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At the Benewah County Lincoln Day

carlson CHRIS


My Democratic sympathies are well known, so there was more than an eyebrow or two that arched up when I walked into the St. Maries Elk Club last Saturday, plopped my $10 down for the chili luncheon fare, and took a seat.

While some were surprised, they were no more surprised than I at the warm greetings I received. County GOP chair, former State Representative Dick Harwood, was his usual gracious self. I’ve known Harwood for years. While we seldom agree on much, we respect each others right to hold differing views and we keep our sense of humor.

Likewise, St. Maries City Councilman Judd Wilson, though a Tea Party Republican, is a good friend and we enjoy debating the issues and exchange book recommendations. Wilson knows I have a soft spot for Marines inasmuch as my son, Scott, is currently a captain in the Corps. Wilson is a retired USMC officer though he’d be quick to tell you that once a Marine, always a Marine.

I also enjoyed meeting the State GOP’s Second Vice Chair, Jim Pierce, who walked over and introduced himself. Said he was a fourth generation Idahoan who enjoyed my columns, though he seldom agreed with their point.

I said that wasn’t a bother. My purpose was achieved if I provoked a reader to see things from a different perspective and to revisit an isssue.

I came to listen to what Senator Mike Crapo had to say about current debates in Washington, D.C. I like Mike Crapo. He is thoughtful, intelligent and articulate. I have long admired the courage he showed when sitting on the Simpson/Bowles Coimmission that President Obama largely named to look at the catastrophic escalation of the national debt and recommend some tough castor oil.

President Obama began to lose me when he did not endorse the tough set of spending cuts, some new taxes and some genuine reforms to get us back on the path to fiscal sanity and balanced budgets. Crapo stood out in forthrightly defending the Commission’s work.

All that said, I was surprised by the Senator’s remarks. Frankly, he just tossed out “red meat” one-liners to his conservative audience. It was political cant, posturing and patronizing.

For example, he started by saying what a terrific team he and Senator Jim Risch were because they voted alike 99% of the time. Even if that were true, and I doubt it, we pay our senators to do their own thinking. Risch is a partisan ideologue, Crapo is not—yet there the senior senator stood giving rise to the question who follows whom.

Crapo then, in my view, really stepped off the board into deep yogurt. He touted how closely he worked with, admired and respected Rep. Raul Labrador, who was scheduled to be there but had stayed in Washington. Why? Because he is one of the 50 hard right House conservatives who was willing to let the funding for the Department of Homeland Security lapse unless the Democrats and moderate Republicans accepted their attempted blackmail to add to the funding bill a repeal of President Obama’s executive orders on immigration reform.

This is precisely the kind of governance by confrontation, threat, shutdowns, linkages of disparate issues that I thought Republicans last fall said they would eschew if the voters would elect a Republicn Senate to go along with the Republican House.

Okay, you have both houses of Congress but you’re demonstrating you can’t govern. I thought you knew better than to engage in this kind of pandering to hard core Republican extremists who among other things would like to repeal the 17th amendment that calls for direct election of senators.

And where did you come up with that line about “next time we’ll hold the IRS hostage?” Come on Senator, do you really believe that? You’ve got the safest Republican seat in the Senate. Odds are you won’t even have a Democratic opponent on the November, 2016 ballot. What are doing engaging in this kind of political posturing? Where’s the thoughtful, courageous, non-ideologue Senator that served on the Simpson/Bowles Commission?

Don’t tell me you’re trying to make sure you don’t get a challenge from the right, either. I ain’t buying that and the many folks who have proudly sent you to the Senate three times won’t buy it either.

A postscript: Hands down Abraham Lincoln was our greatest president. I marvel though that Republicans don’t recognize the irony in their honoring the first president to run up huge deficits (Civil War costs) and also the first president to suspend the constitutional gurantee of the right to a writ of habeas corpus, and then ignored a Supreme Court ruling that only Congress had that power. Think about it.

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