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Posts published in September 2019

The complicit


At what point do complacency and self-service become complicity? When does a lack of responsible, legal action become malfeasance in office?

And, the next question: are Republicans in the U.S. Senate guilty of both?

The evidence is overwhelming that Senate Republicans have become Trump’s personal sycophants, unwilling to execute the Constitutional powers given them. You have to wonder if that inaction has made them complicit in his oft-illegal conduct.

Clearly, the most dangerous name in today’s political world is Mitch McConnell. Aside from stacking literally hundreds of federal judgeships with unqualified Trump nominees, he’s personally throttled all House-passed legislation that’s come to his desk as Senate Majority Leader. He’s the dam holding back the flow of responsible progress on climate change, defense, budgeting, minimum wage, worker safety, voter protections and much more.

McConnell represents the terrible misuse of power granted his position under the rules of the Senate. For him, the elections of 2016 and 2018 continue. With a slim margin of just four votes, he has beaten back any reasonable attempts at bipartisanship and exacted a terrible toll of division and hatred. Strong words but apt.

More than that, he’s used treachery and willful suppression to keep the muzzle on those in his party who might otherwise chose to work in the interests of the country rather than support the arrogance of McConnell. There are some who’ve cautiously dared to put forward some thoughts of responsible legislation. But, he’s kept the lid so tight nothing gets past his round file.

There are others of McConnell’s ilk, such as Jim Risch of Idaho, who have clear Senate responsibilities but who’ve failed miserably. Risch, chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has ducked every opportunity to stand up to Trump, stop some of his egregious activities in foreign affairs, take some serious role in the conduct of international diplomacy and undertake serious attempts to mitigate some of Trump’s effects on world matters.

Senate Republicans have, by inaction, made Trump more powerful and more dangerous. Our Constitution provides clear checks and balances between Executive and Legislative branches of federal government. Under McConnell, and typified by Risch’s lack of leadership in foreign affairs, Trump has stomped around the world breaking treaties, reneging on relations with our historically significant partnerships with other countries and made enemies of world leaders in the process.

Thanks, in large part, to McConnell and his GOP cohorts, we have operated for the last couple of years, not as a Republic, but as a demagogic authoritarian state. We’ve watched checks and balances ignored while a federal judiciary has been loaded with incompetents, historic treaties abrogated, federal agencies ransacked, valued professionals forced to resign, seen protections of our environment rolled back or obliterated, watched lobbyists write laws, watched Trump’s “friends” in powerful Cabinet positions forced out by corruption and scandal.

And more. Much more. All the while, McConnell and his 51 Republican minions have stood by, watching the willful destruction, seeing the damages to responsible governance attacked and witnessing damages to institutions that will take decades - if ever - to restore.

This has nothing to do with the traditional two-party system of government. Not a thing. But, it does have everything to do with one man’s irresponsible, ignorant behavior and another’s willingness to damage a governmental structure for his own personal power.

So, again, the question. At what point do complacency and self-service become complicity? Are Senate Republicans guilty of both? The answer has to be yes! The length and weighty evidence is damning.

It’s going to be up to the national electorate to pronounce judgment in 2020. Some of the guilty will, no doubt, live to further avoid future obligations another day.

But, some, like McConnell, are on the ballot next year. And, some, like McConnell, have opposition. Worthy opposition. Very qualified opposition.

If punishment isn’t extracted at the polls, if those in office who’ve stood by and callously watched without action are not disavowed, then we, too, may share their complicity.

Ken Burns’ Country Music


For many Idahoans, Ken Burns’ recent public television series, “Country Music,” was an opportunity for some serious nostalgia. It certainly was for me.

I grew up in the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. Local nightclubs had names like The Stables, and The Golden Spur, which gives you a hint at the kind of music they featured.

The local radio station featured a program called the Snake River Stampede, which was hosted by Clearwater Clem. (Clem’s real name was Keith Jackson and when he left his job in Lewiston, he went on to become one of America’s best known sportscasters.) When I moved to Boise in 1968, I discovered that Nampa had a rodeo called the Snake River Stampede. I assumed they had stolen the name from the Lewiston radio program, but quickly discovered that just the opposite was true.

I used much of my teenage spending money to buy albums by Hank Snow, Hank Thompson, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Rogers and other classic country artists. I still have those albums and wish I could find a new home for them. On Saturdays there were broadcasts from the Grand Old Opry and from a powerful Bakersfield station featuring Kern County Country Time.

While attending the University of Idaho, I worked part-time as a disk jockey at a country music station in Pullman, Washington. Also working there was Paul J. Schneider, who would go on to become the decades long voice of the Boise State Broncos and the best-known sports personality in southern Idaho. Yet another case of being a country music DJ as a steppingstone to the world of sportscasting.

As a university student, we used to occasionally go up to Spokane the see country music shows at the coliseum. These were shows that would feature up to half a dozen well known stars at admission prices that even a student could afford.

One night in the mid-60s, a friend and I went up to see a show featuring Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter and Hank William Jr., among others. There was no reserved seating, so we arrived early in order to get the best seats possible. Before going in, we stopped at the refreshment stand. I commented to my friend that the person I was really looking forward to seeing was Luther Perkins, Cash’s guitar player. The gentleman in front of me in line turned around, stuck out his hand, and said, “I’m Luther Perkins, who are you?” He invited us to be his guests backstage for the concert. During the course of the evening, he introduced us to all of the stars. Johnny Cash said that he was tired of being on the bus and in hotel rooms and wondered if they could come over to our place to party after the concert. I told him that would be great, but we were from out of town. “Where you from?” he asked. I replied we were from a town he had never heard of called Moscow, Idaho. He responded that he knew where Moscow was. “It’s just outside of Potlatch.”

He said that in the fifties when he and many other country stars were touring the country playing one night stands, there were two towns that everyone knew. They were Potlatch, Idaho, and Roseburg, Oregon. Both lumber towns. He said he would perform at the Riverside in Potlatch and spend the night in a hotel room with an old metal bed and a single light bulb that hung down from the ceiling.

At this point Tex Ritter overheard our conversation and said that he also knew where Moscow was and that he had spent a lot of time there. His daughter and son-in-law lived in Moscow where he was working on a graduate degree in mathematics.

Before we left the coliseum that night, Luther Perkins grabbed a program and wrote his name, home address and home phone number on it. Handing it to me he said that if we were ever to get to Nashville, we should call him so we could get together. Unfortunately, life went on and I never got to take him up on his offer. But I still have the program.

Idaho’s appreciation of country music wasn’t entirely focused in the north. Garden City had a number of night clubs featuring well-known country performers. One of those performers was Roger Miller. One day he was driving down Chinden Boulevard in Garden City on his was to the club where he was performing. He drove past a trailer park with a sign out front that said Trailers for Sale or Rent. That night when he got back to his room at the Hotel Boise, he sat down and wrote that would become his greatest hit, “King of the Road.”

Gone are the days of major country stars performing one-night stands in small night club venues in towns like Potlatch and Roseburg. This past summer, the hottest star in the current generation of country entertainers, Garth Brooks, came to Boise to do a concert at Albertston stadium. The concert sold out within minutes, prompting Governor Brad Little to call Brooks and ask if he would consider adding a second night to his schedule. Brooks agree and the Friday and Saturday night concerts both sold out with a total attendance of 86,000. By way of comparison, there are only three cities in Idaho that have more than 86,000 people.

After all these years, country music if obviously alive and well in Idaho. And thank you Ken Burns, for stirring up a lot of great memories.

Lost in their own deceptions


In 2017, the Gallup organization conducted a major national poll, asking a question they have asked in previous years: Is the news media trustworthy?

Wyoming was ground zero of media distrust with only 25 percent of the state’s citizens trusting the media a “great deal or a fair amount.” Other states at the bottom: Nebraska, Utah, North Dakota and Idaho. You can find similar results in other surveys and, of course, folks living in solid red states trust the local and national press the least.

And, while I’m the first to acknowledge that reporters and editors make mistakes all the time — I certainly did when I was in the daily news business years ago — I don’t think the widespread distrust of the news media, particularly among conservative consumers of news and information, is adequately explained by the simple explanation you hear all the time. The simple story: There is a deeply embedded liberal bias in the media.

My theory is more complicated and a good deal more sinister. I think conservative politicians have been misleading, bamboozling, indeed lying to their conservative followers for so long and with such conviction that it has directly contributed to a warped sense of what can be demonstrated to be true.

President Donald Trump, in a pernicious way, is the ultimate example of distorting truth in the service of political gain.

Trump promised to build a “big beautiful wall” on the Mexican border that Mexico would pay for. He hasn’t. Yet, he flim flams his followers by posting pictures of repair or upgrades to existing stretches of the border fence — it’s not a wall — and claims that he’s faithful to his promise. He isn’t and Mexico isn’t paying. You are.

Trump insisted on withdrawal from the multinational Iranian nuclear deal and slapped more sanctions on Iran. But Iran has returned to enriching uranium and is predictably threatening more bad actions. Trump pulled out without a plan, while ensuring us everything would be just great. It’s not.

Ditto with North Korea, now reportedly secretly developing a submarine capable of launching missiles. Trump has met twice with North Korea’s butcher and has less than zero to show for it. Yet, to hear him tell it he deserves the Noble Peace Prize.

Trump insisted Republicans repeal Obamacare, even though repeal efforts had failed in the House more than 70 times. He’s promised a vastly better and less expensive approach to health care, but he’s never offered a health care plan and congressional Republicans haven’t, either.

The list goes on: Tariffs against China are putting millions in the federal treasury. Sure they are because Americans are paying a tax on Chinese imports. That’s how tariffs work. Trump has lied about his policy from day one.

Or how about the candidate who called for a “complete” ban on Muslims entering the U.S. showing up this week at a United Nations meeting to demand more religious tolerance?

Climate change is real. Ask any scientist. But Republicans nearly to a person fall in line behind the president’s babbling about light bulbs, plastic straws and his determination to end tougher auto emissions standards in California.

Trump was going to release his tax returns. He hasn’t, and has a team of lawyers working full-time to prevent it from ever happening. He wasn’t going to profit from his businesses while in office, but he has repeatedly. An interview with Robert Mueller? Sure, why not. It never happened.

One of the biggest howlers of all involves the 2017 tax cut, a huge windfall for the wealthiest in America that has ballooned the deficit and done nothing for the economy. But to be fair, Republicans have been riding the tax cutting hobby horse since the 1980s when Ronald Reagan established the fiction that tax cuts pay for themselves. They don’t.

At least cutting taxes is a policy, unlike the GOP response to health care, climate, Iran, North Korea or trade.

It’s easy to see that Idaho’s federal lawmakers are clinging to office simply by not upsetting their Trumpian constituency, a political culture almost entirely informed by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Trump’s 12,000 documented presidential lies. Yet, the remarkable political timidity of elected Republicans is explained by one additional factor. They’ve all come of age schooled in Newt Gingrich’s approach to politics. They’ve been going along with the blatant lies, the clever half-truths and the issueless GOP agenda for so long they’re locked in.

The most difficult thing for any politician to do is to tell supporters they are wrong, while explaining actual facts to skeptics. But most Republican officeholders have long since ceased to be independent agents. They don’t lead; they are motivated to avoid primary challenges and do so by justifying any policy or any behavior that follows Trumpian talking points. These are their keys to political survival. Republicans are so woefully out of practice leveling with their constituents that most of them adopted Sen. Jim Risch’s approach to the latest impeachment inducing information that Trump pressured Ukraine to manufacture dirt on a political rival. That is a national security and abuse of power transgression that should boggle any conservative’s mind, but Risch isn’t the least bit concerned and immediately trotted out a mini-blizzard of flim flam that avoids facts.

“For years the far left has been trying to delegitimize everything President Trump does,” Risch said. Quite a statement coming from a guy who warmly embraced every effort to thwart a Democratic president, including refusing to even consider a Supreme Court nominee. Risch accused Democrats of “prioritizing politics over facts.” Again, quite a comment from a politician who dismissed the special counsel’s Russian report as a “nothing burger.”

During a recent speech in Boise, Risch said Idahoans could count on him to never “fight with the president,” as if senatorial independence in a co-equal branch of government equaled political combat. Uncharacteristically, Risch spoke real truth when he said those Republicans who have pushed back against Trumpian lies and misdeeds “are not here anymore.”

That’s all you really need to know about a fact-free Republican Party. Job security is job one.

A serious day of reckoning is coming. Search for facts. Don’t trust your bias. The press isn’t the enemy of the people, but politicians unwilling to confront genuine high crimes come pretty close to being just that.

The Idaho commerce roadblock


Idaho state officials like to declare how their state is open for business, and in many respects it is. But in some areas it is fiercely stubborn -- to the point of blocking interstate commerce.

Such as commerce in hemp.

Late last year a new federal farm bill passed legalizing on a national level commerce and transport of hemp, a plant product genetically similar to marijuana (both are considered forms of cannabis) but without its psychotropic capabilities. Hemp, remarkable versatile, is used in construction, for clothing and other cloth goods, paper, foods, medications and other uses. That follows legalization in states around the country, including most states around the west . . . but not Idaho. In Idaho, unlike many other states, no legal distinction is made between hemp and marijuana, which also is illegal in Idaho (though not in most of its neighboring states). There have been attempts throughout this millennium to change the hemp law in Idaho, including one in last year’s legislature, but it hasn’t happened yet.

One hemp industry website pointed out, “Hemp entrepreneurs say that hemp transportation has been an elusive promise of nationwide legalization. The Farm Bill promised protection for hemp transportation but left states with no uniform way to test THC content. So, cannabis plants that may go on a truck as legal hemp in one state can fail a THC test in another state and be seized as illegal marijuana.”

Last year, in one widely-publicized case, Idaho officials seized a truckload of industrial hemp from Oregon bound for Colorado, and criminally charged the truck driver. The case has been partly resolved, but the hemp remains seized.

The federal Department of Agriculture said in one memo, “States and Indian tribes also may not prohibit the interstate transportation or shipment of hemp lawfully produced under the 2014 Farm Bill.” But Idaho officials seem to have made clear they intend to do just that. (As the feds gradually release clarifying regulations over time, some of that trouble may ease. Then again, given the attitudes at stake, maybe not.)

Drawing your attention now to the states west of Idaho: Washington and Oregon, where the hemp industry is thriving.

In Oregon, where hemp growing has been legal since 2015, the expansion has been rapid. In year one of legalization the state had 13 growers operating on 105 acres of land; this year the growers number about 2,000, operating on about 62,000 acres. Roll down your car window in many rural parts of Oregon and you can smell the new industry. (Side note: Not everyone loves the odor.)

Since Washington and California to Oregon’s north and south also are substantial hemp growers, many Oregon producers look toward shipping east - which means through Idaho. But what they’re seeing is a big, bad road block to their commercial efforts.

That may mean a psychology is starting to develop in some places about how commercially to avoid Idaho. Like other states, Idaho pulls in substantial money, in public revenues and in the private economy, from trucking businesses. But what may be developing is a line of thinking that sends trucks south, over remote and lightly populated highways, through Nevada instead, on their way to other states.

States other than Idaho.

People in most states like to maintain their distinctiveness from others in various ways; just as there’s an Idaho Way of doing things, people in Oregon and Washington and Nevada and Montana and other states like to proclaim their own ways too. Fine.

But when some of those distinctive ways start shutting down economic and other communication with their neighbors, they might be worth reviewing.

Another waiver


We have tipped past the equinox so we are officially in fall season. But the passel of work the Idaho Legislature dropped on the Department of Health and Welfare this last legislative session is churning out another waiver request. So, it’s still Waiver Season.

If you’ve forgotten, after voters approved Prop 2 last November, the Idaho legislature felt the need to fix it. This same legislature which had not studied the options, had not debated any proposals for six years, decided last session they knew better than the voters about how to expand Medicaid eligibility for Idaho residents. So, they got busy passing laws, Governor Little signed them, and so our taxpayer funded agencies are doing the work as directed.

The first waiver request, Idaho Choice, is dead. It got nixed by the Feds because it was going to cost more and provide worse coverage. But since it’s what the Idaho legislature wanted, the Idaho Department of Insurance and DHW did the work of researching it, holding hearings, taking testimony, and submitting the request.

The second waiver “Work Requirements” has finished with public input. All who testified were opposed and over 90% of the 1800 written comments were opposed. It will be submitted to the feds in the coming weeks. It will be approved, then contested in court.

The third waiver now open for public comment is a head scratcher. But that is only if you don’t understand the intent. This third waiver requires all Medicaid participants who want to get family planning care somewhere other than with their designated primary care provider (PCP) to obtain a referral. This is from the same legislative body who bows before the “free market” and salutes school choice. I wonder where the Freedom Foundation is on this one.

The reason I’m scratching my head on this one is because it’s what Idaho Medicaid already does. If you enroll in Medicaid you can choose a PCP or you are assigned to one. That PCP is supposed to “manage and coordinate care”. That means making referrals when the PCP decides she needs some help from a specialist.

So why the direct reference to “family planning” for this statutory referral requirement? Most agree it’s a weak attempt to shunt money away from Planned Parenthood, where some low-income women get their care.
But as I read the waiver, there are no consequences for the PCP if they give the referral, and there are no consequences for the specialist if they provide care without the referral.

A while back a patient came in about his chronic medicines and asked me to give him a referral to a dermatologist. “Why?” I asked.

“Oh, I have these spots.” He held out his hand.

“Those are seborrheic keratoses. They are benign. You will get more as you get older. Do you want me to freeze them off? They, or others will come back. It’s OK just to watch them if they aren’t bothering you.”

“I want to see a dermatologist.”

A month later I get the letter from the dermatologist telling me the patient had seborrheic keratoses and she had frozen them off.

One way to control health care costs is to provide the most appropriate care in the lowest cost setting. If I’m going to have to fight with a patient about referrals, and believe me, it can be a fight, what’s in it for me to get all this ill will? Where’s the leverage?

As far as I know, this is the only statute on the books in Idaho about patient referrals. This sort of bureaucracy does not befit a conservative; but I guess it’s worth it to them if it hurts Planned Parenthood, even a just little bit.

If the legislature wants to get in the business of writing laws to manage health care, I suggest they do a better job. But this waiver isn’t worth arguing over. It’s a dog whistle; don’t bark.

The impeachment route


One of the few certainties about war is its unpredictability: You can never be sure what you'll wind up with, and that's if you win. Impeachment, especially of a president, is the political equivalent.

A few thoughts, then, as the U.S. House of Representatives takes its initial steps in what looks like a probable impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Uncertainty is a central consideration. It might not happen in the House; at this writing (Tuesday afternoon) there's not a clear majority in favor. (That could change.) We don't know what an inquiry might turn up; it might make the case against the president stronger, or it might not. The Senate widely is assumed to be a lock for acquittal, since much of the Republican caucus would have to go along with conviction for that to happen; but even that is not necessarily a certainty. Republican consultant Mike Murphy made a compelling case today for the flipping of a number of Republican votes: "My Democratic friends assume the worst, seeing most elected Republicans as little more than a corrupt cartel of Trump bitter-enders. I think they underestimate the character of many of the men and women I know well who serve the Republican Party."

Many analysts have pointed out that polling consistently for more than a year has shown more Americans opposing than supporting impeachment (something close to 55% to 37% has been a norm). Will that remain stable? It might not if congressional Democrats unite in favor of impeachment, since up to now only about 60% of Democrats on average have favored impeachment (and somewhat under half of independents). Many may have reflected the division on the subject they've seen in the Democratic congressional caucuses, and the numbers could rise considerably if Democrats (and Democratic-leaning independents) coalesce around it.

The other consideration is the new Ukraine scandal: The president apparently using the threat of withholding congressionally-approved United States funds from Ukraine to pressure a Ukraine investigation of his leading political rival. This is a clear-cut situation, little of importance about it is disputed, and it implicates both American national security and the willingness of the president to use the power of the presidency - and that of foreign governments - to interfere with the 2020 elections. The case is easy enough to understand; you can put it on a bumper sticker.

The one poll I've seen on impeachment that factors in Ukraine asked, "If President Donald Trump suspended military aid to Ukraine in order to incentivize the country’s officials to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, and his son, would you support or oppose impeachment?” The result: 55% favor impeachment (44% "strongly"), and just 26% were opposed. The numbers on impeachment had more than flipped.

Of course, once these trains start, they take on a life of their own. The House Democrats, and their Senate counterparts, could make a hash of things, which wouldn't be the first time. How might they not?

Stats specialist Nate Silver had a few thoughts about this, and three merit repetition.

First, "Be narrow and specific, perhaps with a near-exclusive focus on Ukraine." The list of possible impeachable offenses is quite long, stretching out past the horizon. Democrats may see some temptation to throw in the kitchen sink; if they do, they'd just be lowering fog into the proceedings, something Trump surely would welcome. Forget about Russia; stick to Ukraine.

Second, point out why this action has merit even only a year ahead of an election when voters can make their own decision on Trump: Because that election is only a year away. If the president did what he's being accused of - and in large part has admitted - then he has displayed a willingness to use the vast powers of the presidency to go so far as to steal the next national election. That would put the future of the United States as a nation governed by its people at direct risk. Many Americans could get the point that this is an extreme enough situation to merit an extreme action, which impeachment is.

The other key point Silver makes: Do it quickly. The core facts are out there, and many of the rest (those available in any event in near future) should be available soon. (Take note of the prospect of congressional testimony this week of the still-unknown whistleblower who raised the whole situation.)

Even done with optimum skill, this won't be easy for anyone to navigate. And there haven't been a lot of impeachments through American history to draw from. But some paths toward impeachment clearly are smoother than others.

To the health of Justice Ginsberg


The news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg experienced a second bout of pancreatic cancer this year was a triple blow for me. First, she has been a long-time champion for the rights of women and minorities and we need her on the Supreme Court to continue that work. Second, it is likely her vote will determine whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) lives or dies.

The third blow is much more personal. When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2017, just two weeks after I retired from the Idaho Supreme Court, the outlook seemed pretty bleak. Google was not very encouraging, giving a range of 5-year life expectancies ranging anywhere from 3% to 30%. But I kept thinking about RBG and how she had beaten pancreatic cancer in 2009. It gave me hope--if a skinny wisp of a woman, then 75 years old, could overcome that dread disease, a 75-year-old farm-grown war veteran might also have a chance. RBG became my loadstar--my hope and prayer. And, sure enough, I went into remission that September.

My favorite oncologist, who recently pronounced me cancer free for two whole years, said that RBG is not necessarily in mortal trouble. Being a consummate professional, he did not offer a diagnosis based on news reports. However, there is hope that she will get past the recent recurrence of cancer.

Just to play it safe, I’m thinking of taking up a collection to prolong her life and her tenure on the Supreme Court. I propose to give her at least a month of the extra life I gained from the courage and hope she gave me with her example. If everyone else who admires this remarkable woman would pledge a month or so of their life to her, she should be with us for many more years.

OK, you say that people can’t donate a portion of their life to others. As an alternative, everyone concerned about this deadly scourge could make a generous donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in honor of RBG. I’m sure that would be a boost to her morale and it would certainly be of great help in fighting this deadly form of cancer.

Getting back to the second issue, it is likely that the Supreme Court will soon be considering whether to kill the ACA in its entirety. That would mean restoring the right of insurance companies to deny insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. Children would no longer be covered by their parents’ policies to age 26. All of the other protections of the ACA would disappear if the Supreme Court were to agree with the President that the ACA should be wiped off the face of the earth.

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the ACA should die an untimely death (Texas v. Azar). The conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will issue a ruling on the case soon. That ruling, whichever way it goes, will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court sometime next year, where it will probably be decided on a 5-4 vote.

The Trump administration is vigorously working to drive a stake through the heart of the ACA. Presuming Chief Justice John Roberts again votes in favor of the ACA, RBG’s vote will be critical to save it. Without her vote, the entire ACA and its protections for millions of Americans will come crashing down, which will throw the U.S. health insurance industry, and perhaps the entire economy, into utter chaos. Please join me in praying for the good health of Justice Ginsburg.

I’m done forgiving



Most of us, I suspect, have lived our lives usually honoring those wise words. With the possible exception of serial killers, terrorists, school shooters or a Trump presidency, that old maxim holds pretty true. Few of us have led such exemplary lives that we can’t use a little forgiveness now and then.

But, something’s happened in the world of politics to push such advice to intolerable limits. “Erring” has become so despicable that “forgiving” is damned near impossible. Yet millions of voters keep buying in.

There were times when politicians, asking for our support, knew that support carried with it a high level of expectations of proper behavior. And, if one turned out to be a miscreant - or worse - they paid the penalty of being ostracized by the electorate and were most often shoved off to some lonely, deserted place. They paid for bad behavior with the loss of both job and our respect. Today, not so much!

In 1987, Colorado Senator Gary Hart was an odds-on favorite to be the next shining star of the Democrat Party. Good looking. Reasonably middle-of-the-road outlook. A good bet for future political success. Until 1987. Media reports began popping up linking the married Hart to blond - and single - Donna Rice. Hart responded with the expected denials. Then he said something to the national media that was really stupid. “If you think I’m messing around, follow me and see how wrong you are.”

Follow they did. And right they were. Hart was photographed living the “single” swinging life with Ms. Hart. Career ended on a boat dock and he rightfully disappeared from public life.

Over the years, a few other “bright lights” suffered the same two-timing fate as Hart. Some cheating on their spouses. Some with criminal activity. Some with misusing political funds. And who can forget the night a prominent Texas Senator frolicked in a D.C. fountain with his mistress - Fannie Flagg. Career ender.

Today, it seems, nearly anything goes and, whatever deviant behavior an office-holder prominently exhibits, often seems to have no negative effects on his/her career.

Mark Sanford is exhibit one. A few years back, while governor of South Carolina, he lied to his staff, the media and wife about disappearing to “hike the Appalachian Trail.” What he really did was fly to Argentina to shack up for a week with his mistress. He was “forced” to take a break in his political life. Then, he resurfaced, ran succesfully for the U.S. House and is now a Republican candidate for President. Wha Hoppen?

In Arizona, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of ignoring a federal court order, is trying to get his old job back. Two years ago, he wanted us to send him to the U.S. Senate. We didn’t.

Arizona also has two members of Congress found guilty of behaving badly with state campaign funds. One was subsequently elected to the Senate and other, after losing that Senate race, was appointed to the same job voters said she shouldn’t have.

One of Florida’s senators was elected governor - then to the Senate - even after being nailed by the feds for ripping off federal health care dollars in the millions. Last year, California re-elected a member of Congress even though he and his wife had been indicted for using campaign accounts for luxury living he obviously couldn’t otherwise afford. Before him, they repeatedly elected his crooked father to the same office several times.

Two members of Congress are enjoying the high life of national politics even as both are under current indictments for insider trading. Both re-elected AFTER the charges were filed.

In Idaho, former Boise Mayor Brent Coles, forced out of office for misusing public dollars, did time in the slammer. Now, he’s running for mayor again. Former State Senator John McGee of nearby Canyon County fame, forced out of office for improprieties with female staffers and stealing a car. Now, he’s running in a new election.

“To err is human.” I got that. But, in every field of endeavor, there’s a whole lot of “erring” going on. Lawyers, doctors, firemen, the clergy, politicians and hookers. We’ve got that “erring” thing down pretty good. And, in many cases, we also do pretty well in the “forgiving” department.

But, politicians have pushed the “forgiveness” envelope all out of shape. Scott, Rorabacher, Sanford, Coles, McGee, Arpaio, McSally, Trump and a bunch of others. They “erred” and kept right on going. Public trust be damned!

Those who’ve “erred” and seemingly ignored the consequences of such behavior will not be getting my vote in 2020. Nor should they be getting yours.

Trump’s Distort-and-Delay Playbook


They're doing it again. Trump and company are "getting out ahead of the facts" by spinning a story, weaving a phony narrative, and deceiving the public.

The Trump crew employed to great effect a distort-and-delay approach to release of the Mueller Report and seems to be using the same tactics with regard to the current whistleblower’s complaint. You will recall that Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr on March 22, 2019, after which Barr promptly “summarized” the report, manipulating its key findings and tying the whole thing up with a "Nothing-to-see-Here" ribbon.

Barr did not provide a redacted version of the Mueller Report to Congress and the public until April 18, 2019. By the time the redacted version finally saw the light of day, the damning findings were viewed through Barr's month-long “summary” smoke screen. Barr knew that few of us would plow through the 400-plus page report and kept his deception simple, giving Trump days on end to bellow "No collusion, no obstruction -- total exoneration!" That's not what Mueller found and Barr knew it. But by then Barr had dropped the pretense of being our nation's attorney; his only client was Donald J. Trump. And by then Barr's misleading version of the Mueller Report had eclipsed the report itself.

Now they're running the same play again. We know that a whistleblower told the Inspector General of a phone call in which Trump made concerning promises to a foreign leader. The Inspector General found the whistleblower's account credible and urgent. The Inspector General reported his findings to the Acting Director of National Security. At that point, the law required the Acting Director to forward the Inspector General's findings to the appropriate committees in Congress. But did he?

Heck, no. He hustled over to Mr. Barr's shop and, to no one's surprise, was told he could not comply with the plain requirements of the law. So, as of this writing, neither Congress nor the American people know the specifics of the whistleblower's concern. As intrepid reporters ferret out bits and pieces of the story, we learn just enough to give Trump and company running room to deny any wrongdoing, disparage any who voice concerns, and denigrate the brave person who dared to blow the whistle. Trump’s tired refrains of “witch hunt,” and “hoax,” have sprung with astonishing alacrity from the lips of his enablers in Congress and apologists on Fox “News.”

The Trump playbook is brazen. It resorts to bullying and obfuscation. And, as with the Mueller Report, it requires the ever shameless Rudy Giuliani to hustle, however ineptly, to Trump's defense. The Trumpsters learned something from their handling of the Mueller Report – that fogging up and fudging the facts before the facts are known, and slow-walking their release, inures to Trump’s benefit. We've seen this movie before, and the ending wasn’t pretty.

UPDATE After submitting this column to Ridenbaugh Press, I came across an article that said much the same thing in much the same way. Although I had not read this article prior to submitting my column, I wanted to share it and publicly acknowledge the similarity. Here is the link: