"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.

Reflecting on headlines

carlson CHRIS


Every so often there are a series of news items and headlines that inevitably bring forth from the memory bank an appropriate “Andrusism” – an expression of Cece’s that encapsulated and often simplified while educating one about the particular situation.

Example #1: Cece would often say “when you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.” University of Idaho vice president for government affairs and communications, Chris Murray, should reacquaint himself with this one. First, one suspects he inadvisably counseled the University’s next president, Dr. Chuck Staben, to grant his first introduction to a broader Idaho audience through a lengthy telephone interview with the Boise-based Idaho Statesman.

One would think he would have granted that honor to a newspaper in the University’s back yard, like the Moscow-Pullman Daily News or the Lewiston Tribune, but no, it’s the Statesman. If one read the transcript of the ensuing interview, the error was further compounded by not adequately preparing Dr. Staben to provide a more nuanced answer to the obvious question that would be coming on Idaho’s use of the expression “Idaho’s flagship university.”

It would have been easy to duck the entire interview by simply saying “Idaho currently is represented by President Don Burnett. I don’t take over until March 1st.”

The University, not having learned its lesson, then announces it is kicking off its year-long 125th in Boise. The Tribune again twits the University for this blindness to taking care of one’s home base first which elicits a long, loud largely irrelevant and personal vent by Mr. Murray against the Tribune.

Andrus has another expression Murray should heed: “Don’t get in a p________ contest with folks that buy ink by the barrel.”

Until then, “Mr. Burnett speaks for the university.”

Example #2. Andrus called it his “no surprises” rule. If you worked for him and there was bad news coming you’d better let him know before he read it in the newspaper. Theresa Luna, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s sister, recently testified before the Legislature’s JFAC and in the course of her testimony revealed that the State might have to come up with another $14.5 million to pay some educational vendors because reimbursement from the Feds was not forthcoming.

Why do I think this came as a surprise to Governor Butch Otter? And why hasn’t Butch fired her? And could this issue waiting to explode have had anything to do with the SPI’s sudden decision not to run for re-election?

Example #3: When Andrus was chair of the National Governor’s Association he made a habit out of calling newly elected governors of either party to offer two pieces of free advice: master your budget right away and your emergency management response system. Andrus would tell the new governors nothing could undue their re-election prospects faster than mis-handling a disaster or a crisis.

Witness some headlines over the last 18 months. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie captures the media’s acclaim for his adroit handling of the hurricane that swept across his state. By contrast, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has been apologizing and falling on his sword for mis-handling a freak ice and snow storm earlier this winter that thoroughly snarled traffic in Atlanta.

Andrus could speak authoritatively to these new governors because of his own success in adroitly managing the state’s response to the collapse of the Teton Dam in 1975.

As a freshman governor, Andrus also received some sage advice from veteran three-term Utah governor, Cal Rampton. He told Cece the great “three letters” story:

As a newly elected governor was about to escort his predecessor out of the office he asked if the veteran had any advice.

The old governor said yes, he’d left three envelopes in the desk drawer and each time the new governor faced a real crisis he could open one and it would contain advice on what the new governor should do.

A year went by, some problem mushroomed and the governor went to his desk, found the letters and opened the first one, which simply read “Blame your predecessor.” Another year went by and another crisis arose and the governor went to the desk and pulled out the second letter, opened it, and it simply read “Blame the Legislature.”

A third year went by and a third crisis arose and the governor went to the desk and pulled the last envelope out and opened it. It read “Prepare three envelopes!”

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