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Posts published in “Carlson”

Carlson: Where are the leaders?

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

In talking with newspaper editors about running excerpts of the book of reminiscences of my years working with and for Governor Cecil D. Andrus, I often encountered the question “where are today’s Cecil Andruses?” Or “why can’t we produce leaders like Cecil Andrus, or Dan Evans or Mark Hatfield any more?”

In other words, “where have all the leaders gone?”

Cecil Andrus reflects leadership to the core of his being. While there are many definitions of leadership, and Andrus would fulfill most, it is one of those things you just know when you see it. As long as people have known Andrus they will tell you he has always possessed the quality that says “I’m leading; I know where I’m going. Follow or get out of the way!”

As Andrus Center President Marc Johnson points out in his fine introduction to the book Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor, Idaho’s only four times elected governor and the state’s first ever cabinet officer would have emerged as the leader in any situation life might have placed him. He possesses the talent and ability to run any size organization, public or private, including the presidency of the United States.

There’s a reason why no less a talent than President William Jefferson Clinton, while still reeling from the early challenges he was fumbling and rumors were circulating that he might face a primary challenge, sent an operative to Idaho to check out speculation that Cecil Andrus might be recruited to mount that challenge.

The book takes a swing at trying to shed light on how Andrus emerged from an ordinary background and became such an extraordinarily successful public official. Through anecdotes and stories it sheds light on his leadership style and the political rules he followed, often encapsulated in witty colloquial phrases. (more…)

Carlson: Walking the plank

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Mike McGavick may be remembered by some as a charming, successful business executive who became the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2006 in the state of Washington but nonetheless lost to the dour and oft-times petulant incumbent, Maria Cantwell. Others may recall his leadership in turning around Safeco Insurance which was headed for the rocks until he came aboard.

My perspective is different than most. When I listen and look at Mike, I see a conscientious and conscience driven businessman, husband, father and friend who is a deep adherent to his Catholic faith. He practices what he preaches though he lets his actions speak: he attends daily Mass, prays, pays and where doctrine does not conflict with his conscience, obeys.

One knows instantly, he thinks deeply, cares passionately and works diligently at unraveling mysteries and history. Hands down he is one of the best speakers one can ever hear.

Now the chairman of XLGroup, one of the world’s large reinsurance firms, he gave a compelling speech this past summer at the Bishop’s Annual Luncheon in Bermuda on the challenges facing today’s Catholic Church. It was a speech that was sorely underreported.

Near the end he talked about some factors in common to achieving a successful turn around, one of which has resonated with many - the need for accountability for the Bishops who looked the other way, often deliberately, as abuse of children went on right under their nose.

As Mike put it, someone has to walk the plank not only to demonstrate that the Bishops fully intend to hold all accountable, but for the sake of their own creditability to hold themselves accountable. He wryly noted that to the date of his remarks no Bishop had yet to take that short walk.

Sooner or later some Bishop, though, would be too blatant in his defiance to be ignored or too egregious in his conduct and someone somewhere would pounce. On October 14th, it finally happened. (more…)

Review: Andrus, by Chris Carlson

Andrus book

The title, Andrus: Idaho's Greatest Governor, would give you to think that this is a biography, albeit a hagiographic one. It is better taken as the writer, Chris Carlson (whose columns show up here about weekly), indicated in his substitle, as a reminiscence - a work of memory, through his eyes, in considerable part unchecked in any rigorous way. And, within that frame, it might be taken as this: The story of the mentor relationship between Carlson and Cecil Andrus. That's the thread that runs through the book.

The first part of the book, about Andrus' early life and early political years, is relatively biographical, and those interested in Andrus' background will find plenty of new material here. Carlson has a number of stories to tell from his years working for Andrus, mainly in a press and public relations capacity. He also tells some of his own story, his short time on the Northwest Power Planning Council (as it was called then), the founding of the Gallatin Group, and more. There's a long chapter as well concerning concerning the campaign surrounding the Washington death with dignity/assisted suicide ballot issue (Initiative 1000, which passed in 2008); Carlson was one of the leading organizers against it. Andrus did not take a role in that campaign (so far as Carlson relates), but the lessons he imparted over the years were taken into that campaign.

That suggests some of the results of the mentoring relationship that is Carlson's main subject here. Andrus, elected governor four times and Interior secretary for a full presidential term (the only one to last all of Jimmy Carter's administration), is one of the strongest personalities Idaho has had in the last half-century. If he enters the room, you know it - and you enjoy it (ordinarily). He's among the rare people seemingly at home anywhere, with just about anyone. And he learned, along the way, a lot about how the world works - another major theme of Carlson's.

On one occasion, some years back, I had occasion to ask Andrus for advice on a matter relating to a political campaign. The exact bedeviling problem at hand is now forgotten (by me anyway), but Andrus' advice was not, and especially the effect it had: It lasted no more than two or three sentences, and he hadn't finished speaking before I knew he was exactly correct. And he was. It was the gift of cutting through clutter.

Carlson also subtitles his book, "Idaho's Greatest Governor," and the back cover text says he "inarguably, has had the greatest impact on Idaho in modern times." That raises a subject we'll be addressing here a few months from now in another book, looking at the influential people in Idaho history. However exactly you rank him, Andrus has been powerfully impactful on the state. And, as this book maintains, on a lot of individual people as well.

Carlson: Passing the test

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The “chattering” class of political pundits and prognosticators is in full lather these days offering uninformed assessments regarding former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s prospects for winning the presidency given that so much of the GOP base today is comprised of self-described Christian evangelicals.

For these folks, most of who are in the south, Mormonism is a cult, not a religion. Some experts think over half the delegates to the National Republican Convention in 2012 will be self-professing evangelicals. Polls show only about 20 percent of this core base of the GOP could vote for a Mormon to be president.

Much is being written since a prominent Southern Baptist pastor with ties to Texas Governor Rick Perry charged that Mormonism is a cult, not a Christian faith. While the self-anointed political experts commenting on this may know something about analyzing polls, most are uninformed when it comes to actual knowledge about Mormonism.

Permit this pundit a few observations.

First, Governor Romney can win the 2012 presidential election for the simple reason that a desire to retire President Obama will trump all concerns regarding his religion. Regardless of one’s political bias, most objective perspectives would concede that so far Romney’s campaign strategy has been smart, well-implemented and soundly executed. (more…)

Carlson: Losing touch

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

On Election Day, in November of 1994, a Seattle reporter for the Hearst-owned Seattle Post-Intelligencer came by my office in downtown Spokane early in the day wanting to know what I thought we’d know at the end of day, after the polls closed and the ballots were counted.

Solveig Torvik, of obvious Norwegian heritage, was raised in Blackfoot. By reputation she was a solid, well-informed reporter who did her homework. When I opined that the end of the day would see Tom Foley become the first sitting Speaker of the House to lose both his seat in Congress and the Speaker’s gavel since something like 1846, Ms. Torvik was shocked.

Surely the people of Washington’s 5th Congressional District had enough sense not to turn their back on their own self-interest in having the most powerful member of the House, the person second in line for the presidency, as their congressman?

The answer came quickly within 90 minutes after the polls closed: Yes, the voters of the 5th District were, in their view, willing to place the needs of America ahead of their own self-interest and retire the Speaker who had served them so well for 30 years. The 5th district, along with Idaho’s 1st district, bought into Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” hook, line and sinker.

My answer to the why was even simpler: Speaker Foley had lost touch with the voters. (more…)

Carlson: Best advice I ever got

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

All of us are familiar with various “parlor games” people pursue, usually at a family holiday gathering; or, there is a relative who loves to ask leading questions and insist that everyone in the room respond. Often it is a very personal question. In our case, the bedeviling family member is my 12-years-younger sister, Linnea.

We call them “Linny Questions.” And often they are not necessarily easy ones to answer. I surprised her though when she asked the classic: “what was the best advice I was ever given or wished had been given to me?”

She probably thought her aging, pretentious brother would cite something from his favorite author, Joseph Conrad, or something from poet Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” but I didn’t.

The best advice I was ever given and glad I took was: “When you think you want to get married, be sure and take a good look at your prospective mother-in-law because more than likely that’s your wife in 20 years. If you like what you see, you’ll know you will still like your wife in 20 years and you’re making a good choice. If you don’t like what you see, run like hell the other way!”

Unfortunately, I cannot recall who gave me such wise counsel, but what’s important is I followed it. Forty-one years later I still like what I see. I couldn’t have found a better mother-in-law, and indeed my wife has become more like her which leaves me doubly blessed. (more…)

Carlson: A bygone hero

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The weekend of September 17-18 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of one of my youthful non-baseball heroes----Dag Hammarskjold. Most Idahoans and many readers will ask who?

He was the seemingly faceless Swedish bureaucrat selected as a compromise candidate by the five-member United Nations Security Council in 1953 to be the second Secretary-General of the world organization set up after World War II to promote peaceful resolution of the world’s conflicts and prevent nuclear conflagration.

Almost single-handedly he willed the UN into a major force in world affairs. He died at the age of 56, fittingly, in September of 1961 when his plane crashed while on a mission to Africa to try to resolve tribal conflicts with UN peacekeeping troops stationed in what was then Rhodesia.

I was 15 at the time of Hammarskjold’s passing, and like most teenagers, while I may have noted his death, it mattered little to me. He became a hero three years later with the posthumous publication of a book containing his private musings called “Markings.”

Something about that book moved me beyond a teen-age fixation just on girls, baseball, and the latest hit songs. So, I pulled out my hard-back copy of Markings the other day and reread the numerous short thoughts Hammarskjold jotted down during his life. (more…)

Carlson: The grain of truth

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

There was some hullabaloo a couple months back about the possible establishment of a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) near the Boise Airport with the People’s Republic of China.

Some members of Idaho’s Republican right wing immediately smelled a plot. Conservative Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter was accused of selling off Idaho to the “Reds.” Resolutions condemning the FTZ were passed in several counties by GOP central committees. Obsequious legislators promised to introduce legislation prohibiting such heinous activity.

The media had a fine time ridiculing this paranoia by the philosophical descendents of the John Birch Society. Proponents were likened to the all-time champion communist hunting senator from Wisconsin, Joseph A. McCarthy, and his cohort in the Senate, Herman Welker, mockingly known as “Little Joe from Idaho.”

As is the case, though, beneath the hullabaloo, an element of truth is present. After all, Senators McCarthy and Welker were partially correct - there were card-carrying members of the American Communist Party working in the State Department and sympathizers in Hollywood. The issue was the excessive abuse of one’s civil liberties the witch-hunting senators applied in their zeal to save America from the threat of take over from within.

The element of truth lingering beneath the surface of this latest manifestation of a commie under every bed is the fact that the Chinese are well on their way to achieving a super power role and becoming the world’s dominant power by the end of this century. To say this is not to be paranoid. The factual evidence is already present.

Say what one wants, but the Chinese are executing a 50-year plan that will see their economy replacing ours as the world’s largest. As most military experts will testify, it is economic might that underlies true military strength, and the Chinese appear to have divined that the key to both economic and military might is controlling the production and ownership of the so-called rare earth minerals critical to the further development of technological aids in the world of computers and advanced electronics.

Statistics published by the National Mining Association indicate the Chinese already own or have a dominant position in firms controlling 96 percent of the world’s production of rare earth minerals. Some argue this reflects the realities of the demands of China’s expanding economy and is not a consequence of any strategy to dominate the future. Rather it is a necessity. Perhaps.

Idaho is a player on the chessboard of world geo-politics also, though not because of the possible establishment of a free trade zone. (more…)

Carlson: A first-ever?

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Odds are heavily against it happening soon. Stars would plausibly all have to align perfectly to create a first ever in Idaho politics---the election of a woman as governor.

Looking around the northwest, though, one quickly realizes odds are growing that a qualified female will someday lead even Idaho. Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana and Utah are neighboring northwest states that have had female chief executives.

In Idaho, each party possesses at least one talented, intelligent, articulate, qualified female who, while they might have to be “drafted,” could plausibly run for and win the nomination of their party to be governor, as soon as 2014.

On the Republican side the nominee could be veteran Sandpoint State Senator Shawn Keough. On the Democratic side the nominee could be freshman State Senator Michelle Stennett, from Ketchum.

While there are clear differences between them, they share much in common: both are smart, tough, knowledgeable, non-ideological, pragmatic problem solvers. They share an abiding belief in the importance of education as well as its priority place Idaho’s constitutional writers said it should have. (more…)

Carlson: The Bengals’ road back

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

In sports, as it is in the equally brutal world of politics, it is all about relationships. And in the long journeys involved in comebacks, sometimes the relationships one never knows about are crucial to the outcome.

Today, under weather forecasters predict to be almost perfect for fall football — clear skies, a cool breeze and glaring sunlight - a less than capacity crowd in Martin Stadium, will see Idaho State University begin the long march back to football respectability under the watchful eye of Mike Kramer, one of the best football coaches ever produced by the Big Sky Conference.

There will be a bittersweet undertone to the contest for both Kramer and Washington State coach Paul Wulff have been friends for years, having helped each other at critical times over the years.

Kramer, knowing much more about the vastly improved Cougars than Wulff knows about the largely unknown Bengals, may be able to engineer a respectable showing for his undermanned squad. After all, he has been a very observant assistant to Wulff the last two years at WSU. ISU, a 27 point underdog, is expected to not provide much competition for the PAC-12 team, but Kramer engineered Montana State’s stunning upset of the new PAC-12 Colorado football team a few years back, something Wulff is sure to remind his Cougar squad about. (more…)