"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.
peterson MARTIN

I first arrived in Washington, D.C. near the end of 1968 as a newly hired member of Senator Frank Church’s staff. I soon became friends with several members of Congressman Tom Foley’s staff and was invited to begin joining them for after hours gatherings in Foley’s office.

Sometimes events of the day on the Hill were discussed. Other times Foley would use his encyclopedic knowledge of U.S. history and government to explain how the founding fathers intended government to work.

Foley was first elected to the House in 1964. Before that he had served for several years on Senator Henry M. Jackson’s staff. Because of that staff experience, I think he felt a special kinship to congressional staffers. Others have suggested that because he and his wife Heather had no children, these sessions were in fact gatherings of the Foley family. Regardless of the reason, Foley took me under his wing and until I left Washington in 1971, we maintained a close relationship.

One time I was co-hosting a group of young political leaders from the Soviet Union as part of an exchange program. They arrived in Washington in the midst of a major anti-war protest with accordion wire and armed military personnel in wide use. Kennedy Stadium had been converted into an open air jail. I asked Foley if he would host a luncheon in the Capitol for the group and try to explain to them that the U.S. wasn’t trying to emulate to Soviet Union in controlling its citizenry. He did a terrific job of working his way through a difficult situation. Years later it came as no surprise to me that he became U.S. ambassador to Japan.

After Cecil Andrus was elected Governor in 1970, I asked Foley if he would join Frank Church in co-hosting a reception honoring Andrus at the Capitol. He did and the result was a reception filled with many of the best known Senators and Congressmen of the era.

In 1971 I decided to leave Washington and return to Idaho. On my last day in the office, I received a midafternoon phone call. Picking up the phone, a voice said, “Marty, this is Tom. You aren’t really planning on leaving Washington without getting together for a couple of beers are you.” So I spent the rest of my last day as a Senate staff member drinking beer with Tom Foley.

A former Foley staffer, Todd Woodard, was quoted in the Spokesman Review as saying that “He taught us that public service really was a higher calling and an honorable profession.” I would certainly second that.

Foley was a remarkable individual in many ways. My relationship with him was not unlike the relationships he had with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. He rose through the leadership ranks without ever having another member compete against him.

When he was elected Speaker, he understood that the Speaker of the House was the speaker of all of the house, not just of the Democrats. That is certainly an attitude that was never seemed to have been shared by his successors, Gingrich, Hastert, Pelosi or Boehner.

Foley was dignified, always being careful to wear a suit and tie in public. He was also caring, highly intelligent, and had a great sense of humor. In fact some of the best jokes I ever heard from Foley were jokes that he told on himself. And his major focus, in spite of his various national leadership roles, was always to make sure that his home constituency in eastern Washington was served in the best way possible.

Two recent books talk about the era when Tom Foley was a member of the House: “The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis” by Ira Shapiro; and “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked” by Chris Matthews. These books should be required reading for all current members of the House and Senate. Congress has worked in the past and did have as its focus doing whatever it deemed best for the American public, rather than whatever it takes to get re-elected.

Given the current state of Congress, I am grateful that I had an opportunity to learn much of what I know about the way that government should work from a teacher like Tom Foley. I’ve never been one to think that we should return to the “good old days.” But perhaps there are some other Tom Foleys out there somewhere on the horizon who will be able to help get the Congress and the country back on track.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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rainey BARRETT


More than one in every five households in Oregon depends on food stamps.

Just so you don’t miss the point here, I repeat: MORE than ONE in EVERY FIVE households in Oregon depends on food stamps. Depends. That is more than any other state and nearly double what it was in 2008. Double.

Are we clear?

Think of 10 families you know. The Census Bureau figures, statistically, two of them are getting outside government assistance to keep eating. We’re talking “families” here. Suppose each family is five people. Now we’re talking 10 individuals. Ten out of every 50 of us. And if you don’t think that applies to anyone you know, then someone else knows even more folks using food stamps just to get by. So the ratio in your neighborhood could be even higher.

Dig further down in those numbers and you’ll find the large majority of assistance went to people in rural areas. Maybe in your small county, it was more like two of every five families. Or three.

I am sick of the blatant ignorance that says the majority of food stamp go to (1) lazy Democrats or (2) lazy blacks or Hispanics who won’t work or (3) deadbeats or (4) anyone who doesn’t look like the speaker or live in his neighborhood! Pick one. Pure B.S.! It’s on the I-net daily – spread by “dittoheads” who won’t do their homework. Well, here’s the homework!

When all but three Republican members of the House of Representatives vote to cut $40 billion out of the food stamp budget, chances are you knew a few families who’d have an even harder time trying to buy necessary basics.

And here’s something else to consider about that shameful vote. In all the history of the annual farm bill vote – 50 years more or less – its always been a total package. Always. Billions of dollars in subsidies to farmers or corporations – even a few members of Congress – AND the food stamp assistance program. It’s always been that way. Until this year.

With their majority in the House – and driven by a suicide-like urge to appease their old, white political base in the farm states – Republicans split the bill. Kept the billions rolling out to the farmers – private and corporate – killed the billions to feed people needing help. The rich get richer and the poor go hungry. The vote in the House was so blatantly purely political that even newspaper editorialists in a number of farm states pounded Republicans they traditionally praise.

Here’s one cretin who voted to slash help for the hungry. GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. Asked by a constituent at a town hall session why he voted to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program, his response couldn’t have been more direct. Or more shameful.

Said Kramer, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

Now you might want to consider something that idiot obviously didn’t know. About 76% of food stamp households – 76% – include a child, one or more elderly or someone who’s disabled. Those households receive about 84% of all food benefits.

Out here – in rural Oregon – food banks are being hit with record demand for help. We’re not talking all those fru-fru’s on your grocery list – paper towels, ice cream, potato chips, pot roast. The need is for bread and milk and flour and beans and canned goods of all sorts. The kinds of things people require in a very, very basic diet. Churches are trying to help. Service clubs, too. Backpacks with more of those basic foods go out each Friday for hundreds of kids in our area who won’t have a meal – any meal – until school on Monday. Shelters for abused families are asking for more assistance because they’re serving more battered – and hungry – people.

Now, some S-O-Bs making $174,000 a year, have decided to cut $40 billion from a most basic survival government assistance program while keeping the federal goose laying large golden eggs for their rural, well-fed political base. The $50 or $75 or $100 a week for families that can’t afford groceries will take the hit. So will the food banks and the churches and the service clubs and others running to keep up with the hunger demands.

It’s extremely unlikely this piece of crap will ever get out of the Majority Leader’s desk drawer in the Senate. People who have no other options for basic survival will continue to be served. For now. But the sequester is about to make a huge cut with no one taking any more action. Anyone!

But it would do them well – and all the rest of us – to keep that Republican vote in the House in our minds come election day 2014. If Republicans prevail in 2014 – like that idiot Kramer – millions already suffering hardship could be faced with the loss of the most basic source of survival. Food.

That blatant political self-service along the Potomac deserves nothing more than starvation at the ballot box.

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idaho RANDY

When all the media “air” is used on the story of the day, even if major, just as government shutdown or health insurance websites, we tend to miss a lot of other things. In Idaho right now, a lot of people probably are missing something important to their future: The Columbia River Treaty.

This is a story still in development, and it won’t come to fruition until next year at the earliest, and maybe later. But it will have a good deal to do with how much water Idaho will have in years to come.

You may not have heard of the treaty, which would be testimony to its long-running quiet usefulness. The United States and Canada began discussions about the Columbia – its main stem originates in Canada – in the early 40s, after the New Deal construction of massive dams along the river on the south side of the border, and in a time when flooding was still a significant problem. In 1948 the then-second-largest community in Oregon, called Vanport (located near Portland), was wiped out by a Columbia River flood. Canada had river issues too, including requests by the United States to build dams in that country for flood control purposes, and negotiations began.

They were not easy. The treaty was not written and ratified until 1964, Since then, various developments agreed to (including more dam construction) has been undertaken. The treaty doesn’t have an expiration date, but it does say it can be renegotiated after 50 years. Early talks are underway, led on each side by an organizational combine called the Entity (sorry if this is sounding like a sci-fi movie). The U.S. Entity includes executives of the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Entity has been seeking public comments, and has held public meetings around the region, including one in Boise on October 3. That round of hearings is over, though more may be held. Or not; the last requests for comments drew (as of October 18) only 20 from the whole region. (There’s a web site at http://www.crt2014-2024review.gov/.) The Entity is scheduled to deliver a proposal for the United States position on the treaty to the U.S. Department of State before the end of this year.

Both the Entity and the Canadian negotiators are looking at a number of possible alterations to the treaty, including some involving ecosystem restoration and increases of fish runs. That could affect the requirements for how much water flows through the Columbia system, requirements that both nations would have to live with.

As would the states south of the border that contribute to the river.

The Columbia River does not, of course, flow through Idaho. But the Columbia’s largest tributary, the Snake River, certainly does, and so do all of the smaller rivers in northern Idaho (such as the Spokane and the Coeur d’Alene), and all of those contribute to the Columbia’s flow. If requirements change for how much water has to flow through the Columbia south of the Tri-Cities in Washington, where the Snake and Columbia merge, that will undoubtedly affect Idaho.

Coming at a time when Idaho is wrapping up its massive Snake River Basin Adjudication, which has had the aim of specifying who can get what when the comes to the river basin’s water, the treaty should be under the Idaho magnifying lens.

One of those many reasons not to get too distracted by the story of the day.

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Idaho Idaho column


December 2011

A few weeks of being at my new job helped me realize something very important.

I had been fortunate enough to spend most of my adult life doing something that I loved. The continued crappiness of 2011 had caused me to lose sight of this. But it became clearer the longer I stayed at my rather menial position.

When I was a reporter, I always enjoyed answering the basic question of, “How was your day?” It was an invitation to share some of the inside information I had picked up during the day’s research and interviews. I now responded to the same question with little more than a grunt, as there wasn’t really anything interesting to share.

What was also obvious to me was that this was not what I’d had in mind when upending my whole life to move to Portland. This was the job I had to settle for to make some desperately needed money to get caught up on bills. It was certainly nowhere near the happy ending I had longed for.

It was nice having a little bit of money to my name. I spoiled myself slightly by finishing the long-delayed process of replacing the last of the music I had on cassette tape with its digital equivalent. This consisted of the albums Anthrax put out in the early and mid-90s, Sounds of White Noise and Stomp 442. I was especially glad to have re-obtained a copy of their song “American Pompeii.” Although it was already 15 years old, it came across as utter prophecy.

My in-laws had suggested to me that we download a free audio recording program so we could make a demo. Ian rearranged his computer configuration and borrowed a recording mic from a friend, which enabled us to start recording our practices.

I used my audio editing experience from my broadcasting career to produce individual tracks. I was then able to put those songs on my iPod and listen to them whenever I felt like it.

The best part was that Not Sure came directly between Nirvana and the Offspring on my iPod. Our songs began to replace everything else I used to listen to, which also allowed me to make mental notes of what needed to be improved in them.

Meanwhile, interesting things continued to take place in our old stomping grounds of Josephine County. Although he had been on the job for just over a year, Simon became chairman of the board of county commissioners. A replacement had been selected for another commissioner who had resigned. But the third commissioner was recalled by a large margin, and Simon took over as chairman the next day.

Life muddled along throughout the rest of November, and I felt decently enough about the state of my existence. But all of that was in danger of being quickly unraveled by mid-December.

I got laid off from my job, which actually turned out to be a partial blessing. I had worked there just long enough to be able to collect unemployment benefits. One day, I received a letter from the employment department informing me that I may be eligible to return to school. I concluded that in two terms, I could finish getting the MBA I had already started, if that’s all I had to do.

This would be my chance to allow 2011 the chance to redeem itself in some way. The realization had hit me months before that this was shaping up to be one of the worst years I’d ever had.

I headed off to Washington State University’s Vancouver campus to inquire about returning to school. Perhaps this was one of the open doors I had so desperately sought for so long. It turned out not to be the case, as a counselor informed me that none of my credits would transfer. None. But I was more than welcome to take out student loans to pay for classes I had already passed with A’s.

Further souring my mood that morning was a message I had received from Chad on Facebook. He had sent it very late the previous evening, and all indications were that he was completely done with the band.

The rest of us took stock of that situation. Fortunately, Justin and Ian were both determined to stick with the original mission. Justin knew a couple of other drummers, and one of them was a guy that he and Ian both worked with. Luckily, Jam was having a company party that night. I impressed upon Justin and Ian the importance of recruiting their co-worker, Matt, into the band as quickly as possible, and was even willing to do it myself if I had to.

As I drove to Jam that night, I thought about how everyone I knew in Portland was either unemployed or working at Jam. Josh had even started working there. If Jam were to go under, I thought, then absolutely everyone I knew in the city would be unemployed.

I took up the task of getting Matt into the band. Minutes after arriving at Jam, I asked Justin and Ian to point Matt out to me so I could discuss this pressing matter with him.

Before Chad quit the band, we were able to record nearly every single one of our songs. I played those recordings for Matt, who was immediately enthusiastic about the prospect of playing with us. My mission of recruiting a new drummer mere hours after Chad quit was successfully completed.

Christmas was rapidly approaching. We already had a hotel room reserved for Grants Pass, so I started making arrangements to meet up with friends and family.
We left for Grants Pass on Friday morning and got there in the mid-afternoon. I dropped Maddie off to stay the night at a friend’s house, and we all went to dinner.

It wasn’t too long before I saw someone I knew. One of my old high school teachers was there, and I wished her well. This pattern continued when immediately afterwards we went to do some last-minute shopping. Robert was at the store, which enabled us to finalize some of our plans for later that evening. I also ran into Jill, one of my former co-workers at the radio station.

It was nice to once again recognize people when I went out in public. That feeling had completely escaped me ever since I left Grants Pass, even though I had been in Portland for over a year.

Much of the same cast and crew was present that night as had been for my 30th birthday party, but most were doing better than they had been back then. The glaring exception, I suppose, would have been me. We had a good time, though, and Robert even did a good karaoke version of Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me.”

I went the next morning to meet with Wally at the Powderhorn Café. Although politics had dominated most of my adult life, I had long since stopped caring much about it. The year that I spent in Portland looking for any job at all had caused me to lose interest in public policy. I was more worried about basic survival.

Wally was more determined than ever to be part of the process. He said that if good people weren’t willing to do so, then the same things would continue to happen.
By the time we were done talking, I was more encouraged than I had been in a very long time.

Good news of any kind was hard to find around that time. The national unemployment rate was 8.5 percent that month, and the same in Portland. It was at 8.9 percent statewide in Oregon.

Maddie had received a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas, so I took her there. I picked up a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Better Than Sex-Confessions of a Political Junkie. I read it one morning while Jimmy played with other kids at the mall, where the play area was now re-opened.

Something strange started happening as I flipped through the pages. Reading about Thompson’s status as a political junkie caused a stirring from within me. All indications were that my inner journalist was maybe not dead, but perhaps on life support.

I suppose that on some level, we can’t hide who we really are. Maybe I had spent 2011 trying to do so, and suffered tremendously as a result. The year couldn’t be over soon enough, as far as I was concerned. For all it mattered, I might as well have spent that whole 12 months in a coma.

Annaka and I were able to go out on New Year’s Eve, and went over to Brad’s. Justin and his girlfriend Christy were already there by the time we arrived. I was overjoyed to be surrounded by those closest to me.

After going to The Nest, we walked up the street to The Hilt, then back to The Nest. That’s where we were when the countdown to 2012 started.

9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….Happy New Year!

And just like that, 2011 was finished.

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mendiola MARK


The rule of law is the basis of freedom and security in the United States, binds Americans together as a society and distinguishes the U.S. from many nations, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says.

It also is the guideline he says he uses as Idaho’s top law enforcer when he must render difficult decisions on controversial legal issues such as Idaho nullifying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), managing federal lands, funding public education or regulating the influx of nuclear spent fuel.

Elected Idaho’s 32nd attorney general in 2002, Wasden is the longest serving attorney general in the state’s history and was president of the National Association of Attorneys General from 2006-2007. He earned a political science degree from Brigham Young University and a law degree from the University of Idaho.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, center, converses with attorney Timothy Hopkins, right, and Areva Vice President Robert Poyser in Idaho Falls. (photo/Mark Mendiola)


“Sometimes public service can be a challenging experience,” Wasden told City Club of Idaho Falls members before answering questions during a Q&A session following a recent luncheon, noting his office processes 5,000 to 6,000 legal matters at any given moment.

Wasden was asked about the Idaho Tax Commission’s ruling that same-sex couples recognized as legally married in other states must recalculate their Internal Revenue Service filings before filing their state returns. Idaho is among 35 states that forbid same-sex unions following a constitutional amendment approved in 2006 by voters.

The IRS has ruled that same-sex couples will be recognized as married for federal tax purposes. Wasden said he would defend Idaho’s constitutional amendment, adding he was disappointed and critical of his counterpart in California who refused to represent citizens in that state who had voted against recognizing same-sex marriages.

Wasden was one of the nation’s first attorneys general to file a lawsuit challenging the federal health care law’s constitutionality, but when the Idaho Legislature tried to nullify the federal law by enacting a state statute, he told the legislators what they were trying to do was unconstitutional.

“Whether I agree or disagree is not relevant,” Wasden said, mentioning he was accused of being “secretly pro-Obamacare” by contradicting the state’s lawmakers. “Congress took its vote.”

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate commerce, but Wasden said it was his view that Congress was attempting to regulate non-commerce with the health care legislation.

Five Supreme Court justices agreed that Congress could not compel someone to engage in commerce, but decided that the federal health care law was legal under Congress’ right to exercise its taxing power.

“I disagree with the chief justice of the Supreme Court, but his title trumps mine,” Wasden said. “Whether I agree or disagree, I cannot ignore it. The rule of law really is a matter I hold dear to my heart.”

When asked how much Idaho spent challenging the Affordable Care Act, Wasden estimated the cost was between $5,000 and $6,000, with Idaho sharing legal expenses with 25 other states.

A certain event that started at Fort Sumter, S.C., in 1861 and concluded at Appomattox, Va., in 1865 — i.e. the U.S. Civil War — settled the matter, Wasden said, stressing the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that governors and legislatures cannot nullify federal law.

“Six hundred and 80 thousand Americans lost their lives to answer the question whether states have the authority to nullify federal law,” he said.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional. As a result, racial segregation was ruled a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

When an Arkansas governor called out his state’s National Guard to block nine black students from entering a high school in 1957, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower — “a Republican with certain military experience” — deployed the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky., to Arkansas and federalized the state’s National Guard in response.

When asked if the Idaho Legislature could be violating the state constitution by under funding public education, Wasden said the court and Legislature ultimately must decide whether the funding mechanism is sufficient.

While states do not own or have the ability to take back federal lands, Wasden said he thinks the federal government violated its trusts by failing to provide Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding to the states.

Asked about the possibility of Idaho renegotiating Gov. Phil Batt’s 1995 agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy, which settled a lawsuit filed by the state to prevent spent nuclear fuel shipments to the Idaho National Laboratory for storage, Wasden noted that DOE had made broken promises many times to Idaho.

The agreement gave Idaho the ability to hold the DOE secretary in contempt and impose fines. Complimenting DOE for its accomplishments, Wasden noted a deadline was missed last December and an influx of waste had to be stopped. The Batt agreement is important for maintaining trust, he said.

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Idaho Mendiola

carlson CHRIS


Towards the end of his fine novel, Citizen Vince, Spokane journalist turned best selling novelist Jess Walter describes Vince’s encounter with an Irish politician in a bar on Sprague Avenue inside a well-known downtown Spokane hotel.

It is the day before the 1980 election and Vince, a felon placed in the Federal Witness Protection Program, has been debating for a week whether to vote given his new identity and a clean slate. He strides into the lounge, sits at the bar and asks the bartender if he can switch the tv above the booze to the news for just ten minutes even though Monday Night Football is about to begin.

The bartender politely points out that the five other patrons at the bar want the football game, but tells Vince if he can get one other patron to second his request he’ll switch for ten minutes. Vince surveys the lounge recognizing that none of those at the bar will give him a second. However, there are two gray suits sitting at a table having highballs and eating a steak.

Anyone familiar with Spokane immediately recognizes the Ridpath Hotel. The Irish politician is also recognizable – it is Tom Foley, the only person to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from the vast area west of Texas.

Vince recognizes that the larger of the two suits, a bearish but friendly looking guy, is the local congressman—he knows his name begins with F. Vince asks if the Congressman will be the second. As only a writer with a novelist’s eye can, Walter captures the puckish humor of the late Speaker:

He stands, raises a draft beer, and covers his heart. “Esteemed colleagues, the representative from Table Six in the great state of Washington – home of glorious wheat fields and aluminum plants, cool, clear rivers and snow-
capped mountains, and the finest bar patrons in this great country, proudly casts his vote in favor of ten minutes of misery and heartache courtesy of the national news.”

The guys at the bar raise their glasses in confused reverie as the bartender reaches up to turn the channel.

Anyone who ever knew Speaker Foley can easily envision this fictional scene. It captures the quintessential Foley – his humor, wit, intelligence, compassion, perspicacity, all in one brief vignette. The Ridpath, once the hotel of choice for Labor as the only “union” hotel in Spokane, has been shuttered for years. And Tom Foley passed away at the age of 84 this past week.

Foley will deservedly live on in the hearts and minds of the many people who he and his capable staff, led by wife Heather Strachan, helped during his distinguished 30-year career of public service. When all of us directly touched by this most decent of officeholders have ourselves passed on, Tom Foley will live on in the pages of Walter’s novel and in the records that chronicle this gentle giant’s accomplishments ensconced at Washington State University in the Tom Foley Institute of Public Policy.

As a rookie Washington, D.C. correspondent covering the capital for several northwest and Alaskan newspapers in 1971 and 1972, Foley’s office was a stop on my beat because the Lewiston Tribune had subscribers in the Fifth District.

Even though it was early in Foley’s remarkable 30-year tenure he already possessed qualities that stood him apart from the rest of his colleagues.

He personified civility. He was always courteous and solicitous. He possessed a great ability to tell interesting, illustrative stories and possessed a wonderful sense of humor.

There wasn’t an arrogant or pretentious bone in his body and he displayed great patience both with his less intellectually gifted colleagues and young reporters asking uninformed questions. He had a marvelous ability to explain clearly and concisely arcane elements of a farm bill or ancient rules of the House. As Speaker he was noted for his absolute fairness, his judicious demeanor.

Some of the best tributes on his passing have come from Republicans like Senator Slade Gorton who pointed out Foley had many opponents over the year but no real enemies. The reason for this was explicated nowhere better than Minority Leader Robert Michel’s Washington Post tribute. The former Illinois congressman cited the sine qua non of personal politics – Foley was a man of his word¸ his word was his bond, and they trusted each other.

Others will chronicle all Foley accomplished for his district, the state and the nation. It is indeed a fine record of public service by a true public servant.

Here’s hoping though that future generations recognize his sense of history and his belief in the critical role the House of Representatives serves in our democratic system of government. He loved the House, and as Jeff Biggs noted so well in his biography of the Speaker, he brought honor to the House. One doubts we will ever see his likes again.

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Carlson Washington Washington column

rainey BARRETT


Were I a thinking, moderate Republican – which I’m not- but if I were, I’d not only embrace Ted Cruz, I’d be an advocate for everything he stands for. I’d do anything I could to help him get his venomous message out. Seldom has a national political party had such a quick and ready answer to solve what ails it. And how to fix it. Cruz is “da man!”

At this point, some of my more independent, moderate – and especially liberal – friends are reaching for their heart meds and asking for water. But hear me out.

Interviewed by CNN in San Antonio last weekend, Cruz flat out said Republicans “are the single most damaging thing” for the GOP in 2014. The exact quote: “The single most damaging thing that has happened to Republicans for 2014 is all of the Senate Republicans coming out attacking the House Republicans – attacking those pushing the effort to defund Obamacare and lining up opposite the American people.”

Wow! Right on, Teddy! Let the good times – and the divisive rhetoric – roll, baby! Give ‘em Hell! Pure B.S. but go for it!

O.K. Let’s check out some facts. Republicans are going to have tough sledding in the 2014 national election. There are lots of very valid indicators around – all with bad news for Republicans – enough to make professional GOP campaign folks consider taking the year off.

The latest from Public Policy Polling – taken during the height of the budget-debt ceiling fracas – was in 25 GOP held districts. Remember – the questions were asked of folks who already had a Republican member in Congress. In 15 of the 25, respondents preferred a “generic Democrat” to their own representative by name. Just “any old Democrat” to whoever was there now. Ouch!

But it gets worse. Combined with other surveys by the same pollster in the last three weeks, those old “generic Democrats” win 37 of 61 Republican-held districts! Ouch again!

And when told their Republican office holder supported the government shutdown, 11 more districts flipped to”generic Democrat” and one race was a tie. OUCH big time!

Democrats need 17 seats to retake the House. These results show they could get as many as 49! Doubt it’ll happen but some will flip. Maybe 17.

Here’s another sampling – CNN/ORC International polling during the same time. Folks questioned – 54% – said it’s a bad thing the GOP controls the House. 54%! That’s up 11 points since December. Just 38% say it’s a good thing and that is a 13 point dive during the period.

The same sampling found more than six in ten people said Speaker John Boehner should be replaced. AND – nearly 60% favor the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) or say it doesn’t go far enough.

So – what has all this to do with Ted Cruz and thinking, feeling Republicans? Simple. Whether the numbers cited here hold up or things move a bit more to the right, the Republican Party is going to take a “hit” at the polls next year. People are fed up with congress. No sampling of public opinion in the last year has found otherwise. None. Only question is who and how much. The brand is sour for all but the most diehard GOP voters.

The Party is badly divided. Party machinery – those controlling who gets on the ballot in many states and who gets monetary support – is in the hands of the far right in a lot of places. Candidates of a more moderate stripe will be – as they often have been – shut out. Oregon is a prime example. The Party chairman is a nut case elected to the job by other similarly politically handicapped souls. New faces on our 2014 national ballots will most certainly be tilted toward the edge of their square earth. Moderates need not apply.

For the last 30 years, the Republican Party has been lurching ever farther out. It has been a happy hunting ground for the Bachmanns, Ghomerts, Brouns, Labradors, Robinsons and others of their ilk. There is no question the Party – in its continued attacks on women and minorities – is headed to oblivion as it tries to appease a diminishing base of older, white voters.

Despite repeated proclamations from its leadership to the contrary, the GOP – as it now exists – is headed to the basement. To become viable again – to become more open and welcoming to a broader base – there must be a complete housecleaning top to bottom. Wiser, more moderate members must find their voices and their place in a new leadership. But that takes time. That takes years.

Then, voila! Along comes “Texas Crude” – our man Cruz. The one guy that might just cut years off that purging and rebuilding. The one political kamikaze pilot that could speed up that process for all Republicans.

Given their head, Cruz, Lee, Rubio, Paul and a few others could bring the intra-party cleansing to a head in the next few months. A year or two tops. Cruz – especially Cruz – could be the crazy shepherd who first divides, then leads the far right lambs off into political swamps in a minority-minority GOP splinter party destined to fail. Yes, this would leave the majority of thinking Republicans in a minority. But only for awhile. Far less time than if the contaminated mess now extant in the party hierarchy continues. Rebuilding the Republican Party into a functioning, welcoming, more attractive place for moderates and independents – even disaffected Democrats – could come a whole lot sooner if the Cruz cancer is exorcized. Surgery and healing now is better than letting the disease – which is killing the Party with more and more voters – metastasize until there is nothing left to save.

Cruz may be just what the doctor ordered. A strong dose of politically curative castor-oil followed by self-directed excommunication. Cut the whackos out and get on with the healing.

For that reason, I’m a Cruz booster. Whatever he says is fine with me. Go for it, Teddy! Drink the Kool-Aid.

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Representative Suzanne Bonamici (left) fielding a question from a constituent at her town hall meeting at Yamhill on October 20. (photo/Randy Stapilus)


The period after a federal government shutdown and near-default, both fomented by extremists, might seem to be a time when cooler heads might dominate the discussion and raise the questions. The situation seems to be more mixed at congressional town hall meetings, however: tin foil was amply in appearance.

At this afternoon’s, hosted by Representative Suzanne Bonamici at the high school at Yamhill, there were conspiracy theory audience questions about trade agreements, the Affordable Care Act, Sharia Law, child sterilization and concerns from one woman who could not understand why President Obama has not been impeached, given all the high crimes and misdemeanors he’s committed. She thought.

Bonamici, who has been getting increasingly adept at handling the town halls, had to comfort at one point: “Nobody’s trying to take your guns away from you.”

She’s gotten more diplomatic but also maybe a little more direct in dealing with nonsense. And after one long such stream from one Newberg man on Obamacare (well, the country really would be a terrifying place if half of what he contended really was true), she coolly remarked, “There’s a lot of misinformation about the Affordable Care Act.”

Bonamici’s approach seems lawyerly (understandable, given her profession), but also determined to keep the heat turned down. Given plenty of opportunity to blast the House Republicans over the shutdown, she passed, and said she’s trying to stay civil and not encourage conflict. She acknowledged the circumstances don’t allow for that in any easy way. Often on the floor, she said, “I’ve heard, ‘We need to stand and fight. This is an epic battle. We must not surrender.’ … To set it up like a battlefield is really counterproductive to working together.”

She acknowledged being an optimist, predicting in earlier town halls several months back that the talked-about shutdown wouldn’t actually happen. She said she doesn’t think they’ll happen again early next year … but she wrapped that more in the sense of hoping it wouldn’t.

We’ll know by the time her spring round of town halls comes around.

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idaho RANDY

The setup to Idaho politics 2014, on the congressional level, hardly could be clearer after the October 16 round of votes ending (for now) the federal government shutdown and the threat of federal debt default, not just because the congressional votes but because of the markers it set.

Both of Idaho’s senators were in the small group of about one-fifth of the Senate who voted against the measure who opposed the bill taking that step, but in their chamber they were part of too small a group to much affect the outcome. Most Senate Republicans voted in favor.

The House was different. There, the crisis-over bill passed with only a minority of Republicans plus all the Democrats; most House Republicans voted against. And unlike the Republicans in the delegations of Washington (all voting in favor) or Oregon (voting against), Idaho’s two House members split their votes. Raul Labrador of the first district voted against, and Mike Simpson of the second in favor.

This sets up and expands the gap between the two (Labrador has declined to back Simpson in his primary contest), and could point up contrasting types of races.

Simpson’s press release immediately after the vote got right into that, acknowledging explicitly (this is actually unusual) the politics of the vote. The second paragraph said, “While acknowledging his vote in favor of the bill might be unpopular with some of his constituents, Simpson said the potential economic consequences of continued stalemate outweighed any political consideration.”

In the next paragraph: “The easiest, most politically expedient thing for me to do would have been to vote NO and protect my political right flank,” said Simpson. “Doing so, however, would have been the wrong thing to do for my constituents and our economy. My vote today was about the thousands of people facing layoffs at INL, the multitude of businesses across Idaho that have told me their livelihoods are at stake, and the millions of folks across the country who can’t afford the devastating impacts of default on their investments and retirements. There has to be a way to address our nation’s fiscal problems without making them worse in the process.”

There’s his campaign argument for next year.

It’s gutsier than it first seems, because here’s what Simpson is implicitly saying about the other three members of the Idaho delegation: That they did the wrong thing for their constituents, that they cast aside the people whose lives and livelihoods were at stake, that they would make the nation’s future worse by their actions. It’s quite a critique, but implicit in any self-defense Simpson would offer.

The statement in Labrador’s release that most nearly serves as a counterpoint says this: “Like nearly all of my colleagues, I promised my constituents in 2010 and 2012 that I would fight ObamaCare – not just cast symbolic, meaningless votes – but work hard to roll it back whenever and wherever possible. I also promised that I would oppose raising the debt ceiling without meaningful cuts to government spending.” The reference to politics here was implicit, but just as clear.

Simpson’s “right flank” already is alive with serious primary challenge, in the form of Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, newly boosted last week with endorsements from Republican state legislators. Simpson is keenly aware that his vote would make that contest all the hotter.

And Labrador? He has a Democratic challenger, but within the Republican party only a university student is challenging him. If there’s a substantial group of first district Republicans who think Simpson rather than Labrador had the right approach here, their window to mount a serious challenge won’t be open much longer. If a serious candidate from the direction of the center did surface, the mirror-image races in the two districts next year would make for quite a spectacle.

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Idaho Idaho column


July 2011

Before long, I found myself overcome with nervousness.

I called to follow up about the temporary position at Oregon Capitol News, and was told I would find out about it by the end of the day. Much to my relief, I heard back later that I did, indeed, get that job. This meant we would have some money coming in and I would have something to do for a couple of weeks.

A few days later, I headed off to Salem to have lunch with Wally. I decided to bring Maddie, and thought it would be nice to show her around the state capitol. We walked with Wally to a nearby café. He was happy with how the session had gone, but said it was getting harder and harder to leave his family every weekend to come back to Salem.

A couple of days later, I got together with Justin and Ian. Justin had apparently found a drummer, named Chad, for us to play with. I took Annaka’s van over to Justin’s place to load up his bass stack. We then made our way over to Chad’s house.

Because I had parked on the other side of the very busy 60th Street, we had to dart across it with our instruments and equipment. Luckily, Justin’s stack had wheels, so he could just roll it through traffic. We headed up to the attic, where Chad’s drum set was located. He said he liked our songs, and seemed like a cool guy who understood where we were coming from.

Chad had a microphone and a guitar amp we could attempt to use for PA, but we couldn’t quite get it to work. That was all right, though, because the lyrics for most of the songs weren’t fully figured out yet. I started to suggest to Ian that we go over the lyrics during our usual chess/coffee/anger management sessions. But it dawned on me that I would actually be working the next few weeks, for the first time in over eight months.

Our jam session was very productive, and all indications were that Evil Homers had a complete lineup. We scheduled a follow-up for the Fourth of July, which fell on a Monday.

After dropping Justin and Ian off, I headed home to pack for our trip to Grants Pass. We woke up early the next morning and hit the road.
Along the way to Grants Pass, we passed by Golden, the old, abandoned mining town where Annaka and I had gotten married nearly four years prior.

A historic reenactment was taking place back then, complete with people renewing their wedding vows. Annaka and I had just gotten our marriage certificate and rings a couple of days before that, and were able to get married in a spontaneous ceremony held inside a church.

Wally was already at the Powderhorn by the time we arrived. I called Simon at the courthouse and urged him to come and meet us. Simon ordered a slice of strawberry pie, which inspired me to do the same. The biggest perk of working at the Powderhorn was that I would often end up with whatever slices of pies they couldn’t sell during the day.

Our meeting was taking place approximately six months after Wally and Simon had taken office. Both had learned a lot since being sworn in, and were determined to continue doing right by their constituents.

During our discussion, I asked Simon if any aspects of his job were different than what he had expected. He replied that the county’s financial situation was deteriorating much faster than he’d thought. A couple of the departments he was charged with overseeing were also in worse shape than most people realized.

In many ways, Simon’s job as county commissioner had proven difficult. He had taken part in replacing different department heads who had resigned or retired, had taken on the task of being the interim fairgrounds manager, and was even having to choose a replacement commissioner. But he was still optimistic after half a year on the job.

Having made my rounds, I headed off to Riverside Park to play disc golf. Jimmy ran to the playground before Annaka and my mother-in-law came to join us. As soon as they arrived, I grabbed my Frisbees and walked over to the disc golf course. It had been moved around in the time since I had left town. Undeterred, I proceeded to get a couple of birdies in the best game I had played in a very long time. After nine holes, I was still two strokes under par.

Triumphant, I rounded up Jimmy and Annaka and drove to my dad’s place in Jacksonville. Along the way, I passed by some of the towns where I had cut my teeth reporting in my early twenties, like Rogue River and Gold Hill.
It was great to see my dad again after so long. I had felt bad for moving his grandson nearly 300 miles away.

Our financial situation was not great, and the high cost of gas had made the trip more expensive. My in-laws had sent us some money ahead of time to help defer some of those costs, and my dad helped out by giving us $100 in cash. He also offered to babysit Jimmy the next day so Annaka and I could go on our first date in months.

On our way back to Vancouver a few days later, we stopped in Grants Pass to meet a friend. The location was the same Elmer’s restaurant where I had made my speech before the Josephine County Republican Women in late October.

By this point, I had been in Vancouver for so long that I was used to not knowing anybody when I went out in public. That changed literally as soon as we got to Elmer’s, where I ran into several people I knew.

We got in the car and headed back to Vancouver. I did, after all, have a temporary job and band practice to get to.

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carlson CHRIS


There’s a gun fight on the road ahead forming between predominantly “common sense conservative” Republicans and the zealots further to the right loosely lumped under the Tea Party label.

The stakes are high, for it is a battle for the soul of the Grand Old Party, and if the Tea Party elements prevail, the Republican Party will begin the slow fade into oblivion.

If the recent shut-down of the federal government and the showdown over raising the debt ceiling did nothing else it should have demonstrated to the public in graphic detail that the Tea Party Republicans and weak-kneed “fellow travelers” (Like Idaho’s two senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch) are willing to place partisan positioning and interest ahead of the national interest. None of these folks subscribe to the historic notion of the greatest good for the greatest number.

Their votes and conduct only serve to hasten the day when Idaho’s GOP morphs into a new ultra-conservative party made up of only true believers who adhere to radical notions like returning the election of U.S. Senators to the state legislature, returning to the gold standard, abandoning the United Nations, defaulting on paying bills due and owing for already incurred expenses, punishing illegal immigrants already here, and the list goes on.

Already having seized control of several key counties, such as Bonneville, these fanatics are blind to the fact that they are narrowing their party’s base, a sure prescription for eventual consignment to the ash heap of history. In Idaho, not satisfied with a closed primary system, they are pushing for a closed caucus system, virtually guaranteeing that only the pure zealots can carry the party label into a general election.

Therein may be an opportunity for Idaho’s Democrats, however, especially in the state’s Second Congressional District. The Tea Party and its financial backers such as the Club for Growth and the Koch brothers are backing Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith’s primary challenge to eight-term “common sense conservative” incumbent Congressman Mike Simpson.

The May primary is restricted only to registered true blue Republicans and some observers believe Smith has a real shot at taking out Simpson given the expected dampening effect of the new rules on voter participation. Reports out of the Second District say the prospect of Smith defeating Simpson is causing former Democratic Second District Congressman Richard Stallings (1985-1993) to consider making a bid for his old seat.

A former history professor at BYU-Idaho, Stallings is a true pro-life conservative Democrat with proven appeal to the voters of the Second District. Were he to run his strategy would be to build a coalition of Democrats, independents and disgruntled supporters of Mike Simpson.

Two other items also are working for the demise of the Republican party as we know it; or, finally, a rejection of the Tea Party. One is the wrong-headed stance of both the GOP and the Tea Party on the issue of illegal immigration. Rather than working constructively to view those already here, whether legal or not, as potentially good, hard-working taxpayers, Republicans seem hell-bent on being punitive.

Hispanics already constitute 12% of Idaho’s electorate and are a growing force throughout the west. Quite frankly, they are more and more seeing the Democratic party as working for their best interests, not the Republicans.

Thus, one can conclude that “demographics” are also against the Tea Party R’s.

The final item that will ensure the Republican demise is the probability that the moderates will continue to pander to the zealots and embrace the politics of hate.

Some folks, this writer included, have a hard time reconciling the claim of the Tea Party to love their country, but hate their government. Instead of seeing their federal government as the Forest Service supervisor down the street, or the Idaho Nuclear Lab clerk climbing on a bus out to the site at 5 a.m., or the Marine captain home on leave, they see faceless bureaucrats who get more special privileges.

Rather than convey respect for public servants, they convey disrespect.

These folks motivated more by hate, invoke the Constitution and claim the right of a state to secede from the union, or to nullify federal laws they don’t agree with.

Yet they will stand at attention and recite the Pledge of Allegiance not recognizing their hypocrisy when repeating the words “One nation, Under God, INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for all.”

Here’s hoping the GOP wakes up and eliminates the life-threatening cancer in its midst.

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mansfield DENNIS

I haven’t blogged yet on the political weakness of the entire GOP, observed recently by all.

Today I decided to do so.

A little needed background before I make my point:

For years I’ve been both a businessman and a political consultant.

In business I’ve owned a small mortgage company, a mid-sized soil erosion control company & a local city-wide firm that helped house ex-addicts. I’ve been a business coach for almost a decade and I recently became an author, published by Simon and Schuster and Endurance Press.

As a political consultant I lobbied for the Realtors, was the founding executive director of the Building Industry Association (BIA) of Palm Springs, CA and for a decade I founded and ran the Idaho Family forum – a pro-family public policy think-tank that educated and lobbied under IRS code 501 (c) 3 sub chapter (h), working in association with Focus on the Family and the Family Research council.

My experience also involved helping men and women run for office in the California’s Assembly, US Congress and US Senate along with Idaho’s House and Senate. A partial list of the GOP campaigns I’ve served/supported includes:

Howard Jarvis/Paul Gann/Proposition 13 (’78 cycle)
Ronald Reagan’s PAC, Citizens for the Republic – (’78 cycle)
David Dreier for US Congress (’78 cycle)
Reagan/Bush (’80 cycle in CA)
John Paul Stark for US Congress (’80, ’82 and ’84 cycles)
Fund-raising for Steve Symms for US Senate, Idaho (’84 cycle)
Robert Henley for CA Assembly (’84 cycle) & US Congress (’86 cycle)
Reagan/Bush(’84 cycle in CA)
Roger Madsen for ID State Senate (’92 cycle)
Dave Baumann for ID House (’92 cycle)
Bill Sali for ID House (’92, ’94 cycle)
Helen Chenoweth for US Congress (’94 Primary cycle)
Dole/Kemp (’96 cycle)
Gary Bauer for President (2000 Primary cycle)
Bill Sali for US Congress (’06 Cycle)
Raul Labrador for US Congress (’10 Primary cycle)

I hope my credentials speak for themselves.

Not a person among this list would be considered moderate or liberal.

I’m proud of those past credentials – of my business background and my political involvement – and yet I’m cautious of what I’m now seeing in the philosophical break-down within the GOP over this recent budget stalemate. Something deep down is wrong…

I think the Republican Party is lost in the woods – state by state and nationally.

The compass that directed them in the past has lost its true north: the founding document of our Republic, the US Constitution.

In 1980 the GOP used that compass and crafted its national party platform as a reflection of that truth.

Americans came forward because they longed to be involved. Citizens within the republic who had never been involved, became involved. Conservative evangelical christians, economic conservatives, constitutionalists, moms and dads…and then, in recent years, Tea Party members.

The tent was big, the issues were focused.

Not now. The compass still works, it’s just been set aside, it seems…

Citizens for the Republic recently put it this way in their mission:

“Some thirty years later, the GOP finds itself in much the same condition; worn down incapable of articulating a competing message and compelling vision to stand up against the liberal onslaught likely to come under President Barack Obama and the liberal elite that now dominates nearly every facet of American government and culture, from the White House and Capitol Hill, to colleges and Hollywood.

The belief that man’s freedom comes from God and not the State is once again in danger of being extinguished in America. Once again, the Republican Party is in danger of extinction.

As Ronald Reagan said, “the role of government is not to protect us from ourselves, it is to protect us from each other. Reagan understood that America was a rugged, do it yourself enterprise and that any government big enough to do everything for you is also big enough to take everything away from you.”

I agree with CFTR. “Once again, the Republican Party is in danger of extinction.”

The life of the Republican Party is ebbing; the Grand Old Party is not so grand at this moment, while looking every bit its old age.

It’s become a bifurcated hodge-podge of people, many of whom seem to have developed a cult of personality & allegiance to Ronald Reagan, the man, as an effective leader – while totally walking away from the deep-rooted political beliefs that President Reagan supported and implemented.

Many in the GOP harken back to the “good old days”, seeming to love Reagan while philosophically AND politically dismissing Reaganomics; they’re attracted to the strong Commander-in-Chief example of him in the past, while failing to understand the truth of “peace through strength” in the future.

They want to look like they’re negotiating, when in reality they’re folding.

It seems they want Ronald Reagan without needing President Reagan.

How angry he would be at such foolishness, were he alive today.

In reality, they’re more like the ultimate insider, President Gerald Ford, than they are President Reagan.

Today it’s Boehner as Ford. Today it’s Marco Rubio and Raul Labrador and a handful of men and women who GET the philosophy of Ronald Reagan, rather than the personality.

We need to look toward the future, for the rendezvous with detiny that still awaits us.

The constitution is our compass. It was for President Reagan.

It MUST be for today’s Republican Party – and for the nation.

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