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No help to Biden

malloy

Just when the Democrats have Donald Trump where they want him – a broken president sitting in the White House with a suspended twitter account and losing traction with his own party by the minute ...

Just when Sen. Lindsey Graham, Trump’s favorite lap dog over the last four years, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announce their divorce from the Trump administration …

And just when the likes of Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher look like town fools for daring to object to the presidential election results …

Democrats throw it all away, keeping focus on an outgoing president and giving Republicans a fresh set of talking points.

Top Democrats should be looking forward to everything that will happen with Joe Biden as president and Democrats holding control of the Senate ($2,000 stimulus checks, here we come).

They should be working behind the scenes to make all of the GOP nightmares come true – such as ending the filibuster in the Senate, packing the Supreme Court with liberal judges, turning over congressional budgeting to the likes of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and otherwise pushing ahead with the party’s progressive agenda. They should be rubbing their hands over the prospect of giving statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which could keep Democrats in control of the Senate for the next hundred years.

Instead, the Dems are fixated with last-ditch efforts to remove Trump from office before Jan. 20, through whatever means are necessary. By pursing impeachment and keeping Trump on the center stage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi & Co. would only hamstring a new president’s effort to unite the country.

Fulcher, a conservative Republican, probably is the last person Pelosi would look to for advice, but he offers a useful reality check.

“Biden already is compromised,” says Fulcher. “He already has some 70 million people who think he’s there fraudulently in the first place. He’s got to know that.”

But do Pelosi and other top Democrats care?

“I don’t think they are that stupid (to push for impeachment), but if so, that will be one of their un-doings. It will set off unrest like we haven’t seen. It would be a bad idea,” Fulcher says. “The direction is set. There will be a new president on the 20th, so let’s transfer and go. What I’ve seen during my lifetime is that when Democrats are in charge, they overplay their hand. I think they are going to overplay it again and we’ll take over in two years.”

And it will be an ugly two years in Fulcher’s view.

“We’re going to have to be obstructionists on the Republican side, because there is no other check. The only thing we have is the ability to slow things down. We’re going to see a lot of junk over the next two years, but I wholly believe we will flip it back, partly because of actions Democrats are taking now.”

In a few days, Democrats and Republican critics will not have Trump to kick around anymore.

There is plenty of outrage from both sides over his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, which was too much to handle even for Education Secretary and Trump loyalist Betsy DeVos. Then, there was the president’s disgusting call to Georgia election officials urging them to “find” almost 12,000 votes that would give him a victory in the peach state. Both actions are grounds for firing in most lines of work – and perhaps impeachment there was more than a few days left in Trump’s administration.

Fulcher praises Trump for cutting taxes and regulations and otherwise standing up for the “little guy.” But the Idaho congressman sees the other side of Trump as well. “He has been arrogant enough, bullheaded enough and rich enough that he could go into an environment like D.C. and act and talk like he doesn’t give a rip about what they say and that has resonated immensely on a broad scale.”

While outrage over Trump is justified, at some point calmer voices must prevail in the interest of giving a new president a chance to get off to a positive start. In football terms, Democrats already are in the “victory” formation. All they need to do is take a knee and run out the clock.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

A misfire, or not?

malloy

A Moscow man is hoping to “depoliticize” the debate over the state’s handling of the coronavirus and has formed a group – called Idaho Strong Community – that aims to bring “a reasonable, truthful and rational” voice to the table.

“We should be focusing on the real problem, which is the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions,” said Gabriel Rench, a 41-year-old Moscow business consultant who in November lost his bid for Latah County commissioner. “In Idaho, over 80 percent of the deaths (from COVID-19) have come from those 70 years of age and older. If you back that up 10 years, over 92 percent of the deaths have come from 60 years and older. If you look at the (Centers for Disease Control) data, 94 percent of those deaths came from those with 2.9 pre-existing conditions.”

He says that Gov. Brad Little is stoking fears by highlighting COVID deaths to younger people. Rench’s message is that lockdowns don’t work, either for businesses or working Idahoans, and there is no justification for mask mandates.

Rench acknowledges that eliminating politics from the conversation may be easier said than done, given the political environment and considering that Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has been a focus of two news conferences put together by Idaho Strong. She has been a lightning rod in Idaho politics for her defiance of Gov. Brad Little’s emergency orders and speculation swirls about her running for Little’s job in 2022.

And there’s no shred of “depoliticizing,” or calming, about Rench’s views about mask mandates and liberals in general.

“The liberals don’t believe in science … a girl can become a boy and a boy can be a girl and play in a girls’ sport,” Rench says. “I don’t have the time of day to listen to a liberal about science.”

His outlook doesn’t make him a popular figure in Moscow, which leans more to the left. But he makes sure the conservative voice is out there with his CrossPolitic television program and podcast. In September, he joined church members in a mass protest of the city’s mask ordinance and was arrested – which drew reactions from President Trump and conservative commentators.

So much for political cleansing.

But the messages coming from participants in his news conferences – which include pastors, business operators, law-enforcement officers and medical professionals – are more measured. They don’t go out of their way to blast the governor, but they clearly oppose his actions.

“We don’t have all the answers, but we do believe in the Constitution and that Idahoans should have the ability to serve one another. We’re in a health crisis, yet we are telling people they cannot provide for their families, which in itself is a health problem,” Rench says.

“Some people in the medical community are afraid to speak up because of the politization of this crisis and the fear of them losing their jobs. There are people who call the police when they see somebody not wearing a mask,” he says. “When the government politicizes a situation, shuts down business, free speeh and the rights of healthy citizens to provide for their families, we are compounding and making the crisis worse.”

Which brings us to McGeachin, who has been at odds with Little since the pandemic hit Idaho. Rench says the lieutenant governor has made it clear that her involvement in the news conferences does not mean she is looking into running for governor. But if she does …

“I’m very open to supporting her,” Rench says. “What we need is strong, conservative, principled leadership in Idaho and Brad Little has been unprincipled in unbelievable ways. What conservative politician thinks they can shut down your business, shut down your means for supporting your family while taking a taxpayer-funded paycheck? That is unprincipled to the highest degree. Every politician that has done that should step down and never return to politics again.”

We’ll see what happens with McGeachin soon enough. In the meantime, Rench will continue building his base with Idaho Strong while having plenty of talking points for his podcasts.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.
 

Only you can prevent Covid-19

malloy

Gov. Brad Little has been hounded for his lack of “leadership” and “courage” in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Translation: He’s not doing a good job of pandering to either side.

Those to the left think quality leadership amounts to a statewide mask mandate that wouldn’t work in Idaho in a million years. Apparently, the thinking is that Idahoans would obediently accept such an edict, along with mounds of other restrictions in the state’s “Rebound” plan, and hunker down until the pandemic goes away. The problem is there are too many people – you’ve seen them on local and national newscasts – who would view non-compliance as a participation sport.

Those to the right view “courage” as essentially doing nothing – allowing business to go on as normal and letting the chips fall where they may. Little has placed Idaho in Stage 2 of the “Rebounds” plan in reaction to soaring COVID cases and in response to what health experts have been telling him.

“Leadership” is an easy word to kick around, when you have no other good solutions to offer, but it’s a difficult one to put in practice. Leadership works only if people are willing to follow, and there are not many people in the Gem State who appear to be willing to follow in relation to the coronavirus.

As the governor correctly writes in a recent opinion piece, “Communities, public officials and even families are at odds in their view on COVID-19 and the response to it. Never have we seen this level of divisiveness.”

Sometimes, the best form of leadership is providing a sense of calm during the most difficult of circumstances, and hat’s off to the governor for trying that approach. As he correctly puts it in his op-ed headline, “The enemy is the virus, not each other.”

He’s proposing a solution that has worked brilliantly for Republicans since the Reagan years. Personal responsibility. In fact, I can picture the old Gipper saying a few of the lines penned by Little.

“Everyone questions who is responsible for protecting ourselves, our loved ones, the economy, healthcare access, and our kids’ ability to learn in their classrooms. The answer is all of us. We are all responsible, each in our own way for doing our part to get us through this dark and difficult time.”

This was the kind of morale-boosting stuff Reagan was talking about as the nation was digging out of the “malaise” of the late 1970s.

“In our individual lives, we must do all we can to stay vigilant and consistently practice simple measures, including wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings and crowds, and keeping physical distance from others. Government alone is not going to prevent a crisis in our healthcare system. It is up to each of us as individuals to make the right choices.”

Thanks, Ronnie … uhhh, Brad. We needed that.

The Royal Seniors, my bowling league on Mondays, are not waiting for political directives. We’re practicing social distancing, to the extent possible, and there is no fighting over mask-wearing. People are there for the same purpose – to enjoy bowling, friendship and good health. Taking simple precautions is a small price to pay for keeping the lanes open.

I cringe when I see calls for a statewide mask mandate. You don’t have to be in Idaho long to know that people here love guns. They also have a passion for things like “liberty” and “constitutional rights.” A mask mandate would be viewed in some corners as a declaration of war on those rights and there’s no telling where that would lead – or what characters would be storming into the state to fight that war.

No thank you. I prefer Little’s call for personal responsibility, along with some general respect for fellow Idahoans. I yield to the governor for closing.

“I know at times it can be hard to have compassion. But this Christmas season is a time to reflect on family, faith and unity. Choose to support others while seeking to understand those who do not view things the way you do. We should not let the pandemic divide us, but make us stronger.”

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
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Hail who?

malloy

If President Trump decides to take another run for the office in 2024, and makes his announcement on Jan. 20, Republicans in Congress will have an interesting choice to make.

The choice is whether they attend Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, or Trump’s campaign rally. Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who was no stranger to partisan battles during his years in Congress, knows what he would do – assuming that no earthshaking evidence surfaces about voter fraud.

“I’d attend the inauguration,” he said. “I have been, and remain, a strong Trump supporter. But I think the responsibility of every sitting member of Congress is to attend the inauguration celebration of a new presidency, whomever that president may be.”

And there is no doubt that Biden will be president on Jan. 20. But Craig says he’s not comfortable about this year’s elections. “There are a number of investigations going forward, based on what appears to be substantial allegations of fraud.”

Allegations are there, for sure, but so far there is no proof. Judges have dismissed a multitude of cases brought up by Trump and states have certified Biden as the winner. But Craig thinks Congress should not be finished with the issue, starting with a vote-by-mail system that seems to heavily favor Democrats.

“If I were on the judiciary committee of the Senate, I would hold the most extensive investigation that has ever been heard. I’d want to go through how the election was handled, the software that was used and the computer companies that managed it,” Craig said. “If allegations are anywhere near right, and we actually had the manipulation on a massive scale, then we have a major problem. We’ve always had fraud in election – Pennsylvania and Michigan were notorious because of the labor unions – but those were spotted. Those were not nationwide in their scope.”

Republicans are under fire for standing with Trump and refusing to even recognize Biden as the president-elect. Craig says some of his GOP friends are telling him that the president should move on.

“Wait a minute. Remember that when Donald Trump took office, Democrats said the Russians elected him and they kept it up for months and months. So why not do it? And if there’s a reason to do it, then dammit, stay with it … drag it out a bit. Shame on us if we are going to turn our backs on this, when (Democrats) spent four years beating the ‘H’ out of Donald Trump,” Craig says.

“What he is doing is legitimate. He has the constitutional right as a candidate to test the process to make sure there was no fraud. One thing that must be sacred is the credibility and legitimacy of our election process,” says Craig. “I truly believe if the Democratic Party had thought Hillary Clinton would lose, Trump never would have won. They were thinking that this silly character out of New York City wouldn’t be elected by the American people. What they didn’t realize is he was speaking to the American people in the way that has never been seen.”

And Trump, apparently, is not going to give it up. If he runs in 2024, with strong backing from his party, he’ll keep his grip on the GOP for the next four years – and potentially the next eight years after that. Craig hopes Republicans will turn the page on the Trump era at some point in the next four years.

“I would hope we’d have someone as articulate and strong in the policies as Donald Trump, but I’m not sure if any of us wants to go through the personal style of Donald Trump again,” Craig says. “He has moved the party in the right direction. He has brought in minorities and working-class people who have never voted Republican before, and it’s tremendously important that we sustain that base and build on it if we are to be the majority party in the country.”

Craig makes solid points about base building. The question is whether Republicans decide to move forward without Trump, or dwell on the past with him.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Gubernatorial upset in the making?

malloy

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has almost no influence in this administration, and it’s no wonder why.

The boss, Gov. Brad Little, is a self-described policy wonk who is as sharp as they come on issues. His decisions on the management of the coronavirus have been guided by scientific data, consultation with health experts and talking with fellow governors to see what he can learn from other states.

He hears criticisms from those who think he has gone too far with his emergency orders, or that he should add a mask requirement, which he has resisted. Legislators complain that the governor has overstepped his authority and has, in some areas, violated the state’s Constitution. Through it all, Little has stayed firm with his actions.

McGeachin’s approach is quite different, as Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press reported last week. In September, McGeachin attended a campaign rally for President Trump in Nevada and came home with a proposal to spend millions of CARES Act funds for installation of disinfectant cubes at the Idaho Capitol. The National Institutes of Health has labeled cubes, which do not meet health standards, as ineffective and potentially dangerous.

Last month, she appeared with several legislators in a video in which the underlying message was that they would ignore future COVID orders. Days later, responding to a surge of COVID cases, Little scaled back the state to Stage 2 of the Idaho Rebounds plan and called on the National Guard for assistance.

So, it’s difficult for those inside the administration to take McGeachin seriously, even though she is the proverbial “heartbeat away” from being governor and temporarily serves as governor when Little is out of the state.

But for McGeachin, her political life does not revolve around what statehouse bureaucrats might say or think about her. She has a title, a platform and a generous following. There are rumblings that McGeachin is preparing to run for Little’s job in 2022, and that would be a good idea. That would mean no more walking on eggshells or worrying about reporters trying to draw her into conflicts with the governor.

In practical terms, McGeachin doesn’t need four more years working with an administration that treats her with the respect of Kermit the Frog. And while she might gain some satisfaction by winning another election as lieutenant governor, four more years in political Siberia won’t accomplish anything either.

Governors can accomplish things in policy and lieutenant governors generally can’t, especially if they are not “team players” in the administration. For lieutenant governors of the past – Butch Otter, Jim Risch and Little – the office has served as a nice landing area while waiting for something better to come along. But that’s not McGeachin’s style. She was elected as the conservative candidate for lieutenant governor and she has continued to play to that base.

Can she win? Absolutely. Think of the people who would support her candidacy -- folks who saw her photos at a Trump rally and wished they were there … friends of the Idaho Freedom Foundation … anybody who hates government … legislators who equate Little to Cuban dictators … angry protesters who broke down a door in the House gallery during a special session this summer … guys who think it’s OK to openly carry firearms into a committee hearing room … those who burned masks in Boise soon after the mayor issued a requirement to wear masks … those who think that the pandemic is overblown and that Dr. Anthony Fauci is a quack doctor … and normal everyday people who think that any form of government lockdowns are just plain wrong.

Candidates have won elections in Idaho with less firepower. It’s a good bet that McGeachin’s support from conservatives is stronger than when she was elected in 2018. In many ways, she reminds me of Helen Chenoweth, the conservative firebrand who during her three terms in Congress was loathed by liberals, scorned on the editorial pages and wildly popular in Idaho’s First District.

For certain, McGeachin would be facing a big challenge by taking on a sitting governor and the political establishment. But as people such as Chenoweth and former Congressman Raul Labrador have shown in the past – and McGeachin herself showed in 2018 -- anti-establishment conservatives do win sometimes.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.
 

Fulcher stands by Trump

malloy

Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher, who has not yet recognized Joe Biden as the president-elect, will take care of that order of business in time. And, assuming that Biden is the president who takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, Fulcher is talking about putting extra effort into building a working relationship with Vice President Kamala Harris.

“She’ll be the one running things,” Fulcher says.

He’s joking … well, not totally. Harris may end up in charge at some point, but there’s not much chance of Fulcher making inroads with a Biden administration. Before anything occurs, Fulcher says there’s more business to tend to regarding this year’s election – one in which Republicans fared well overall, especially in House races.

“It was a Republican election,” Fulcher says. He’s convinced there was fraud in this election and that President Trump has a legitimate case. The question is whether there was enough fraud to change the outcome.

“I doubt it,” Fulcher says. “Nobody is going to tell Donald Trump what to do, and I will not be getting a phone call from him for counsel. But if I were in that position, I’d be saying, ‘stand up for yourself, keep the legal challenges out there and bring as much of this to light as possible.’ Shining a light should not hurt anybody. There is not a downside to exposing fraud.”

It won’t be resolved by Jan. 20, but in Fulcher’s view there are legitimate long-term issues that should be open for discussion. The president has a different objective – overturning the results of the election and using his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to argue that case. The Trump team has claimed widespread fraud on multiple fronts and has taken aim on a Dominion software company with alleged ties to former Venezuela dictator Hugo Chavez and the left-wing movement, Antifa.

On the flip side, Chris Krebs – the fired Homeland Security cyber chief – proclaimed this election was the most secure in American history. Fulcher says the media reports might not be entirely correct.

“I met with him, and that’s not the impression I got,” Fulcher says. “I think he was referring to outside interference, in which case I think he was right. But I don’t think he was talking about internally.”

Fulcher doesn’t need to go far to hear stories about internal problems. His Meridian office is located in city hall, where early voting was conducted. Along the way, people told his staff about receiving mailed ballots from old addresses in other states.

“I also found out that Joe Frazier (the legendary boxing champion) cast his ballot. He’s been dead for nine years,” Fulcher says. “So, I know for a fact that fraud is happening. The point that Republican leadership is making is that we have to flag as many of these flaws as we can. If the system isn’t changed, then there is not going to be another Republican elected as president for a long time.”

The target for Republicans is vote-by-mail. My sisters in Washington State, both Republicans, love vote-by-mail because of the convenience. But Republicans contend that vote-by-mail gives a distinct advantage to Democrats while opening the door for fraud.

“People such as Sens. (Marco) Rubio, (Tim) Scott and (Ted) Cruz – who want to do this job at some point (president) know that if the system doesn’t change, the chance of them doing that job are very low,” Fulcher says. “I have no problem with absentee voting, but mailing ballots to anybody and everybody is an invitation for corruption.”

Only so much can be done within the next couple of months, short of the U.S. Supreme Court voiding the election and giving Trump four more years in the White House. In the meantime, Fulcher says, it’s worth having the conversation about vote-by-mail and other election issues.

“This thing called politics is an ongoing struggle that never ends. There is not a goal line as there are in other professions,” Fulcher said. “In the end, we all our struggling for a more perfect union and a better system. I don’t think it is broken. It’s flawed, but it has always been flawed.”

If Trump happens to win out, then it would be safe to say that our election system is broken – perhaps beyond repair.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Georgia on everyone’s mind

malloy

Idaho GOP Chairman Tom Luna has issued to his party’s faithful a call to arms to help with something that Republicans can control – the Georgia Senate runoff elections that will decide the party majority in the upper chamber.

Luna also is promoting the wild-goose chase to keep President Trump in office for a second term (more on that later). But the Senate races in Georgia will decide whether a President Biden has checks and balances on the legislative end.

If Republicans retain control, Biden will have to work with party leaders – which is something that Biden promised to do. If Democrats take the Senate and end the filibuster – as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others are promoting – there would be no reason for Biden to give Republicans the time of day.

Luna is asking Idaho Republicans to help with the cause. “It is imperative that Republicans hold the U.S. Senate,” he wrote. “Republicans must do everything we can to support GOP victory in Georgia.”

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, for one, thinks the odds are with Republicans for winning in Georgia. All Republicans need is to win one of those two races to retain a Senate majority, and the party is highly motivated to win both.

“Of course, anything can happen in an election,” Risch says.

If it goes the other way, then Democrats will control both chambers in Congress.

That, mixed with a Biden presidency and abolishing the filibuster rule in the Senate – which would allow for bills to be passed by simple majority instead of the current 60-vote requirement – could open doors wide for Democratic progressives. We could see the biggest surge of liberal bills since the Great Society era.

Risch has outlined other possibilities if Democrats win, including statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico and packing the Supreme Court with liberal justices to counter today’s conservative majority. Statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico could lock up a Democratic majority for a long time.

Those are the sort of things that can happen when one party has total control. Democratic Party dictatorships are no better, or less evil, than the GOP variety.

So, there’s more than peaches at stake in those Georgia Senate races. Yet, Republicans seem to be more obsessed with keeping Trump in power even though he clearly lost the election.

Talking with Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, the chances of the president prevailing are next to none. Denney is a staunch Republican, for sure, but his priority as secretary of state is to ensure fair elections in the Gem State. Over the years, he has attended numerous conferences and developed working relationships with other top election officials (from both parties) who share the same goals.

“From the secretary level, I think my counterparts in all states are good honest people,” he said. “From a personal perspective, the system is a lot better than how it is portrayed. I don’t know of a better system – if we follow the rules.”

Denney says he sees no evidence suggesting that rules are not being followed. There are isolated instances in any election, such as people trying to vote twice, and appropriate actions taken to handle those situations. But as Denney says, those irregularities – while concerning – don’t change the outcome of an election.

“For there to be massive fraud, there also would have to be massive collusion,” Denney says. “Elections are the foundation of this country. If you find massive fraud and massive collusion, then somebody needs to answer for that.”

Denney is no fan of vote-by-mail, in which ballots are automatically sent to all registered voters. But that is his personal view. He does not question the integrity of elections in Washington, Oregon or other states that employ vote-by-mail.

“My counterparts are happy with it, and there are safeguards for that system,” Denney says.

Denney says he will not acknowledge a winner in the presidential race until legal challenges are resolved. If it all works in favor of Biden, “then he will be declared the winner and he will be my president, too.”

If nearly half the nation and most Republicans in Congress think that Trump is president after Jan. 20, then our country is in serious trouble. Maybe half the country could be called the United Republican States of America – and Trump can be president for life.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

More action, less rancor

malloy

Just what we need in 2020, a disputed presidential election that pushed an already-angry nation to the brink of frustration in the days after the election. And with legal challenges mounting, it’s far from being settled.
Joe Biden is the president-elect, winning the electoral and popular votes, yet President Trump and his team of lawyers will claim that the election was stolen. And there is no shortage of Idahoans who will agree that the election was rigged in favor of the former vice president. Hundreds of Trump supporters gathered in Boise for a “stop the steal” rally moments after Biden was declared the winner.

Just when you thought nothing else could possibly go wrong in 2020 …
But while Election Day presented mass confusion, there was some clarity on the congressional side. Democrats will retain its majority in the House of Representatives and chances are reasonably good that Republicans will hold onto the Senate. So, brace yourselves for more partisan fights between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Mitch McConnell – two tired old faces who look as though they should be spending their time playing dominos at a senior center instead of managing congressional gridlock.

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, fresh from winning election to a 12th term, would like to see some attitudes change in Washington – starting with less partisanship.

“If you are talking about what the public wants, then yeah. The public would like to see us do our jobs in a less partisan way,” Simpson says. “There are extremes on both sides. The Democratic Party has pulled Speaker Pelosi and its conference so far to the left that it is almost unrecognizable. It’s the same thing that happened to Republicans several years ago when the tea party became very active. They pulled Republicans so far to the right that it made it difficult for us to win elections. We need to get back to working together. That’s how you get things done. Anything that has been passed and sustained has been done on a bipartisan basis.”

Simpson has expertise in that area. He has championed the Great American Outdoors Act and the Boulder White Clouds bill that produced new wilderness areas for Idaho – two tough measures for any Republican to tackle. His next big venture could be salmon recovery, an issue that has long separated Republicans and Democrats. Simpson would be a lead player in finding a middle ground, the kind of role he relishes.

He is a senior member of Appropriations, one of the least partisan committees on Capitol Hill. Priorities vary, depending on party control, but minority wishes are not ignored.

“We work pretty well across the board,” Simpson says. “It broke down the last session when we had drafted all our bills and were ready to put them through to the full committee. Speaker Pelosi came in and added hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending in each bill and never told Republicans. But that was the speaker directing it, and not members of the committee. Hopefully, it gets back to more of a bipartisan effort.”

Simpson’s immediate plans include working with administration officials for continued growth at the Idaho National Laboratory and the Interior secretary to ensure that the outdoors act is implemented as intended. On those issues, it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the Oval Office.

It’s tough to feel good about things politically, given the nation’s unsettled climate. But in talking with Simpson, maybe there is a ray of hope.

“I am optimistic regardless of who is president,” he said. “It’s obvious that the country is divided and it’s reflected in Congress. In spite of that, the American people want us to work together. Hopefully, the leadership will allow us to work together – not as Republicans and Democrats, but as representatives of this country trying to solve problems.”

Those are good thoughts, for sure. Now, all that’s needed is to convince Pelosi and McConnell to leave politics and take up dominos.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Soto says he could do better

malloy

Talk with Congressman Russ Fulcher and you’ll get the idea that this year’s elections have all the drama of a yawning festival.

He figures, probably correctly so, that people have made up their minds about President Trump. As Fulcher puts it, “Everything he has done and said has been done and said. He either has the numbers, or he doesn’t.”

Trump is bound to win in Idaho, of course, and it doesn’t take a fearless forecaster to predict that Republicans will continue to occupy the Gem State’s congressional offices. Sure, it’s possible that Joe Biden will carry Idaho, Paulette Jordan will send Sen. Jim Risch into retirement and Rudy Soto and Aaron Swisher will pull monumental upsets in House races.

“I don’t see that happening, and that’s not a shot at Rudy or anybody else,” Fulcher says.

For now, at least, Fulcher is not taking shots of any kind at Soto, the 34-year-old Canyon County Democrat who is working his tail off on the campaign trail. Fulcher doesn’t see the need for comparing Soto to Bernie Sanders, or spreading fears about socialism of the Green New Deal.

“From what I can tell, he’s running an honorable campaign,” Fulcher said. “He’s giving voters a choice. It’s not like the primary campaign where there were flat-out lies.”

Soto is not so charitable toward Fulcher, comparing him to former Congressman Bill Sali – the one Republican who was bounced out of office after one term (2008) and suggesting that Fulcher has brought an “Ammon Bundy style of politics to Washington, D.C.”

Soto backs his claims with an independent survey that ranks Fulcher as one of the most partisan members of the House. “He can’t even get bill sponsorship from his own party,” Soto says.

Fulcher is part of the conservative-based House Freedom Caucus, and Soto wants to join the Problem Solver’s Caucus, which has members from both parties.

Soto says he’d work well with Congressman Mike Simpson and it would be “an absolute honor and privilege” to work with Sens. Mike Crapo and Risch (if he wins re-election). “They are at the forefront of bringing resources back to rural communities and I would be helping advance their initiatives in the House.”

Soto, a veteran of the Army National Guard, is no stranger to the Washington politics, having worked as a congressional staffer and on a variety of issues. He promises to limit himself to three terms and to vote against retaining House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying “it’s time for new blood.”

On that point, Fulcher will agree. He has complained for two years about how Pelosi handles business in the House. But for his congressional seat, he sees himself as the right guy for the job.

“I believe that experience matters and that I am uniquely qualified to represent Idaho,” he says.

“I’ll put my resume up against anyone with my knowledge of the state and deep roots here. I have a track record for building relationships not only with our delegation, but with other members. If they’re trying to paint me as someone who works on the right side of the aisle and never talks with anyone, that’s a bunch of baloney.”

But given the conservative nature of his district, he was not elected to be cozy with Democrats.

Fulcher wants nothing to do with Pelosi, or the party’s progressive agenda. “If you are in the Panhandle of Idaho and advertise that you are spending all your time across the aisle, that’s the quickest way to get unelected,” he says.

Fulcher heads into the election with a healthy degree of confidence. “I think most people in the first district know who I am. They may like me or not, but they know what they get.”

And as with President Trump on Election Day, the numbers will be there for Fulcher … or they won’t.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com