Early in his political career, Gov. Butch Otter would encourage people to view political campaigns as part of a job-application process.
As with any good applicant, he greeted voters as he would with a CEO of a company – a winning smile and firm handshake. He looked sharp, had a resume that didn’t quit, and was quick and confident with his responses. For good measure, he’d drown his face with after shave lotion – just to make sure nobody forgot who Butch Otter was.
That was 1986 and Otter was applying for Idaho’s lieutenant governor. He landed that job and two others he applied for during that 28-year stretch – 1st District congressman and governor of this great state. Now, he is applying for a third term in the state’s highest office.
At 72, Otter is much older than when he first applied in 1986. But he still looks and feels sharp, has that winning smile, firm handshake and is as friendly as your next-door neighbor – minus the layers of after shave lotion, thank goodness.
Otter has been an easy hire through the years. But for company CEOs, there comes a time when employees must be fired. It often comes when an employee does something egregious to embarrass the company. The CEOs in Otter’s life were able to overlook a couple of embarrassing moments – a drunken driving arrest and entry into a tight-jeans contest.
But the other night, Otter did something that no CEO could ignore. He was responsible for making Idaho the nation’s laughingstock by insisting that Harley Brown and Walt Bayes be part of the only televised gubernatorial debate of this primary campaign. Brown and Bayes were total embarrassments, as Otter, debate organizers and everybody else knew they would be.
Otter’s political strategy worked to perfection. Brown and Bayes were sideshow distractions and the candidates didn’t even get around to talking about education. The message sent to industries, educators and others considering moving to Idaho is that this is a state of bikers and backward hicks and that people such as Harley Brown and Walt Bayes are worthy of consideration for the state’s highest office. If the head of the Department of Commerce were responsible for creating this kind of spectacle, he’d be fired – as he should be.
As a native Idahoan, I’m offended. And as one of the CEOs of this state, I am holding Butch Otter responsible for what he did to my state.
I’m going to fire him on Tuesday.