(Open Letter to Idaho Senator James Risch)
Senator—attached to this column is a picture of the headstone in Boise’s Pioneer Cemetery that marks the gravesite of the late, great four-term Idaho Governor and Carter Administration Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus.
For years you two engaged in sniping at each other in what was recognized by most of the state’s political cognoscenti as hardball, partisan politics. You could give as good as you received.
During those times you amply demonstrated that you could be mean, vicious, and petty, that you lacked a sense of humor and viewed politics not as an exercise that found the greatest good for the greatest number but rather a form of war.
During all those years there was one thing I never thought you capable of – outright stupidity. Imagine my surprise then when you took your six-shooter out of its holster and shot both your feet?
This one act of vindictive insanity is going to be your legacy.
In case you’ve forgotten, Cece passed away August 24th, 2017, a day shy of his 85th birthday. Apparently the fact that he is under six feet of mother earth, and you’ve outlived your old rival is not enough for you. Reports out of Washington, D.C. indicate you put a hold on the $1.3 trillion spending bill and demanded that a provision passed by the House at the behest of your Republican congressional colleague, Mike Simpson, renaming the White Clouds wilderness area the Cecil D. Andrus White Clouds Wilderness be removed.
If not, you would see the federal government shut down. Seriously? One newspaper ran the perfect headline: “Senator Risch Picks Fight with Dead Governor—Loses.” How does it feel to have the entire world laughing at you?
As Cece’s press secretary, confidant and adviser for many years I was well aware there was little love between you two, but never in my wildest thoughts did I think you could be so petty.
Why? It can’t be that you and he quarreled over appropriate levels of education funding when you were the Senate Pro Tempore leader in the Senate, can it?
It can’t be that a number of times you tried unsuccessfully to over-ride vetoes or spike important appointments.
It can’t be that he was a better, more respected politician than you, or that he supported State Senator Mike Burkett’s successful effort to deny you re-election?
This attempt to take revenge is a true lose-lose for you. Why such animosity that transcends partisan politics?
Could it be that Andrus early on nailed you for the little man with a Napoleonic complex you often displayed? Andrus was on to the games you would play, such as having your desk and chair on a riser, and you’d then stand and semi-sit on the corner of your desk looking down on a guest who you insisted take a seat in a chair on the floor?
Then there was the time you were about to be sworn in as governor for six months. Invites were sent to all former living governors and all rsvp’d they would be there except Andrus. Do you were remember this, Senator?
You called Andrus at home and the conversation went something like this:
Risch: “Cecil, this is yourrrr governor. And your governor would respectfully request your attendence at his inauguration tomorrow.”
Andrus: “All right you little so and so, I’ll be there.” And he did attend.
Andrus had more class in his little finger than you will ever have. If you had an ounce of class you’d apologize to the Andrus family and to your colleague, Mike Simpson. I won’t hold my breath.
Shame on you Senator Risch for attempting such petty vindictiveness. You proved to one and all you are every bit the little man that you are.