Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Carlson”

Mom in tennis shoes


My memory is the call came in the mid-morning of a fall day in 1991.
I was in the Spokane office of the strategic planning, communications and public affairs firm called The Gallatin Group, a regional consulting firm which I had founded in early 1989.

For the previous five years I had been the northwest regional vice president for Kaiser Aluminum, with 5,000 employees the area’s largest private employer. I was the visible face of the company including its lead lobbyist in Olympia. I was also an anomaly in that I was one of the few business Democrats.

On the other end of the phone was a State Senator from the Shoreline district outside of Seattle who I had not yet met - a young mother and former school board president named Patty Murray. A few years earlier while lobbying in Olympia another legislator made the mistake of sarcastically talking down to her and dubbed her as nothing but “a mom in tennis shoes.”

Even though there was an incumbent Democrat, former Carter Administration Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams, who planned on being re-elected in 1992, Murray was going to challenge him in the Democratic primary and she wanted my help.

We both knew Adams was ethically challenged, that he had reputation for chasing women including, it was rumored, women that worked for him. We talked for an hour and when the call was over I signed on - which made me one of the first “influentials” to back her candidacy.

Shortly thereafter the Seattle Times ran a story in which an office intern, the daughter of a long-time family friend, claimed Adams had drugged her and undoubtedly taken advantage of her drugged state. The public outcry quickly forced Adams to announce he would not seek re-election. Though Murray was the only one unafraid to take on the challenge earlier, several male congressmen quickly jumped into the race, thinking of course that the mom in tennis shoes would be easy roadkill. They were the first of many who underestimated Murray.

In the late spring of 1992, I was interviewed by a political reporter, Rebecca Boren, of the Seattle P-I, who had been assigned to do the candidate profile on Murray. Asked why I had been one of the first to support Murray I gave Boren an on the record quote that turned out to be the first quote above the fold on the front page profile:

“Patty Murray is the right person in the right place at the right time with the right message and she’s going to win.” Former colleagues in Olympia called to ask if I’d lost my marbles. I simply replied, “just you watch.”

My prediction was cast in concrete by one more arrogant male underestimating her - Congressman Rod Chandler, her Republican opponent in the general election. As the last week of October rolled around polls showed that Chandler had steadily narrowed the gap and indeed was thought to be narrowly ahead. One major debate, before the Seattle Chamber the last week of October, remained.

The lead, if there was one, vanished in the last 30 seconds of the debate.

Murray had finished her one minute summary and it was Chandler’s turn. Before a thoroughly stunned statewide audience, his supporters and the media Chandler leaned into the microphone and inexplicably began to croon the words to an old song: “Dang me, dang me/They ought to take a rope and hang me/High from the highest tree/Woman would you weep for me?”

It was condescending, insulting and women across the state were repulsed and in turn repudiated Chandler.

Murray was on her way to D.C. where she continues to be underestimated too often by too many. The roadkill are the number of former Republican congressmen she has defeated, and counting a couple of Democratic congressmen from her first race she holds the record for a senator rebuffing members of Congress (five) who challenge.

In the meantime she has quietly gone about producing fine legislation, working on keeping commitments to veterans, on fiscal reform (she and Speaker Paul Ryan worked out a compromise on fiscal reform), corrections to and abolition of the often overload of too much testing in the No Child Left Behind program, and the list goes on.

She is number four in the Democratic leadership. Should the D’s capture the Senate in the fall I look for her to possibly challenge Illinois Senator Dick Durbin for the Deputy leadership post.

As I watched the coordinated effort to force Senator Al Franken to be held accountable I could see her fine and deft hand at work. I couldn’t help thinking about the long road we’ve traveled. Senator Murray has always made me proud to have been one of her earliest supporters.

She is still the right person in the right place at the right time with the right message and she is still a winner.

Private jets, public helicopters


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s use of corporate jets and Park Service Police helicopters for what looks to be thinly disguised personal use has generated controversy, largely within the Beltway, and a formal investigation.

It has also led to several readers asking how the late Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus managed the matter during the four years he served as Secretary of the Interior for President Jimmy Carter. Besides being Director of the Office of Public Affairs, I also was Andrus’ press secretary which meant that I traveled when he traveled 95% of the time.

It is a fair question deserving an answer for it tells much about how one views public service and stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Keep in mind that the Interior department in the 1970’s had the eighth largest air fleet in the world. When one considers all the agencies and bureaus within the department, it is easy to see how this could be. For example, the Interagency Fire Center at the Boise Airport owns as well as charters a number of different planes in order to fulfill its firefighting role.

Andrus had a “common sense” rule. The cornerstone was to save the taxpayer dollar as often as possible. This meant well over 90% of the time when flying out of the nation’s capital we flew commercial airlines.

Not only that, we flew coach class and ever the politician who never missed an opportunity we had seats at the rear of the plane and boarded last (despite most airlines offering to let us board first) knowing that those on the flight who recognized the Interior secretary would also note him walking to the rear of the plane.

I can recall only four or five times chartering a corporate jet usually because there was an emergency of some sort that required his presence as soon as possible. In those instances Interior’s Air operations paid full boat for the charter unlike Congress which just required reimbursement comparable to what a round-trip ticket would cost.

The rare instances we chartered a private jet were:

    To get to Plains, Georgia for the interview with Carter we chartered Boise Cascade’s jet to get to Denver to catch the Northwest Orient flight to Atlanta.
    When one of the Andrus daughters was ill and hospitalized we had a chartered jet ready to get him from Seattle to Boise the second he deplaned an Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage.
    During a campaign trip to Texas that ran late we chartered a jet to take us from College Station to Dulles in order to make an 8 a.m. meeting in the office the next day.
    When the department’s KingAir would not start one summer morning at the Bremerton Airport, I ordered up a jet from Boeing Field to come to Bremerton and pick us up and then fly to Boise for a noon meeting and speech before the Poacher’s Club.

Two prop planes were available for the secretary’s use when traveling in the west: an AeroCommander stationed in Denver and a KingAir stationed in Boise. These planes were only used for official business, never for personal use.

As Interior Secretary Andrus also had access to the fleet of executive jets kept at Andrews Air Force Base and at Hickam Field in Hawaii which ranged in size from small Saberliners to the presidential 707’s. All these planes had the colors and markings of Air Force One with the United States of America on each side of the fuselage.

We utilized the Saberliners twice to take Andrus and his key Alaska advisors to and from Alaska for official business related to passaage of the Alaska Lands legislation. We flew first class only once that I can recall when we flew Air New Zealand for the 14-hour flight from Los Angeles to Auckland for a week long visit to New Zealand. While there the Prime Minister’s prop plane flew us to various destinations.

We then flew the vice president’s 707 back to Hawaii for a week long tour of the Trust Territories in the Pacific managed by Interior. During this week long show the flag tour we flew in a C-130 cargo plane. We added a stop on the atoll of Majuro in order to deliver emergency supplies to assist the inhabitants victimized by a sudden huge rogue wave that swept over the atoll.

I can state unequivocally we never used a Park Police helicopter period let alone for personal flights in and around the D.C. area.

The rule of common sense worked well. That coupled with an attitude towards public service that says you are privileged to serve and good service implicitly entails respecting access to taxpayer funded items. Andrus knew he was there to serve not to further his economic status by rationalizing personal use of private jets or public helicopters. Take note Secretary Zinke.

A wish and a prayer


When Senator Mike Crapo was campaigning for re-election last year one of his set talks was an eloquent plea for the nation returning to fiscal sanity and getting to balanced budgets so that we quit kicking the can of the spiraling upward unsustainable debt down the road to be be paid by future generations.

Crapo was one of the 18 members of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, a bipartisan effort by President Obama early in his first term and Congressional leadership whose purpose was to draw up a plan that through a combination of spending reductions and some modest tax hikes would over the next ten years pay down the deficit and get America on more solid economic footing.

Crapo received justifiably warranted praise for his constructive work and that work increased his reputation as a compassionate conservative deficit hawk. Unfortunately, the praise was premature for this past week the Senator succumbed to political expediency and endorsed the smoke and mirrors Republican purported tax cut plan that in reality is nothing less than a massive shift of further tax relief for the wealthiest one tenth of one percent at the expense of the middle class.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget office estimates that the plan will over ten years add $1.5 trillion to the national debt and seriously doubts the growth in the economy projections Crapo and his colleagues cite as their reason for supporting this gift to the wealthy. It’s a classic “wish and a prayer” approach to public policy and ignores the consensus among the vast majority of economists that the GOP is living a pipe dream.

Senator Crapo also is ignoring the strongly expressed opinions of his former Senate colleague, Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of the Reform Commission.

In a joint op-ed to the Washington Post, the co-chairs wrote: “With debt already twice as high as the historical average, financing tax cuts with even more borrowing is reckless. And the actual bills in the House and Senate are even worse than the $1.5 trillion sticker price----because both include about a half-trillion dollars in phony savings from artificial “sunsets” and other gimmicks. With interest that means these tax cuts could add $2.2 trillion to the debt.”

They went on to write further “If the tax cuts in the current bill are adopted, deficits would exceed one trillion dollars by 2020 and debt would exceed 99 per cent of GDP by 2027. Economic growth isn’t going to wash away this debt. Real tax reform can provide a boost to the economy but higher debt works in the opposite direction. This country cannot afford another debt-busting tax cut.”

Pretty straight talking, fact-based language. For someone like Senator Crapo it should have been cause for a pause and a thoughtful re-examination of the largely political position he was assuming despite holding the safest seat in the U.S. Senate.

So it comes down to who does one believe: former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson or Senator Mike Crapo? Both are Republicans, both radiate sincerity, both believe they have the best interests of the nation at heart.

One of them though is hypocritical and expedient. And only one is still a sitting member of Congress. And only one of them is gambling that despite all odds this taxpayer give away to the rich won’t further add to the high probability of a decreasing standard of living for his grandchildren stuck with paying the bill for his profligacy.

If Senator Crapo had a conscience he would recognize he has no skin in the game, and he has no risk because the bill will come due after he is out of office. He should go back to every one of the 200 cities and burgs he visited while campaigning last year and apologize for not being the fiscal deficit hawk he claimed to be.

It is also obvious that he will never rate a chapter in a new edition of Profiles in Courage.



There’s an old expression, “pride cometh before the fall.” Ancient Greek dramatists wrote great theatrics around this all too common human foible. In these tragedies they wrote about hubris, the excessive pride many people in power possess though they falter at fair exercising of this power.

The Greeks had another expression: “Those the gods rise up they then lay low.” It doesn’t take a fortune teller looking into a crystal ball to see that Tommy Ahlquist, the doctor/developer running for Idaho governor and pledging to spend whatever it takes for him to win, is headed for a classic fall.

Whether it happens soon enough for him to recover remains to be seen. As the one with the deepest pockets his recent announcement that he was launching an “attack website” is rather ironic. Its an attempt to pre-empt his opponents by attacking their records before they start attacking his non-record.

Its right out of the Republican advertising/media-spinning playbook that says first spend a lot of money giving your biographical story, preferably one which portrays you overcoming adversity and triumphing over obstacles placed in your way.

Ahlquist followed this to a tee during this past summer and fall, saturating the Boise television market with his “rags to riches” narrative. The game plan then in phase two calls for you to go negative with sometimes questionable charges that negatively define your opponent.

The goal is to put your opponent on the defensive and to keep him there always responding to you. Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson early in his political career was an aide to a Texas congressman. He once asked his boss why on the campaign trail he kept repeating a totally bogus negative charge. The congressman simply smiled and said “let him deny it.” In denying the charge he would have to repeat the negative. Think, for example, about the infamous headline in which Richard Nixon stated “I Am Not a Crook!” Johnson never forgot the lesson and it has become a staple of modern campaigning.

Phase three is when the candidate, about four to six weeks before the election, comes back with flight after flight of positive advertising emphasizing his personal characteristics and his positive policy agenda.The last flight just before the election usually has the candidate looking into the camera radiating sincerity and asking for your vote.

In modern times Idahoans have never voted into the governorship someone who has no previous political experience and has not been vetted by an electorate. They recognize the governorship is no place for on the job training.

When asked about this at a small town hall meeting in St. Maries Ahlquist was quick to dismiss it citing the fact that 13 current state governors had been elected with no prior elective experience.
He then let slip that he had stopped by a Republican governors meeting in Chicago in September to introduce himself to his (in his mind) future colleagues.

He indicated in particular he wanted to discuss the looming crisis in the nation’s health care challenges. Some may admire the chutzpah of such a presumption. Others might see it as an act of sheer arrogance and an egregious taking of the Idaho voters for granted. You can decide which.

Calls to the campaign office and to his campaign manager asking whether Ahlquist had also flown to Austin, Texas in November to attend the formal national meeting of the Republican Governor’s Association were not returned.

Over the weekend the three major Republican candidates for governor (Lt. Governor Brad Little, First District Congressman Raul Labrador and Ahlquist), all submitted statements to the Coeur d’Alene Press about their candidacy and why they each believe they can lead the state into a better future.

Only one though used the royal or imperial “we” - as in “we announced,” “we know better,” “we know it’s time,” and “we will get things done.” You want to guess which one?

Hubris, pure hubris and pure balderdash.

Caveat emptor.

What’s happening (gubernatorially)?


If you are puzzled about what is, and is not, happening in the race to secure the Republican nomination for governor in 2018 you are not alone.

Different strategies are being utilized, but the presumed front-runner, First District congressman Raul Labrador, appears to be master-minding a much different campaign than his two primary rivals, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and doctor/developer Tommy Ahlquist.

First, it appears that Ahlquist, true to his promise to spend whatever it takes, has spent well over a million dollars and he will continue to spend at that high rate as he tries to buy his way into office.

Little, in the meantime, is collecting a significant amount himself, but is husbanding the money. It’s a good guess that when the time comes his campaign will, like Ahlquist’s, spend gobs of bucks on negative television ads as they attempt to redefine who Labrador is through negative attack ads. That’s one of the rewards for being perceived as the front runner at this juncture.

The three of them plus expected Democrat nominee, millionaire A. J. Balukoff, will quickly shatter the previous spending mark for a governor’s race.

Labrador has apparently chosen to lower his profile for awhile, which is a practical as well as a necessary decision. As a respected libertarian, hard conservative voice his views are sought out and there’s plenty of work to be done in D.C. while still running for governor. Thus, he is not appearing every where his two rivals are.

This may be a smart tactic for a frontrunner, but some observers speculate Labrador is not raising the funds he needs to raise as quickly and as easily as he may have previously thought it would be. Thus, he is lowering the profile as much out of necessity as out of the book of tactics.

Labrador is going to have to rely on the conservative Tea Party/Donald Trump base to write lots of smaller checks that will still keep him competitive. He appears to have conceded that the GOP establishment wing will split between Little and Ahlquist, but he’s not bothered by lack of support from the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), the equivalent of a statewide chamber.

It makes I easier for him to portray himself as the champion of the little guy and the governor who will best protect the average guy from the predatory practices of big business.

The guess is he’ll have enough to counter the expected attack ads and still get his key messages out to Idahoans.

Conventional wisdom says this race will be decided by Second District voters. Each of the major Republican campaigns figures that they each have a fair claim to about a third of the First district vote.

Ahlquist has touted two key endorsements: that of former GOP (and fellow LDS member, as is Labrador) presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is expected to run for Senator Orrin Hatch’s seat when Hatch announces his retirement. Perhaps more important is the support of former Melaleuca vice president for government affairs Damon Watkins, who is also the Idaho GOP’s national committeeman.

People make a mistake, however, if they think this reflects billionaire Frank VanderSloot’s preference. The Melaleuca CEO reportedly has told friends he can live easily with either Ahlquist or Labrador.

Some pundits believe Labrador’s most pressing problem is the perception that he as governor would permit the Idaho National Laboratory INL) to take a proportionate budget cut as part of any national debt reduction plan. He said as much two years ago.

Others say this will reinforce his image as a fiscal conservative hawk who takes consistent stands on principle. It appears that Labrador has succeeded in carving out the far right most conservative side of the GOP knowing full well the GOP primary is designed to maximize their clout.

Little is betting that a lot more establishment Republicans will turn out and will opt for his steady hand. Labrador is quietly confident that the hard conservatives and the anti-establishment voters are in ascendency and he will emerge as the winner.

Both Little and Labrador will continue to work to make Ahlquist be the odd man out and the race to become by next May a two person face-off between them. Come late May we will know who was correct.

Thanks at Thanksgiving


Twelve years ago, the week before Thanksgiving, I was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroendocrine cancer and told I had the proverbial six months left at best. As my former boss, the late Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, would on occasion say, “there’s nothing like a hanging in the morning to focus one’s attention.” I focused fast.

This was of course stunning not the least reason being that my neurologist who had diagnosed five years earlier my Parkinson’s Disease, had told me a silver lining was that those with PD seldom contract cancer. One of my first calls was to him to let him know what a rare bird this patient was.

Like many couples and families do when receiving such news, we (My wife was trained as a Registered Nurse) read up as much as we could find of the literature on this form of cancer and on the facilities noted for the best practices in treating this always fatal disease.

Turned out that the best place to seek treatment was Houston’s M. D. Anderson Hospital. I drafted a note and enclosed copies of blood tests, MRI’s, PET scans, whole body scans, CT’s and cardiovascular work. I was absolutely floored when they declined to see me saying that the disease was too far along and there was nothing that could be done but to stay home and make my final preparations.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to bring this inexplicable denial to the facility’s attention. To their credit they looked into it, wrote me an apology, revised their admission protocol and even had the CEO send me a personal note.

The denial turned out to be a blessing in disguise for it created the opportunity for a friend of mine, Jay Shelledy, the then editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, to strongly recommend that I allow the relatively new Huntsman Cancer Center attached to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to be my primary treatment provider.

Shelledy was familiar with the Huntsman family and good friends with Jon Huntsman, Jr., a future Utah governor. So I flew to Salt Lake, met with the hospital’s chief of staff and the team assigned to me. Together we worked out an attack strategy.

Somewhere in my body, most likely in the colon, exists a generating tumor that periodically starts to significantly increase the production of this rare form of cancer cells. It can attack one, two or three vital organs: the liver, the heart and the lungs. In my case it was the liver and heart.

The most immediate threat was to my liver, covered with lesions and tumors almost to the point they could not be treated because the risk of liver failure was too high. My tricuspid valve was also starting to deteiorate, but that would be the second point of attack, and for addressing that it was decided I would go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

During 2006 I underwent three chemoembolization procedures at Huntsman which shattered almost all the tumors. I then underwent an experimental procedure whereby Yrtrium 90 radioactive pellets were placed on the shattered tumors and this appeared to stop temporarily the cancer from spreading rapidly. For two weeks though I was a hot dude literally.

Since then there have been relapses but mostly I’ve been able to manage well. I’ve had 15 sessions of targeted radiation, a bland embolization procedure,and my monthly chemo is a 40 mls shot of Octreotide that the drug company charges $17,000 for a shot.

Bottom line, though, is I’m still here and each morning I thank the good Lord for another day of life. As I reflect this Thanksgiving I wish to send a special thanks to the many people who through modern medicine to good old fashioned prayer have helped keep me alive: Jay Shelledy and Pat Shea, who introduced me to Huntsman; Dr. James Carlisle, my interventional radiologist at Huntsman; Dr. Joseph Rubin, my oncologist at Mayo; Dr. Robert Gersh, Dr. Robert Laugen, Dr. Maryann Parvez, my oncologists at Cancer Care Northwest; Dr. Chris Lee, my interventional radiologist at CCNW; Dr. Mark Wilson, my interventional radiologist at Deaconess; Dr. David Greeley, my neurologist at Northwest Neurology;
Dr. Michael Kwasman, my cardiologist at Sacred Heart; and Dr. Scott Spence, my general practitioner at Benewah Community Hospital.

Also, my friend, pastor, and fishing bud, Father Steve Dublinski, who is so patient with me during our weekly stalking of the wily cutthroat on the St. Joe. He is but one of many fine friends too numerous to list who call, send notes and offer encouragement.

Last, but not least is a loving and supportive family led by my wife of 47 wonderful years, who along with our three daughters, son, spouses and two grandchildren sustain me simply out of love I don’t deserve but gratefully accept. To all who care accept my heartfelt thanks.

A blessed Thanksgiving to all, and all glory to the Almighty.

A fitting tribute


Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter and Representative Mike Simpson, R-2nd, are staunch, conservative Republicans. Former Governor Cecil D. Andrus was a self-described “lunch bucket” Democrat. The three men, though, had an ability to put the interests of the state ahead of partisanship and work together when necessary.

They held each other in genuine respect and though they could disagree they were rarely disagreeable while dissenting. They had a long history of knowing and working with each other. Andrus couldn’t help liking Butch who worked well with Cece during the 14 years Butch was Lieutenant Governor; and, Mike, whom Cece nicknamed “Driller” because he had a dentistry degree, was also a person of his word.

If asked, Otter and Simpson would tell you that they missed “the Boss.” Both delivered moving heartfelt eulogies on Andrus at services in late August.

While they would not put the others’ bumper stickers on their car, one has to search long and hard to find any record on the campaign trail where they actively worked against one another.

They gave the perfunctory endorsement of their party’s nominee but that was it.

About the only exception for Cece was when Betty Richardson ran against Butch in one of his congressional re-elections. Cece knew Betty’s family were long-time supporters and Betty was also so loyalty may have trumped friendship. Otherwise, there was an unspoken rule between all three of them.

October 24th marked the two month date of Cece’s passing. Like many folks, both Governor Otter and Congressman Simpson are having a hard time believing and adjusting to Andrus’ passing. Cece was such an integral part of the life of Idaho as well as our lives, and not to be able to pick up the phone and talk to him is just hard to believe.

In the two months since Cece passed away there have been a number of suggestions regarding designating an appropriate memorial. None can top the announcement Congressman Simpson made on the two-month anniversary of the governor’s passing: Simpson announced he had introduced a bill, H.R. 4134, which would rename the Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness as the Cecil Andrus White Clouds Wilderness. It was immediately referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

In a way it parallels what Republican Senator Jim McClure engineered just before Senator Frank Church died in 1984. McClure introduced and ramrodded through the Congress a bill that renamed Idaho’s Central Idaho Wilderness the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Most folks just call it “the Frank.”

Such bills temporarily suspend requirements of the Geographic Names Act which among other things says there has to be a five year wait after one has passed away before others could go about naming or renaming geographical features.

Congress can do just about anything it wants to do, however, and when someone introduces a special bill and the sponsor happens to be a “Cardinal,” as is Simpson by his chairmanship of the Interior and EPA appropriations subcommittee, another member has to think long and hard before crossing that Cardinal. Thus, odds are high that Simpson’s bill will succeed. Simpson was always a good nose counter and would not introduce a bill unless he knew he had the votes to get it passed.

Undoubtedly, there will be hearings in Idaho and in D.C. for people to express their opinions, but Andrus was phenominally popular and chances are there will be little opposition. Major interest groups such as the Idaho Conservation League and the Idaho Recreation Council are expected to be supportive.

There are several other worthy ideas being batted around Boise and Lewiston, from naming a street after Andrus to naming a city park, to naming a rare plant in the Boise foothills, to naming the Idaho Fish and Game Building. None tops Simpson’s legislation though all the ideas are good and have merit.

There is one crucial vote that supporters hope will weigh in and be supportive of this fine idea. That is Governor Otter, who may not tip his hand until a hearing is held. The governor knows the White Clouds has a special place in the hearts of many Idahoans because the White Clouds’ most majestic mountain, Castle Peak is, as Cece liked to say, the mountain that made a governor.

Butch may not jump on Simpson’s wagon immediately, but by the end of the day he’ll be sitting on the buckboard bench with Mike whipping those horses along for passage.

Shifting paradigm?


A “paradigm shift” is a fancy phrase for changing the way we look at and perceive things. We revisit our assmptions and then change our approach.

Watching that instant classic game two of the World Series between the Dodgers and the Astros while also filtering through my mind another series of steps and maneuvering by the President that day, it occurred to me that as a nation we are in the middle of a paradigm shift orchestrated by the President.

Furthermore, neither the media nor the political cognoscenti who within the Beltway talk to each other ad nauseum understand this shift is occurring. President Trump and his former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, though do understand and are leading the shift.

For example, the pundits and talking heads in D.C. and New York are constructing artificial benchmarks which they proclaim the voters want to see Congress achieve, such as repeal of ObamaCare and passage of tax reform. Otherwise, they pontificate the voters exacting swift retribution at the polls in November of 2018. Maybe so, maybe not.

The baseball analogy occurred to me as I listened to the game announcers rattle off traditional yardsticks by which ballpayers are measured, such as batting average, slugging percentage, runs batted in. For a pitcher it is wins, strikeouts to walks, innings pitched.

Michael Lewis’ fine book Moneyball came to mind. The book basically demonstrates how a paradigm shift radically redid the business of baseball. The book tells the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Bean, who as a prospect was labeled a “can’t miss making the majors.” But he did.

Once Bean got to the business side he started pondering why and this eventually led him to familiarize himself with sabermetrics, a new way of measuring the potential of a ballplayer to make it to the major leagues.

Being in a small market with a tight budget Oakland couldn’t afford to have too many misses. So Bean embraced the new way to evaluate players and also made the decision they would not draft high school phenoms but rather would focus on older more mature players.

Bean told his scouts, for example, to note the on-base percentage of a prospect believing that he would find more patient hitters who more often could get on base without a hit. Likewise, he worked up different formulas for evaluating fielding success and pitching success.

It paid off with Oakland winning several league championships. It wasn’t long before other teams adopted many of Bean’s methods.

President Trump is in the middle of pulling off a major paradigm shift in politics and is well on his way to redefining how success is measured. Frankly, he does not care really whether ObamaCare is repealed or tax reform is achieved. Successful legislation has to come from the Congress, or the GOP supposedly faces political disaster.

Trump will argue not necessarily. That’s the old way of measuring success. The new paradigm is cutting intrusive federal agencies down to size, eliminating bothersome and burdensone regulations, appeals to white males that are subtle messages of racism couched in language underscoring “fairness,” beating up on media that obviously has an anti-Trump agenda, and keeping your opponents off balance with a constant shifting of views and tactics.

If Congress can pass enabling legislation on tax reform, great. Don’t kid yourself, however, because tax reform is already dead. Trump’s base is largely holding strong because they don’t believe much of what the press reports and what they do see is their man standing up for American “values” against those shifty-eyed Muslims and those nasty Persians and North Koreans.

The more they see and hear the establishment scream and yell the more they like it. It’s a classic “paradigm shift” and don’t be surprised if it doesn’t lead President Trump not to impeachment but to a second term.

Competition in the 5th?


Cathy McMorris Rodgers doesn’t know it yet, but she is in for the fight of her political life to turn aside the challenge from former Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown. The former Eastern Washington University professor of economics is smart, tough, tenacious, fearless, hard-working, politically sophisticated, and plays to win.

Recently married and also retired from her position as Chancellor of the WSU-Spokane campus, where she was one of the leaders in bringing a medical school to Spokane, Brown thought her years of public service were at an end. The more she read about the divisive policies being embraced by President Donald Trump, and the more she saw Spokane’s member of Congress, McMorris Rodgers, blindly endorse policies punitive to the middle class and the poor while helping the top 1% accumulate even more wealth, the more she felt the call of continued public service.

Brown believes McMorris Rodgers has got caught up in the national issues swirling around the nation’s capitol and seldom pays attention any more to the needs of the district. She points to the passage of the 2014 Farm Act Reauthorization and contends the Fifth District Congresswoman was AWOL, that she wasn’t a player, and knew next to nothing about proposed changes in farm policy.

She says it is a well known fact that lobbyists for the various ag groups by-passed McMorris Rodgers and instead worked with and through the office of Washington’s senior U.S. senator, Patty Murray.

Brown is quick to point out that she is running on a platform that stresses the successes she has had in bringing people together, forging compromises and producing solutions. She believes she will work harder and listen better than the incumbent.

She knows Democrats will try to make the election a national referendum on President Trump , but she says she is running a positive race related to providing better representation in Congress. She intends to stress ways to expand the economic pie by growing the economy and cites her Ph.D in economics from the University of Colorado as giving her a leg up on economic issues.

She will continue to be a strong advocate for education and for common sense environmental protections, she says, as she has done her entire career.

She fully expects Republicans to run an independent campaign against her that will try to label her as a liberal, outsider, a sympathizer with the Sandinista movement in Central America many years back, anti-gun rights, pro-abortion and a Hillary Clinton clone.

She’s not worried as she knows facts belie many of these deliberate distortions and knows that once people have the facts in hand their vote will not be fear-driven. She points out that she grew up in a rural Illinois community and that her father taught her the proper use off firearms.

She understands that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion establishing the qualified right of individuals to own firearms at the same time also reinforced the right of government for the common good to restrict firearms from being brought to public gathering places such as schools, courthouses and arenas.

She has no intention to get sucked into debate over divisive social issues but intends to stay focused on economic and service issues.

She feels there are residual good memories of her service as a State Representative and State Senator representing the Third District that will help her. She also knows that Spokane is becoming increasingly a Democratic-leaning community.

She hopes McMorris Rodgers will agree to several debates and joint appearances where she feels her knowledge of the issues will be much better than the incumbent’s and voters will see the kind of difference that will cause them to recognize that it is in their best interest to retire Cathy and elect Lisa.



October 8th was the sixty-first anniversary of one of the great sports events of all time: Don Larsen, pitching game five of the 1956 World Series, threw the only perfect game in series history. Twenty-seven Brooklyn Dodgers came to the plate, and 27 walked back to the dugout as Larsen led the New York Yankees to a 2-0 win.

Most baseball fans have seen the famous picture of the joyous Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra, rushing the mound to jump into Larsen’s arms. While there have been regular season no hitters pitched since then and even another Divisional play-off no hitter, there never has been another perfect game and some baseball pundits don’t believe there will ever be another.

The last survivor of those who played in that historic game is none other than Larsen himself. Since he and his spouse, Corrine, retired 23 years ago, the Larsens have lived quietly at Hayden Lake. He makes occasional appearances at Yankee Old-Timer events and signs a baseball now and then.

Otherwise he enjoys fishing on various Idaho lakes and streams. A few days before the anniversary a mutual friend arranged for my wife and I to have lunch with Don and Corrine. It was one of the most delightful two hour lunches I’ve spent in years.

My first surprise was how tall he still is, easily 6’5”, still slim, still ramrod straight and his mind and memory were still sharp. Not bad for one who turned 88 in August. Born in Indiana, the fmaily moved to San Diego when he was 14 where he attended Point Loma H.S. and was known more for his basketball skills (my second surprise) than his pitching talent.

His senior year he was named to the first team all-Southern California High School basketball team but he turned down basketball scholarship offers from St. Mary’s and Oregon. While playing baseball he caught the eye of a scout for the St. Louis Browns who signed him for a signing bonus of $850 (about $10,000 in today’s dollars) and in June of 1947 reported to his first minor league team. He rose steadily but in early 1951 was drafted into the Army and served for two years during the Korean War before being honorably discharged in early 1953.

During the spring he made the major league roster of the St. Louis Browns and made his major league debut on April 18, 1953. That winter the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. Larsen struggled during the 1954 season, winning three and losing 21 games.

Two of his three wins though were against the Yankees and their manager, Casey Stengal, insisted Larsen be included in a large swap of players in 1955. Stengal saw something no one else did for there is virtually nothing in Larsen’s early career that hinted he had a date with destiny and baseball immortality. On that October day though even Larsen admits he had incredible control of his pitches.

Larsen was not aware that the 27th and last out against pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell has become the subject of some college philosophy classes on life’s ambiguity. Mitchell had a ball one, two strike count when Larsen let loose with his 97th pitch. Mitchell, started to swing then he claims checked his swing because he thought it would be ball three. The home plate umpire called it strike three and the game was over.

To his dying day Mitchell insisted it was a ball. The umpire retired after the game and never spoke about it again. At this lunch, Larsen growled “he swung and it was strike three. Game over.”

Asked who was the toughest out in the Dodger line-up, Larsen growled again,”they were all tough outs. These were the Dodgers after all.”

My third surprise was learning that Larsen “on his way down” as he put it, pitched in Spokane against the Spokane Indians while a member of the 1966 Phoenix Giants. He also pitched in Tacoma early in the 1967 season. His last major leaue appearance came with the Cubs on July 7th, 1967. He retired shortly thereafter.

His final record was 81 wins and 91 losses, an earned run average of 3.78 and 869 strike outs. It appears to be an average record for someone who spent 15 seasons in the majors. Packed in there though is that one magic October day when he pitched the only perfect World Series game.

For that he was named the World Series MVP and garnered baseball immortality. Understandably he is proud of that incredible achievement, but he has handled the ensuing years, which had both ups and downs, with dignity and grace.

Before leaving he signed a baseball for me and wrote on it “a perfect Dad.” I’ll treasure it as long as I live, undeserved though it is.