Last week I attended the investiture ceremony of Idaho’s newest U.S. attorney, former Idaho Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis. The ceremony, held in the Lincoln Auditorium of the Idaho State Capitol Building, bespoke the peaceful transition of power.
I do not know Bart Davis well, but what I know of him is very positive. He and I may not agree on some matters of public policy, but his reputation for integrity is strong. He strikes me as a thoughtful and considerate person, one who can work constructively with those holding different perspectives and who approaches difficult problems with humility and civility. These attributes will serve him well as he transitions from enacting state laws to enforcing federal laws.
Incredibly, it has been 24 years since I took the same oath of office. Watching Bart Davis’ investiture, I was reminded of Senator Craig’s comment when I visited his office during my confirmation proceedings: “Betty, I’d be happier if you were a Republican.” “Yes, I understand,” I replied, “But if I were a Republican, President Clinton likely wouldn’t have nominated me.” Craig smiled.
I told Senators Craig and Kempthorne – then Idaho’s members of “the world’s most exclusive club” – that I knew the office required its occupant to leave partisan considerations at the door and promised to do exactly that. Afterward, having received their support, my nomination was unanimously confirmed by the full senate.
Upon taking office, I inherited a staff assembled over the years by my predecessors, both Republicans and Democrats. I found – pretty much without exception – that all of these professionals, attorneys and support staff alike, were committed to the mission of the office.
During my seven year tenure, I had the opportunity to hire many more employees. Merit mattered. Party affiliation did not.
So now, at a time when many people are quick to identify first and foremost with political tribes, it was reassuring to attend an investiture in which the person taking office held a broader view. Among those speaking at Bart Davis’ investiture was Wendy Olson, who was appointed U.S. Attorney by Barack Obama. I am pleased to say that I hired her as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and could not be more proud of the able and honorable manner in which she served in the top job. I thought it said a lot about Bart Davis – a Republican – that he asked Wendy Olson, a member of the “other” party, to speak.
At my investiture, I asked one of my Republican predecessors, Guy Hurlbutt, to speak. The message I hoped to send – and one I believe was echoed by Davis’ request of Olson — was that the office belongs to no party, no president. It belongs to the people of Idaho.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to be selected for this opportunity in public service take an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic and to enforce the law without fear or favor. That oath requires that U.S. Attorneys, once invested, do not think in terms of political party but focus solely on applying the facts to the law in each and every case, to strive to secure justice, and to uphold the Constitution.
For many months, I have been deeply troubled by comments made and actions taken by President Trump seemingly intended to politicize the Department of Justice; I will write more about these concerns in the future. For now, though, I add my voice to the chorus of people who applaud the appointment and confirmation of Bart Davis as U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho. I believe he will honor every word of his oath of office and that Idaho will be well-served.