A place for the writings and the ideas of the people in and around (and coming to the attention of) the Ridenbaugh Press.

A guest opinion from Levi B. Cavener, a teacher in Caldwell, Idaho. He also manages the education blog IdahosPromise.Org where an expanded version of this essay with primary sources is available.

In the wake of financial scandals in the Gem State’s education world including the multimillion broadband fiasco, citizens have a right to be leery about cozy relationships between government entities and their business partners.

Take, for example, the recent charter school petition Caldwell School District received from Pathways in Education (PIE). From a public records request, that petition stated that PIE would pay California based Pathways Management Group (PMG), operated by charter entrepreneur Mr. John Hall, to the tune of $127 per student per month for “charter management.”

With a desired enrollment of 300 students and a flexible year-round schedule, that creates a significant contract of $450k for PMG per year. It is unclear what services would be provided for this fee as many of the services listed such as paying utility bills and purchasing electronics appear to be redundant activities the Caldwell district office already performs.

The PIE charter petition also states that the California nonprofit Education In Motion (EIM) will have exclusive ability to appoint PIE’s board of trustees. Pay no attention to the fact that the California Secretary of State also lists Mr. Hall as agent of that nonprofit at precisely the same California address shared with PMG, which he presides over.

In other words: an out-of-state group (with Mr. Hall listed as agent) has the exclusive ability to appoint trustees to the charter — not the local community. Hand-picked trustees then contract with Mr. Hall’s vendor to manage the charter, in perpetuity. Now, that’s a good business model!

Idaho’s laws regarding charters was written to prevent this apparent type of conflict of interest. It states that “No more than one-third (1/3) of the public charter school’s board membership may be comprised of nonprofit educational services provider representatives.”

In this case, an entity under agency of Mr. Hall has the exclusive ability to appoint trustees which subsequently contract his management services. Some would say that means Mr. Hall controls more than the ⅓ share allowed, and in fact, has de facto control of the entire board.

All of which leads full circle back to the loss of local control because an out-of-state entity is not only in charge of an Idaho school, but is also the recipient of a lucrative business relationship with the school. Isn’t that cronyism? You know, favoring close friends, or, yourself?

But wait, it gets better: PIE withdrew its application from Caldwell School District before trustees voted on the charter proposal, and then resubmitted it to the Idaho Public Charter School Commission (IPCSC). That end-around step means that no elected officials will have an opportunity now to vote on opening PIE in Caldwell going forward.

That result is because the IPCSC members who will vote on granting PIE’s charter are appointed by a governor whose tenure has been littered with these types of conflict-of-interest episodes.

And the appointed commission may very well vote to grant a California nonprofit, with Mr. Hall listed as agent, the ability to appoint trustees in Caldwell, Idaho. Which will then engage in a substantial financial contract with an entity also helmed by Mr. Hall. Because that makes sense.

But these are the sorts of things that occur when the public loses control of making fundamental decisions about its local schools when that control is exported to charter schools along with their out-of-state management groups.

And for all the rhetoric about the “freedom” to have “choice” in our public schools, PIE suggests that we have given away every modicum of the freedom to run the schools in our community to a California nonprofit and business partners. Only in Idaho …

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Over the course of the campaign, Donald Trump has questioned the religion of a lot of people.

Some of them are his opponents.

“We don’t know anything about Hillary [Clinton] in terms of religion,” he said at one gathering of evangelical leaders in New York on June 21. “Now, she’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there’s no — there’s nothing out there. There’s like nothing out there. It’s going to be an extension of Obama but it’s going to be worse, because with Obama you had your guard up. With Hillary you don’t, and it’s going to be worse.”

Actually, quite a bit is on the record about Hillary Clinton’ religious background. As NBC summarized, “Clinton is, in fact, a practicing Methodist who knows her Bible well and speaks often about the important role faith plays in her life. In her books, and occasionally on the campaign trail, Clinton has talked openly of how she turned to faith in times of hardship, including during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the death of her best friend, Diane Blair, in 2000.”

Senator Ted Cruz, who is extremely open about his religious beliefs and is the son of a minister, came under similar attack. In January, NBC reported, Trump told a group of Baptists, “Just remember this, in all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, okay?”

Speaking of the similarly openly devout Ben Carson, he remarked, “I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

He may not know a lot about Presbyterians either, since the Presbyterian church described as his says he is not an “active member.”

Then there are other people he has gotten crosswise with. President Obama he has famously tried to have tagged as a Muslim. (Obama was a church-going Christian in Chicago for many years.) And of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney he asked – in Salt Lake City, of all places – “Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?”

The point of this recitation is not simply to recount yet another collection of outrages. It is that Trump, in trying to poke at people where they’re sensitive, is taking flippantly at best the seriousness with which many people take their religious beliefs – including, from widespread available evidence, all of those evidently devout people he has attacked in the course of his campaign. I personally have no problem with irreligion; we have the right in this country to believe in no religion at all, as well as any one in particular, and if Trump chooses to be an unaffiliated (for meaningful purposes), he’s at liberty to do that.

But a person running for public office making a practice of attacking other people over their religion is another matter. A small-town mayor or county commissioner should never be allowed to get away with it, and few local communities probably would put up with it. A president most certainly should not do such a thing.

A president mindlessly attacking people over matters of religion would open a can of explosives that might not ever be resealed – at least until after the damage is done. – rs

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I hate writing about statistics. But, this is a column in which you’re going to have to wade through some, at times, confusing numbers to get the point. So, stick with me here. ‘Cause when that point comes, you’ll probably be as mad as I am.

The basis for my anger is found in an interesting report from the Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), a coalition of 400 national and state-level progressive groups. While most members tilt slightly left politically, the numbers are real and the methodology pure statistical mechanics.

We, common variety taxpayers, have known since diaper-hood that corporations – large, faceless, and uncaring – have ripped off the tax system with loopholes, shifts, tricks, offshore stashes and bookkeeping slight-of-hand. All legal but foul smelling. But, maybe – just maybe – it’s worse than we thought.

The comprehensive numbers crunching by ATF this year dealt almost exclusively with Walmart. Previous deep dives into the books included the entire American fast food industry, auto companies and other large employers. In all cases, the bottom line was this: American taxpayers are heavily subsidizing all of them on the one hand – while being ripped off with tax breaks on the other.

Here are the Walmart numbers. And, this, my friends, is where you’ll find that elusive anger point I mentioned.

For the year 2013, “Walmart workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing. $6.2 billion right out of the ol’ taxpayer pockets.

Statisticians arbitrarily picked one Walmart superstore in Wisconsin. That store – that one store – cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year! Every year! That worked out to between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 employees!

ATF took the mid-point of that range ($4,415) and multiplied it by Walmart’s approximately 1.4 million workers. That’s how they got to the $6.2 billion direct cost to we taxpayers.

So, how did the numbers work out in our little Northwest neighborhood for just the Walmart ripoff? Well, Idaho has 7,026 Walmart employees for which the company receives $39.1 million in subsidies and tax breaks. Oregon’s 11,480 employees netted the company just over $70 million in subsidies and breaks. Washington had 19,350 employees and the company netted $120.2 million in government largesse.

Of the $6.2 billion overall cost to citizens, Idaho’s 7,026 employees racked up a $31 million hit to public assistance; Oregon’s 11,482 workers cost us $50.7 million and Washington’s 19,350 employees another $85.4 million drain to welfare programs.

Now, the “frosting on the cake” – how much Walmart’s U.S. stores took in through sales in just the food stamp program (SNAP). Bottom line in 2013 alone: $13.5 billion! Talk about taking it with both hands! That’s over 18% of all dollars paid out through the entire SNAP program coming back to Walmart!

And, if you’re wondering who was number two paying low wages which forced employees to use SNAP, that would be your famous “Golden Arches” folk who cost us all $1.2 billion more. And you can bet they sold millions of Big Mac’s to people who paid with food stamps. Again, gotcha coming and going..

Some of the crazier cretins along the Potomac want to badly curtail – or even eliminate – the SNAP subsidy. I would make a sizeable bet none of them have read the work of the Americans for Tax Fairness research. Or any other of the scholarly reports examining – in great detail – who the uses food stamps and why they have to just to survive.

But for the saner – and infinitely smarter – members of Congress, I’d recommend one of more than four dozen such tomes done by the Department of Defense. If they did, they’d find repeated conclusions showing more than 20% of food stamp users are in military uniform. And many of those are stateside families of one or more servicemen over in the live fire zones.

Come to think of it, that statistic makes me madder than the Walmart ripoff.

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Ask a Donald Trump supporter why, and one of the answers almost sure to come out – right up top – relates to the candidate’s image and things he has said about himself. It goes something like this: “He’s paying for his own campaign, so he’s not in anybody’s pocket. He’s not beholden to anybody. He can say exactly what he thinks, and he does.”

And every time he says something that make many people gasp, the point seems driven home all the deeper.

But the premise – that the campaign is completely self-financed – isn’t true, and never has been. And as for non-campaign financial obligations, Trump is deep in the hole. The truth is the exact opposite of Trump’s carefully-crafted image.

It is true that much of the money for the campaign in the primary season came out of Trump’s pocket. What many supporters didn’t realize was that he listed it on campaign finance reports as a loan, which means that contributions in the future could be used to pay him back. When headlines about that started to hit, he said he would change that designation from “loan” to “contribution”, so that he could not be repaid. Problem is that the paperwork to accomplish that apparently has never been filed with the Federal Elections Commission. That presumably means any contributed money (from other contributors) left unspent could wind up back in Trump’s own accounts. We’ll eventually see how all that settles out.

On March 7, Trump said, “I’m self-funding my campaign. I’m not taking money. … I’m not taking. I spent a lot of money. I don’t take.” But according to federal reports, as of January 31, his campaign had in fact pulled in $7.5 million in non-candidate donations, and that was just the beginning.

Moving into the general election season, his campaign finances and those of the national Republican Party have become increasingly intertwined. In itself, that’s not unusual in either party, but it means Trump’s boasts about self-funding have become meaningless. Tens of millions of dollars have been raised in the last three months – the Trump campaign has become a substantial fundraiser – and it has become an increasingly conventional one. Trump may hate the work of fundraising, but his campaign has been pulling it in much the same way other candidates do. He’s not really any different.

Other than that, because of concerns that Trump might drag down other Republicans, the national Republican leadership has been (according to numerous recent reports) redirecting a lot of the pooled money toward congressional and other races, and away from Trump’s. The risks are high in either actually doing that or not doing it, and the issue isn’t settled. But increasingly, many of the people who thought they were donating to support Trump’s presidential campaign may find some of their dollars went to other purposes. Trump’s campaign finances have become a more complex problem than for any presidential candidate in decades. So much for the simplicity of self-funding.

And that’s just the campaign finance.

Last weekend the New York Times released results of an extensive investigation into Trump’s finances, and found he owes the staggering amount of at least $650 million, more than twice the debt listed on his personal disclosure form filed with the Federal Election Commission.

After spending more than a year blasting the economic and lobbying practices of China and the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs, especially in connection with opponents Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton, Trump seems in fact to be referring more to himself than to them. “Notably, one of these [Trump building projects] – a Manhattan office building which Trump partly owns -‘“carries a $950 million loan,’ according to the Times. Goldman Sachs and the Bank of China are two of the building’s four lenders.”

And it goes on from there, at great length. Actually, no one (maybe even Trump) seems to know exactly what he owes in debt, or to who. As the Times concluded, if Trump were elected president, the country could for the first time ever have a president with business ties and debt obligations so extensive the country realistically has no idea what he owes to whom.

Anyone who thinks Trump would arrive at the White House free of obligation to special interests, has the reality twisted 180 degrees. – rs

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Is the weekend after the appearance of naked Donald Trump statues in a number of American cities a good time to point out that the whole concept of rape plays a major role in the Trump presidential campaign?

Probably as good a time as any.

Because it does play a significant role, in ways large and small, this use of rape and sexual assault as an emotional frame for his politics.

It began on day one of his campaign, within the first three minutes of his announcement speech, when he started talking about Mexican rapists crossing the border and heading north.

In October, he told a strange story intended to make a point of some kind about Syrian refugees, and as the Truthout site put it, “In essence, he described Syrian refugees as snakes and America as a naïve woman. Again, it’s the framing of foreign men as a sexual threat and the damsel-in-distress imagery for the nation. He capped it off in a May 2016 speech when he said, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country.”

Rape is, of course, a political subject in the United States and understandably so. Some activists speak of a “rape culture.” There are specific complaints based in hard statistics about such matters as the numbers of rape kits which go untested. But these are not part of Trump’s conversation.

There are also, of course, assault allegations women have made against Trump; until they’re resolved, in the spirit of innocent until proven guilty, they’re just allegations.

But the use of rape as a concept, as a bludgeon to make people fearful and defensive, is bad enough by itself when the user is someone seeking to become president of the United States. – rs

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The Idaho state Republicans have opened several local field offices, evidently for the duration of the campaign season, in Lewiston, Moscow and Hailey, and according to reports, another is planned in west Boise.

The latter is only a few miles away from state party headquarters in downtown Boise. These new offices do have something in common: They are located in most of those few places in Idaho where competitive legislative races are underway. (The Democrats may be setting up shop a little more informally.)

Not much of Idaho is really up for grabs in this year’s election, partly because most districts in Idaho are too partisan-lopsided to allow for close races; but there are a few. It’s also possible some other races could start to spark. Only about 80 days are left, but even in Idaho the unpredictable can happen.

Closest thing to ground zero for serious competition right now, again in this cycle as before, is district 15, where the two House Republican incumbents, Lynn Luker and Patrick McDonald, are being challenged heavily by Democrats Steve Berch – his third hard-charging run in this district – and Jake Ellis, both raising and spending money comparable to the incumbents. Up to now, Republicans have won every time out in this west Boise district, but the margins have shrunk, and the outcome of these races is hard to predict.

The districts based around Moscow and Lewiston have been among the most competitive in recent years, and two years ago the House Democratic leader, John Rusche, won re-election at Lewiston by 50 votes. No one is taking any votes for granted in these places – Districts 5 and 6. While the Senate seats here do look set for incumbent re-elections, the four House races all show signs of being competitive.

The unusual spot for a Republican local office is Hailey, the Blaine County seat which is almost as solidly Democratic as any community in Idaho – and taken together with Ketchum, maybe more than any. The legislative delegation from this area has been mostly Democratic for a generation.

But while the district includes the Democratic Wood River Valley it also includes more Republican territory reaching out to Shoshone, Fairfield, Gooding and Wendell, and the Democratic advantage is not enormous. One of the House seats is now occupied by Republican Steve Miller, and the other, held for a dozen years by Democrat Donna Pence, is now (with her retirement) open. Democrat Sally Toone of Gooding seems reasonably well positioned to keep the seat blue (Pence is her campaign manager), but Republicans seem to be taking seriously the opportunity an open seat is giving them, and Alex Sutter, a businessman at Richfield, may be a strong prospect.

These are not the only significant legislative races in Idaho this year, of course. Sometimes political explosions come out of nowhere, as in last week’s instance of state Senator Jim Guthrie, R-Inkom, and Representative Christy Perry, R-Nampa, after news media reports that the two married legislators had an affair. Both are on the ballot in November and, partly because both live in solidly Republican districts, seemed to be headed toward re-election. Now their races have become harder to measure.

This doesn’t look like an especially competitive year, and the roster of Idaho legislative candidates hasn’t produced a large list of fascinating candidates. But sometimes races take on interest when something new happens, and candidates look more interesting in hindsight, when you see what they’ve accomplished.

We’re heading into the home stretch.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus


One of the Donald Trump outrages from this year – from only a few months ago – centered on the Republican National Convention, at which the new nominee proclaimed himself the candidate of law and order.

That was what he said in his acceptance speech, at least. In the weeks before, the story was different.

Go back to March and April, when the battle for the Republican nomination was coming near its end but wasn’t yet wrapped. The NeverTrump forces were frantically pursuing their options, and among other things reviewing the possible ways a Trump nomination might be blocked at the convention itself.

In the event, the effort failed – at that point Trump had the votes he needed to prevail, and was able easily to bat the challenge back.

But in between, before the convention, the anti-Trump effort looked serious. And that prompted him to warn Republicans what might happen if he were well ahead at the convention and hit a roadblock: “I think you’d have riots. I think you’d have riots. I’m representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people. … I think you would have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I believe that. I wouldn’t lead it but I think bad things would happen.”

That scenario was never brought to the test, but what if it was? Trump was already on record as raising the prospect of riots if he did not get the nomination. True, he did not call for riots. But he got about as close to doing that as you could have without being totally explicit.

The National Review opined, “By any reasonable standard, he has long since disqualified himself for high office — or any office frankly. This latest threat about riots is Mafia talk, plain and simple. “Nice convention you’ve got there. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it.””

As the NR said, this is Mafia talk, coming from a man who would be president. We’ll come back around to that soon. – rs

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Donald Trump’s ventures into conspiracy theories go back a few years, at least back to birtherism – his role in propagating the notion that Barack Obama was born not in Hawaii but somewhere else, Africa presumably. Where doesn’t really matter because the point was to try to delegitimize the Obama presidency. For most people, the effort failed early on for the same reason most extravagant conspiracy theories do: They involve so much incredible effort and coincidence that in the real world, there’s no way they could be made to happen. Conspiracies aren’t that easy to pull off, and in fact are damned difficult. There’s a good reason most people ascribe to incompetence that which a few insist came out of conspiracy.

The New Yorker, reviewing some of Trump’s forays into the realm of the tin-foil hats, noted that “birtherism is only the best-known among Trump’s large collection of creepy political fairy tales. You’ve probably heard the one about vaccines and autism. He even pushed that during a Presidential primary debate, on national television. Do you really believe that Obama won the 2012 election fairly? Wrong. Fraud. (At the same time, it’s Mitt Romney, total loser, who let everyone down.) Bill Ayers, not Obama, wrote “Dreams from My Father.” There is no drought in California, and the Chinese, outwitting us per usual, invented the concept of global warming to undermine American manufacturing. And so on.”

A good deal of this comes out of his association with Alex Jones, a conspiracy-minded radio talk show host who has hosted Trump several times. Trump has been a guest on the show; his close friend and ally Roger Stone has appeared on it repeatedly. What is Jones selling these days? A sampler from some of his recent tweets: “Election rigging: How she’ll do it”, “Hillary’s Trail of Death,” “Soros behind Muslim takeover of West,” and so on. His growing media operation, Infowars, is more or less ConspiraciesRUs.

So he does know his way around that world when he said of Trump, as he did to the New Republic, “There’s no way the Trump people would have reached out to me a year and a half ago, if he wasn’t aware of the work. He’s been what you call a ‘closet conspiracy theorist’ for 50 years. I think he’s been a chameleon in the system, and now he sees the time to strike.”

Reality has trouble making its way into Trump’s consciousness, but conspiracy theories seem to have an easier path.

The New Yorker continued, “Does Donald Trump actually believe any of this? Or is he laughing up his sleeve as apoplectic fact-checkers throw themselves into the thankless work of disproving his absurdities? To cover himself, he prefaces his more outlandish remarks with disclaimers like “I hear” or “A lot of people think.””

When he said, as he did this week, that a President Trump would not be willing to rely on American intelligence resources, he left open the question of who he would rely on. But by now we have a pretty good idea. – rs

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A panelist for DHM research shared some polling results with me that DHM shares with it’s panelists.

The takeaway is this. A strong plurality of Oregonians say that Oregon needs to go in a more conservative direction. Not conservative mind you just a more conservative direction. This in spite of a 38% to 29% Democratic voter registration edge in Oregon.

Trouble for Governor Brown?

Governor Brown is known to be one of the more liberal members in Democratic leadership. so this could signal trouble. If you assume that those that believe Oregon should head in a more conservative direction are voting or leaning Dr. Bud Pierce for Governor, then Pierce only needs to win one third of the “neither” crowd to win the Governor race.

However that’s easier said than done.

It’s probable that many “neither” voters are Democrats or Democratic leaners happy with the status quo but who don’t want a further leftward drift. So how can Dr. Pierce attract these voters who prefer liberal leaning policies?

He can argue that a more fiscally conservative Pierce administration would act as a “centrist” financial check on a Democratic Party that already holds power in both houses, while voting for Governor Brown would take Oregon even further left by allowing the Democrats to continue their practice of totally ignoring the Republicans and rural Oregon.

In the 1990’s Governor Kitzhaber was faced with a Republican Legislature and he earned the nickname of Dr. No for his frequent use of the veto. A Pierce governorship could be the second coming of Dr. No. using his veto, or threat of veto, to force bi-partisan legislation.

Many Oregonians, and voters nationwide, believe the Democrats and Republicans don’t talk and compromise enough. The “Neither” crowd may appreciate a more fiscally conservative Governor who will force Democrats to build legislative coalitions in order to make their bills veto proof. As long as he can convince the moderately liberal voters that he will not reverse the entire progressive agenda.

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This isn’t quite in the category of one of the international crisis disqualifiers from presidency that Donald Trump has in such abundance. And admittedly, as a non-parent, it doesn’t hit home for me personally the way it will for many other people – the parent-people among us.

I don’t have to exercise a lot of imagination, though, to come up with this scenario:

Donald Trump has done or said something outrageous again, possibly followed by more outrage from some of his camp followers. Which outrage it is doesn’t matter for this purpose. But like so many others, it is captured by video cameras, and turns up on television or on a computer screen in the family’s living room.

And when the five-year-old in the house inquires of a parent about the language, ideas and actions of this famous man on the screen – or maybe, depending on how things go in November, the President of the United States – just how does this parent try to explain what the child sees?

There’s the next generation coming up, folks – and what they’re absorbing about what matters in how we relate to each other.

The only honest answer to that five year asking about that president or presidential candidate is the honest truth: You may already be too mature to become president of the United States. – rs

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He turns 85 on August 25th. He has always had an ability to turn a phrase, and is particularly quick at utilizing well-known colloquial expressions at appropriate times. So, if asked how he feels about turning 85 he would probably say he’s been “rode hard and put up wet” a few too many times. Then he would crack that smile that lights up his eyes and is an essential part of his charm.

That charm, coupled with a prodigious memory for names and faces, as well as his political skill in solving seemingly intractable problems, inspires people to trust him. Besides, he is just a downright likable human being.

Over the years he has challenged Idahoans to dare to be great, to do more and with less if necessary. His unstinting support for more funding for public education, his insistence that critically important economic development cannot come at the expense of existing business, his belief that one first has to make a living before they can enjoy Idaho’s incredible environment has resonated well with voters.

“He” of course is Cece Andrus, the former four-term governor of the state, former 44th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, former State Senator from Clearwater county as well as the city of Lewiston. By any measure he is the most successful and greatest governor in Idaho’s history.

He left public office in 1995 but remains the most popular political figure in the state and despite an entire generation having grown up without even having had the chance to vote for him he is more liked and his favorable to unfavorable numbers are higher than any current major officeholder.

He is the essence of Shakespeare’s Henry the Second, the Lion in Winter with teeth still sharp that can take a big bite out of anyone’s hide as the folks at the Department of Energy’s INEL site learned when they tried to bamboozle he and former Governor Phil Batt into abrogating the historic agreement banning future shipments of any nuclear waste into Idaho which has a commitment to take all waste from the site by 2035.

The list of his many accomplishments on behalf of Idahoans and all Americans is long and distinguished – too long to list here. However, perhaps his greatest legacy was his critical role in convincing President Carter to use his powers to create National Monuments in Alaska under the Antiquities Act. It became the critical piece of leverage that forced all parties to come to the table and negotiate the bill that became the historic Alaska lands legislation.

Overnight the National Park Service doubled in size. Ironically the anniversary of the Park Service is coincidentally August 25th. There will celebrations in and on NPS properties all across the nation including West Yellowstone – the nation’s first national park.

Andrus deliberately chose not to be there. He wants to fade away quietly, his time in the limelight having come and gone. He knows his career was made possible by thousands of Idahoans who trusted and supported him, indeed sustained him. He was always so proud and considered it to be a real privilege to represent the great state. He never put on airs; glory never turned his head. While in D.C. he placed his own phone calls, played on a softball team in the Department’s recreational league. He knew who he was, from whence he came and to where he would return.

Like most of us who inevitably age he has faced and handled several life-threatening health challenges in recent years, but he forbid those close to him to say anything not wanting his health challenges to detract from others facing the same. His goal is to live to be 100, thereby beating his father, Hal, who lived to be 99.

Yes indeed, Andrus is still one of the most competitive individuals one will ever meet. He doesn’t like to lose at anything, whether tiddlywinks, fly fishing, goose hunting, golf or elected office. Starting a political career by losing a race for governor twice in the same year is not only humbling, it can be motivational.

One drawback to living so long is one knows and sees far too many friends passing on. He could probably attend a funeral every day somewhere in Idaho. As John Donne wrote in the 16th century, every person’s death diminishes us all and the departure of so many friends and supporters takes a toll on Cece.

Andrus is the natural at so many things but in particular he is a superb teacher who relates to any student whether five or twenty-five or sixty-five.

Neither is he afraid to show his emotions. He is human but also humane.

Once, while visiting he and Carol in Boise, I quietly walked into their living room only to see the good, great governor sitting there with tears rolling down his cheeks. He had happened to catch on television a Fish and Game commercial from a couple years back that featured him and his then favorite hunting dog. The dog was of course gone, but not forgotten.

There are thousands of Idahoans still alive whose lives are better because of Cece. In a spirit of thanksgiving for an extraordinary life of public service join me in wishing the Lion in Winter a happy and healthy 85th.

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Not even minutes were needed to draw the obvious comparison between the 1984 presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan, centered around the happy theme of “morning in America,” and the nomination acceptance speech this year by Donald Trump.

This new Republican candidacy, a mere 32 years from Reagan’s, was swiftly described as “midnight in America.”

And rightly so. In his telling this is a dystopian country, at imminent existential peril, overrun with vicious criminals and invaders and dangerous people. You step outside the front door at your peril . . .

And the GOP convention ate it up. For those of us who recall Reagan’s two successful runs for the presidency, the scene was astonishing.

When he ran in 1980, Reagan was not an incumbent and therefore had no incentive to argue that things were fine as they were; and he didn’t. But his tone, mood and persona projected optimism. It was a tonic. The 70s were a time of disappointment for many Americans, from Watergate to the energy crisis. President Jimmy Carter, trying to confront some of this, delivered an address widely called the “malaise” speech (though that word never appeared in it). Reagan spoke to positives, to a Pollyanna image really, but one many people wanted to hear and responded to. Republicans particularly, in those days, loved it. And they loved it even more when he could run an unalloyed “morning in America” message for re-election.

One of the things only a president can do is to use that singular pulpit to rally the country. Reagan did that. It was one of his best services to the country: He lifted up a country that was feeling down.

This year, Donald Trump, whose campaign book is titled Crippled America (recently retitled Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America, presumably on the advice of some campaign aide), seems bound to do exactly the opposite of Reagan: Take a nation that is essentially sound and moving toward peace and prosperity, and lower it, depress it, diminish it.

There are many more stirring orators than Hillary Clinton (even at her own convention), but listen to her speech alongside Trump’s and the contrast is stark: It speaks at least to the goodness and even greatness of the country, and to better days ahead. Trump offered none of that.

Crippled America? Midnight in America? Some of our presidents have lifted us up. We can ill-afford one that would slam us down. – rs

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