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Chronicles

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s failure to understand not just the nuances but the primary purpose of the nuclear waste agreement negotiated for the state in 1995 with the Department of Energy and the Navy by Governor Phil Batt is simply appalling. It’s the people of Idaho and their descendents who are going to suffer if Governor Otter’s obsession with money trumping environmental risks warrants his unilaterally abrogating the Governor Batt 1995 agreement.

The waiver he and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are ready to allow for the importation of commercial spent fuel rods should be withdrawn or halted by a Federal district judge. It violates both the letter of the law and the spirit of the agreement.

Every citizen of Idaho, and every future Idahoan, should stand and applaud two of Idaho’s best former governors, Batt, the Republican, and Andrus, the Democrat, for coming out of retirement and dedicating themselves to reversing the folly of this successor. May the good people of Idaho recognize how extraordinary this is and rally to the cause.

As Governor Batt has pointed out recently, by a two to one margin the voters of the state ratified his agreement that states no more commercial nuclear waste is to be brought into Idaho. Furthermore, that which is here is to be gone by 2035. We know that won’t happen because work at the proposed national repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, was stopped and the Obama Administration has shut it down.

Now, there are reliable reports the federal government is going to ask Idaho for a 15-year extension of that deadline to 2050. Why shouldn’t they, since in Otter they have a compliant, asleep at the switch governor who rolls over every time he’s asked to do so.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see the handwriting on the wall – any additional commercial waste, including spent fuel rods, brought to Idaho for any reason is going to be here for a long, long time stored above the Snake River Plain aquifer.

Governor Otter’s response to the announcement that his two predecessors are getting ready to go to federal court to enforce the Batt agreement was pure blarney. It was nothing but a partisan, red herring designed to divert attention to the real issue.

Yes, Governors Batt and Andrus do see storing commercial nuclear waste above the aquifer as a liability. They also understand that legitimate research will continue with plenty of what’s already there available for research. Furthermore, they can see the best insurance for continuing research activities at the site is to clean up what’s there and not let the site become the nation’s de facto nuclear garbge dump.

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the Batt agreement’s emphatic, unequivocal “no more commercial waste” in Idaho?”

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that major federal actions impacting the environment have to be subject to public review and comment?

The NEPA process is to be an open, transparent process with plenty of time for citizen comments. On that point alone the former governors should prevail easily in a court of law.

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about a predicted budget of $200 million over ten years for research on commercial spent fuel rods, when each shipment is projected to be a $10 to $20 million expense, presumes future waivers at least eight more times?

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the Batt Agreement’s requirement that section D.2.e regarding calcining the 900,000 gallons of high level liquid waste there was supposed to be completed by 2012 and must be completed before DoE waiver requests can even be contemplated?

He should read the attorney general’s letter of February 27 where Wasden documents continual back-sliding and outright lying by DoE.

The date for completion of that project is clearly way off somewhere in the future but nonetheless completion is an absolute prerequisite for any request for any waiver of any kind to import any new additional commercial waste.

Even Wasden, after doing more due diligence, has figured out that DoE has yet to meet the section D.2.e criteria.

In spite of his letter clearly reversing himself, Wasden still is claiming consistency with his January letter. This means he believes a waiver is still in effect. The general is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

Finally, what makes Governor Otter think he can act unilaterally and abrogate an agreement approved by the people of Idaho? This is pure arrogance on his part, unmatched by any of predecessors. The phrase that applies: dereliction of duty.

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My Democratic sympathies are well known, so there was more than an eyebrow or two that arched up when I walked into the St. Maries Elk Club last Saturday, plopped my $10 down for the chili luncheon fare, and took a seat.

While some were surprised, they were no more surprised than I at the warm greetings I received. County GOP chair, former State Representative Dick Harwood, was his usual gracious self. I’ve known Harwood for years. While we seldom agree on much, we respect each others right to hold differing views and we keep our sense of humor.

Likewise, St. Maries City Councilman Judd Wilson, though a Tea Party Republican, is a good friend and we enjoy debating the issues and exchange book recommendations. Wilson knows I have a soft spot for Marines inasmuch as my son, Scott, is currently a captain in the Corps. Wilson is a retired USMC officer though he’d be quick to tell you that once a Marine, always a Marine.

I also enjoyed meeting the State GOP’s Second Vice Chair, Jim Pierce, who walked over and introduced himself. Said he was a fourth generation Idahoan who enjoyed my columns, though he seldom agreed with their point.

I said that wasn’t a bother. My purpose was achieved if I provoked a reader to see things from a different perspective and to revisit an isssue.

I came to listen to what Senator Mike Crapo had to say about current debates in Washington, D.C. I like Mike Crapo. He is thoughtful, intelligent and articulate. I have long admired the courage he showed when sitting on the Simpson/Bowles Coimmission that President Obama largely named to look at the catastrophic escalation of the national debt and recommend some tough castor oil.

President Obama began to lose me when he did not endorse the tough set of spending cuts, some new taxes and some genuine reforms to get us back on the path to fiscal sanity and balanced budgets. Crapo stood out in forthrightly defending the Commission’s work.

All that said, I was surprised by the Senator’s remarks. Frankly, he just tossed out “red meat” one-liners to his conservative audience. It was political cant, posturing and patronizing.

For example, he started by saying what a terrific team he and Senator Jim Risch were because they voted alike 99% of the time. Even if that were true, and I doubt it, we pay our senators to do their own thinking. Risch is a partisan ideologue, Crapo is not—yet there the senior senator stood giving rise to the question who follows whom.

Crapo then, in my view, really stepped off the board into deep yogurt. He touted how closely he worked with, admired and respected Rep. Raul Labrador, who was scheduled to be there but had stayed in Washington. Why? Because he is one of the 50 hard right House conservatives who was willing to let the funding for the Department of Homeland Security lapse unless the Democrats and moderate Republicans accepted their attempted blackmail to add to the funding bill a repeal of President Obama’s executive orders on immigration reform.

This is precisely the kind of governance by confrontation, threat, shutdowns, linkages of disparate issues that I thought Republicans last fall said they would eschew if the voters would elect a Republicn Senate to go along with the Republican House.

Okay, you have both houses of Congress but you’re demonstrating you can’t govern. I thought you knew better than to engage in this kind of pandering to hard core Republican extremists who among other things would like to repeal the 17th amendment that calls for direct election of senators.

And where did you come up with that line about “next time we’ll hold the IRS hostage?” Come on Senator, do you really believe that? You’ve got the safest Republican seat in the Senate. Odds are you won’t even have a Democratic opponent on the November, 2016 ballot. What are doing engaging in this kind of political posturing? Where’s the thoughtful, courageous, non-ideologue Senator that served on the Simpson/Bowles Commission?

Don’t tell me you’re trying to make sure you don’t get a challenge from the right, either. I ain’t buying that and the many folks who have proudly sent you to the Senate three times won’t buy it either.

A postscript: Hands down Abraham Lincoln was our greatest president. I marvel though that Republicans don’t recognize the irony in their honoring the first president to run up huge deficits (Civil War costs) and also the first president to suspend the constitutional gurantee of the right to a writ of habeas corpus, and then ignored a Supreme Court ruling that only Congress had that power. Think about it.

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To breach or not to breach the four lower Snake River dams is again being discussed across the region thanks in no small part to an excellent front page article in a recent Sunday edition of the Lewiston Tribune written by Eric Barker.

Thanks in no small part also to Jim Waddell, a long-time civilian employee of the Army Corps of Engineers, now retired, who skillfully took apart earlier Corps economic studies attempting to validate the thesis that it would be more expensive to breach the dams than to keep them running.

That just did not pass the common sense test for Waddell. So after he retired from the Corps as a deputy district engineer, he sank his teeth into a hard-nosed analysis of claims made by the Corps. To say he found skewed assumptions, ignored issues and cooked numbers would be seriously understating what he unearthed.

Allow me a chortle or two. Two years ago I published my second book, Medimont Reflections, which contained 13 essays on other issues and other people I had worked with during my almost 40 years of public sector involvement.

Two of the essays should have generated some controversy inasmuch as they dealt with the four lower Snake dams and with the Northwest Power Planning Council, of which I was Idaho’s first appointee and sat for almost a year.

In the essays, I called for the dams to be breached and the Council to be abolished. One would think a former member of the Council calling for its abolishment and for breaching the four dams would have made the news, wouldn’t you? Nope. Both comments sank with nary a surface ripple into the sea of indifference the smug and the ignorant can convey., Those arrogant few that knew and understood the hieroglyphics of power and energy production curves just sat back and smiled.

After all, old Carlson was not an economist, nor was he an engineer. They thought they could safely ignore me and at least up to now they have been correct.

One current Council member flat told me that the Council and most BPA engineers had decided not dignifying my thoughtful analysis with a comment would ensure no coverage. Take a look, if you get the chance ,sometime at the BPA budget for p.r., public affairs, community relations and the various other names for flackery. Add to it the p.r. budget for the Army Corps of Engineers, the Pcific Northwest Waterways Association and the Power Council itself not to mention state energy offices and you’ll get the picture of what the Save Our Wild Salmon people like Pat Ford, as well as Linwood Laughy and Ed Chaney, have had arrayed against them for years.

Now, however, Jim Waddell comes along. Once one of their own, he knows the numbers inside and out. He is not easily dismissed. So what’s the response of the Corps – another form of “let’s just ignore him and his analysis.” Thus one hears the gobblygook of “our mission is not to analyze past data, our mission is to do what Congress tells us to do, to look forward not backward’ or some version of this.

This head in the sand approach is sure prescription for letting nature drive the issue, particularly around Lewiston, as it will get harder and harder for the Corps to keep dredging a channel for a Port that is continuing to lose money.

To those who say Congress will never appropriate the money to breach the dams I say, “You’re correct.” But Congress doesn’t have to do anyting except maybe authorize the sale of the entire BPA system of dams to the four states represented on the Power Council.

And then the four governors should put JimWaddell in charge. I bet all us ratepayers would like the results. Keep up the good work, Jim.

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There’s something about a politician who piously postures on an issue that sticks in the craw. In a way it tells the voter the officeholder thinks a majority of the electorate is too stupid to see through the posturing and the pontificating.

Exhibit A from last week is Idaho’s First District congressman, Raul Labador. The darling of the Tea Party Republicans is more and more proving to be, like a majority of those in Congress, nothing more than a “show horse,” as opposed to his colleague, Second District congressman, Mike Simpson, a true “work horse” who does the heavy lifting that keeps Congress moving.

Labrador engaged in two activities last week which were pure posturing. The voter should be wary and take them with a grain of the proverbial salt.

First, he introduced and heavily publicized a bill he had filed which would restrict and further circumscribe the absolute power the President has under the 1907 Antiquities Act to create national monuments with the stroke of a pen. The bill is similar to one introduced in the Senate by Idaho’s two senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.

These bills generally require public hearings before a president could act as well as the concurrence of a state’s governor. There are two major problems with this action that confirm the “political posturing” tag.

Labrador’s ostensible goal is to preclude President Obama from using his Antiquities Act power to declare the Boulder/White Clouds area a national monument, as he is being urged to do by folks like Idaho Conservation League executive director Rick Johnson and former four-term Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus.

In doing this, the congressman has with malice aforethought breached congressional protocol which states as a matter of professional courtesy one congressman does not introduce a bill in a colleague’s district having no impact in his district. It is tantamount to saying, “In your eye, Mike.” Rest assured this is duly noted by Simpson and will not be forgotten.

The second reason this is pure posturing as well as a waste of taxpayer’s money is that Labrador, as well as Crapo and Risch, know damn good and well this legislation is going nowhere. Sure, they’ll pontificate and excoriate President Obama, Governor Andrus and the ICL for imposing their will on the good citizines of central Idaho while camapigning at home during a congressional recess.

If honest with the voters, though, they would acknowledge they don’t have the votes to over-ride a presidential veto. They would also acknowledge that every president since the passage of the Act has used his authority to make and has made nationl monument declarations.

What Labrador does not want to admit is that he and his colleagues will not have the skill or the standing to get legislation passed invalidating the monument declaration by passing Simpson’s original carefully crafted bill creating a wilderness area.

The other pure political posturing by Labrador last week was the Congressman telling The Hill newspaper, the daily bible of all those who work on Capitol Hill or serve in the House, that he was NOT going to challenge three-term incumbent Mike Crapo in the 2016 Republican primary for the Senate.

Here’s what this early signaling/posturing probably means.

There’s a great scene early in the smash hit HBO series, House of Cards. Frank Underwood (Played superbly by actor Kevin Spacey), the LBJ-like House majority leader who wheels, deals, lies, betrays and double crosses his relentless way to the presidency, is approached in a corridor by his former press secretary who is now a lobbyist.

After the former employee departs, in an aside worthy of Shakespeare, Underwood looks the camera in the eye and says, “There are two kinds of people in this town: those who go for the money and those who seek power. Rennie (the ex-press secretary) made a big mistake. He went for the money. He should have gone for power. It is much more satisfying and much more lasting.”

If Congressman Labrador sticks with his decision to stay in the House, the voter will know he’s going for the money, trading on his media attraction and angling for one of those $2 million a year executive directorships the Republicans seem to have in aabundance.

If he reverses himself and goes after Senator Crapo, like Frank Underwood, the voter will know he has opted for power and influence.

Until the filing deadline, it’s all pure posturing, my friend.

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This is an “open letter” expressing my deep gratitude to Jon Huntsman, Sr., the Utah billionaire, who founded the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, and has contributed almost a billion dollars to the Institute.

He and the top-notch staff he assembled have enabled me to manage the rare and always fatal form of neuroendocrine cancer I was diagnosed with in November of 2005. It was already Stage IV. There was a large tumor mass over the stomach wrapped in and around the artery and blood vessels going to my intestines. There were numerous tumors on my liver and most were already large. The cancer had also attacked my heart’s tricuspid valve which in turn was deteriorating. I’d lost 80 pounds almost ovrnight.

When doctors cannot find the generating tumor in 80% of the cases that patient is dead within six months. Mine was a case where the generator could not be detected. Thus, I was given the proverbial six months and told to put my affairs in order, which I did.

My wife and I did what most couples do after receiving such news: we cried, we prayed, we talked about bucket lists, and we did our homework. We ferreted out who the best doctor was for treating this rare form of cancer. We also found which cancer treatment hospital was the best in the world for treating it. Supposedly it was M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas.

The best doctor was affiliated with Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. This was serendipitous because it gave us an excuse to drop in on an old friend of mine, Jay Shelledy. He was teaching and advising in the Journalism School at LSU.

While visiting with Shelledy we also heard back from M.D. Anderson. We’d sent my complete file to them—the MRI’s, the CT’s, the blood work, x-rays, colonoscopies—the works. The doctors at M.D. Anderson examined it all and sent word back that they were not going to see me, there was nothing they could do.

I was stunned. I’d never heard of one being refused an appointment to obtain a second opinion. The Lord works in mysterious ways, however, because it gave Shelledy the opportunity to pitch the relatively brand new Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City adjacent to the University of Utah Hospital.

As editor of the Salt Lake Tribune for ten years, Shelledy had become good friends with the Huntsman family, particularly Jon Senior and Jon Junior as well as David. He placed a couple of calls and the arrangements were taken care of. With my team of doctors at Cancer Care Northwest in Spokane we had worked out an attack strategy which the team at Huntsman concurred with, which was to attack the lesions on my liver first as they were the most immediate life-threatening.

The day came for my first visit. Once again I was stunned. Perhaps if I had known that Jon Senior was a cancer survivor, that he knows only one way to do things, and that is first class with meticulous attention to details as well as creating a soothing and reassuring ambience, I would not have been so surprised.

David Huntsman himself greeted me at the entrance. The facility itself looked like a five star hotel, and with its modern design and a spectacular view of the Wasatch Mountains as well as a view to the west of the Salt Lake Valley, the lake and the mountains beyond, it looked like something out of a futuristic Star Trek movie.

Almost immediately I was in a meeting with the Institute’s director, Dr. Stephen Prescott, and my interventional radiologist, Dr. James Carlisle, who over the course of the next year would handle five chemoembolism procedures. My room was larger than a hotel suite, with plenty of comfortable chairs, lamps, tv’s, lovely original paintings, all color coordinated.

One long hallway leading to my section had a fantastic display of Navaho rugs and other artifacts collected over the years by Karen Huntsman. The staff nurse’s and other medical personnel were all wonderful—patient, kind, thoughtful. Dr. Carlisle’s lead nurse, Lei Allison, was simply outstanding.

I felt like visiting royalty, and that because of Shelledy’s connections, I was receiving special treatment. I soon found out I wasn’t, that every patient is treated the same way. From his own experience Jon Huntsman knows how important a peaceful, serene atmosphere is, and one that conveys a subliminal message that with the team they have and the research they do, while you may not be cured the cancer can be stymied and in many instances, managed for a good number of years.

What really counts is the result. A fifth and final procedure I had at Huntsman was a then experimental procedure that is now almost standard that involved placing Ytrium-90 radioactive pellets flown in from Australia on the day of the procedure and placed on the remnants of the shattered tumors on my liver.

That seemed to do the trick because the generating tumor’s “production rate” dropped considerably and that coupled with the monthly shot of a sandostatin called octreotide that I take has enabled me to manage a fairly normal life far beyond the six months I was once given.

In that time I’ve been able to see two grandchildren born and grow, write three books and do a fair amount of fly fishing.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute along with the Mayo Clinic are the two facilities I always recommend to anyone facing cancer. Thank you, Jon Huntsman, for your vision. The Good Lord granted a miracle but you and your skilled doctors were the instrument. You know you have helped save thousands of lives. When your time comes I have no doubt you will hear the words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy your heavenly Father has prepared for you.”

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The recent settlement of a malpractice lawsuit filed by the Diocese of Spokane against its long-time outside counsel should be viewed as another example of a bishop who, while professing to reflect the new direction set by Pope Francis, does not by his actions truly walk the talk.

The Spokane Catholic diocese, while under the leadership of Bishop Blasé Cupich – now archbishop in Chicago – spent two-and-one-half years, and who knows how many wasted dollars, because he was, according to the deposition of former vicar general Father Steven Dublinski, “throwing mud at Paine-Hamblen to see if any mud sticks.”

Dublinski resigned over his differences with Cupich.
But the settlement announced January 22 leaves no other conclusion than none of the “mud” stuck.

Cupich, who denies making the mud-on-the-wall comment, was trying to explain his lawsuit against the diocese’ long-time outside counsel, Paine Hamblen, which served the diocese for many years. Shortly after arriving in Spokane, Cupich says he asked for a review of the firm’s work regarding a diocese bankruptcy filing. In particular, Cupich thought the settlement did not fully anticipate future claims from those abused by diocese priests. The potential consequence would be insufficient funds to handle new cases.

The malpractice suit might have concluded with a pre-trial settlement or a jury award of damages to the diocese.

Everybody knows lawyers are covered by malpractice insurance, so the individuals in the firm would not pay personally. Reputations, though, are priceless, and the lawsuit put that of the partners at Paine Hamblen at risk.

Whatever the archbishop believed, it is up to individual members of the laity, as well the diocese’ priests and nuns, to decide whether he was sincere or insincere. The settlement, the actual terms of which have not been disclosed, would appear to be a complete vindication for of the law firm.

One cannot help thinking that if more Catholic bishops across the country would truly take a cue from Pope Francis and follow his lead, walk the talk, act with humanity, humility and with a dose of common sense, the Catholic Church would be in much better standing.

Another example of this need to use common sense and act humanely towards all is the behavior of the bishop of the Fort Wayne/Indianapolis diocese. Two years ago, he fired a married, veteran Catholic teacher in the diocesan high school for violating the morals clause of her contract. Her sin?

She and her husband could not have children “naturally,” so they went the in-vitro fertilization route with her donating an egg, he his sperm, and then implantation in her womb. She informed her principal, who initially congratulated her. None of them were aware they had crossed Catholic doctrine, which does not condone in-vitro fertilization, primarily because the process can result in more than one egg combining with sperm, and that’s the beginning of an independent, individual life. These other inseminated but unused eggs are disposed of, which Catholic doctrine says constitutes abortion. So she was fired.

Last month, a grand jury awarded her and her husband $2 million for a violation of her civil rights. The diocese cannot afford the award and so will appeal. The pure doctrinal approach taken by the diocese’ bishop will insure a federal ruling further restricting the right of private, religion-based schools to require adherence to church teachings from its teachers, who sign contracts pledging not to teach counter to church doctrine and to reflect church teachings in their private lives.

The unintended consequence will be further restriction of a religion’s right to operate separately from the so-called norms of secular society. Common sense and a humane, non-doctrinaire response should have told the bishop to look the other way and be happy there was a wanted child.

Bishops everywhere should get in sync with the new pope, who acts and speaks with common sense and humanity guiding him. If more of them did, the Roman Catholic Church would begin to restore its tarnished image.
While in the Philippines in early January, the Pope Francis interacted with people living on the streets. He spent time in particular with two young teen-age girls, one of whom asked him the question that is at the center of Russian author Fyodor Dostoyesky’s great novel, “The Brothers Karamazov”: Why does God permit children to suffer?

Did the pope offer some philosophical treatise? Did he cite church doctrine? Nope, none of these. In the face of this mystery in front of him, he reacted like a real human being, a real father: he wept.

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Cheers. . . . . to Boise Mayor David Bieter who took advantage of some face time with President Barack Obama on Air Force #1 while flying to Boise to lobby for the President to utilize his authority under the Antiquities Act to make the Boulder/White Clouds a National Monument. The President can and will give Rep. Mike Simpson the six months he has requested to get a new bill through the House after Senator Jim Risch six years ago went back on his word and put a hold on the bill Simpson had worked out with all the interest groups and was ten years in the making. Risch remains a road block in the Senate so even if Simpson gets his revised bill through the House he still has to overcome Risch before something is on the President’s desk. You can bet your last dollar though that if there is no Boulder/White Clouds bill on Obama’s desk as his term winds down, there will be national monument declared under the Antiquities Act.

Cheers. . . .also to former Governor Cecil D. Andrus, Idaho Conservation League Executive Director Rick Johnson and to Roberta Crockett, all of whom mentioned to the President while he was in Boise the need to protect the Boulder/White Clouds.

Jeers. . . .to Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who, as Acting Governor with Gov. Otter recovering from a hip operation, greeted the President when he landed in Boise. Little used his face time to lobby the President against a Monument declaration. Little should not be carrying Sandra Mitchell’s brief case nor carrying water for the snowmobilers and ATV users she represents who think it is their God-given right to run anywhere they want, anytime they want in Idaho’s vast backcountry. Brad should be aligning himself with Rep. Simpson and not the troglodites like Senator Jim Risch.

Cheers. . . . . .again to Governor Andrus, and add Governor Phil Batt, for once again standing up to the federal government and saying no to additional spent fuel alledgedly for research purposes. The Batt agreement is working and Idaho should not grant waivers for any reason.

Rest assured Andrus, who had some time with the President, also touched on the subject of nuke waste with the President. Though Andrus seldom mentions what he says to any President, always treating such conversations as private and privileged, don’t be surprised if the Energy Secretry doesn’t get an order from the White House to back off plans to bring two shipments of 25 spent fuel rods each to Idaho, at least until the department has answered the pointed questions Andrus sent on behalf of himself and Batt to the Governor’s office and the Department of Energy on January 22nd.

Jeers. . . . to the City of Boise. Or cheers if you lean towards secular humanism. Despite a heavy concentration of Mormons and Catholics in Idaho, the state’s largest metropolitan area failed to make it anywhere on Christianity Today’s recently published list of the 100 most Bible-oriented communities in the nation. Study was based on the percentage of population that reads the Bible at least once a week.

Not surprisingly the top of the list came right out of the old southern Bible Belt with Birmingham/Tuscalosa being number #1. Folks there must really pray hard and read the Bible often so as to keep their beloved Tide football program on top.

How does one explain the nation’s acknowledged sin cities—Las Vegas (#95), New York City (#91) and San Francisco (#97), in effect finishing higher and thus more Bible-reading and less sinful behaving than Boise?

And Salt Lake City, the St. Peter’s of the LDS Church, came in at #90, right there with the Big Apple, and behind the nation’ s capital that was placed at #85?

Apparently in Boise there aren’t enough good Catholics, Protestants and Mormons (as defined by whether they are judged worthy of the “temple pass”) who while they may practice the exhortation in Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants appear not to read their Bible as much as they read their Book of Mormon.

The most Bible reading city in the northwest surprisingly was Spokane at #52. Those who spend time in both Boise and Spokane will question the survey just on that ranking alone, as Spokane seems far more secular than Boise.

Go figure. Lists like this one always create more questions than provide real answers.

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Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is assessing his prospects for another run at the Presidency. His name indentification alone from being the GOP presidential candidate in 2012 would in normal times give him a leg up and make him the leading contender.

However, these are not normal times and there are some insurmountable obstacles standing in the way. That is not saying he does not have some assets, because he does.

First, he is adaptable, or, as he says with a new-found self-deprecating sense of humor, wife Ann says he learns from experience and is getting more experienced. Romney, his wife and their talented, attractive children are convinced that the warmer, human and humane side of the good husband and fine father he is was not allowed to show in 2012.

Second, they believe his executive and business skills will be even more obvious as an asset both in the primaries against non-business ceo’s like Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, as well as presumptive Democratic nominee, former Senator Hillary Clinton. They will argue that only Mitt has the ability to capitalize on and make sure the nation’s economic expansion continues.

Third, supporters like Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz claim time has proven that in foreign affairs Romney was correct in saying one could and should not trust the Russians. Across the board they believe their man’s ability to understsnd better the “optics” of issues than the President has been bourne out.

His two biggest assets, however, have considerable downsides. These two assets are flip sides of the same coin, and that is Romney’s Mormonism. The plain fact is that the Church Authorities up to and including virtually all the membets of the 12 Apostles and the First Presidency, are very proud of Governor Romney and his viability as a candidate for the Presidency.

Publicly, of course, the LDS church and its leadership maintain a posture of neutrality and non-partisanship. However, privately and behind the scenes this “favorite son” quality enables Romney to be one of only two GOP candidates, the other being Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and only one Democrat, former Senator Hillary Clinton, capable of raising the one billion dollars (yes, that is a “b”) most political analysts believe will be raised and spent to secure a party nomination and then run a viable campaign for the Presidency.

Thus, from an organizational and fund-riasing standpoint, Romney’s faith and religion are great assets. Through the Church he has an ability to muster more dedicated followers than even the Clintons and the Obamas.

And through the Church he has an almost inexhaustible fund-raising base that will enable him at a minimum to wear down his lesser resourced opposition, again with the exception of former Flordia Governor Jeb Bush.

If Romney does formally annnounce one can expect his 2012 Fiance co-chair, Melaleuca chairman Frank VanderSloot of Idaho Falls, to again line up as many statewide elected Republicans, and others, such as the Legislative leadership, behind Romney. It migh not be as easy as 2012 for there is little doubt that former Idaho attorney general and lieutenant governor David Leroy will head up Jeb’s Idaho camapign.

Count on Leroy and othe Bush loyalists across the country to exploit publicly one great negative issue in Romney’s record that he cannnot walk away from: he will be linked inextricably to the hated President Obama and the ObamaCare Health Plan which Democrats themselves say was modeled on the RomneyCare Health Reform program promoted and passed into law when Mitt was the governor of the state.

Romney’s biggest negative though is that because he is Mormon he cannot win in the south. If he cannot win the south he can neither win the nomination nor the general election. The path to the White House goes through Florida both in the primaries and the general.

Bush has a much better shot at taking Florida, and not just because he is a former governor who was well-liked. If he adds someone like “born again” former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckaby to form a ticket, it will be formidable.

Romney’s real problem is that in looking at vote totals in southern states in the important ones he ran behind totals achieved by John McCain. The best analysts say this reflects the real disdain Southern Baptists have for Mormons. As long as Southern Baptists believe Mormonism is a cult not a religion, Romney is not going to command their allegiance.

Given these facts – and unless Romney has figured out a way to satisfy the southern Baptists – it is mystifying as to why he is dipping his toe in the water to assess prospects.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a Mormon miracle out there in the hinterlands that will supplant this Mormon mystery.

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Jon Huntsman, Senior, has published an autobiography covering his fascinating life, his endowment of the Huntsman Cancer Research Institute attached to the University of Utah’s hospital, and numerous other charitable undertakings. Entitled Barefoot to Billionaire, it was written with the assistance of Jay Shelledy, the former editor of the Salt Lake Tribune and publisher of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Shelledy also assisted Huntsman in writing his best-selling book, Winners Never Cheat, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.  Huntsman is a graduate of Penn’s famed Wharton School of Finance.

While initial sales are brisk, Shelledy reports, it has yet to be reviewed in either the New York Times Sunday book section, or the Washington Post’s, or the Los Angeles Times. That’s a real shame and the oversight will hopefully be corrected.

Why? If for no other reason alone the book is worth the time and the money because of some new insights into the Watergate scandal which brought down the administration of President Richard Nixon. As very few folks know, but many will find more than interesting, the father of Utah’s one-time governor, Jon Huntsman, Jr., was once a Special Assistant to President Richard Nixon for secretarial matters.

What that means is that for slightly more than a year every piece of paper that went into and came out of the Oval office crossed Huntsman desk in the White House. It was quite a perch from which to watch the comings and goings in the “under siege” Oval Office.

Huntsman left before the proverbial horse pucky hit the fan, but nonetheless was interviewed and told he might be subpoenaed to testify before North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin’s Senate Committee investigating Watergate.  Old Sam wanted to know what Young Jon knew and when he knew it.  Huntsman convinced the committee counsels he knew nothing prior to Watergate hitting the paper. Hence, he was never indicted or charged. He was just about the only higher up in the White House NOT charged or indicted.

Reading the passages in the book one wonders though if Huntsman didn’t know more than he is letting on.  It is the way he words things that starts one wondering.  Add that to the fact that the “Deep Throat” identified by Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward was Mark Felt, the number two person at the FBI. Felt, however, has to have had source within the inner Nixon circle that was providing the damning information.

At about this same time period, muck-raking syndicated columnist Jack Anderson also started reporting on information regarding Watergate that was leaked to him. Throw into this stew one other important factoid: all three (Huntsman, Anderson and Felt) were members in good standing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and all three attended the same LDS ward in the D.C. area.

Mere coincidence? Perhaps, but one rule in politics is there are no coincidences.

Felt, who grew up in the Twin Falls area, has to have had someone in the White House feeding him the damning information he passed on to the Post.  Consider the possibility that all three Mormons were offended by the dishonesty, treachery and abuse of power going on in Nixon’s White House.  Consider the possibility that all three saw Watergate for the breach of trust that it was.

Now add Huntsman’s own words in which he writes there were only three or four people in position to know what was going on at that time:  Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, Special Assistant Alexander Butterfield, possibly Legal Counsel John Dean and Huntsman himself.  Huntsman quickly dismisses himself but his excuse sounds flimsy.  He then goes on to say why he didn’t think it was Haldeman or Dean.

Yes, that leaves Alexander Butterfield. Huntsman says Butterfield knew about and oversaw the tape recording system ordered installed by Nixon that ran whenever anyone was in the Oval office. He points out that Butterfield also was the liaison for the White House with the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI.  He doesn’t really provide a motive for Butterfield, however.

There’s an old saying that when one is pointing a finger at another there are three fingers pointing back at the pointer.  Shelledy disputes this and says the senior Huntsman is a straight forward what you see is what you get kind of person.

If that’s the case, Huntsman, who is 77 years young and was born in Blackfoot, will probably carry the truth off to the Celestial Kingdom. untsman is veruIt may forever just remain another “Mormon Mystery.” Read the book yourself and see if you don’t come to the conclusion that the real “Deep Throat” was Jon Huntsman, Sr.

Then say a prayer of thanks to him for his courage, character and convictions.

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More years ago than I want to recall I spent a year teaching 8th, 9th and 10th graders at Kootenai Jr.-Sr. High School near Harrison. I was fresh out of college, truly green behind the ears but still look back fondly on the year.

I felt I had a good impact on every student. Equally important though, I learned as much from the students and their parents. especially about the strong sense of community that binds all the residents together. Most of it derives from a shared struggle to make a living in a resource economy under transition.

In small communities no person is an island unto themselves. The shared struggle translates into one extending their sense of family to all their neighbors. Conversely, when any member of this small community dies it hits everyone hard because as the English poet John Donne put it so well five hundred years ago, any one’s death and everyone’s death diminishes us all.

These thoughts all flooded my mind as I read the tragic news of a two-year-old boy finding his mother’s concealed weapon in her purse last week while at the Wal-Mart in Hayden, pulling the trigger and killing his 29-year-old mother.

One just knows that the profound sense of deep grief almost overwhelmed all who heard the sad news. The entire family has to be distraught over Veronica Rutledge’s senseless death. A husband will never be the same nor a son.

Mrs. Rutledge came from a well-known and well-liked family, the Hendricks family, who reside in Harrison. Veronica was the valedictorian of her 2004 class. She and all her siblings were described by former Kootenai principal and Harrison Mayor Rich Lund as incredibly bright and all well-liked.

Are there lessons to be learned so that other lives might be saved? I think so.

First, many urban dwellers don’t understand why most rural residents own and/or carry weapons. One woman’s answer to why she carried was a tart “because I can’t carry a policeman around on my back to ensure my protection 24/7.”

In urban areas police protection is often just five minutes from the time of the call to 9-1-1. In a rural area it can be well over an hour. I asked two women who carry concealed weapons for thoughts on this tragedy and what could be done to prevent it from happening again.

Both said they thought it was a perfect storm of converging events and that the odds of it happening again were a million to one.

One woman who uses a purse similar to Veronica said part of the challenge is women’s clothing, unlike men’s, is designed to show her figure and a concealed and carried weapon is easily visible.

Robin Ball, who along with her husband, Steve, owns Spokane’s Sharp Shooting Indoor Range, said she believes women should wear their weapons and they “should dress for the gun.” She points out that for most threatening situations most women won’t have the time it takes to open the purse, open the internal zipper and pull out the weapon.

Robin offered some other practical advice. For example, she said if women choose the purse they should be conscious of having the purse appear to be a source of goodies to small children. One should not pull out gum, or candy, or a crayon from their purse. The child immediately sees it as a a source of goodies.

Third, if a woman chooses a weapon-carrying purse, she has to keep her eyes on it at all times, if nothing else to keep a thief from walking off with it. Robin emphasized she did not know Veronica’s circumstances, and was making a generic point.

Robin’s fourth point in some ways is the most important. Anyone who has a weapon in the home or carries a concealed weapon has to spend some time thinking through “what if” situations and worst case scenarios. She says too often people superficially think that having a locked drawer or a gun case is enough. This can and does often foster a false sense of security that one only recognizes after a tragedy.

Robin also believes trigger locks can foster a false sense of security. The emphasis has to be on adult responsibility. Both women stressed that Veronica may well have done everything absolutely correctly, and a tragedy like this could still have happened.

Both women also said they worry about complacent urban dwellers with at hand police protection outstripping the ability of voters to understand and respect why women carry weapons: It’s not just to protect themselves, it is to protect their families and their children.

How doubly sad that a mother who cared about protecting her child should by a twist of fate become a victim of that good intention.

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Alright, political sports fans; since Lt. Governor Brad Little opened this parlor game of “What If . . .” by talking with the Spokesman Review’s Boise correspondent, Betsy Russell, a bit too candidly about how well prepared he is to step up, lets take the game a bit further.

Let’s play who would be Brad’s choice to be his number two? After all, it is possible that Governor Otter could step down mid-way through his third term to give Brad a running start. If he does, Brad can select his own number two subject only to State Senate confirmation

It’s hard to imagine any governor voluntarily quitting two years ahead of time. Has it happened? Sure, but not in Idaho. If Republicans recapture the presidency in 2016, and Butch is asked by the third Bush president to serve in his cabinet, Butch could not say no (David Leroy, the Bush family’s “man on the scene” would have to also bless).

So Brad, could, like John Evans before him, become Governor without having to step on lots of toes. And, heaven forbid, Otter could die in office, and Brad could ascend by that route.

Now the fun begins. There’d be lots of rhetoric about politics having nothing to do with it, that Brad is simply seeking the best person. Pure poppycock. Politics will have everything to do with it and you can bet Brad will have a poll to help him decide.

Allow me to help, Governor Little, and . toss out a few names that should be on your list:

#1. State Senator Shawn Keough (R-Sandpoint). The well-liked executive director of the Associated Logging Contractors of Idaho, was just elected to her tenth term. She’s overcome two vicious Tea Party challenges and is a moderate, pro-education Republican. She is co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance Appropriation committtee.

Senator Keough knows the budget and is more than qualified. And it appears she is the best chance for a woman to break the glass ceiling in Idaho bystepping up from lieutenant governor should Brad also be asked to serve in a Republican Administration.

#2. House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley). Has done a solid job as Speaker and has adroitly handled the Tea Party types. Smart, does his homework and knows how to lead. Only drawback is he and Brad are a lot alike.

#3. State Senator and Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis (R-Idaho Falls). Smart, tough, caring, a true “compassionate conservative” who could handle any challenge he faces. His and his wife’s appearing before the Idaho Parole Board to speak on behalf of parole for the man who had murdered their son because they were convinced there was true remorse will always stand out as an incredible act reflecting their deeply held faith.

Would bring regional and religious balance to a ticket. Just re-elected to his 9th term despite the Tea Party in Bonneville County trying to censor him three times.

#4. State Senator Russ Fulcher (R-Meridian). Might be Brad’s smartest move especially if he thinks First District Congressman Raul Labrador has a hankering to be governor and would plan on attacking Brad from the right. Fulcher drew a lot of votes and presumably has lots of Tea Party supporters who would be neutralized if he were on a ticket with Brad.

#5. Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer. A sleeper and a darkhorse, but an obvious comer. Intelligent, articulate, successful businessman, a genuine people person, talented with a great sense of humor. Mayor’s post is non-partisan and R’s would be smart to capture him. He would bring energy to the post, would be a fresh face and would charm most everyone. Only drawbacks would be no legislative experience and some would say he is too close to north Idaho business king Duane Hagadone.

There you have it, governor. Put them all on your interview list should the time come. As you know, you’ll cement one friendship and make at least four new enemies. It comes with the territory.

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Throughout much of Japanese history the Emperor has been a figure-head, the titular head of the nation, but considered semi-divine and thus above politics.

True power resided with a figure behind the scenes, a figure who weilded the real power through personal influence and patronage as well as being the chief administrative officer in the government. Often this figure stayed completely in the background, working in the shadows. In today’s political jargon one often will hear the phrase “he leaves no fingerprints,” but one knows the shadow shogun has instigated an action.

The most powerful and influential figure in Idaho politics today is NOT Senator Mike Crapo, nor is it Rep. Mike Simpson, nor Rep. Raul Labrador, nor Governor Butch Otter, nor Lt. Governor Brad Little, nor House Speaker Scott Bedke, nor President Pro Tempore Brent Hill, nor Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, though a good case could be made for each and everyone of these folks.

The most powerful, politically influential figure on the Idaho landscape today holds no political office. Rather he weilds his power through minions who do his bidding. Like the shadow shogun that he is, he prefers to stay behind the scenes. He rightly expects loyalty and he gets it because he is loyal to those who are loyal to him.

There isn’t a Republican in any office in Idaho who doesn’t know who he is, and wouldn’t think twice before crossing him. He appears to even own judges for most judges are keenly aware that he quite legally took out a judge who crossed him by putting up a candidate of his liking that defeated the wayward judge.

It is also well known among legal circles that Attorney General Lawrence Wasden pays close attention to the shadow shogun’s views.

His net worth reportedly exceeds $1.5 billion, making him the richest person in Idaho. What differentiates him from other Idaho billionaires, like the late J.R. Simplot, is he is absolutely unafraid of using his wealth to get his way. Thus, he contributes to candidates for many offices, not just the major ones. He spreads his wealth around viewing it as a form of investing. Of course like any good businessman he expects a decent return on his investment. He fully understands that money is the mother’s milk of politics.

He knows though that politics is all about cultivating personal relationships, not just giving money. Thus he entertains various political figures and by all accounts he can be as charming as he can be alarming depending on what the situation requires.

This “shadow shogun” is course Frank VanderSloot, the 66-year-old chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Melaleuca Corporation. A graduate of both Ricks (Before it became BYU-Idaho) and of Brigham Young University, he is a member in good standing of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (He gets the “Temple Pass” needless to say), it came as no surprise that fellow Saint, Governor Mitt Romney, named VanderSloot co-chair of his fund-raising for his 2012 Presidential run. Nor was it a surprise that virtually every Republican statewide officeholder dutifully lined up behind Romney’s candidacy.

VanderSloot displayed his fund-raising prowess in Idaho by easily raising several million dollars for Romney, including over a million from his own personal coffers. Cross reference Romney’s Idaho contributions with a list of Republican officeholders, other prominent Republican contributors and the list of ward and stake bishops and presidents and it is easy to see that very few said no to VanderSloot’s “request.”

Some of Idaho’s political cognascenti were bemused when VanderSloot criticized fellow Saint and wealthy Boise businessman A.J. Bulakoff, the Democratic candidate for governor, for trying to buy the Idaho governorship by spending $3 million of his own money on the race—a severe case of the pot calling the kettle black.

If Romney decides to make a third run (And there are persistent rumors he will), VanderSloot will again play a prominent role. He will also continue to dominate the Idaho Republican Party through the State national committeeman, his employee and vice president for government affairs, Damond Watkins.

He is incontestably the most powerful behind-the-scenes figure in Idaho politics since the late Lloyd Adams (from Rexburg). He is the true Shadow Shogun. I doubt very much I’ll be receiving a phone call because of any disagreement with this assessment.

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It always comes as a surprise, though it should not, when one sees “a man with a collar,” prove he is as fallible as the rest of us mere mortals, capable of misleading conduct and apparently as misguided by “the end justifies the means” philosophy as any other rudderless politician.

Such is the case with Archbishop Blasé Cupich, late of the Spokane diocese and the new Archbishop of Chicago.

In a recent article in the Spokesman-Review, the Archbishop impugns the integrity of Father Steve Dublinski, the current pastor at St. Augustine’s. This good priest served faithfully and well as the Vicar General (in effect, the chief operating officer for the Spokane diocese) for the past 12 years, first for Bishop William Skylstad and then for the Archbishop.

Anyone who knows, or has met or has worked with Father Steve knows he is a person whose integrity and commitment to truth and justice is above questioning and beyond reproach. He is devoted to the truth and the mission of the diocese.

Even if one does not know Father Steve, his action in resigning speaks volumes for him. It should be clear that such a resignation was an act of conscience on his part. It took courage to publicly split with the Bishop. It should also be obvious that the reason for Father Dublinski resigning as Vicar General was his refusal to go along with Cupich’s lawsuit for malpractice against the diocese’s outside legal counsel, the venerable Paine, Hamblen law firm.

If one reads carefully the article that appeared on December 16th in which Cupich is trying to undo the damage done to the diocese’ alleged case against the law firm, Cupich never denies having said to Vicar General Dublinski that he would “just throw some mud against the wall and see what sticks.

Rather, he says he never directed his lawyers to throw mud and see what sticks. It is a classic misdirection ploy that in the process has him implicitly questioning Father Steve’s integrity. This is simply outrageous and an insult to our intelligence. Ask yourself what would Father Steve gain by resisting Cupich’s apparent pressure to be supportive of his desires in this matter?

In filing his lawsuit for malpractice, Cupich was obviously hoping that the diocese would win and be able to collect $4 million in damages from the firm’s liability insurance carrier.

We’re all too familiar with that gambit – we’ve all heard the plaint “It’s not the people we’re suing that will pay, it’s their insurance company.” The implication is those sued shouldn’t care because someone else will pay for the damages.

So what if in the process one trashed the reputation of a venerable law firm’s attorneys, not to mention one of the diocese’ fine priests as well as his distinguised predecessor, Bishop William Skylstad? One cannot help thinking that Archbishop Cupich must view this in terms of what the military calls unfortunate collateral damage.

As an aside, the diocesan interim administrator, Father Mike Savaleski, has a moral obligation to step forward to make sure the diocesan family knows that he was the lead negotiator for the Association of Parishes with plaintiff attorneys who hammered out the future claims section of the Diocesan Plan of Reorganization.

Somehow we always expect more from those that wear collars. We really shouldn’t. Cupich may mouth the new vocabulary of Pope Francis, but his actions belie his words. I may feel he is ethically-challenged but others may find no fault with his conduct.

At the end of the day, though, one does not have to know either Father Dublinski or Archbishop Cupich to know which is the one who has acted with devotion to integrity and the truth. Father Dublinski’s conscience is clear. I have to believe the Archbishop’s conscience at best is cloudy.

There’s an old expression the Archbishop should remember: Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

(Chris Carlson is the former long-time press secretary to Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, a parishioner at St. Augustine’s, and is privileged to fly fish with Father Dublinski on occasion.)

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Several readers have expressed surprise that I would urge former Virginia Senator James Webb to run for president. Their view is Hillary Clinton has it already locked up. While she appears to have better character than her husband, the former president, she does not come close to his leadership skills.

Every presidential election since 1968, with one exception, has for me come down to who has the better character and displays real leadership skills. Sometimes it is “yin and yang” with one attribute weighing more. It helps if one has met the candidate in person and can form an evaluation based on that. We all give off non-verbal signals that astute observers can pick up on and weigh through the prism of their own eperience and needs as well as what one believes is best for society.

Occasionally it has been a toss-up between the candidates, but not very often. Of the two attributes, character often prevail. The judgments of other trustworthy people who can give me a well thought out testimonial can be influential as can good books, either biographies or memoirs, that are part of my due diligence.

A key part of my character evaluation is whether they have kept their marriage vows. A vow is a vow. Yes, people are flawed and make mistakes they regret unless they are serial philanders. Particularly egregious to me is whether they lie if asked about the subject. If they can lie about keeping their marriage vow, they can easily lie to the American people.

Most can accept a candidate saying such a question violates the zone of privacy they feel they are entitled to and it is nobody’s business but their spouses and their family. What none should accept is the hypocrisy of an officeholder preaching family values and using the wife and children as props for photo ops while chasing skirts as if they are some sort of high office perk. Most of us know the type.

The sine qua non of character is honesty and truthfulness, as well as fidelity, compassion, and courage. Leadership is admittedly harder to define,but we know it when it when we see it,

Some may consider this too simple. Others obviously take refuge in voting based party affiliation alone. The party and the policies are secondary in my book.

And yes, with 20/20 hindsight I have made mistakes. Judge for yourself:

1968 Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon. Humphrey was a philanderer Nixon was a lier. Nixon had better leadership skills but his character was too flawed.

1972: McGovern over Nixon. Hands down McGovern had far more character and was a legitimate war hero. Nixon continued to lie.

1976: A true toss-up. Governor Carter and President Ford have sterling character but neither had leadership skills. I went with Carter.

1980: H a hard time voting for Carter again. He had badly failed the leadership test. Both were men of character. My first vote mistake.

1984: Reagan over Mondale, though I knew and liked Fritz. Both were men of character but Reagan clearly the better leader.

1988: George H. W. Bush over Dukakis. Both men of character but Bush clearly had far more experience and far better leadership skills.

1992: Bill Clinton over President Bush. Bush clearly ahead on character as stories of Clinton’s skirt-chasing were multiplying. Bush blew the biggest presidential lead in history after freeing Kuwait. His failure to capitalize made me question his leadership. Second mistake.

1996: Senator Dole ahead on character but behind on leadership. I prefer commander-in-chiefs who have worn a uniform and preferably evn been shot at. Dole was a legitimate war hero. Clinton was a draft dodger.

2000—Governor Bush over Al Gore. Bush won both character and leadership tests. Gore clearly was a phony in my book.

2004—Kerry over Bush. Both men of character but Bush disappointed in many respects so opted to see what Kerry could do. Third mistake.

2008—Obama over McCain. Obama’s character is sterling. McCain’s age, temperment and picking Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat away made me question his judgment. McCain though won the leadership test.

2012—Governor Romney over President Obama. Both men of sterling character but Obama has badly failed leadership test.

2016—who knows?

If I’m wrong and it is Hillary against Jeb Bush, I agree with Bush “43” who has said brother Jeb will beat “sister-in-law” Hillary.

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Some state senator or some state representative somewhere in Idaho should ask Legislative Services to draft a bill for consideration by leadership that makes so much common sense it will probably be rejected—or consigned to oblivion in some committee chairman’s desk drawer.

The bill, if enacted, would prohibit a governor and a lieutenant governor from flying anywhere together on the same aircraft.

In Idaho, far more frequently than one may realize, Lt. Gov. Brad Little hooks a ride with Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, especially during the campaign season when both are appearing at the same venue. That they may split the expense if the campaign is reimbursing the state for the flight to save both campaigns a few dollars is beside the point.

Even during the “non-campaign” season, though, Brad would hook a ride with Butch if both, as they often did, were participating in Governor Otter’s frequent Capitol For A Day visits across Idaho. Given Idaho’s sad history of plane crashes changing political history, one would think they would not fly together. But they do They like each other and enjoy each other’s company and there’s no law against it. But there should be.

While Idaho has yet to lose a sitting governor to an airplane crash, despite its mountainous terrain and its variable and changeable weather, all one has to do is to look at the neighboring states of Oregon and Montana for examples of sitting governors dying in a plane crash.

On October 28th, 1947, Oregon Governor Earl Snell, along with Oregon’s Secretary of State and its State Senate president, and their pilot all died in a plane crash east of Klamath Falls—-sad proof that it can happen and it can wipe out part of a state’s political leadership if they are flying together.

On January 25th, 1962, Montana Governor Don Nutter also died in a plane crash.

For Brad to fly with Butch is unnecessary risk-taking and it ought to stop. The bottom line is that we as taxpayers have an investment in the lieutenant governor, whomever he or she is. They are truly governors in waiting, and part of the purpose of the office is to ensure a smooth transition to capable hands should, Gof forbid, something happen to the sitting governor.
The writers of Idaho’s State Constitution as far back as 1888 and 1889 saw the wisdom in giving the lieutenant governor all the powers of the governor when the governor is out of state. For one thing, if they were of different parties, it would serve as a way to keep the governor close to home doing the job.

There is even a strict notification protocol that has to be followed of notifying the line of succession every time the governor and/or lieutenant governor leave the state. For example, even if they leave Idaho’s airspace for just 15 minutes, as happens when they fly from Boise to the Pullman-Moscow airport located just over the state line before driving back into Idaho, the line of succession has to be officially notified.

In Idaho, if both governors were to perish in the same accident the line of succession provides the Speaker of the House (Today that would be Scott Bedke from Oakley) would next serve as governor and if something were to happen to him the President Pro Tempore of the Senate (Today that would be Senator Brent Hill from Rexburg) would be next.

Idaho is fortunate in that the line of succession is filled with veteran and experienced politicians who would be capapble of quickly stepping up to the job, but no one wants a governor who has to be trained while doing the job

Incidentally, and not insignificantly, whoever is acting governor sees their daily pay rate rise up to that of the governor. After all, the individual is the governor, if not for a day, at least a part of the day.

Some states already prohibit a governor and a lieutenant governor from traveling together anywhere at anytime in anything regardless if plane, train or car. These are states that recognize there is an investment made in having and training a lieutenant governor to be ready to step into the role full-time if Fate so decrees.

Here’s hoping such a bill finds a sponsor, is printed and at least gets a hearing. Here’s hoping that both Butch and Brad recognize the common sense of the legislation and endorse it.

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