Why do we abuse our public servants?
What is it about so many Idaho voters who seem to enjoy abusing those they have elected to public office?
Over the last 65 years the Gem State has produced some real gems, fine public servants in the highest sense who see public service as a calling, people who revere the public trust they hold, and would literally die rather than bring disgrace to their office - people like Cecil Andrus, Jim McClure¸ John Evans, Len Jordan, Marguerite McLaughlin, Edith Miller Klein, to name but a few.
Idaho has also had some real turkeys - some corrupt, some who make a fence post look intelligent. Others were scoundrels, drunkards, skirt-chasers. Eventually they are defeated but are seldom subject to the abuse the fine ones endure.
It was common knowledge, especially among the media, that Steve Symms, Idaho’s First District Congressman in 1980, had a roving eye and liked a well-turned ankle and/or an ample endowment. Steve, though, was a good ole boy, quick with a quip, easy-going, and had the gambit of taking a bite out of an apple (he was an apple farmer) to symbolize the bite he would take out of government.
His opponent in the 1980 Senate race was Idaho’s distinguished four-term Senator Frank Church, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and a man of probity and virtue who had brought nothing but distinction and honor to Idaho during his 24 years of service.
Guess which one had a St. Maries dogcatcher mount a recall campaign against him? Guess which one was the subject of a series of nasty, “hit ads” a full year before the election? Yup. Senator Church, who was not surprisingly defeated by the “beloved infidel,” Steve Symms, in that 1980 Senate race.
Idaho’s Second District voters displayed unusual loyalty to their gad-fly congressman (two stints totaling fourteen years) “Big George” Hansen, and despite serious allegations of fraud and income tax evasion, stayed loyal to him until he was actually convicted. Go figure.
All of this history came to mind as I listened to and read accounts of the incredible abuse endured earlier this month by one of Idaho’s fine State Senators, Shawn Keough, from Sandpoint, at public forums in Blanchard and Sandpoint. She has served 18 years with distinction, is an incredibly hard-working public servant, and is vice-chair of the powerful Senate Finance committee and thus vice-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. She does her homework, is thoughtful and pays attention to her constituents. (more…)