Writings and observations

carlson

Sometimes irony in life is simply too rich. And all too often even incredibly bright people do not see the train wreck they are headed towards. In such instances one has little choice but to sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all, rather than cry.

For the most recent example of this unintended consequence of not thinking through a matter we have Idaho’s Senior U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo, a Harvard law product no less, to thank.

In going along with his party in rationalizing not even holding a hearing on President Barack Obama’s nomination of District Judge Merrick Garland, one of Senator Crapo’s expressed reasons was a perception on Crapo’s part that Judge Garland was weak on Second amendment rights.

In voting to secure Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by President Trump, Crapo joined his majority Republican colleagues in doing away with the requirement that 60 votes is needed to end a filibuster. That they don’t see this as a precedent that will be invoked with regard to legislation sooner rather than later is stunning.

Without the ability to hold up the process by filibuster, defenders of the Second amendment are going to discover they have lost their greatest aid. In Crapo’s case it is so ironic that he invoked Judge Garland’s perceived weakness on gun rights only to turn around and vote for the “nuclear option” which literally shatters 2nd amendment protections.

All it will take will be for the Democrats to recapture the Senate (which will happen sooner or later), then do away with allowing filibusters on legislation, then ram urban-oriented legislation down the throats of small states and in particular western states. Turn about will be fair play in their game play book, just as it is in the GOP play book.

Republicans of course blame the Democrats for starting this downhill slide when Harry Reid of Nevada was the Senate Majority Leader. Reid did invoke and utilize a modified form after getting fed up with Republican stalls on lower court nominees. Two wrongs do not make a right, however.

To the extent there is shared blame, though, there is some truth, but the historical comity of the Senate will be lost and a pure form of hard, harsh partisanship will result with a minority no longer having any rights or an ability to influence legislation.

Welcome to this Brave New World where the winner takes all and the opposition is totally and cruelly crushed, and thanks Senator Crapo, as well as thanks to his equally blind colleague, Senator Jim Risch. It is truly sad that neither of them demonstrated any ability to look down the road to see the inevitable turning of the worm.

This abject failure to protect the rights of the minority is simply disgusting. Its an action that belies any talk by Crapo, Risch and their Republican colleagues that they believe in bi-partisanship and fully respect and dutifully honor Senate traditions. Pure balderdash.

Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), two former majority and Senate Pro Tempore leaders, are rolling over in their graves at the stupidity of their former colleagues and the damage they have done to the institution as well as the smaller, western states in the Union.

By utilizing this “nuclear option” (It was dubbed this by Republican Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee for a reason), Republicans are virtually guaranteeing the Senate will become as dysfunctional as the House. It is a win at any cost strategy that destroys the check and balance role of the Senate and thwarts the purpose of the Founding Fathers in setting up a bi-cameral legislature. The fact that they could pull it off regardless of the cost to the institution does not make it right unless one believes absolute power has absolutely unchecked rights.

Don’t be taken in by Republican rhetoric, either, that this is just hard-ball politics. It is the first time in American history that the Senate deliberately stalled on even holding a hearing on a Court nomination until after the result of a coming presidential election was known. On the contrary, there were 13 instances where the Senate did its duty even when an administration was expected to change.

The really sad thing is that in Idaho Crapo and Risch will never be held acccountable to the voters for their unconscionable role in diminishing the influence of the body in which they sit and its historical respect for the rights of the minority. Remember that when an increasingly urban and suburban dominated senate starts riding roughshod over your second amendment rights or your property rights.

They’ll rant and rave as if they are the unknowing victims of this terrible perversion of the process of which they consciously aided and abetted. One wishes they had a sense of shame for what they’ve done but don’t hold your breath.

The illusion of comity and bi-partisanship has gone the way of the dodo bird.

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Carlson

carlson

A few years from now political scientists and historians may look back on Idaho’s 2018 gubernatorial election as one of the most significant, game-changing elections since Cecil Andrus knocked off
Republican incumbent Governor Don Samuelson in 1970.

It will mark 24 years of the Republican hold on the governor’s chair following the 24 years before that of Democratic hegemony under Cecil Andrus, John Evans and Andrus again. Andrus’ first election, incidentally, ended another 24 year period of Republican rule.

Might there be a pattern emerging here?

For now, though, virtually all political pundits in Idaho already concede whoever wins the GOP primary will be the next governor of Idaho. The primary promises to be one of the more spirited contests in years.

Making it especially interesting is the expected entry of Tea Party darling and Freedom Caucus conservative member of Congress, Raul Labrador, who represents Idaho’s first congressional district. He is expected to announce around June 1st and may be crowned as the “favorite” because of name id and his affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).

Incidentally, conventional wisdom speculates that former state senator Russ Fulcher, who gave Governor C. L.“Butch” Otter such a tough run for his money before narrowly losing in the 2014 primary, is just a place-holder for Labrador. Think otherwise. Fulcher ran a smart 2014 campaign, has learned from his loss and is no placeholder for anyone.

Labrador will be surrendering his safe seat to whomever wins the GOP primary here also, with conventional wisdom establishing former Idaho
Attorney General and Lt. Governor David Leroy as the early favorite.

The other complicating factor is the entry of developer Dr. Tommy Ahlquist. A multi-millionaire with friends on both sides of the political aisle, he is traveling around the state attending Lincoln Day dinners and calling the political influentials in each county to introduce himself and make his pitch.

He has one of those rare political gifts, much like Cecil Andrus has and George Hansen had – the ability to listen carefully to what a constituent is saying and do so in a manner that leaves the constituent feeling at that moment he or she is the most important person in the world. There’s no looking over the constituent’s shoulder to see if there is someone more important in the room.

Add to that his piercing blue eyes and the message is clear – he’s smart, hard-working and wealthy. He also does his homework. His “elevator speech” is short and sweet. He is campaigning on job creation, tax reform and the state taking the lead on health care reform.

Asked about the sale of federal public lands a month ago he confessed he had not yet studied the issue but promised he would. Last week a Republican lobbyist told friends they’d heard the good doc discuss the issue and thought it was as knowledgeable and thoughtful as anything he’d heard.

So where does this leave Lt. Governor Brad Little? A year ago many had already bestowed the crown on his head. Today, many are revisiting that prediction. Writing off Little would be terribly premature, however. He has traipsed all over Idaho introducing
himself, displaying his thoughtfulness on the issues and his understanding of the state. It’s Idaho retail politics at its best.

Little knows he has to differentiate himself from Otter and start talking about his vision for Idaho’s future – and he must do so without appearing to be an ingrate. He also knows he has a solid base of support that will stick with him during the primary and he will be able to raise plenty of money to finance a first-rate campaign.

Common political sense says he ought to be urging four-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to get into the race, also, which in theory would take away more from his challengers than from him.

Predictions months ahead of the 2018 G OP primary are always risky especially when there are more than three candidates in a race. Right now, though, I’d still bet that when the smoke clears Brad Little will be the GOP nominee.

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Carlson

carlson

Two decisions were made this past week that will have reverberations across Idaho. One was made in Pocatello. The other in Washington, D.C. Neither is easy to understand and a case can be made that the decisions were not necessary, that that they fall under the rubric “hope is not a strategy.”

The decision in Pocatello was made by Jeff Tingey, the athletic director at Idaho State, to force football coach Mike Kramer to announce his “retirement.” If he did not, Tingey would announce Kramer’s firing.

The forced retirement, at the start of spring football, fooled no one. To this observer it was a classless way to treat a coach who has brought respectability back to the ISU football program. And he did it while upping the student athletes grade point averages and class attendance.

Yes, he made the “mistake” of producing a winning team in four years, one year ahead of the five years he said it would take. In 2014, when ISU almost beat the league’s best, Eastern Washington’s Eagles, in their first league game, it was clear Kramer had achieved the unachievable.

That team went 8 and 4 and almost made the play-offs. Kramer was the toast of the town and the Big Sky coach of the year. The former high school coach at Colton, a bump on the road between Pullman and Lewiston, has turned three Big Sky programs around, starting with EWU in the mid-90s, then Montana State in the early 2000s, and then Idaho State.

As the 2015 season arrived, expectations on the campus, around town and among Bengal alumni soared exponentially.

Anyone who has watched a Kramer coached team knows the key to his offense is a smart quarterback with a quick read ability, a quick arm and an accurate throw whether short, mid-field or long. Unfortunately, Kramer had not been able to recruit his kind of quarterback for the following season.
To his credit, he did not blame his quarterback. Instead he deflected to himself the criticism. Tingey even rewarded Kramer for the break-out season with a contract extension. Kramer still had more to offer. He should have been given a vote of confidence for the coming season. He should have been allowed to retire gracefully at the end of next season assuming it was not consistent with his standard of success.

Bottom line is ISU will never have a better football coach than Mike Kramer.

Former ISU president Bud Davis once said the two most important decisions a university president makes are to hire or fire football and basketball coaches. He believed it was smart to hire a former head coach with a proven record rather than some hot shot phenom assistant. Jeff Tingey is going to find out just how much he should have stuck with a coach with a winning record.

The other “game changing” decision last week was made in Washington, D.C. One of the outfalls from the Freedom Caucus’ decision to vote nay on “TrumpCare” was a calling out by name the members of the Freedom Caucus, including Idaho’s First District congressman, Raul Labrador, who voted no and would not support the president.

Any hope Labrador might have landed a major position dealing with immigration reform in a Trump Administration flew out the window. Likewise, any chance he might land a lucrative job with a conservative foundation or association also flew out the window as it is unlikely they would pick someone who makes Trump see red.

Labrador could easily stay in Congress another three terms (he supports term limits of 12 years for Congress) but he is devoted to his wife and children, flies home every weekend, and reportedly is tiring of the grind and living out of his Congressional office.

Sources in D.C. and in Boise, have started to let people know he is seeking the govenorship, relying heavily on a six month old poll that gave him almost half the Republican primary vote with no other candidate busting out of the single digits.

The poll was taken though before developer Dr. Tommy Ahlquist declared his intentions and pledged to spend from his fortune one dollar more than it takes to win.

Labrador’s entry may inspire former State Senator Russ Fulcher, a friend of Labrador’s, to withdraw and turn to the Lt. Governor’s race. One thing for sure is Labrador has no intention of giving up his congressional seat while running for governor. Thus, there will be no special election.

Two questions remain: where’s he going to find the money to run and why does he even want to be governor?

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Carlson

carlson

One of my cardinal rules about politics is there are seldom any coincidences. There may be coincidences, however, of time, place, and especially, of people. Our lives during the Biblical three score and ten will intersect with many different people. This has led demographers and social scientists to refer to the six degrees of separation – go back six generations and you will discover the Pope and you are related – in theory.

Over the years I’ve been surprised at the number of people my path has crossed who, like me, were born in Shoshone county, either in Kellogg or Wallace. For a county with fewer than 4000 people, I could quickly name a dozen, most of whom were serving or had served their home state with honor and brought distinction to the native county.

All merit mention, but space limits dictate just a few. This is my saying thank you for your assistance.

Tim and Julie Olson. High scphool sweethearts who married while Olson was attending Idaho State in the mid-60s having led Kellogg to its last state basketball championship in 1964. Tim retired two years ago as the vice president for Blue Shield of Idaho, but has continued to lobby the Idaho Legislature. We always gather at their summer place on Rose Lake for a good old fashioned patriotic 4th of July and he allows me to sing “Here We Have Idaho.”

Mike Blackbird. A former state senator who would have been a great governor had he stayed in Idaho. I assisted him in doing a wonderful book about his brother, Jerry, also a state senator, entitled One Flaming Hour.

Kenton Bird. Currently the head of general education at the University of Idaho, a former director of the School of Journalism at the University of Idaho, and a former journalist, he was terrificly helpful to me in bringing back to public attention the fine novels penned by a former Idaho poli-sci teacher, Syd Duncombe.

Art and Sherry Krulitz; Leo Krulitz. I knew Art’s cousin, Leo, long before I knew Shoshone County Commissioner Sherry and her husband. One could say they are easily the “power couple” of the county. Sherry was a popular commissioner and could still be if she wanted to be. She still works Facebook and the pictures of her flowers and garden are terrific.

Leo, like Art, grew up in Mullan. He attended Stanford, graduating with honors, then attended and graduated from Harvard Law. While still in his 20s and an active Democrat he became a stalwart supporter of then State Senator Cecil Andrus’ gubernatorial ambitions. He served as the campaign manager for Andrus’ first run in 1966. I still tease him about the campaign slogan he came up with for Andrus: “My kind of man.” Leo went on to become general counsel for the Cummins Engine Corporation until Andrus lured him into government service as his Solicitor at the Department of the Interior from 1977 to 1981.

David Fisher. First met “Fish” when he was working for First InterState bank. He went on to work for one of America’s great innovative corporations, Intel, the master builder of ever smaller but ever increasing capacity microchips, the wafers all made from the same material assembled in anti-septic environments and the guts of your computer. Fisher deftly handled the competition between northwest states for Intel’s major fabrication facility that located near Portland.
Chuck Malloy. One of few editorial writers who has covered Idaho politics extensively for over 30 years and has an institutional memory. He hails from Kellogg and though he has worked at times for the Idaho Republican party, he is a fine journalist and a great observer of the scene.

The late Harry and Collen Magnuson and their sons, Jim, John and Tom. Selected by Governor Andrus to run the 1990 Idaho Centennial Commission, and the man who saved Gonzaga University from bankruptcy, Harry was synonymous with the county. He and his sons also saved the hometown of Wallace by turning it into the snowmobile capitol of the world.

When all is said and done, my old rule regarding no coincidences in politics still holds true. Either that, or there is something in the water we all drink up here in north Idaho. I know I am better for having our trails cross. All of these people were the kind of folks dedicated to leaving the old camp site in better shape than they found it.

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Carlson

carlson

If you think someone is watching or listening to you, odds are pretty high you’re partially correct. For sure you are not paranoid because it is almost a certainty that in this digital age you are being recorded.

The proliferation of sensors and digital cameras has been simply breathtaking. The amount of data being accumulated about individuals, their buying habits, recreation preferences, medical condition is stunning. Google yourself. You’ll be bowled over by high much is known about you.

Many folks have a false sense of security that their personal
information, income status, health history and credit record are safe. Balderdash. If there is one lesson folks should indelibly imprint on their brain it is that there is nothing a professional hacker cannot hack into. A basic rule one should keep in mind is this: The more connected one is the more vulnerable he is.

I garnered an inkling of what was coming during the presidential election of 2004. We kept getting a call from the county Republican campaign headquarters asking our presidential preference. Whether my wife answered or I answered each time we politely told them there was no way we would vote to re-elect President George W. Bush. Still, they kept calling.

Explaining all this to a good Republican friend drew a laugh. He gleefully explained the GOP (as well as the Democrats) had a sophisticated voter analysis program that developed profiles of solid Republican voters. I fit the profile yet was blowing their model.

Their data showed I had voted for Bush in 2000 (Could not stand Al Gore), was the co-owner of a successful small business, had purchased a flaming red Cadillac, had purchased a new shot gun for trap shooting, had a concealed weapons permit, had for a time belonged to the NRA, attended Mass at least once a week, sent my children to a private Catholic high school – in short, I appeared to be an almost perfect Bush voter, but I wasn’t.

One had the feeling they thought their entire model would collapse.

Fast forward now to 2017, and the amazing proliferation of even more technological developments, from iphones and ipads to kindles to gps chips in everything that moves and sensors that record reams of data instantly. All this and much more is explained in the one book everyone should read this year – Thank You for Being Late by the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

His thesis is that there are three major forces inexorably shaping our future. Furthermore they are accelerating at an exponential pace that is outpacing human ability to understand and keep up let alone shape and control.

This ought to scare the hell out of a normal person because the day is not far off when society will have robots with artificial intelligence performing many mundane tasks. Think though about the implications of AI advancing beyond its inventor.

Perhaps you may recall that great scene in the Stanley Kubrick movie 2001. Hal, the on board computer, decides Dave, the space vehicle’s pilot, and his co-pilot are threats to the all-consuming mission to Jupiter.

While the co-pilot is outside the ship Hal cuts the tether and there goes the co-pilot spinning off into space. Hal then refuses to open the airlock that will permit Dave back onto the ship. Dave nonetheless figures out a way and the next scene is Dave, still in his space suit walking into the guts of the super computer to dismantle it.

The dialogue between Hal and Dave is one of the show’s highlights. The only thing Kubrick gets wrong is the size of the computer. Friedman explains how “Moore’s Law” has driven technology in the last 50 years to ever smaller, ever more powerful computer chips at ever more cheap to produce costs. The super computer in 2001 would fit into today’s lap top.

Friedman contends that what is so discomforting to so many is the simultaneous explosive acceleration in technology coupled with forces driving globalization and compounded by global warming and habitat loss.

He outlines how this incredible pace is impacting politics,
geopolitics, ethics, the workplace and communities. The implications of computer chips coupled with sensors, digital cameras, storage capacity and search engines to make a billion calculations in one second makes for an easy leap to recognizing that somewhere,someplace there are recordings of our coming and goings, of our phone conversations and who they are with. The search engine just needs a key word to find it.

What makes this book a cause for hope rather than despair is a quote Friedman cites at the beginning from the famous French scientist, Madame Marie Curie: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Amen.

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Carlson

carlson

The subject is dying and death, especially for the first of the baby boomer generation many of whom are either now 70 years of age or about to turn 70.

The boomer generation has been a trend-setter, defying the societal restrictions it inherited on everything from sex to drugs to dodging the draft. Boomers are the most self-indulgent, narcissistic, ego maniacal generation ever.

Many have inherited or about to inherit the largest generational transfer of wealth in history. While some will turn it around and give to worthy causes, most will hoard it like no tomorrow. Others who can afford it will invest in various medical marvels that at most may extend their lives by six months or a year.

One thing one can bet on for sure, if funeral home directors are to be believed, few have bothered to do the planning necessary to ensure a peaceful passing that children and extended family will truly appreciate. It is almost as if boomers think planning for their
passing will somehow bring the day the Grim Reaper comes calling just that much sooner.

It’s not as if there aren’t reminders of mortality that bombard the consciousness every day – from graphic news stories about deaths (If it bleeds it leads) to pictures of children starving in Somalia or the Sudan, to the obituaries most boomers have furtively been scanning for several years.

Just this past week three fine Idaho friends – selfless, dedicated, decent, loyal to family, faith and country – were called to the Big Round-up, the trail ride having ended. They were former State Senator Mike Mitchell, Duane Jacklin, one of the founding partners of the world renowned Jacklin Seed Company, and Bob Templin, the founder and developer of Templin’s Resort.

Some families are prepared, others are not. The point though is that if one cares about their loved ones and those that survive them, they do the planning, make the key decisions and pay in advance so that the grieving surviving spouse or the child in charge doesn’t have to guess what Dad or Mom would have liked.

Every family should make sure that all are prepared for the inevitable day the loved one passes.

Many folks avail themselves of the wonderful supportive Hospice program. Hospice ought to require every family that engages it, as a first step, to watch and then discuss an excellent movie called Two Weeks. It stars Sally Field as the divorced and remarried mother of four who is prematurely dying of cancer.

The movie, which came out in 2006, probes the relationships and reactions primarily of her four children – three sons and a daughter. Each reacts differently. Indeed, the rock is of course the mother. The movie is not pollyansish – it makes clear that her passing is painful and gut-wrenching.

It even alludes to the fact that the morphine injections she receives to counter the pain towards the very end has a dosage increase that brings death more quickly rather than prolonging the agony.

Yes, it is a form of assisted suicide and one can debate whether it is compassionate or something akin to a mercy killing done to ease the discomfort of the family. It brings home the point that issues surrounding death cannot all be legislated, that room has to be left to respect the wishes of the person dying, the family and their personal clergy.

The mistake made by voters in Oregon and Washington, where assisted suicide is legal, was to get the state involved at all in the first place. Just as we have a constitutional right to life, we also have a right to choose to ease our suffering by seeking a little assistance at the end.

My definition of a natural death does not allow for such assistance, but that’s my faith’s belief and should not be binding on others. The point though is that all families should have these discussions and make the decisions long before Hospice is called in for assistance.

Few Idahoans are aware, and even fewer Americans that Hospice costs are covered by Medicare and we all should tip our hat and say a prayer of thanks to the good Senator Frank Church who led the drive to have Hospice costs covered.

The legislation was passed shortly before the Senator died from the reoccurence of a cancer that almost killed him in his early 20s. Incidentally, the Senator eschewed the drugs and painkillers he could have availed himself of and chose instead to take his death head on.

Dying and death are matters that require rigid adherence to the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared! And while you’re at it, do yourself a favor and watch Two Weeks.

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Carlson

carlson

Shoshone County Republicans gathered on March 3 at their annual Lincoln Day dinner, which took place at the Wallace Inn. Those that attended might have been surprised at the number of major political candidates there eager to meet, greet and solicit support.

Start with the featured speaker, former attorney general and lieutenant governor David Leroy who has been a natural choice to speak at almost all Lincoln Day dinners because he has become a true expert and scholar on the impact President Lincoln had on Idaho. The date itself was propitious because March 4 was the anniversary of the day President Lincoln signed the bill in 1863 creating the Idaho Territory.

Leroy’s remarks were tailored to contemporary times and his speech was an interesting contrast of similarities faced by both presidents (Trump and Lincoln) when they took office.

Once a rising star in Idaho politics, Leroy “retired” from the political scene following his narrow 1986 defeat at the hands of Cecil Andrus when Andrus decided to reclaim the governorship. Since then his legal practice has prospered and he clearly has prepared another run for public office. He is “tan, rested, and ready,” as the expression goes.

Whether he runs is dependent upon the decision of the presence that was not present, but was in almost all conversations at the dinner – First District Congressman Raul Labrador. Is he, as rumored frequently, going to come home and run for governor in 2018?

If so, will he resign his seat to campaign full-time? Or is he going to resign and accept some position in the Trump Administration that deals with the immigration issue, which he has considerable expertise on based on his legal practice.

If he resigns before November of 2018, Idaho law specifies a special election in a winner-take-all ballot. Idaho is the one state in the union that has never had a special election for the House though in the early 30s the second congressional district seat was vacated on June 8th, 1934 when Democratic Congressman Thomas Coffin was hit and killed by a car on a street in Washington, D.C. Because Congress had already adjourned for the year the seat remained vacant until November when D. Worth Clark won the general election.

Declared gubernatorial aspirant Lt. Gov. Brad Little was present as was Boise developer and businessman, Dr. Tommy Ahlquist. Both chose to work the crowd one-on-one rather than address the entire gathering. Former State Senator Russ Fulcher was represented by some family members and Attorney General Laurence Wasden had no one representing his as yet undeclared interest.

If one supports Lt. Governor Little, you want four or five candidates in the race, the thought being your base will hold while the Tea Party vote would split between Labrador and Fulcher. Ahlquist is LDS and he has to be courting Melaleuca founder and billionaire Frank VanderSloot, hoping that his support will consolidate the state’s LDS vote (assumes of course that it is monolithic, which it is not) behind his candidacy.

While some pundits believe Little has to be the favorite others feel he will be handicapped by his close identification with Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter who has disappointed many Republicans because he is perceived to have been coasting these last few years. Critics will charge that a vote for Little is a vote for a fourth Otter term. Brad has to figure out how to distance himself from Otter while not appearing to be disloyal.

Labrador and his supporters are still citing a poll, now six months old, that shows their horse with 48% of a Republican gubernatorial primary vote and all the other wanna-be’s in single digits.

Leroy is the one person positioned to be up and running almost instantly should Labrador resign. Name identification alone should make him the initial favorite. Reports around the district indicate there would be several other contenders including State Rep. Luke Malek from Coeur d’Alene and State Rep. Brent Crane from Nampa.

Such gatherings always serve as breeding grounds for political rumor milling. Two of the best were that GOP legislative leadership is quietly preparing a couple of measures to spring on the last day for sine die when they’ll suspend the calendar and ram a bill through that will create a primary requirement even for a special election. Another effort would be a legal mandate that will supersede the Batt nuclear waste agreement and permit the importation of the spent fuel rods Governor Batt and Governor Andrus have thus far been able to thwart

The other fun rumor is that House Speaker Scott Bedke has been approached by Interior Secretary Zinke about being nominated for one of the assistant secretaryships at Interior. A call to the Speaker’s office asking for a comment was not returned.

Still, when all was said and done it is clear that Raul Labrador is holding the key to most interesting political machinations over the next two years.

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Carlson

carlson

Something has gone seriously awry in the world. It has given this writer cause for pause but two devils have to be given their due painful though it is. President Donald Trump has done something I’ve been hoping some president would do for years. Almost as stunning, First District Congressman Raul Labrador has also done something I could not agree with more.

While it is hard to understand why President Trump is going out of his way to pick a fight with those that make and use ink by the barrelfull, one can see the guiding hand of Steve Bannon, his senior strategic advisor, in deciding to make war on the media and Hollywood since both are perceived to be the self-annointed elite of the nation, and entitled to be the ruling class.

They lend themselves too easily as a target for one who wants to divide, not unite. Since the Democrats are providing nothing but road kill beside the highway, Bannon has decided destroying the credibility of the media and punching out the pretenders in Hollywood are much more inviting targets of opportunity.

It is a not so subtle form of fomenting class divisions; it pits the haves against the have nots. It just might work if enough people are content to abdicate their responsibility to be informed citizens and would rather just follow “der leader.”

All that said, the President is absolutely corrrect not to lend his office and its prestige to the self-glorification spectacle the White House Correspondents dinner has turned into. It used to be a modet affair with actual writers who covered the president. It was more of an informal get together, off the record, with a little frivolity and good conversation.

It has turned into a three-day bash dominated by the media and publishing world’s management and owners who want to brag about dinner with the president and what cabinet officer or movie starlet they’ve been able to woo to sit at their table. It is a glorified form of show, tell and brag and all administrations are expected to play along as good sports while bowing to the fourth estate’s influence.

It is disgusting. Competition for limited tickets to pre-event and post events is almost as demeaning as the competition for tickets to the dinner itself. The president gets an “atta boy” on this one and his decision not to be a hypocrite and play along is the first encouraging sign that they just might restore the proper adversarial relationship that should exist rather than the fawning and patronizing orgy of self-congratulation and self-praise it has become.

Then this past week Idaho’s First District congressman, Rep. Raul Labrador, expressed his support for term limits. His is a well reasoned approach and should be given careful consideration. Most Constitutional scholars believe the Founding Fathers never envisioned a permanent or semi-permanent ruling elite with lifetime tenure for those who held seats in the House and the Senate. However, with incumbents retaining their seats over 90% of the time, a ruling elite has emerged.

One need look no further than Alaska’s lone Congressman, Don Young. He was elected to the seat vacated by the disappearance and presumed crash of the aircraft flying incumbent Nick Begich from Juneau to a fund-raiser in Anchorage in 1972. Young won the special election in March of 1973 and has been there ever since—that’s 44 years.

Labrador believes 12 years should be the max and he is correct. Something happens at the ten-year mark even to the best members of Congress or the best governors. Many cannot conceal a sense of entitlement, nor can they hide a sense that they’ve seen and know all the problems one confronts.

The voter gets the sense that they think trhey’ve been there and done that, and there’s nothing new to surprise them. Thus, they grow impatient, imperious and they quit listening. Two consecutive terms for a U.S. Senator and three consecutive terms for a governor is more than enough time to solve problems.

Then it is time to head back to the farm or the business and let others take on the challenges.

There is one other wrinkle, though, that Congressman Labrador should include as an amendment to his proposal—the 12 year limit ought to apply to the civil service. If one wants real and truly significant change this is how one breaks the stranglehold the bureaucrats have over the elected and the appointed.

The goal should be to encourage turn-over. Each year we graduate from our colleges and universities thousands of young men and women who are fishery biologists, engineers. lawyers, field geologists, etc., most of whom cannot find a job.

Force turnover in all government levels by setting an upper limit of 12 years and there will be plenty of qualified applicants. One can still have 36 years in their field—12 years at a county or city level, 12 years at the state and 12 years at the federal level.

Everyone would win. So an atta boy to the Congressman and to the President. You’re on the right track.

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Carlson

carlson

Listening to President Trump’s rambling, meandering rant against the media and its allegedly dishonest coverage of his Administration last Thursday, as well as his claim that he had inherited a mess, reminded me of an old political story. It also led me to conclude that the POTUS is due for a refresher media training course.

The old story goes thus: A newly elected young governor was paying a courtesy call on the older veteran governor he had defeated in the November election. He was smart ernough to ask the veteran whether he had any counsel to impart.

The veteran governor said “as a matter of fact I do. I’m going to pass along to you the same package of three letters my predecessor handed me. When you first run hard into a sticky-wicket of an issue open the first letter. And when you run into a second crisis, open the second and if you have a third crisis open the third one. Then follow the advice in the letters.”

Sure enough, about one year into the new administration the new governor ran into a seemingly insoluble problem. Remembering the packet with the three letters he went to his desk, opened a drawer, took out the first letter and opened it. It simply said “ blame your predecessor!”

So he called a press conference and kicked the living daylights out of the previous governor. And it worked.

Another year went by and the governor ran into another, complex and complicated matter. Remembering the packet he went to his desk and extracted the second letter which he immediately opened. It simply said “blame the Legislature!”

So he called a press conference and ripped the Legislature. And it worked.

Another year passed before the governor hit the biggest bump in the road, a seemingly intractable matter with no solution in sight. Remembering he had one more letter he went to his desk, grabbed the last letter and ripped it open. It simply said “prepare three letters!”

The moral of this story is that executives, regardless of whether they are a president, a governor, a mayor or the chairman of a county commission, all are elected to solve problems and meet challenges head on without blaming anyone else. President Trump ought to take note.

He also should schedule and commit to taking a media training refresher course. Being the Donald, I’m sure he thinks he doesn’t need such training, but he clearly does.

The first rule is “never, ever lie to the media.” Rather than say he can’t say or he’ll get back to you, he shucks and jives media reporters. He continues to erode the one true sine qua non for any president or governor: the public trust. Without the implied consent of the governed a leader can never really govern. That he lies is incontestable; that he seems to get away with it is debatable; that he is rapidly losing the public trust also seems incontestable.

President Trump has to relearn how to stay on message and how to avoid the negative. Rather than deny his administration is so far a chaotic organization, he should block the thrust of the question and bridge to a positive message. So, rather than deny the chaos, which is manifest to all, he should not implicitly accept the premise of the question.

He should have said, “The premise of your question is wrong. While we’ve encountered a few bumps in the road here and there, we have taken on more campaign promises than any previous administration. We’re getting things going which will become more clear to you down the road.”

Notice, one does not repeat the negative in the question, but rather quickly says it is incorrect and then bridges to their message of the day.

The fact that neither the President nor his abused press secretary, Sean Spicer, understand this is one of many reasons they are coming off as rank amateurs.

Look for the Republicans in the House and Senate to recognize that by the mid-term elections in 2018 they had better impeach and remove Trump from office or they’ll suffer catastrophic losses.

The first rule of politics is the imperative to survive and riding the wooden rocking horse of Trump is not going to pave the way. Here’s hoping the Republic can survive the turbulence coming down the road.

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Carlson

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At the risk of dating myself some readers may recall an old folk song by Pete Seeger made more famous by the Peter, Paul and Mary trio whose first line is “Where have all the flowers gone/Long-time passing?/Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?” It is a poignant plea for something lost which never will be recovered.

Sometimes on weekends, my wife and I prowl through thrift stores and old bookstores. Recently, while cruising through a thrift place in Kellogg, I came across a tear sheet of a page from the Idaho Statesman of September 1, 1912. The tear sheet was full page write up by the Statesman’s Washington, D.C. News bureau on the considerable legislative accomplishments of “the Lion of Idaho,” Senator William E. Borah, during the five plus years he had served in the Senate.

The old Pete Seeger song ran through my mind with a slight variation in the words: “Where have Idaho’s senators gone/Long time passing?/Where have the statesman gone/Long time ago?”

Admittedly, the full page article was a “puff piece” so glowing was the praise. It was clearly slanted with quotes from other senators on what an energetic dynamo the Idaho senator was.

Borah had been chosen by the Idaho Legislature to take a vacant senate seat in March of 1907. The 17th amendment to the Constitution changing senators’ elections to a popular vote had yet to be enacted. The Statesman article was also clearly signaling that the paper would be supporting Borah’s bid for a second term, which Borah received from the Idaho Legislature in early January of 1913.

Here are two quotes from the article. As you read ask yourself if you have ever heard anything similar said about Idaho’s two current senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.

From the Statesman of September 1, 1912:

“A review of the Congressional Record for the past few years shows that no member of either branch of congress has been more successful than Senator Borah of Idaho in securing the enactment of legislation, and important legislation at that.”

Another quote:

“So successful has Senator Borah been with his bills of late that it is a matter of comment among senators. Not long before adjournment, one of the senate leaders, who has been in public life for nearly thirty years, remarked to some of his colleagues that “Senator Borah is the most successful man in charge of a bill that has been in the senate since I have been a member of that body.”

Few of the issues were simple or easy. Borah’s list of legislation passed included the three-year homestead law, the children’s bureau law, the eight-hour workday law, and the law giving early patent for homesteaders on government reclamation projects.

Borah also took pride in defeating an Alaskan government bill which would have denied Alaskans any voice in their government. He led the charge for an alternative bill which provided a great degree of self-government. He also strongly supported passage of the 17th and 19th amendments which provided for the direct election of senators and the vote for women.

Though a staunch Republican, Borah was a true progressive. History notes his opposition to the League of Nations and his isolationist views, which, coupled with his reputation for great oratory, would have one think he was more of a show horse.

Aside from the fact that his favorite form of exercise was horse-back riding early each morning through Rock Creek Park, Borah was clearly a work horse.

By all accounts a decent, honest, hard-working senator and loyal to his friends the only blemish on his distinguished record was a rumored affair with Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who was married to the then House Speaker Nicholas Longworth (a notorious rake himself). The affair produced a daughter and the story is the Speaker vetoed naming the daughter Deborah (as in de-borah). Instead she was named Paulina (and nicknamed Aurora Borah Alice) and sadly took her life at age 30.

Borah collapsed and died in 1940 at age 74. His widow, Mary McConnell (herself the daughter of a former Idaho governor and senator), survived him by 36 years, passing away in 1976 at the age of 106.

Some 77 years later Borah is still remembered in Idaho along with his progressive record of accomplishments.

I have a challenge for readers: Name one piece of legislation today you can attribute to Senators Crapo or Risch. They hold the two safest seats in the United States Senate. Senator Crapo has just been re-elected to his fourth term, which when completed will tie him with Frank Church for the second longest tenure. He could go on and perhaps break Borah’s record of 33 years. Thus, he still has time to make a mark.

Right now, though, neither he nor Risch are going to be remembered by history for anything other than warming the seats. I wish it were otherwise.

“Where have the Statesmen gone/Long time passing?”

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Carlson