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Posts published in “Day: January 17, 2021”

Opening the door


An opinion piece by Tom Henderson, a veteran Northwest journalist (at the McMinnville, Oregon, News-Register, the Lewiston Tribune, Corvallis Gazette-Times among others.

Say whatever mean things you want about state Rep. Mike Nearman, and oh I intend to, but the man respects the rule of law.

And the law is the law.

How dare people cherry-pick the laws they will obey and the ones they will simply ignore? Of all the nerve! This is especially true when it comes to borders and boundaries.

Never mind the sob stories, never mind "extenuating circumstances." If people go where they're not supposed to go, they have violated the law. They must be prosecuted. Period. No exceptions. No sanctuary. If that means separating families and putting children in cages, well, the scofflaws should have thought about that before they scoffed at the law.

And the law is the law. Did Nearman mention that?

Actually, there might be just one teeny-tiny exception where people can go where they're not supposed to go. Say they happen to be armed and angry thugs who want to storm the Oregon State Capitol Building and do God-knows-what to anyone who disagrees with them. Then Nearman is all for open borders.

Immigrants, after all, are only suspected violent criminals. For actual violent criminals, Nearman opens the door of the Capitol and lets them charge right in.

Hold on. To be fair, the charge that Nearman slunk to a side door of the Capitol during a Dec. 21 special session of the Legislature and opened the door for violent right-wing extremists who immediately charged in has not been properly adjudicated. It would be wrong to judge the man by trusting the evidence clearly caught on camera.

Nearman says he's being subjected to "mob justice." Oh, heaven forfend. Mob justice is wrong. We wouldn't want to open the door to something like that. Mobs are dangerous. Already, Nearman says, he and his wife have received threats.

How horrible. It must be terrifying to feel threatened. It must feel something like, I don't know, the way the people in the Capitol felt after Nearman let in the angry mob.

I imagine having club-wielding lunatics in the corridor might even be more unsettling than a threatening email. The latter is not uncommon. Show of hands. How many people in the Legislature have received threats? For the matter, how many people who have expressed a public opinion have received threats? I myself have been shot at, spat upon, pelted with beer cans, threatened at knifepoint and burned in effigy.

And I'm just a journalist -- a lovable one at that.

To be fair, Nearman says the invective hurled at him has been filled with hate and profanity. Strange, the hate mail I receive is always so nice. ("With deepest regrets, I wish to notify you of my intention to fill one of your body cavities with black powder, which I will then ignite. No offense. Have a nice day. Yours in Christ, Billy Bob.")

All the same, threats come standard issue when you, to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Justice John Marshall Harlan II, thrust yourself into the vortex of controversy. Nearman really should think about that before he risks looking like one of those whiny, sniveling, professional victim snowflakes that conservatives detest so much.

I think it was Harry Truman who once said, "If you can't stand the heat, don't open the door of the Capitol to a bunch of unhinged wack-a-doodles, Rep. Numb Nuts."

Although the Capitol was officially closed to the public Dec. 21 due to the threat of COVID-19 and unhinged whack-a-doodles, Nearman took it upon himself to interpret the law. "The Oregon Constitution says that the legislative proceedings shall be 'open,'" he said in a statement. "It means open."

He has a point. Clinically, it's known as his head. But he does have one. With the doors locked, there was no way the public could know what was going on in the Legislature's star chamber proceedings -- unless they watched it on live streaming.

Wait a minute. Did Nearman admit he took it upon himself to decide a rule establishing a boundary should be disobeyed? I thought he hated that sort of thing. I guess there were extenuating circumstances. These weren't brown people fleeing violence, These were white people inflicting violence.

Under those circumstances, Nearman no doubt felt entitled to interpret the Constitution as a one-man Supreme Court and open the door to mob justice. Aren't there laws against that sort of thing? I think so.

And the law is the law.

Capitol and Trump


There’s a scene in the film “Gettysburg” in which Gen. Robert E. Lee tells his top deputy, Gen. James Longstreet, to stay back of the front lines in the coming battle. “I cannot afford to lose you,” he says. Longstreet pauses and shrugs. “Can’t lead from behind,” he responds.

President Donald J. Trump never led from behind in his one-term presidency and his internal drive and force of will brought many successes. But these traits also reinforced his unbounded hubris and egomania and these in turn defined both his presidency and his downfall.

In that, he has been no different than history’s out-sized personalities, some good and others just petty dictators and tyrants. (Seutonius, The Twelve Caesars, 121 AD). Trump simply could not exercise the judgment and wisdom the office of President requires.

His excessive tweets, his deep-sixing of loyal associates like Vice President Mike Pence and many others, left him with a trail of opponents, people who supported his policies but came to distrust and even despise the man himself.

That’s what we saw on full display on Jan. 6, where Trump said he would “never concede” and urged his Washington, DC crowd to march to the Capitol building in protest of his loss.

Some on the left have screamed for removal by either impeachment or under the 25th Amendment, but neither path seems likely, as he has less than a week left in office.

Yet, Trump’s exhortations to the crowd were close to actionable sedition. In that he was no different than the French revolutionaries who led the arrest and execution of King Louis XVI and Marie Antionette. Trump has been the Robespierre of our time, a strident revolutionary ultimately consumed by the flames he stoked.

What did his rise represent? Rather than seeing him as an extreme aberration in American politics, we should look at the underlying causes.
Trump instigated and then fomented an explosion that was all too predictable, in that he unleashed a half-century of pent-up anger felt by millions of Americans who have been stung by decades of abuse and vitriol by the dominant Lefties of the federal government and its bureaucrats.

This, of course, will be ignored by those now coming into power and who, for the moment, are riding high with “get him” rhetoric from their “whip it up” followers in academia, Hollywood and the media. It may be a different party in control, but human nature remains as it has always been, as President John Adams observed.

This pattern of contempt for the “masses” derives at least since the 1960s, of government telling people what they can and cannot say and do. A partial list would include forced school busing and affirmative action with its lowering of merit standards, plus the many indignities people encounter in bureaucracies. “You work for us” is a common response, if routinely ignored by the ruling class.

And these don’t include the many intrusions brought by decades of “Do-Goodism” by government and social cause advocates on people’s everyday lives, from helmet laws to light bulbs, toilet flush capacity to sugar taxes on soft drinks, closed trails on public lands to gasoline spout regulation, on and on. These have now expanded to include social media censorship and academic kangaroo courts convened without due process to enforce political correctness. Orwell’s “1984” is upon us, if late.

The resentment of these impositions, heightened in the Clinton and Obama administrations, has grown and grown in “flyover” America where people just want to be left alone. Trump’s term starkly laid out the specifics of how people felt when they were being abused by heavy-handed orders from “on high.”

We in the West have felt these most particularly in land use planning and management, which has given rise in Idaho to such activists as Ammon Bundy, the III Percenters linked this week to the capitol riot, (Idaho Press, 1/13) and the strident fan club of some legislators, GOP ideologues and various extremist interest groups using out-of-state oligarch money.

In America’s own beginnings, the Declaration of Independence in 1776 lays out numerous items ranging from petty insults by British overlords to taxation without representation. The wonder is not that the colonists revolted, but that it took as long as it did.

How is that different from today’s mask mandates, the shutting of businesses, the sneering by the media, the labeling by liberal politicians of rural Americans as chumps, deplorables and rubes who cling to their guns and religions?

Trump, perhaps because of his long entertainment career, understood the power of communication and “getting around” the media and institutions of government. But his term was more than that. It was sharp poke in the eye, a mule’s kick, against costal elitism and the continuous “dissing” of heartland America. That’s why he got 75 million votes on Nov. 3

As his term collapses in turmoil, it’s apparent that Trump’s personality and excesses led to his own downfall. Without those, he would now be President for another term. It’s a lesson for us all on the consequences of extremism, as Idahoans and as Americans.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of two new books on Southern Idaho, “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” and “Spirit of Place: Southern Idaho oss Generations.” He can be reached at