaign for candidate Cecil Andrus, a lifelong Democrat. Only the looney fringe couldn’t see the statesmanship and adult thinking, calling him a ”flip flopper” and a “traitor.” Actually he was demonstrating a level of adult political judgment he might not have shown in his earlier years, judgment that came with advancing age but which escaped the narrow-minded, flat-earth thinkers.

But this is a two-edged sword, this flip flopping. Sometimes, it can … and should … skewer the flopper.

Sen. McCain and his stands on abortion, wars and several other subjects come to mind. On record for years as pro-choice, even at the start of the 2008 campaign. Then he looked at some GOP polling midway through and changed sides. Classic “flip flopping.” Not because of maturity but opportunism. Not good.

Gov. Jindahl of Louisiana, is a flopper. Went on national TV decrying federal stimulus dollars then, seven months later, had a bunch of large, phony checks printed up with his statehouse official address on them. He flew around the state – at Louisiana taxpayer expense – handing out federal stimulus dollars masquerading as Louisiana tax dollars. That flip could cause whiplash.

As in so many other quick and often wrong labeling, there can be more … or sometimes … less truth when it comes to flips and flops. I give the benefit of the doubt most of the time. I like to think someone has added to life’s experiences and has rethought some previously held convictions; that the process of living longer has resulted in a better understanding of a particular issue.

Apply that to yourself. Recall some of your thinking when you were 15 or 25 or 40. Do you still feel that way or, like most of us, do you ask yourself “How could I have ever thought that?” Sometimes the flip and often the accompanying flop are just reflecting your own maturity and changing thought processes. Case in point: my mother was born Roman Catholic but died, at the age of 96, a 60-year Presbyterian. Somewhere in those years, as a thoughtful adult, she flipped.

Personally, I like an occasional change of direction in my politicians. Keeps me thinking. Them, too, I hope. The strident, never-going-to-change-my-mind-on-this kind of guy often doesn’t learn very much as he gets older. Since the only constant around us is change, we should expect some of that to rub off on in the way we all look at most things.

The doctrinaire, hold-one-position-on-everything approach isn’t showing me maturity when faced with the change we all have to deal with. Most of today’s problems won’t be solved by yesterday’s thinking.

But if flipping or flopping is tied to opportunism or playing to a certain base of support, that’s not healthy. (See McCain, Romney, Gingrich, Jindahl, Perry, et al) And it’s not good for anyone.

So you see, when someone tells you “so-and-so flip flopped” you’ve got to know more about the issue. And maybe you should know more about the guy that told you. Sometimes good. Sometimes not.

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carlson CHRIS


July 3rd marks the 123rd anniversary of Idaho’s admittance into the union of states we call the United States. A 43rd star went onto America’s flag. Across Idaho this year, though, the focus has been primarily upon the 150th anniversary of the creation of Idaho as a territory within the union.

Nothing wrong with that as long as Idahoans, as they prepare for the 4th of July festivities, also take a moment to reflect on the great state we are privileged to inhabit and to offer thanks as the state’s birthday is duly noted.

Some accuse me of being almost snobbish in the pride I take in being a native born Idahoan. Whenever I re-enter Idaho upon returning from a journey to a neighboring state or a foreign land, to the embarrassment of those with me, I sing loudly and often off-key (I’m told I’m tone deaf), the State song, “Hear We Have Idaho.”

During the recent book promotion tour Randy Stapilus and I took around the Gem state we were the program at the Twin Falls Rotary. Can’t begin to tell you how pleased I was that the Twin Falls Rotary still has as a standard part of its program the singing of the state song.

The following day when we were introduced as guests at the Pocatello Rotary I could not help contrasting the failure of the Pocatello Rotary to sing the state song. It’s a tradition one hopes all service clubs around Idaho will maintain.

Thinking about Idaho’s sesquintennial celebration of territorial status led to memories of Idaho’s wonderful statehood centennial celebration in 1990. Extremely well organized by a commission headed by Wallace businessman Harry F. Magnuson, with Marty Peterson serving as the executive director to oversee the almost flawless implementation of various local celebrations at the county level, Idahoans everywhere radiated pride.

Like many families, the Briggs clan (originally from Twin Falls, Gooding and Pocatello) held a family reunion in Garden Valley coincidental with the concluding celebratory activities of the Centennial and we watched the grand finale on television from Boise’s Bronco Stadium where a full house crowd of 35,000 people roared their approval as a certain tall, bald-headed governor, doffed his Stetson in a sweeping salute to the people of this great state.

Then I came across an old yellowing copy of a wonderful tabloid newspaper put together by Idaho’s weekly and daily newspapers in 1976 as a salute to the nation’s bicentennial. Printed by the Twin Falls Times-News (Wiley Dodds was the production manager and Bill Howard was the project’s business manager), it had items of historical significance and short biographies on various Idahoans who had achieved success in a number of endeavors over the years.

The project was spearheaded by Hope Kading, then chair of the Idaho Parks Foundation and a member of the Idaho Bicentennial Commission. The list of contributors from Idaho’s newspaper industry reads like a “Who’s Who” of leading journalists over the years: John Corlett, Jerry Gilliland and Jim Poore of the Idaho Statesman; Dick High, Dave Horsman, Bart Quesnell and George Wiley of the Times-News; Butch Alford and Jay Shelledy of The Lewiston Tribune; Dave Morrissey of the Idaho State Journal; Ted Stanton and David Johnson of the Daily Idahoanian.

Television and radio contributions came from luminaries like Mindy Cameron, Paul J. Schneider, Vern Nelson, and Jean Hochstrasser. Other contributions came from state agency public information officers, as well as folks like Arthur Hart and Judith Austin at the State Historical Society and Idaho history buffs like Louise Shadduck, then representing Idaho’s timber industry.

The publication is chock full of information that reminds one that it is Idaho’s people as well as the unique state we inhabit that exist in a combination found nowhere else.

As we take time to reflect about Idaho on July 3rd, let’s hope that on July 4th we will also reflect on what makes the United States the shining city on the hill Ronald Reagan often spoke so eloquently about, a nation and a melting point of people unlike any other gathering in history.

Let this also serve as a reminder to those Tea Party types that espouse the terrible notion of nullification and a state’s questionable right to secede that when we all stand and recite the pledge of allegiance to that flag that has Idaho’s 43rd star on it, we altogether say the words “one nation, under God, INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for all.”

Have a happy 3rd and 4th of July.

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