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Posts published in “Carlson”

Get mad, get even

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Alaska’s long-time senior senator, the late Ted Stevens (1968-2008), had a vicious temper. He could erupt in a split second. Turnover on his staff was constant for few folks would take his berating their competence for long.

He was demanding, would not accept excuses and expected one never to make the same mistake twice. His caustic criticism often was aimed at the press. He rarely hesitated to call a reporter and let them know how badly they’d screwed up.

Behind all the anger, bluff and bluster, though, there was one decent person who had a tender heart, truly cared for those less fortunate and was devoted to his wife, Ann, and their children. He was a man of his word, a tireless advocate for Alaskans and a formidable adversary. He rarely carried a grudge, with one major exception - his senatorial colleage, Alaska’s junior senator, Mike Gravel.

He hated Gravel, and with good reason Stevens truly believed, and it was plausible, that Gravel brought about the situation that led to the death of Ann.

Gravel, born in Massachusettts, went to Alaska with the not so secret desire to achieve high public office. He drove a cab for awhile but soon got into real estate and was successful enough to seek office. An intelligent, charming fellow, he was liked well enough by his House colleagues to be elected Speaker.

In 1966 he trried to parlay the Speaker post into election as Alaska’s sole member of the House but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Ralph Rivers.

In August of 1968, though, he shocked many Alaskans by upsetting the venerable Ernest Gruening, one of Alaska’s last territorial governors and, along with Bob Bartlett, one of the first two Alaskan senators. Gruening, who will forever be remembered as one of only two sagacious votes against LBJ’s Tonkin Gulf resolution authorizing the president to do whatever he had to do in Vietnam, was in his early 80’s. To his regret he ignored Gravel and did little campaigning. Gravel went on to win the first of two terms in November.

Twelve years later Gravel himself was knocked off in the August Democratic primary by Ernest Gruening’s grandson, State Rep. Clark Gruening. Gravel had by then alienated many Alaskans but the clincher was the move Stevens quietly organizned to have a massive Republican turnout vote in the open Democratic primary for young Gruening. Stevens exacted his revenge.

Had Gravel been resonsible for Anne Stevens’ death? You be the judge. (more…)

The winners

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

In looking at the results of the May 20 primary, the biggest winner was easily Second District incumbent Mike Simpson. He trounced Tea Party/Club for Growth primary challenger Bryan Smith, an Idaho Falls attorney, by a 68% to 32% margin.

By educating second district voters to how weird some of the positions held by Tea Party adherents are, and how badly they will distort an incumbent’s record as a rock-solid conservative, Simpson undoubtedly saved Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter’s candidacy for a third term.

Butch ought to send Mike a box of fresh Idaho spuds every month for the next four years and he ought to offer to come by once a month to kiss Simpson’s ring while slicing, dicing and cooking up the hash browns.

Make no mistake about it, while Otter won on Tuesday, he was still the biggest loser. While voter turnout was abysmally low, something the Tea Party purists wanted (Only the pure of heart and only 100% God-fearing, gun-toting, government-hating, education-bashing, ObamaCare haters) were meant to vote in the GOP’s closed primary.

They got their wish, so to speak, by holding the primary vote totals statewide to between 20% and 25% of eligible voters. This enabled their favored candidates, especially gubernatorial challenger State Senator Russ Fulcher of Meridian, to mount a more effective challenge because the universe of votes needed to win was suddenly much, much smaller.

The day after Governor Otter must have been literally stunned to see that he lost not just rural counties where Tea Party organization was presumably
stronger, but he also lost Ada County, his home county of Canyon and Kootenai - in other words, he lost the urban/suburban vote in the First District as well. A challenge from his right also had to stun the self-proclaimed libertarian.

The results showed how well First District congressman Raul Labrador read his district and correctly calculated that endorsing Fulcher over Otter in the latter days of the campaign would not hurt him.

Where Otter pulled it out was in the urban areas of Bonneville, Bannock, Bingham and Twin Falls counties - the cities of Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Blackfoot and Twin Falls. Otter also narrowly carried the LDS vote in most of the Mormon counties of eastern Idaho.

The only conclusion one can draw when an incumbent sees only slightly more than half the voters voting to return him in his own party’s primary is that a lot of people don’t think he has done anything to merit a third term. (more…)

Unreported Alaska land stories

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

On June 28th former four-term Idaho governor and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus will make a presentation in Vail, Colorado to the top donors to the The Carter Center on the how of achieving President Carter’s greatest legacy, the setting aside of 103 million acres of virgin Alaska lands into the four major preservation systems---national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and new wild and scenic rivers.

With passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Areas (ANILCA) legislation on December 1st followed by an immediate signing into law by President Carter on December 2nd, 1980, Carter surpassed President Theodore Roosevelt as the greatest friend of conservation in the history of the White House.

As many Idahoans know, the key to the success was the then Interior Secretary convincing President Carter to use his powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare much of Alaska to be National Monuments in 1978. The President followed the advice which overnight literally forced opponents led by the Alaska Congressional delegation to stop opposing legislation and instead start supporting legislation to undo the much more restrictive national monument designation. The same tactic now appears necessary if the pristine alpine areas of the Boulder/White Clouds are to receive appropriate protection.

In helping to prepare his presentation I was reminded of two colorful stories that have gone largely unreported.

1) Gotcha. In the summer of 1978, Andrus put together and personally led 30 members of the nation’s media on a ten-day, once in a lifetime tour of many of the proposed set asides. It led to numerous supportive stories in media across the nation.

Alaska’s senior senator, Ted Stevens, was furious. He accused Andrus of lobbying with public money, something the Senator himself had been accused of years before when at the Interior department he had openly used public resources to campaign for Alaskan statehood.

Even though a Republican in the minority at that time, Majority Leader Robert Byrd let Stevens act as the de facto chair of the Senate Interior Appropriations subcommittee. Thus, in the fall, Stevens commanded Andrus to appear before the committee to defend the public affairs budget and the public costs of the tour. (more…)

He also ran

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

The passage of time has been good to him. His hair is now a distinguished white and there’s still plenty of it. His smile is still infectious, his voice still stentorian, his personality still charming, his intelligence obvious, and his ability to conduct solid political calculus still considerable.

Twenty-eight years ago he came within 3300 votes of being elected governor and knocking off the acknowledged heavy-weight champion, Cecil D. Andrus, in Andrus’ bid to return to the governorship after an absence of ten years.

Now 66, looking every inch the prosperous attorney he has become, he and I sat down recently over a three hour breakfast to catch up. It was just two old war-horses reminiscing, but both of us still feel youthful in spite of the challenges of advancing age.

I first became acquainted with David when I returned to Idaho in 1981 to accept appointment to the newly formed Northwest Power Planning Council following my service with Andrus at the Interior Department. Leroy was the Attorney General. We started jogging together over the noon hour.

We shared a common interest in Idaho history and politics. We both admired former governor and senator Len B. Jordan, and his wife, Grace. Though we had obvious political differences, I liked Leroy, even though he was one of the more calculating political personalities I’d encountered.

Many thought he was ruthlessly ambitious. Critics would point out details such as naming his daughter Jordan. Or they would cite his cultivation of the behind-the-scenes political power broker, Bill Campbell, a Boise insurance executive.

Or they would note his even then growing interest in President Abraham Lincoln and the Lincoln connection to Idaho. The passage of time has proven that interest to be truly sincere. He and Nancy have spent thousands of dollars acquiring Lincoln memrobilia which they have generously donated to the state. Proving he can still give a heck of a speech, he has traveled the length and breadth of Idaho talking about Lincoln’s tie to Idaho.

When one jogs with another, you talk about a variety of topics from family matters to beliefs and you begin to recognize the outlines of one’s strengths as well as weaknesses. There also is an implicit sanctity of the confessional.

Suffice it to say, I discerned as a “weakness” in Leroy what others would see as a strength - he was, and still is, loyal to a fault. As the 1982 election loomed there were those urging Leroy to run for governor against John Evans. To do so, though, would mean Leroy would have to run over Phil Batt who many in the GOP felt had earned an uncontested shot at Evans. (more…)

On trust

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Once lost, can trust ever be restored? That question lays at the heart of an increasingly polarized world in which contestants rarely argue whether one is correct or incorrect, but rather whether their view makes them good and your view makes you evil. The first victim in such conflicts is the truth and the second is trust.

There’s no question many institutions we once posited with our trust have forfeited and lost it. The Roman Catholic Church is a classic example. This bastion of supposed moral authority turns out to be populated with priests who prey on vulnerable children and don’t begin to practice the Gospel message of love they preach. They just don’t get it that there’s an obligation to the truth that comes with the territory.

When the truth began to emerge, from the canonized Pope John Paul II to cardinals to bishops of various dioceses, many engaged in covering up outright illegal, immoral behavior or at a minimum implicitly condoned reprehensible acts by moving offending priests to other parishes.

The Boise diocese’s own Bishop Mike Driscoll, while serving as an administrative Vicar General in Orange County, California, admitted to transferring several priests suspected of engaging in abusive behavior to new parishes. He later apologized and profusely asked for forgiveness. On April 27th, Bishop Driscoll hailed the “fast-track” canonization of John Paul II and of the beloved Pope John XXIII. The latter deserves it, the former does not.

Many Catholics, even the few still in the pews, rightly question the propriety of canonizing the pope who sat on the Throne of Peter and did little to address the priestly abuse of children. Such “see no evil” destroyed the laity’s trust in the Church hierarchy. Can anyone blame their cynical reaction to a “public relations” exercise to the dual canonization?

Likewise, too many Federal institutions have forfeited our trust by engaging in cover ups of unpleasant truths. Every large institution operates on a principle of survival first, even if that means lying to the public that pays their salary and rationalizing that the end justifies the means.

From lies about the health impacts of atomic bomb testing in the atmosphere in the 1950’s to lies about outright power grabs by agencies like EPA, which today seeks total control over all Idaho’s waters, not just navigable waters, it should come as no surprise that the public posits no trust.

Once trust is lost, whether it is between two people or between governors and the governed, like virtue itself, it is never totally restored. Not to over-generalize, but as a society we have little faith anymore in any level of government or any large institution. This is true whether the institution is private or public, or the media that supposedly is a watchdog, or the police agencies supposedly charged with protecting us. (more…)

The crystal ball

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

A conservative friend has challenged me to predict the outcome of the major Republican primary races, and “to say something nice about the projected winners.” Hokey dokey. Here goes.

Prognosticating a “closed” primary is difficult because no one can say with certainty who will actually vote. A poll may show one person far ahead, but if the expected winner has not mobilized his or her supporters to vote an underdog who has could surprise.

Governor: Butch Otter easily turns back the challenge mounted by State Senator Russ Fulcher of Meridian. The margin will be 60/40. While many Republicans are hard pressed to say what the governor has done to merit a third term and share my dismay at the evisceration of public school funding that has happened on his watch, they cannot buy Fulcher’s Tea Party beliefs nor the absurd Republican platform. Butch is one of the most personable people one will ever meet which causes many to overlook his managerial shortcomings and his ideology. He will also benefit from a well-organized but little publicized effort by mainstream Republicans to regain control over the GOP’s apparatus as testified to by precinct committee races across the state.

Boise school board president and businessman A.J. Bulakoff easily wins the Democratic nomination. To win in the fall he will have to dip into his considerable fortune and spend several million dollars informing Idahoans who he is, his far better support for education, and why he can do a better job than Governor Otter. If he doesn’t spend at least $4 million in his campaign, he will lose.

Lt. Governor. Brad Little turns back Tea Party candidate Jim Chmelik and likewise in November rolls over former Pocatello State Senator Bart Marley. Little is the most qualified persons currently in Idaho to be governor and Butch should have retired and let Brad assume the mantle. Thoughtful, intelligent, practical, a problem-solver who is not driven by ideology, he is one of the few public servants I know in whom one can safely posit trust.

Attorney General: If Tea Party challenger Chris Troupis has any political moxie he could make this a closer race than it should be. His “discovery” of an amicus brief in a gun control lawsuit filed by a Wasden subordinate which slipped by Attorney General Lawrence Wasden temporarily aligned Idaho with the “government ought to do more to restrict the sale of firearms” crowd led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While the brief was quickly withdrawn, the AG said nary a word hoping that it would go unnoticed, which it did for six years. Wasden’s mishandling of this creates an opening that if Troupis exploits with any skill could make his challenge more viable. My guess is Wasden will be forgiven by voters who even know about this and that his solid record and non-partisan approach to his duties will see him safely re-elected. (more…)

An Idaho original

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

His name was Rollie Bruning, though some called him “RJ” as his by-line in print was always R.J. Bruning. Thought about him the other day when I took our grandchildren to Wallace to visit the old train depot. On our way there we walked past the store front office of what used to be The North Idaho Press.

My first journalism job was a brief stint at the paper during the late summer of 1968. The paper’s owner, Wallace mining magnate, Harry F. Magnuson, had hired Jay Shelledy to run the paper for two weeks as Bruning had suffered a heart attack. Shelledy, already doing a summer stint with The Spokesman-Review, subcontracted the job to me and gave me a two-day crash course in journalism.

When I showed up on a Monday morning there sat Bruning as if chained to his desk and his trusty old typewriter, cigarette dangling from his mouth. Be damned if he was going to let some snot-nosed kid run his paper for a couple of weeks. He convinced me though to stick around for the two weeks and help out. I learned quite a bit from him.

He was a classic Idaho original - opinionated but well-read, boisterous but with an ability to tell great stories, and a wonderful, infectious laugh. He could handle his whiskey and loved to play poker. Like Harry Magnuson, he was a rock-ribbed Republican, when Shoshone County was the most Democratic county in the state. (There was one precinct in Mullan that Andrus routinely carried 100 to one.)

He also was an outspoken supporter of Governor Don Samuelson. Wallace, and Kellogg, then was totally dependent on mining. Bruning was well-versed on the Mining Law of 1872, and on all aspects of the industry itself. During the 1970 gubernatorial election, he often criticized Andrus for his opposition to Asarco’s proposed molybdenum mine in the White Clouds.

So, I was somewhat surprised when in late 1974 Andrus told me to put out a press release announcing that Bruning was joining the gubernatorial staff as a special assistant and an unofficial envoy to the business community. In a politically astute move, Andrus recognized that RJ was the perfect ambassador to Idaho’s business community and to the various clubs they belonged to - the Rotarians, the Kiwanis, the Lions, the Elks. Wherever two or three business folks gathered, one would find RJ in their midst, and he must have spoken to every club in the state.

When Andrus became Interior Secretary, almost all the Idaho Mafia he took along was under the age of 35, except RJ. Though in his 60s, his vast knowledge of mining and his good relations with the industry, made him indispensable. Besides, he had gray hair and whiskers. Andrus installed RJ as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy and Minerals - a move well received. (more…)

To Wasden – listen up

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Never having met or even talked with Idaho’s current attorney general, Lawrence Wasden, I have no compunction about offering some free political advice.

First, in reviewing opinions he has provided to the governor and through his deputies, to the various state agencies, he comes across as thoughtful, reasonable, prudent, and logical with a good dose of common sense. He is not overtly partisan, either. He reads the law with due deference to precedent, and gives solid advice.

Secondly, he displayed genuine political courage in reframing the upcoming primary campaign as a fight for the soul and the future of the Republican Party, with reasonable, sensible, moderate Republicans on one side and unreasonable, uncompromising, blindly ideological “wing nuts” (my choice of words, not his) on the other side.

He is absolutely correct.

Imagine my surprise then when I saw an op-ed in the
April 9th edition of the St.Maries Gazette-Record, written by an intelligent but nonetheless rock-solid right-winger in Benewah County, Ken deVries. He does his homework and he at least listens politely to those he disagrees with.

Ken charged the attorney general had aligned himself with the “take your guns away” crowd, led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, when he signed off on Idaho filing an amicus brief in the case that led to the historic Heller vs. the District of Columbia ruling in a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

That ruling, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority, was the first time the Court ever interpreted the Second Amendment to be a qualified right for an individual to keep and bear arms to protect himself and his property apart from the Constitutional language that appeared to tie that right only to keeping and maintaining a well armed militia.

For some yet to be adequately explained reason, the office of the Idaho Attorney General filed an amicus brief in the preceding case and joined with the likes of the attorney generals of states like New York and Massachusetts, and liberal “we-need-more gun control” mayors like Mayor Bloomberg.

In discussing the issue with the Gazette-Record’s publisher, Wasden’s office claimed a mistake was made, that they quickly withdrew the amicus brief, turned around and filed a brief supporting the ultimate majority view as expressed by Justice Scalia. I accept that explanation, but Wasden has to recognize there are still unanswered questions.

Is the lawyer who drafted the initial amicus brief still on staff? If so, why wasn’t he fired? Anyone with an ounce of sense looking at the other signers should have known Idaho didn’t belong in that company. Some may make the argument that the AG’s office essentially thought the brief which they temporarily joined was all about a state’s right to develop its own rules and regulations. (more…)

Abuse of officials

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Why do we abuse our public servants?

What is it about so many Idaho voters who seem to enjoy abusing those they have elected to public office?

Over the last 65 years the Gem State has produced some real gems, fine public servants in the highest sense who see public service as a calling, people who revere the public trust they hold, and would literally die rather than bring disgrace to their office - people like Cecil Andrus, Jim McClure¸ John Evans, Len Jordan, Marguerite McLaughlin, Edith Miller Klein, to name but a few.

Idaho has also had some real turkeys - some corrupt, some who make a fence post look intelligent. Others were scoundrels, drunkards, skirt-chasers. Eventually they are defeated but are seldom subject to the abuse the fine ones endure.

It was common knowledge, especially among the media, that Steve Symms, Idaho’s First District Congressman in 1980, had a roving eye and liked a well-turned ankle and/or an ample endowment. Steve, though, was a good ole boy, quick with a quip, easy-going, and had the gambit of taking a bite out of an apple (he was an apple farmer) to symbolize the bite he would take out of government.

His opponent in the 1980 Senate race was Idaho’s distinguished four-term Senator Frank Church, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and a man of probity and virtue who had brought nothing but distinction and honor to Idaho during his 24 years of service.

Guess which one had a St. Maries dogcatcher mount a recall campaign against him? Guess which one was the subject of a series of nasty, “hit ads” a full year before the election? Yup. Senator Church, who was not surprisingly defeated by the “beloved infidel,” Steve Symms, in that 1980 Senate race.

Idaho’s Second District voters displayed unusual loyalty to their gad-fly congressman (two stints totaling fourteen years) “Big George” Hansen, and despite serious allegations of fraud and income tax evasion, stayed loyal to him until he was actually convicted. Go figure.

All of this history came to mind as I listened to and read accounts of the incredible abuse endured earlier this month by one of Idaho’s fine State Senators, Shawn Keough, from Sandpoint, at public forums in Blanchard and Sandpoint. She has served 18 years with distinction, is an incredibly hard-working public servant, and is vice-chair of the powerful Senate Finance committee and thus vice-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. She does her homework, is thoughtful and pays attention to her constituents. (more…)

“The most dangerous man in Britain”

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

It must have been sometime in early 1979. The Interior Secretary and I had just finished our morning review of public and government affairs matters. Andrus turned and asked, “What can you tell me about a member of the British Parliament, Anthony Wedgewood Benn? The British Embassy called to set up a meeting for him with me.”

“All I know is the conservative press has called him “the most dangerous man in Britain,” I replied, adding “I don’t know why but I’ll do a briefing page for you before you see him.” Andrus added the Embassy had not said why, they had just asked for the meeting.

A week later one of the more fascinating figures Andrus ever met was sitting in his office. Memories of the meeting came back to me as I read the news of Benn’s death on March 14th at the age of 88.

A voluminous writer and speechifyer, Benn was long-time member of Britain’s Labour party, but a more apt description was that he was a true socialist. He waged an eight-year battle to renounce his peerage because rather than take his father’s seat in the House of Lords he wanted to sit in Parliament where the action and power really were.

He won a seat from the Bristol Southeast and Chesterfield riding and his native intelligence soon captured the attention of his party’s leadership. He first served as Minister for Industry in the Labour government of Harold Wilson, then as Minister for Energy for Prime Minister Jim Callaghan.

His reason for visiting Andrus ostensibly was to discuss energy policy in the United States under Carter and since Interior oversaw offshore oil leasing and onshore coal leasing, programs that generated through royalties considerable income for the U.S. Treasury, he wanted to probe Andrus’ views. I couldn’t help thinking though that Benn was trying to take the measure of Andrus, that the Brits knew the former Idaho governor was one of the very few stars in the Carter Administration.

By the time he came to see Andrus critics were charging that he had almost single-handedly destroyed the Labour Party (And thereby helped to clear the path for Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party’s rise to power), and Rupert Murdock’s press was calling him “bonkers.” (more…)