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Posts published in December 2018

Idaho Weekly Briefing – December 24

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 17. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

TO OUR READERS: This edition is the last of 2018, as we take a one-week break for the Christmas holidays. We’ll return on January 7 with an edition covering the end of 2018 and first week of 2019.

More growth in business news continued through the week as unemployment levels dropped to near record lows. How long will those levels persist? Meanwhile, as much of the state saw snow or slush, Idahoans prepared for the Christmas-New Year’s holidays.

Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill and Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Terry L. Myers will step down from their roles as the chief judges effective January 1. U.S. District Judge David C. Nye and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Joseph M. Meier will assume the role of chief in their respective courts on January 2, 2019. Judge Winmill and Judge Myers will continue to carry full caseloads.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.6% in November, down slightly from October and continuing at or below 3% for the 15th consecutive month. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – was 854,243, increasing by 0.1% and essentially unchanged since July.

Governor-elect Brad Little’s transition committee continues its work. Kelley Packer will lead as Bureau Chief of the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licensure. Packer is a former Idaho State Representative from McCammon. Tom Kealey will be the new Director of the Department of Commerce. Kealey is a co-owner of the restaurant chain Chicago Connection and a former executive at Morrison-Knudsen. The chairman and executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party have announced their impending exits which will take place March 16. Chairman Bert Marley, will not seek re-election when the post is next up for election on March 16. Marley has been chair of the IDP since August 2015.

Legislation championed by senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch to bring into wide use newer, more efficient energy reactors cleared the United States Senate by a voice vote.

Idaho’s growing economy, a consistent decrease in layoffs and a solvent Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund are all contributing to a 6.6% decrease in unemployment insurance tax rates for 2019.

Boise Kind is a community-wide initiative that highlights, protects and promotes the community’s core values and helps to ensure Boise remains kind and welcoming.

IMAGE Higher elevations in Idaho saw increasing snow levels in December, and road managers scrambled to clear them. (photo/Idaho Department of Transportation)
 

Idaho needs a governor’s house

johnson

Idaho officials need to get serious about an official residence for the governor - or, failing that, they need to end the increasingly dubious practice of padding the governor's salary in the disguise of a "housing allowance."

Goodness knows the state is frugal about most things - look at the parsimonious spending on public schools, higher education and highways - but the Governor's Housing Committee (there really is such a thing) seems to display little compunction about spending thousands of dollars a year on a housing allowance for the chief executive.

The Housing Committee - four legislators and the director of the Department of Administration - voted earlier this month to increase the housing allowance new Gov. Brad Little will receive next year. The new amount is $4,551 per month or $54,612 per year, a figure that is more than the average Idaho salary. And for what?

To their credit, the two Democratic legislators on the committee voiced concern about the practice of what amounts to paying the governor to live in his own home and ultimately voted against the increase. Idaho hasn't had a governor's residence since the state sold the old official residence in Boise's north end in 1989 after then-Gov. Cecil D. Andrus said he preferred to live in his own Boise home. At this point, the state started providing a housing allowance.

The old house, built in 1914 by architect Walter Pierce - incidentally the chairman of the committee that oversaw construction of the Idaho Capitol Building - had seen better days by the 1980s. Warped doors didn't work well and one first lady complained that plugging two appliances into the same kitchen outlet was a sure way to blow a fuse.

Andrus occasionally used the place for a quiet meeting away from the Capitol. I remember one time when he and then-Sen.Jim McClure convened in the dining room, and away from prying eyes in the Statehouse, to work on a plan for an Idaho wilderness bill.

The original Idaho residence - it would be an overstatement to call it a "mansion" - was purchased by the Republican-led Legislature when Benewah County physician C.A. "Doc" Robins was elected governor. Robins was not a wealthy guy, unlike recent Idaho governors, and needed a place to live. The Legislature obliged.

Now Idaho is one of only six states without an official residence. It should. I've had the good fortune to visit several official residences in other states where the governor's house is often a historic building that reflects the culture of the state.

The Utah residence, for example, is a marvelous old house, beautifully restored to its 1902 style and located in a historic Salt Lake City neighborhood.

The Michigan governor has the use of two houses, including a summer place in a marvelous setting on Mackinac Island where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron.

A better approach for Idaho, despite what the naysayers have long held, would be to actually provide an official residence for the governor and devote the cash that currently goes to padding the chief executive's salary to maintaining a facility that would soon enough become an iconic part of the capital city.

Dirk Kempthorne tried to accomplish that goal with what turned out to be an ill-considered notion to have the state accept J.R. Simplot's donation of his monstrosity on the hill in Boise and convert it to an official residence. The house, with all the charm of a Soviet-era apartment building, was a money pit. After costing the state a bundle, the property was returned to the Simplot family who improved the aesthetics of the Boise foothills by demolishing the place.

Another property in the foothills and long envisioned as the site of a governor's residence was wisely abandoned to a higher and better use as open space.

Still, despite this star-crossed history, with a little effort and not that much money, Idaho could set out to acquire a suitable executive residence, a place where governors would want to live and entertain. An appropriate location would be along one of Boise's stately and historic avenues - Harrison or Warm Springs. Locate a suitable structure, hopefully with some history and Idaho style, set aside some money in an endowment to maintain the home and devote a room or two to showcasing the history of Idaho's governors.

With the current arrangement, Idaho will just keep paying thousands of dollars annually to its governor for housing, while the state accumulates no equity and no real benefit. Some day the state may have a governor who is not independently wealthy or a near-Boise resident and may actually need a place to live.

Little, like every governor in recent times, wants nothing to do with this conversation and says he plans to live in a condo owned by a subsidiary of a company owned by his family.

For the more than $200,000 the state will hand him in housing allowances during the next four years Idaho could make a nice down payment on a real house. It would be money better spent.

Johnson served as press secretary and chief of staff to the late former Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. He lives in Manzanita, Ore.
 

In review

stapiluslogo1

I for one take note that what may be the most important thing to happen in Idaho this year - ballot placement and voter passage of the initiative to expand Medicaid access in the state - wasn’t even mentioned in the looking-ahead column I wrote a year ago.

Why not? The initiative effort was active and rolling by the end of 2017; the ballot effort was filed and the campaign in place; the advocates were at work. But it looked then like a long shot. Getting any initiative to Idaho ballot status has been, in recent years, a daunting task completed by few. And what would be the odds of Idaho voters backing one of the key components of Obamacare, which so many of their elected officials have described for years like the work of the devil?

But here we are, with the measure passed (and under challenge in court, though - prognostication alert - the challenge probably will fail). Goes to show how many of the most important developments in the course of a year also are the most surprising.

Last year I couched much of the look-ahead column in the form of questions, such as: “Should we shut the door on Democratic prospects in Idaho? And even if major offices prove elusive, might Democrats see substantial gains in the legislature or in the courthouses?”

These remained fair questions through much of the year, though the answer on election day seemed close to what had been broadly expected: Democrats did a little better in 2018 than usual, both in filling key ballot slots and in the final vote, but not by a lot. Republicans remain solidly in control. Makes you wonder now if the Medicaid expansion measure had an effect on that.

Another question I raised then turned out to be relevant, though not in the way anticipated: “There are candidates from the establishment Republican world (Brad Little for governor and David Leroy for Congress), and from the outside-activist wing (Raul Labrador and Russell Fulcher, respectively), and candidates a little harder to easily classify. Will we see a consistent thread running between them? Will this year’s Republican primary turn into a battle between slates of candidates the way 2014 did? Will it lead to bitter conflicts the way that one did, or settle out more easily?”

The inside and outside question was on point. But unlike in 2014, when the two sides split cleanly into de facto slates, the races in 2018 did not cohere so simply. The governor’s race featured three significant candidates, enough to splinter the vote and alter the conversation - and alliances - in important ways. Republicans up and down the ballot were not lumped together in groups as they had been four years earlier, maybe reflecting the complex governor’s race. Republicans came out of this year’s election no doubt with some hard feelings (tough primaries almost always generate at least some, and did on the Democratic side too), but of nowhere near the depth or scope that the party had to deal with after 2014.

I did say that “2018 stands to be a lively political year,” and it was, with several hard-to-predict primaries (the Democratic gubernatorial primary result was a surprise to a lot of people) and a heated general election contest. But the end result in most of the major races, and in overall control of the state legislature, were never much in question. 2018 did not change the basic political equation in Idaho except for the Medicaid expansion (and a subtle but maybe significant voting shift in western Ada County).

2019 won’t feature a major election in Idaho (at least, not that we can foresee right now). But the after-effects of 2018 will be in evidence. I’ll get to that next week.
 

Now what?

schmidt

It’s been over eight years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law with NO republican votes. Since, we have had many political campaigns propped up on “Repeal!”, then “Repeal and Replace!” and now we have the decision of a Texas Federal judge that the whole thing should just go away. He bases his opinion on the fact that the Trump tax break for corporations and the wealthy passed last year overturned the individual mandate. OK. I get it. You Republicans don’t like the Affordable Care Act. But just what did you have in mind to get us out of this mess we are in?

Americans pay almost twice as much per person for healthcare as the next developed country in the world. And ALL of the other developed countries have universal coverage, either through a single payer plan or regulated private insurers like the ACA was headed toward. So just what do you Republicans have in mind for us? I hear all these “free market” and charity care notions. Is that the direction you want to take a 21st century American economy? It’s about time we heard your plan. Obstruction politics is getting old, don’t you think?

Most Americans get their health insurance from their workplace. If they have a medical condition, they then become a slave of that expensive benefit. If they try to change employers, thanks to the Texas judge who heard from lawyers with Republican support and funding, their preexisting condition can exclude them from coverage. If they don’t have a medical problem, they just think they could start a business on their own that might be a real economic driver, now they can’t afford to buy their own or their employees’ coverage since the individual marketplace is in shambles, thanks to eight years of republican obstruction. The ACA tried to address this. It didn’t very successfully, since there was no real congressional oversight of the individual health insurance marketplace for the last 8 years, thanks to Republican posturing.

And that’s what it’s all about here is posturing. Strike the pose that gets the crowd roaring. I guess we can afford to waste this time. We are all so comfortable with our Netflix and ATV’s that we don’t see the money we are wasting on this health care industrial complex. After all, it’s only a $20 Trillion-dollar national debt we hand to our children, and if our economy just grows at 5%, then that will all disappear. I am not comforted.

Where are the Republican ideas? Is it too painful to admit that the ACA was actually a pretty conservative plan put forth by a charismatic Democratic president who had to twist a lot of left arms to get it to pass? Is it too painful to admit that the ACA resembles Romney’s plan for Massachusetts or McCain’s 2008 plan? I’m sorry it is so painful, but we need you Republicans to start giving us some answers. And please, one without a promise that the Mexicans will pay for it.

We have serious issues regarding our national health care. Why can’t we have serious discussions about the solutions? Do you republicans who hate the individual mandate think all people should have health insurance? Do you republicans who have fought the individual market place think health care coverage should be portable and affordable for people who don’t get insurance through their big employer? Come on, let us know your plan. I’d love to hear it.
 

Ad 1, for Individual 1

stapiluslogo1

You could reasonably say that campaign season is on when the television ads begin.

If so, then the 2020 presidential is definitely under way, since President Donald Trump has released his first TV ad. And what an ad it is - drastically unusual in one very specific respect.

I've seen loads of political TV ads, and helped design a few. They can accomplish a number of things: Make you feel good about the candidate, attack the opponent, highlight an issue.

Trump ad #1 does none of these things.

Oh, it takes a pass at the personal candidate support. In this one, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale is featured, and talks about the candidate, declaring “President Trump has achieved more during his time in office than any president in history.” Because initial ads from incumbents are intended to help rev up the support base, that isn't so unusual (however highly debatable it may be).

Nor is the eventual appeal to contribute to the campaigns. Most candidates, in one fashion or another, do that too. You can do that by way of a toll-free telephone number highlighted on the screen (also not unusual).

But the pitch for money actually comes later, after you've already gotten on the phone. The reason to get on the phone, Parscale says: “I need you to call the number on your screen and deliver a ‘thank you’ to President Trump.”

And later: “We need to let President Trump know that we appreciate what he’s doing for America.”

Or, well, what? He might not run again if not enough people sufficiently feed his ego?

The ad does not hit at any specific reason supporting Trump would be good for either the country or you, the viewer, personally. (There's a quick runthrough of talking point phrases, but nothing linking any of those things specifically to anything specific Trump did.) The ad at core is about telling Donald Trump how wonderful he is. The phrase "thank you" turns up in it more than anything else. And oh yeah, have your credit card handy.

This is truly something new in political ads. Usually, we're given at least some sort of a case why we should support candidate A (or oppose candidate B). This one doesn't do that. It doesn't give any reason at all. It doesn't even seem to indicate whether Trump would appreciate it.

There's no reason at all.

The only point we hear from Trump is at the end when his voice delivers the legally-required message that he approved this ad.

Will be interesting to see how many other people do.

A contrast in style and substance

jones

With the passing of former President George H.W. Bush, much of the nation has reflected upon his life and accomplishments. It was hard for many of us to not make comparisons between Bush 1 and our present chief executive. The things that pop to mind are deliberative vs impulsive, empathetic vs narcissistic, and truthful vs not so much, to name a few.

I was not a real Bush enthusiast. In 1988, I co-chaired the Bob Dole for President effort in Idaho, along with my dear friend Lydia Justice Edwards, who was then the State Treasurer. When Bush won the nomination, I was certainly behind him.

President Bush made mistakes just like the rest of us (Willie Horton, Clarence Thomas), but all-in-all he conducted himself with honor and dignity. It is impossible for me to envision him cavorting with porn stars, continually uttering falsehoods, stoking unfounded fears, and casting aspersions on our justice system.

A couple of significant differences come to my mind. One of HW’s best performances was his efficient ejection of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in the First Gulf War. After Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, Bush set about forming a 35-country coalition to defeat the Iraqis. It took hard work and meticulous planning. Bush worked with our friends and allies around the world, all of whom trusted and respected our President, and the job got done.

Bush knew that the world order set up by the U.S after World War II worked to our country’s great advantage and he fostered and maintained mutually beneficial relations with our allies. He knew America could not go it alone in a dangerous world.

Contrast that deliberative approach to our current President’s preference for a seat-of-the-pants approach to foreign policy--essentially making decisions on the spur of the moment and announcing them on Twitter.

For instance, Trump impetuously cancelled the Trans Pacific Partnership, disheartening our Pacific allies, while handing a great gift to China. That treaty addressed a number of our trade disputes with Canada and Mexico, but was much more—a strategic partnership to strengthen America’s Pacific defenses. The President has also weakened our strategic position in the western hemisphere by continually provoking our NATO partners and European allies, much to the glee of the Russian Federation. It will take coalition efforts to counter China and Russia, but we are creating ill will with our strongest allies.

As a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Bush knew our national security depends upon effective intelligence gathering. He helped the CIA build itself up after troubled times. He would have been appalled by the unrelenting attacks by our current President on that vital agency. The President makes it publicly known that he does not trust the U.S. intelligence establishment on issues related to Saudi Arabia, Russia, and North Korea. Denigration of dedicated agents who routinely place their lives on the line for their country is tremendously harmful to our national security.

When he ran against Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bush correctly labeled the trickle-down economic theory--that tax cuts for the rich and powerful would pay for themselves by increased revenues--as “voodoo economics.” He later backtracked as vice president and then gave his imprudent pledge of no new taxes when he ran for president in 1988. When it turned out during his term that taxes had to be raised, he did the correct, prudent and courageous thing by raising taxes. He was well aware that doing so would possibly doom his reelection chances, but he put the county’s fiscal well-being over his own self-interest.

Last year, my old party and its President readopted the idea of handing a large tax cut to big business and the wealthiest Americans, claiming it would be revenue neutral when they knew it wouldn’t. The result was entirely predictable--no increase in revenues and a deficit for the current fiscal year of over one trillion dollars. President George H.W. Bush correctly called it voodoo.
 

Stay in your lane

rainey

Though well into the late senior years at our house, we like to think we’re still flexible in adjusting to new ways. We try to accept and adapt. “Change,” they say, “is the only constant.” We like to think we’re open to that.

Well, at four score and two, I’ve “hit the wall.” The politically correct and the do-gooders have lost me. I’ve been wavering for a long time, but, chances are, they’ve lost me permanently.

What finally pushed me over the edge was the decision at an Ohio radio station to stop playing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” That hacked it!

Anyone who can find “sexual innuendo” and “suggestive lyrics” in Ricardo Montalban singing the words to Esther Williams has one of the sicker minds around. And the station “management” that pulled that song from its rotation should be ashamed.

Listen to any contemporary music format - especially Rap - and you’ll hear lyrics of sexual assault, murder, cop killing, rioting, Satanism and on and on. In fact, Rap had its roots in protest and violence. Many of its popular “stars” have been killed in violent ways.

Compare those “lyrics” to recordings of “Baby, It’s Cold...” by Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney or any of the dozens of other artists who’ve crooned those words. Even Lawrence Welk!

We live in a crude world. Much more so in the last few years. Nobody chose it. But, here we are. I’m often amazed at how much vile junk is on Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the “social” media. I try not to use most of the terms or even condone much of it. Still, I admit to passing some of it along as “humor.” Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But, that’s our world today.

Go to any sporting event. Pay a hundred bucks or so and sit in the audience of nearly any show by today’s top performers. Even ride public transportation or just walk down any street. Crude doesn’t even come close to describing what you’ll hear.

We also live in a world where too much attention is paid to a few people - a distinct minority of people - continually trying to push their lifestyles, beliefs, religion and demands on the rest of us. The “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” fiasco is simply the latest and most outrageous example.

Most of the time, the naysayers for almost anything use religion - or “personal discomfort” - as the basis for their objections. Ironic that, at the same time they’re using their beliefs to justify umbrage, the numbers of people attending church these days is in distinct decline.

There’s another anomaly at play with many of these pious folk. While using religious beliefs as justification for trying to control the rest of us, many of these same people are devoted followers of a President whose warped lifestyle, repeated violations of his marriage vows, corrupt business practices and serial lying they accept. Even venerate.

We’re told the first settlers came to this country seeking religious freedom - the right to practice what they believed without interference. A couple hundred years later, those who put our national demands for freedom on paper refused to adopt a national religion. “To each his own,” was the idea.

I grew up in a small Oregon town where a little old woman genuflected to parking meters and believed God spoke to her from fire hydrants. Crazy? Maybe. But no one stopped her or, to my knowledge, ever objected.

Religion, in belief and practice, is - and should be - a private matter. On that issue, we’re a nation founded on the basis of absolute religious freedom. But, it cuts both ways. Accept and believe what you will. But, show me the same courtesy.

There’s a recent catchphrase going around. “Stay in your lane.” It most often means, “you do your thing and I’ll do mine.” Makes a lot of sense. Especially when it comes to religious beliefs and practices as those disparate gentlemen wrote many years ago.

The manager of that Ohio radio station - and others who cave to minority voices making ridiculous demands - should use some common sense when making decisions that affect the rest of us. We don’t all “march to the same drummer.”

One more thing. Based on a long life dealing with the public, when it comes to those who opposed Ricardo’s crooning, I’d like to see their Internet browsing history. But, I’ll just stay in my lane. For now.
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – December 17

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 17. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

With Christmas on the horizon, government activity slowed last week, though some remained busy (such as Representative-elect Russ Fulcher, who has to work speedily to set up his new congressional operations in less than a month). December did also bring with it a coating of snow across much of the state.

The Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a draft water quality certification of the federal license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the continued operation of Idaho Power Company’s Hells Canyon Complex.

The state of Idaho and U.S. Department of Agriculture will enter into a new agreement to improve forest health conditions across Idaho that sets an example of interagency collaboration for other states to follow. Jim Hubbard, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment overseeing the Forest Service, will join Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Governor Elect Brad Little in signing the new “Shared Stewardship Agreement” on Tuesday in Boise.

Developer Aaron Howell announced on December 12 donation of a 16-acre parcel in the southeast corner of Boise. The park to be developed on the property will be named in honor of Aaron’s wife, Sue Howell.

Senate leaders from Oregon and Idaho are joining together in a long-term reform of the Secure Rural Schools Program. The legislation, introduced by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Mike Crapo and co-sponsored by U.S Senators Jim Risch and Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, provides certainty for rural counties to ensure they have the long-term funding needed for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and other essential services.

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter said on December 12 that the Ada County town of Star will host his administration’s 108th, and final, Capital for a Day on Thursday, December 20.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, known simply as the Farm Bill. Was supported by Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation announced a gift of $2 million to the Idaho State University College of Technology capital campaign that will be used for the renovation of the ISU William M. and Karin A. Eames Advanced Technical Education and Innovations Complex.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is asking Idahoans to be aware of an increase in scams targeting state residents. The alert comes after a surge in so-called imposter scams. These scams vary, but always include a scammer pretending to be someone they’re not in order to get money from the target.

IMAGE The Cloverdale Bridge over Interstate 84 west of Boise was demolished last week, over the course of two nights. It had been damaged in a major traffic accident earlier this year. (photo/Idaho Department of Transportation)
 

Yielding to moral and intellectual rot

johnson

In the wake of the latest revelations about the president of the United States, the extent of the intellectual and moral rot of the modern Republican Party has - again - come into sharp focus. A party that once built a brand around "family values" has decided Donald Trump's involvement in a scheme that paid off a porn star and a Playboy model to hide affairs shouldn't be treated as criminal.

The National Review's Jonah Goldberg, no squishy liberal, says the party - leadership and followers - is guilty of "outsourcing our moral, our political judgment to legalisms."

The new GOP brand: moral relativism.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, dismisses Trump's involvement in felony campaign finance violations, crimes that Trump's one-time lawyer Michael Cohen will serve jail time for, as essentially a paperwork mistake. "These guys were all new to this at the time," the senator says and besides what's a little hush money to quiet a scandal during a presidential campaign. "Most of us have made mistakes when it comes to campaign finance issues," Thune says.

Or this from Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, a pillar of propriety on everything but presidential misconduct: "President Trump before he became president, that's another world. Since he's become president, this economy has charged ahead ... And I think we ought to judge him on that basis other than trying to drum up things from the past that may or may not be true."

You can search high and low for any Republican concern that Rex Tillerson, the former Secretary of State and CEO of Exxon, said recently: "So often the president would say, 'Here's what I want to do, and here's how I want to do it' and I would have to say to him, 'Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can't do it that way. It violates the law.' "

Few Republicans have bought more heavily into the party's moral and intellectual rot than the Idaho delegation. After a brief flurry of indignation when Trump was caught on videotape bragging about assaulting women, the get-along-go-along Idahoans have been pretty much in lockstep with Trump and they generally decline to say anything even remotely critical regarding his behavior.

Sen. Jim Risch is the worst offender.

Risch, soon to be carrying Trump's water as the high-profile chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, couldn't even bring himself to condemn the administration's handling of the brutal murder of a Saudi national who was also a columnist for the Washington Post. The CIA has concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder, a position Trump refuses to accept, presumably because it would cause him to have to do something that might upset oil prices or, more likely, his own business interests.

In an interview with the editorial board of the Idaho Falls Post Register last week, Risch said that he had reached a conclusion about who was responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but that he couldn't discuss it without revealing classified information.

That is simply an absurd statement.

Other senators in both parties have laid the responsibility directly at the feet of Mohammed bin Salman, but as the Post Register noted: "On all questions having to do with bin Salman's direct responsibility, [Risch] deflected," obviously in deference to Trump.

Meanwhile, as the New York Times has reported, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been counseling his Saudi pal, the crown prince, "about how to weather the storm, urging him to resolve his conflicts around the region and avoid further embarrassments."

Or as one wag put it: "The president's son-in-law is giving the Saudi prince some tips on how to get away with murder."

Trump deference - or better yet servile submissiveness - is a pattern with Risch. In the face of much evidence that North Korea's dictator snookered Trump during talks in Singapore in June, Risch has helped maintain the fiction that Trump knows what he is doing.

Risch has backed administration policy in Yemen where the Saudis, with U.S. help, have bombed the country back to the Stone Age. By some estimates, 85,000 children may have already died in Yemen, with as many as 12 million more people on the brink of starvation.

Risch, with a seat on the Intelligence Committee, has been almost completely silent on Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign, speaking only to dismiss its importance. "Hacking is ubiquitous," Risch said in 2017 before adding, "Russia is not, in my judgment, the most aggressive actor in this business."

We now know that at least 14 individuals with direct or close ties to Russia, from the Russian ambassador to the lawyer who set up the infamous Trump Tower meeting during the campaign, made contact with Trump's closest advisers, his family and friends during an 18-month period and during the campaign.

We also know that, while Trump's story continues to shift, special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted a bus load of Russian agents and gained convictions of Trump's campaign chairman, former national security adviser and many others. The investigation goes on, more indictments loom and Risch seems to care not at all.

When Risch made his Faustian bargain to support Trump after the notorious "Access Hollywood" tape emerged, he said he had no choice but to support the con man his party had embraced.

"Without any options other than to abandon America to the left or vote for the Republican nominee, as distasteful as that may be, I will not abandon my country," Risch said.

In reality, by ignoring and excusing the inexcusable, he has put party loyalty above both his country and our Constitution.

Paul Waldman in the Washington Post put a fine point on this kind of moral rot when he wrote recently of Trump: "Once he's no longer president - perhaps in 2021, or perhaps even sooner - everyone who worked for him, supported him or stood by him is going to be in an extremely uncomfortable position."

Johnson served as press secretary and chief of staff to the late former Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. He lives in Manzanita, Ore.