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Posts published in March 2016

Idaho’s choice


In this season so uncomfortable for many Republicans a new question may soon arise: What’s most important, party or philosophy?

On Tuesday, and then again possibly in November, we’ll get hard numbers on that, because what’s on the ballot will give Idaho’s Republicans, and their elected leaders, a choice.

Not in many, many years has a leading Republican candidate for president run so distant from what Idaho Republicans have for generations accepted as gospel: Less government, lower taxes, support business, oppose abortion, and so on. Reflection Reaganism, if you’re a Republican, and you’re golden.

In much of Idaho, there’s been a significant related factor: The close alliance between most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who account for about a third of the vote in Idaho and a much higher percentage of Republican voters, and orthodox Republicans. (The church itself takes no formal position on presidential or other political races.)

Enter now Donald Trump, the most probable Republican nominee for president and most significant Republican breaker of the mold since before Reagan.

He is not a reciter of the GOP mantra, not even close. He doesn’t see public policy through the small-government/lower-taxes lens. The main philosophy of Donald Trump’s campaign is Donald Trump, and even that changes from week to week. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who had overwhelming support in Idaho, remarked on Thursday, “There's plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign, and on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row.”

He also attached Trump to “the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss”.
In saying so, Romney probably did not run afoul of many of his fellow churchgoers.

On Tuesday, Christopher Cunningham, the content director of (a website not affiliated with the church but closely supportive of it) made what may be a powerful argument for church members. (You can read it at He described a 2014 interview of Trump by McKay Coppins: “Trump insisted that Mitt Romney lost because his faith was ‘alien.’ But as Trump’s thoughts on the Church turned negative, Coppins interrupted explaining that he was Mormon. Trump then changed his tune saying, ‘People don’t understand the Mormon thing. I do. I get it.’”

Cunningham also quoted a Trump spokesman, who was defending the candidate’s proposals to investigate and possibly close mosques, as adding (approvingly), “It’s no different than a Mormon Church. You’ve had the DOJ investigate Mormon Churches and shut them down.”

In all, Cunningham said, “the uncorrected hostility between Donald Trump and Mormons is unprecedented in modern presidential politics. You may have to go back to Grover Cleveland in 1889 to find similar anti-Mormon sentiment from a presidential campaign.”

Few well-known Idaho political figures have signed on with Trump and offered a favorable counter-message. One who has is Skip Brandt, an Idaho County commissioner (and former legislator), who wrote in a letter to the editor: “The stakes could not be higher. The politically correct socialists are about to destroy our country. Donald Trump is the common-sense conservative who can change Washington, D.C. Donald Trump has the establishment (Democrats and Republicans alike) scared to death. Why? Because Trump is a private sector businessman that is used to saying ‘You’re fired.’”

So what message will Idahoans back on Tuesday? Polling has shown Trump running strong in the Gem State, well positioned to win as he has in many other deeply red states.

To the extent he does, Idaho’s political analysts will have their work cut out parsing an Idaho electorate that maybe didn’t care – all along – about many of the things its political leaders have assumed it does. And then the follow-up question: What about November?


Here's a good example of a well-crafted negative political spot.

As well as a good rundown of what Donald Trump's critics are talking about in their criticisms of "Trump University." Clear, compact, hard to rebut.

First take/Trumpspeak

After spending a couple of hours (that I'll never get back) watching the kindergarten playground squabble that was the Republican presidential "debate" I ran across a more useful discussion between two members of the media who've been plenty involved over the years with campaign coverage.

The venue was the Bill O'Reilly show on Fox, a place where any number of presidential candidates, including Donald Trump, have put in appearances. His guest Wednesday night, however, was Ted Koppel, one of the best television interviewers of recent decades. Noting that he's interviewed Trump several times (including, fruitlessly, last night post-debate) he reasonably asked Koppel how he would interview him.

Koppel's answer was probably unexpected: "It’s irrelevant how I would do it. . . . You know who made it irrelevant? You did. You have changed the television landscape over the past 20 years. You took it from being objective and dull to subjective and entertaining. And in this current climate, it doesn’t matter what the interviewer asks him — Mr. Trump is gonna say whatever he wants to say, as outrageous as it may be.” Which is of course true, as anyone who's seen him in a Q&A format knows perfectly well.

When O'Reilly re-asked the question, Koppel expanded on his point: “the first way you do it is not in the interview — you do it by some reporting. It’s an old-fashioned concept but I think demonstrating who and what Mr. Trump is and what his policies really amount to is something you don’t do in an interview. He doesn’t answer the questions.”

Most of what passes for cable TV news is nothing more than giving air time to entertainers - and, as last night's presidential debate showed, that's even happening at the debate level. Actual, serious reporting is scarce. It costs more than simply doing talking heads, and viewers don't reward it enough.

It doesn't speak well for our ability to govern ourselves with anything resembling intelligence. -rs

Top one


In what would become a first of it’s kind independent voter only “top one” primary, the Independent Party has requested Oregon’s Secretary of State to include all current Republican and Democratic Candidates, as well as non affiliated/independent candidate Michael Bloomberg, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein on the Independent Party’s May primary ballot. The winner of this “top one primary” would move on to the November general ballot in Oregon as the nominee of the Independent Party. If the Independent top one winner also wins another party’s nomination, that person could list both nominations on the ballot in November.

The Independent Party has already opened it’s primary election to non affiliated voters. Meaning that should the Secretary of State honor the IPO’s request, the 110,000 IPO members as well as any of the 530,000 non affiliated Oregon voters who request an IPO ballot would be able for the first time in history, participate in a Presidential preference poll that included all candidates.

Want to participate?

First, the Secretary of State has to agree to make this a Top One Primary as the IPO requested. If she does then here’s how independent voters get to be heard in this historic race for President.

If you’re already registered with the IPO: IPO ballots will be automatically sent to all registered IPO members. If you’d like to participate you don’t need to do anything – except perhaps let the Secretary of State know that you’d like her to approve the IPO’s Top One primary.

Voters who are currently non affiliated with any party, but who would like to participate in this “top one” preference poll, can either change their registration to Independent Party of Oregon by following this link. Or, alternatively, the Secretary of State has set up a cumbersome mechanism for non affiliated voters to keep their current registration, but get an IPO ballot. You will need to wait for the Secretary of State to send you a postcard in the mail. Then you must make a written request with your local election office to receive the IPO ballot. Then they will mail that to you. Hopefully all this can occur before ballots are due. (The IPO asked the Secretary of State to send an IPO ballot to all non affilaited voters as part of the notice opening it’s primary. That would have encouraged voter participation – a stated Democratic Party priority – and saved taxpayer money. The SoS refused)

The simpler way would be to re-register with the IPO online, then register back to being non affiliated after the election, should you choose to do so. (However, there are good reasons to consider remaining an IPO member. Particularly if you’d like to participate in more elections such as this presidential preference poll)

The Secretary of States response will be due soon, as a decision on ballots needs to be made within one week.

First take/ISU med

I probably wasn't alone in misreading the new from last week about the planned new osteopathic medical school at Idaho State University (in its Meridian campus operations). I thought, more or less, it was an ISU operation, period.

Not exactly.

Boise Weekly has put a spotlight on that, starting with a quote from a state Department of Commerce spokesman that "The investors are both the Rice University Foundation, and a group of private family investors, with one of the predominant families being the Burrell family."

Investors in a state college? Again, not exactly: This won't be a state college at all. Rather, Idaho State University would simply have an affiliation with the new osteopathic teaching facility. Rice University and several private investors figure the Intermountain West is underserved in medical education (which is probably is) and there's some profit to be made in launching another teaching school. This one follows up on a similar effort in New Mexico.

ISU President Arthur Vailas said that "The opportunity for our health care programs to work very closely with the faculty physicians and physicians of our both rural and metropolitan areas. And, as you know, ISU has about 12 to 15 clinics throughout the state in very remote areas, treating Idahoans. And, we need to do a bigger and better job, and having this partnership gives us that ability to do so."

Maybe so. Of Idaho's major higher education institutions, ISU, which has teaching and pharmacy operations, is the one most aligned to medical education, and the one most logically linked to new medical operations by way of some kind of agreement. The deal looks, on its face, reasonable enough; we'll see how it goes in time. But bear in mind what this school is and isn't as it moves ahead. - rs

The perfect nominee


Dear Mr. President:

Allow me to suggest respectfully the perfect nominee to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

The person I am going to suggest is eminently qualified, possesses the demeanor and deportment of a justice, has served as the attorney general of a western state, has been confirmed by the Senate for an important sub-cabinet post, is a minority, did NOT matriculate at Yale, Harvard, or your alma mater, Columbia, and hales from west of the Misssissippi.

These latter points are not minor inasmuch as you have gone on record saying the Ivy League should not have a monopoly on Supreme Court appointments.

Some would dispute my claim that he is “perfect” in that when he ran for public office, as the Democrat he is, he parted company with the purists who hold that any and all Democrats have to pass the litmus test of being pro-choice. Out of both personal and religious conviction he considers himself to be pro-life.

However, as a jurist he would show great deference to precedence. It would be for the Senate Judiciary committee to question and determine just how much of a strict constructionist he might be. By nature he is taciturn, measures his words carefully and some might consider him to be somewhat of a conservative Democrat.

Others might say that because he is in his 60s he is too old to be a justice. The counter to that is he maintains himself in excellent shape, is a retired officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and neither smokes nor consumes alcohol.

In naming this individual you would be setting several firsts which in and of themselves will make it difficult for Republican senators to refuse to give him a hearing. Who is this perfect nominee?

I am respectfully suggesting you nominate and the Senate hold hearings this Congress to weigh the worthiness of Larry Echohawk. He would, as a full blood member of the Pawnee Nation, be the first Native American nominated, the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints nominated; he was elected by the people of Idaho to be their attorney general and in 1994 came within a whisker of being the first Native American to be elected as governor of a state.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in 1970 and a law degree from the University of Utah in 1973. He served on the faculty of the BYU law school and was interim dean.

Presently, he serves on the Quorum of 70, the second highest governing body in the LDS Church, and the fact he is a Mormon in good-standing presents a dilemma for Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, a past chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. How can he refuse to give one of Echohawk’s standing in their Church a hearing? How can his Judiciary colleagues, Utah junior Senator Mike Lee, or Arizona’s junior Senator Jeff Flake, both of whom are LDS, not act on this historic nomination?

Or Idaho’s senior Senator Mike Crapo, a former LDS bishop---how can he oppose even meeting with Idaho’s former Attorney General? Even the “shadow shogun” of Idaho Republicans, Idaho Falls billionaire businessman Frank VanderSloot, also LDS, might be motivated to get off the sidelines and urge that Echohawk at least be heard.

How does Mitt Romney (for whom VanderSloot raised a lot of money) react? He almost has to commend you, Mr. President.

If Larry Echohawk gets a hearing, he’ll be confirmed---you can bet the Senate’s most prominent LDS Democrat, Nevada Senator Harry Reid will take care of that detail.

It will be a win for all Americans as the public will fall in love with Echohawk. It will be a win for the Supreme Court and its ability once again to render decisions because there will be nine justices. It will be a win for the Senate as it shows the public partisan differences can be set aside for the common good. Last but not least, it will be a win for you, Mr. President, as it will reflect on your ability to have produced a solution that looked like it was headed for a train wreck.

It will be historic, Mr. President. I respectfully urge you to send the Senate the name of Larry Echohawk to be the next Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chris Carlson

First take/The supers

"Super Tuesday" was a little less superlatively definitive than it might have been. It didn't really upset, in any big ways, most existing trend lines, but - remarkably - it didn't knock anyone out of the field, either. In both parties, things continue on more or less as they had been.

More or less.

The one candidate who came out of Tuesday with a basis for feeling a little better than previously was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. While the bulk of the Republican nomination events went to businessman Donald Trump, Cruz was teetering on the edge. If he had won no states on Tuesday - and the possibility of his losing his home state of Texas was quite real - he would have been done. A win in Texas was essential to his continuing. Two additional wins, in Oklahoma and Alaska, had to put a little extra spring in his campaign's step this morning. While Senator Marco Rubio did score one win, in Minnesota, it was his first (and Cruz was highly competitive there). Tuesday gave Cruz a reasonable argument for contending he, not Rubio, is Trump's major opposition. Rubio's campaign is going to have to do much harder spinning, though not as hard as if he'd no wins at all. "Minnesota" will probably be Rubio's word of blessing for some time; without that win, he would have been on the verge of folding. As it is, he can go forward, albeit a little weakened.

That said, Trump entered Tuesday as the contender to beat, and he exited the same way. He is now way ahead on state wins and delegates. He's not un-catchable yet, but if he maintains the pace for two more weeks he will be.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton solidified her front-running position. But Bernie Sanders did well enough to justify keeping on keeping on. That would have been a marginal case had he won only his home of Vermont, as many predictors had estimated. But instead, he won Colorado, Oklahoma and Minnesota as well - a respectable haul. The race realistically can go on.

One other comment - a quote.

The biggest winner on Super Tuesday may have been Donald Trump, and his electoral strength is beginning to show in the number of party elected and other officials endorsing him - still a small number, but growing.

Republican consultant Rich Wilson had some pungent words for prospective endorsers in a piece out today. All of it bears reading, but this part needs particular attention:

As a Republican governor, a senator, or member of Congress, or as a Republican candidate, let me remind you: You’re known by the company you keep. By associating yourself with or endorsing Trump, you own Trump’s toxic radioactivity with voters outside his base. You own his economic ignorance, his poisonous stupidity on every consequential matter of policy, and his lack of political and personal discretion. And you own it forever. The Internet—and ad-makers like me—never forget.
There’s a reason Trump’s favorability rating is 2:1 negative, why almost no scenario leads him to victory in November. There’s a reason why women and Hispanics loathe Trump. There’s a reason why conservatives know Trump isn’t one of them. And there’s a reason why smart down-ballot candidates and elected officials who can see beyond the current frenzy are heading for the exits from the Trump circus; beyond the core of his supporters, Donald Trump is a hideous cancer on American political life. He’s an objectively terrible person, and that eventually matters in politics.
If you want to endorse that, you’re on your own. You’ll own it even after the Trump bubble bursts, Hillary Clinton is sworn in, and the Chinese-made red hat he shoved on your head at the endorsement rally is nothing but an uncomfortable reminder of your terrible political judgment.

(photo/Gage Skidmore) - rs

What a mess


The Republicans are determined to present us with a rude, ill-qualified, arrogant buffoon as the best of their best, while the Democrats are splitting themselves into the left, the far left and the farther left, with the most extreme manning the barricades to demand that the party's candidates are not liberal enough.

The country has never in its history faced an electoral challenge with as odd a collection of enigmas as this one.

Trump, who to any rational observer remains a catastrophe in progress, is actually becoming palatable to the hidebound of the right wing pols. The reddest of them are beginning to talk of accommodating his presidency. O’Reilly, for example, is looking fondly on Giuliani to be homeland secretary and Christie as his obvious pick for attorney general.

It could be worse. If Cruz gets his hands on the levers of power, with his 19th century Victorian views of social mores and his iconoclastic attitude towards the role of government, the country could be set back to the middle of the last century. And the mere thought of entrusting the “football” to Rubio appalls. He is no more than an immature school boy in an empty suit running for class president.

Trump needs 1,237 delegates to win on the first ballot. He has accumulated 82 delegates out of the 133 available from the first four states, or 61%. Counting all few caucus states that start their processes on Tuesday but won’t have reports until later, there are 661 more delegates up for allotment, with results immediately available from 11 states by the end of the day. If Trump continues at anywhere close to the same rate, he will have close to 400 delegates by when all the votes are counted, or over 480 total. This will put him substantially ahead of the curve as the campaign moves along, and far ahead of any of his competition. He will only need fewer than 760 or so delegates out of the remaining 1,600 plus delegates to be awarded, or something in the range of 45%. This means that so long as Cruz, Rubio Kasich and Carson continue to split the anti-Trump vote between them, Trump will be in no trouble. Any combination of plurality wins in the same ration as before Super Tuesday will sweep the remainder of the states by an ample percentage, almost certain to be sufficient to deliver a bullet proof majority before the convention.

The only hope now to derail Trump appears to be a sudden and sustained surge by one of the remaining candidates sufficient to deny Trump enough delegates to win on the first ballot. If the convention goes to a second ballot, Trump delegates who are no longer committed by law might bolt and either support one of the others or get behind a last-minute white knight. Hello, Governor Romney – anybody wonder why he has not endorsed anyone yet?

One would think that all of these Republican machinations would serve to solidify the eventual race to the Democrats. But, the Democratic candidates have their own set of problems. Clinton, who for the second time in her career is running a meandering, unfocused Presidential campaign, continues to give the singular impression that her principle theme for running is that she wants to be elected. She does, however, bring a set of skills to the task that are unmatched by anyone else. She is the only one capable of taking over immediately, without risking the country to a learning curve or a trip through la-la land.

But her candidacy, and her administration if elected, will be laden with the baggage she is dragging around that runs back 30 years. Never has a candidate with negative popularity numbers in the range of Hillary’s managed to get elected. Unless, of course, one compares her negative numbers with the unpopularity index of Donald Trump.

Now that Hillary has turned the corner, the polls seem to indicate that the major primary states are all going to deliver for her from here on out. But Sanders shows no sign of slowing down, and continues to draw huge crowds. He has been the enigma of every pundit and curious onlooker with access to internet commentary in the country.

Not one of the cognoscenti gave Bernie a chance to rise out of single digits when he announced last year. He should never have had a chance on the national scene: he’s too old, he’s Jewish, he’s an atheist, and he is a committed socialist. He qualifies his position to being a “democratic” socialist, but nobody to the right of the centerline pays attention to that distinction.

In another time, it might also have been crippling to any national campaign that he was a pot-smoking, draft-dodging, hippie father of an illegitimate child in his youth. But he never made any attempt to keep any of this secret, and when the press tried slinging some of it around last summer, none of it stuck. If he gets the nomination, all of this will come pouring out of the woodwork again, but as of today, it does not appear to make a whit of difference to the huge crowds following him around. It is impossible to count him out until the last votes are in.

A pragmatic problem to the movers and shakers within the party is that Bernie has no ties to the Democratic party organization other than his decisions to caucus with them in the Senate and to run on their ticket for national office. This leaves nothing to attach coattails to, meaning it is uncertain how his candidacy might impact the down-ticket races for governorships, congressional seats and state legislatures. These races are of critical importance to the Democratic party organization as the country approaches the 2020 census and the mandatory round of legislative and Congressional redistricting that will follow. While the Democrats can justly console themselves by maintaining that either of their candidates would be better than any from the clown bus, many of the older pols are apprehensive of a Sanders’ administration as it may affect the integration of the Democratic party down-ticket. This would tend to indicate that the super delegates, who are made up almost exclusively of party insiders, will opt overwhelmingly for Hillary come vote time.

But then, what do I know? These opinions and a buck won’t even get a cup of coffee anymore. Approximately one year ago this week, my predictions were for a Republican circus of modest interest until the party reluctantly coalesced around Jeb Bush – maybe as early as Halloween, followed by a stately and probably boring Democratic procession to Hillary’s coronation. Hoo, boy! Did I ever get it wrong.