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Zero-based budgeting

malloy

Here’s something that I never thought I’d see – Idaho Republican Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo embracing a failed policy from the Carter administration for bringing spending under control.

And they managed to drag a few other Republican senators into the fray, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Braun of Indiana.

The magic bullet for curbing the $28 trillion debt? Zero-based budgeting, or as one Capitol Hill veteran put it many years ago, “Zip, Boom, Bang.” ZBB basically was laughed out of Washington and dubbed a nutty idea after Carter implemented it in the 1970s – and federal spending was a mere two-headed monster. Now, with the federal budget turned into the Planet of the Apes by comparison, it’s Republicans are leading the way on ZBB.

Risch introduced the Zero-Based Budget Act, which he says would cut wasteful spending by requiring government agencies to justify their spending levels every six years with a zero-based budget, and propose a reduction in expenditures by 2 percent.
“Congress must address its reckless spending problem,” Risch says. “The Zero-Based Budget Act will require agencies to produce a budget which clearly outlines potential cuts to reduce the growing national debt so we won’t leave future generations footing the bill.”

Spoiler alert: His bill is going nowhere during this Congress and progressive Democrats will not sign onto that plan. But Republicans will continue expressing frustrations over spending.

“Our current fiscal crisis is unsustainable,” says Crapo. “I remain committed to restoring the federal budget to balance and the Zero-Based Budget Act would require scrutiny and justification of every program funded by the American taxpayer.”

Crapo is right about spending levels being unsustainable. But considering all the years he has served on budget and finance committees that he’d come up with something more cerebral than “Zip, Boom, Bang.”

Cruz, mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2024 (if former President Trump does not run), puts a political spin on the situation. “The out-of-control spending and unrestricted expansion of our bloated federal government by this administration, aided by congressional Democrats, is causing an inflation crises – just one of the many crises facing American families and small businesses today. I’m proud to join with Sen. Risch to protect taxpayers from the burden of big government policies by forcing bureaucrats to routinely assess and cut inefficient or redundant government spending from their budgets. The Zero-Based Budget Act is a common-sense step toward reining in government spending and returning to fiscal sanity.”

The idea of zero-based budgeting produces nice political rhetoric and it worked brilliantly for Carter’s presidential campaign in 1976. In a practical application, it worked horribly. Zero-based budgeting did little to curb discretionary spending, caused massive amounts of bureaucratic paperwork and created a “use-it-or-lose-it” mentality for agency heads during the end of fiscal years.

The Republican senators have every right to be concerned about run-away spending under President Biden’s watch. But over the years, Republican presidents – from Reagan to Trump – have not been able to bring federal spending under control. There’s a lot of blame to go around for the $28 trillion debt.

Risch, Crapo and Cruz have been around long enough to know that discretionary spending – as much as it is growing with Democrats in charge – is only a small part of the problem. Roughly two-thirds of the budget, which includes Social Security and Medicare, is on auto-pilot and there’s no political appetite on either side of the aisle to make changes for future generations. So, the debt will keep growing even if Congress eliminated discretionary spending entirely. And members of Congress will continue to complain about too much spending.

It’s good that Cruz has been brought into the fold on the ZBB debate. If he runs for president, maybe he will look beyond warmed-over ideas from the Carter era and come up with a workable plan for putting the nation’s fiscal house in order.

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

That BLM nominee

malloy

For most of us, sins from 32 years ago generally don’t have much relevance in our lives today. But there are rare instances when a person can’t walk away from a “mistake” from the distant past.

Folks who were around during the tree-spiking controversy in the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho in 1989 would tell the politicians that anyone who had anything to do with this twisted form of eco-terrorism – no matter how slight the involvement might have been – should not be directing the Bureau of Land Management.

Yet, with Senate confirmation looming (possibly before the summer break on Aug. 9), Tracy Stone-Manning is about to take her place as the director of the agency that manages one in every 10 acres in the U.S. and about 30 percent of the nation’s minerals. The BLM manages nearly 65 million acres of forests and woodlands across 12 western states and Alaska.

With 63 percent of Idaho being on federal lands, there is no question about the importance of the BLM to the Gem State. Sen. Jim Risch describes the BLM as a “good agency” and said in a recent letter to President Biden that “any individual who leads this important agency must have the faith and trust of the American people. Ms. Stone-Manning has violated this trust.”

There’s little suspense how this will shake out in the Senate. Democrats will vote for confirmation, Republicans will vote against and Vice President Kamala Harris will break the tie, thus giving the job to Stone-Manning.

Stone-Manning didn’t drive spikes into the trees and she probably had nothing to do with the organizing and planning of the effort, aimed at stopping logging. But she has acknowledged that she retyped and sent a letter to the U.S. Forest Service warning that 500 pounds of spikes had been jammed into the trees of every Idaho forest.

That’s too close to the crime scene. As you can imagine, the letter scared the bejeebers of forest managers and loggers. Serious injury or death can be the result when a saw blade hits those spikes.

“What happens when the saw hits this spike is what happens in a war when a hand grenade goes off,” said Risch, a leading opponent of Stone-Manning’s confirmation.
Democrats say that stuff happened 32 years ago. Stone-Manning has spent most of her adult life and career achieving solutions to western land and water issues and has never condoned actions that could injure anyone.

Good for her. However, some of the spikes from the 1989 incident are still in the trees and it’s understandable that no one in their right mind will risk life to touch those trees with a saw. Risch, for one, is not willing to let bygones be bygones, or dismiss the incident 32 years ago as a childish prank.

“This is not a mistake,” he said. “A mistake is when you reach in your sock drawer and you take out two socks that don’t match. This is a knowing, willful, intentional act done with a black, abandoned, and malignant heart, intended to kill a fellow human being.”

As for Stone-Manning, Risch said, “this woman was deeply involved and the fact that she has tried to minimize her involvement, I get that. Most criminals do that. But we have clear evidence that she was deeply involved. Not only evidence from third parties, but herself where she admits she wrote this letter.”

Risch told his colleagues that Stone-Manning shouldn’t be in front of a committee for confirmation to a major post; she belongs in front of a jury, explaining her actions.

“My friends, look, if you want to confirm her, you absolutely can,” Risch said. “But believe me, this stain on this administration will last for the next three and a half years.”

And the confirmation is being delivered by Democrats – the bastions for integrity and high ethical standards … the party that wants to investigate Donald Trump every time he sneezes.

Go figure.

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

Powerful still

malloy

Like it or not – and there are a lot of people who won’t like this – the Idaho Freedom Foundation is the most powerful lobbying group in Idaho.

There isn’t even a close second. In fact, I know of no group over the last 35 years that can come near to the power of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. The IFF certainly isn’t the best-liked, or most respected, group by any means; those in the political world either love or hate Wayne Hoffman’s organization. But there is no question about the lobbying group’s astounding level of power and influence.

Rep. Pricilla Giddings of White Bird, a candidate for lieutenant governor, uses her 100 percent voting record with the IFF as a bragging point in her campaign. Getting a perfect voting record with the IFF takes some doing. Hoffman’s team floods legislators with their positions on issues along with a scoring system attached to positive (or negative) votes. To attain a perfect voting record, a legislator has to absorb all the information, discard anything that might come up in a debate and vote according to the wishes of the IFF.

It’s legislators selling their souls to a lobbying group. Every single time the IFF takes a stand on a bill.

Giddings isn’t alone. Rep. Chad Christensen of Iona also has a 100 percent voting record, four others are at 99 percent; 12 are 90 percent or above and 16 are 80 percent or above.

Now, that’s power. And those at the top of the food chain seem to treat IFF memos as something that comes from the Bible. That’s double power – but nothing compared to what you’d see if Lt. Janice McGeachin wins the governor’s race and Giddings gets in as lieutenant governor. If that happens, we might as well shut down all the state agencies and turn over the whole operation to Hoffman & Co.

For sure, that would mean job security for quite a few editorial writers. And maybe it would be added life to Hoffman, who seems to thrive on media controversy.

Not surprisingly, the IFF comes under attack quite a bit – from people such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, former Attorney General Jim Jones and legislators both past and present. Recently the Idaho Capital Sun, an online news outlet, produced a series of articles investigating the IFF and saying, among other things, that the organization is breaking non-profit laws through extensive lobbying.

“I think of the Idaho Freedom Foundation as a lobbyist for liberty,” says Bryan Smith of Idaho Falls, the organization’s vice president. “The only ones really complaining about the Idaho Freedom Foundation and the Idaho Freedom Index are Republicans who say they’re conservative to get elected but vote like Democrats once in office.”

These opinion pieces and negative stories are hits with IFF detractors. But supporters, who may view Redoubt News as the most trusted source in reporting, are left yawning. Hoffman, an old newspaper veteran, doesn’t take these things lying down, often coming down hard on those who produce negative material about the IFF. He labels Winder as a threat to democracy, Jones as dishonest and dismisses the Capital Sun as a “propaganda” factory.

“If it’s a negative article about the Idaho Freedom Foundation or a conservative officeholder, you can bet the Idaho Capital Sun will write it and your local newspaper will run it,” Hoffman says.

As for the media in general, he says, “Most of what you read in the Idaho media is not real journalism. It’s just hot air designed to undermine Idaho’s conservative values, organizations, and politicians. Don’t believe it.”

It all works out to Hoffman’s advantage. If conflicts with the media help the IFF raise money, then there’s some loot coming through the front door. He’s taking a victory lap.

“I must say, you should be flattered,” he tells his supporters. “If principled conservatives like you and me weren’t making a difference – if we weren’t a threat to the socialist agenda in Idaho – no one would run advertisements, write hit pieces and file meritless complaints against us.”

For whatever the reason, Idaho Freedom Foundation’s power seems to grow with every election and its coalition in the Legislature keeps getting larger with each session. It’s apparent that Hoffman and the conservative/libertarian think tank he has built will be around for a long time – for better, or for worse.

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

Health and death

maloy

Talking with Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher about his recent cancer diagnosis a couple of weeks ago hit home with me. In many ways, being lucky is better than being good.

The congressman’s cancer was discovered in conjunction with a routine physical examination. Fulcher, who normally is a ball of energy, just happened to mention to his doctor that he was not feeling at his normal high-octane level.

The revelation probably saved his life. His doctor ordered some tests and renal cancer was discovered. Fulcher says it’s all treatable and everything will be fine.

I was in a similar situation almost 17 years ago, although my circumstance was related to my heart (and diabetes), opposed to cancer. During a routine checkup, I told my doctor that I was experiencing shortness of breath during my regular workouts on my exercise bike – nothing big, just something that I have noticed over time. My doctor referred me to a cardiologist, and a few days later, I was getting five-way heart bypass surgery.

Looking back, I came close to not telling my doctor anything – a decision that would have put me in a graveyard 16 years ago. Look at me now. I just turned 71 years old and typically walk four or five miles a day, play golf during the spring and summer and bowl during the cold months. As a bonus, I’m still writing my regular political columns, which is my twisted way of “having fun.”

So I have no doubt that Russ – who compared to me is a young whipper snapper at 59 – is going to be fine. I’d say chances are strong that he will be serving in Congress for at least some time after I hang up my keyboard.

But he’s the first to say that he won’t be the same Russ Fulcher that we’ve always known – or the same guy he knows. His goals include being a better legislator, a better person and one who has more compassion toward people dealing with cancer. A few of his perspectives will change, no doubt.

Diabetes certainly has changed my outlook. Over the years, I have spoken to various groups to promote awareness of this “silent killer” and have participated in events in Washington, sponsored by the American Diabetes Association. A couple of weeks ago, as an early birthday present, I was named to the board of directors for Diabetes Alliance of Idaho, which is focused on diabetes education and prevention.

So, what does this have to do with politics? Everything.

Finding a cure for diabetes depends on continued congressional funding for the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health. Politics comes to the forefront during discussions over the cost of insulin, or the listing of calorie counts on menu items.

With COVID-19, diabetes has been pushed to the background some, but it remains as a major health crisis both nationally and in Idaho – with an estimated 132,000 having diabetes and more than 100,000 with this ticking time bomb called pre-diabetes.

We’ll see in time where Fulcher’s passion takes him, but he’s a pretty decent guy to begin with. He’s not one of these members of Congress who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth – coming from a rich family and turning his privileged fortunes into a lofty political career. Russ grew up on a dairy farm and spent his life, in and out of politics, working his tail off. He’s an easy guy to chat with and relate to – even for those who might not agree with him down the line politically. Stay tuned to an “improved” version.

What he should realize is that a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence – it’s just something he has to deal with for a while. I’ve had my share of complications and challenges with diabetes over the last 20-plus years, but it has not been a death sentence.

I couldn’t imagine having a better life. I may be into the fourth quarter, but there’s still a good amount of time left on the clock.

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

Fulcher and cancer

malloy

Serving in Congress is a tough job for anyone, but you’ll never hear Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher – a self-described workaholic – complaining.
“You know me … I’m going all the time and I don’t stop,” he says.

Until now. Fulcher has been diagnosed with renal cancer and he’ll be going through rounds of energy-zapping chemotherapy. He’ll stay engaged with his job and the political turmoil that goes with it, but he will have an additional focus for a while.

Beating cancer. For now, he might be doing less traveling and voting by proxy – a relatively new rule that he has railed against.

“But as (Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy told me, if anybody has a good excuse for voting by proxy, it’s me,” Fulcher said. “Overall, I need to do a better job prioritizing,” he said.

Fulcher has had one round of chemotherapy, which he describes as “willingly having poison kicked into my system. Since round one, there are days that I’ve been dragging and other times that I don’t feel much different. Doctors have told me that my cognitive skills are there, but physically I won’t be able to do as much. I’m still learning.”

After his diagnosis, Fulcher told only a few people about his cancer – his family, the three other members of Idaho’s congressional delegation and Gov. Brad Little. Fulcher entertained the notion of not making his diagnosis public, but only briefly.

“Constituents deserve to know, and they have a right to know. If I were on the other side, I’d want to know,” Fulcher said. “I released a statement within about 72 hours of the diagnosis.”

The cancer, he said, was discovered during a routine physical examination and basically came from nowhere. There was no family history of cancer. “I’m young in my 50s (59). I’m very active and play sports on a routine basis. I have no idea of what the cause might be; it just showed up. It probably was a stroke of luck that it was caught when we did.”

Fulcher just happened to mention during his examination that his energy was not at its typically high level, a revelation that probably saved his life. From there, a few tests were taken, and the cancer was discovered.

One thing for sure is that Fulcher will not drown in self-pity. He’s more likely to look at the lighter side, with his self-depreciating sense of humor.
He opened our conversation with this: “My life was not complicated enough – the partisanship, the conflicts, the worldwide drama, the spending we’re going through and all the debate – it just wasn’t quite complicated enough. So, I needed something else to make it more interesting.”

He later added that when he loses his hair, “I’m not going to be one who stands in front of the mirror watching it fall out. I will take it to the cue-ball stage. If you think I’m ugly now, just wait until I’m bald.”

At another point, he said, “You’d be gratified to know that I’m not going to get any dumber.”

Of course, neither cancer nor what he’s going through in general are laughing matters. But his spirits are high, with a lot of help from his family, friends and colleagues.

“When going through something like this, you find out who your friends are – the people who have your back.” Fulcher said. “I haven’t made it a point to go out and be best pals with anybody, because that’s not my job. I haven’t asked for sympathy, or any kind of help. But word does circulate, and when you start getting a string of texts and phone calls from colleagues, you realize that they really do care.”

Topping the list of supporters are the other three members of Idaho’s congressional delegation and the governor. “To a person, they have said they will be there if I need anybody to stand in for me – whether it’s a hearing or attending an event. I may need to take them up on that at some point,” Fulcher said.

“This sucks. It is not insignificant and it is not fun. But this is happening for a reason, and I need to learn something from this. I’m going to be OK, and when this is over, I will be a better legislator and a better person.”

He also says he will have a greater appreciation for others battling with cancer.

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

Deal, no deal

malloy

When President Biden announced on the White House grounds that there was a long-awaited bipartisan “deal” on an infrastructure bill – the greatest investment since the formation of the interstate highway system – he apparently forgot to mention the fine print that was part of the bargain.

Perhaps he forgot, or maybe he didn’t want to disrupt the joyous occasion. It’s not often that you see Republicans and Democrats slapping backs and shaking hands on anything, especially on things with partisan implications. Indeed, getting both sides to come to an agreement on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan was no small task and Biden helped make it happen.

Notably absent from that White House photo-op were Democratic progressives, which probably was a sign that something wasn’t quite right. The grand deal that Biden hammered out with Republicans quickly turned to “no deal” once Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi entered the fray.

They want the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill all right, but only if Congress approves spending an additional $6.2 trillion package for what could be named the “Socialists Dream Bill.” See Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for details. The issue will be front and center when the Senate returns from recess, and subject to any number of twists and turns.

“It’s a moving target,” says Idaho Sen. Jim Risch. “The path forward is still uncertain as members of Congress must review what’s in it and how much it’s going to cost. In order for me to support it, it’s going to be the right bill for Idaho. Any major infrastructure bill must prioritize the construction and revitalization of hard infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, and exercise budgetary restraint to ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent.”

He also favors as part of the package a strong investment in broadband, which is essential in rural communities in Idaho and throughout the nation.

Risch, as with fellow Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, does not dispute the need for infrastructure improvements.

“The U.S. needs a reliable national transportation network we can count on well into the future,” Risch says.

Crapo, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, says he is willing to work on proposals to solve the long-term solvency of transportation funding and broadband development. “We have an opportunity to create American jobs and return our economy to the strength and broad-based growth enjoyed prior to the pandemic. But to do this, we must focus on ideas that can garner true bipartisan support and remove partisan wish-list items.”

So, the position of Idaho’s senators is clear. They would be friendly toward a comprehensive infrastructure bill, assuming that Idaho would benefit and the funding mechanism was in order (no tax increases). But they want nothing to do with a $6.2 trillion plan put together by Bernie Sanders and “progressive” Democrats.

“Throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at pet projects unrelated to infrastructure and seeing what sticks won’t work,” Risch says. “And certainly, any attempt to tie an infrastructure bill to trillions of additional taxpayer dollars on liberal social priorities is a fatal flaw.”

It would be so easy for Republicans and Democrats to come to a “yes” on an infrastructure plan. But as we all know, nothing is easy in Washington.

Democrats could pass the whole ball of wax – the infrastructure bill and Sander’s dream bill – through reconciliation, which would require only simple majorities in the House and Senate. Republicans won’t like it, but not much they can do aside from complaining.

Biden would prefer bipartisan support over reconciliation, but Schumer and Pelosi may have other thoughts. Never underestimate the ability of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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

A political career change

malloy

House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, easily checks off the boxes for that office.

He would have no trouble presiding over the Senate during legislative sessions and he could serve as acting governor – without political drama – when the boss is out of town.

As for the rest of his job, Bedke’s role would depend on who is sitting in the governor’s chair. He’d be an outstanding partner (and welcome relief) to Gov. Brad Little, with his deep background on policy issues. If Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin becomes governor, Bedke would have plenty of time to tend to his family’s ranch or sharpen his golf game when the Legislature is not in session. There would not be much for him to do at the Statehouse.

Bedke says he’s not certain if he will take an active role in the governor’s race. My thought is that unless he likes the idea of playing computer solitaire at his desk in the lieutenant governor’s office, he should take a stand in the gubernatorial campaign. If it causes him to lose, then at least he’d have the satisfaction of telling voters what’s at stake in Idaho’s top two races.

In 2018, Little declined to say who he favored for lieutenant governor in the primary campaign and paid the price. He ended up getting stuck with McGeachin, who has gone rogue more times than Sarah Palin. This time, Little has two candidates he could easily work with – Bedke and former Rep. Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene, who are battling for the “establishment” vote. Rep. Priscilla Giddings of White Bird would cause more headaches in a Little administration – but would work marvelously well with McGeachin.

Bedke offers a long list of selling points for the lieutenant governor’s job. He has served 11 terms in the Legislature and the last five as House speaker.

“I have been in the middle of every major decision in the state – whether it’s economic policy, transportation policy, education policy, tax policy or natural resources.”

Bedke knows all about budgeting and how state government works and has some thoughts about the future.

“I don’t want to wake up 10 years from now and wonder where did our Idaho go,” he said. “We’re the fastest growing state in the union, and with that growth comes growing pains. It will come in the form of education, transportation, roads, the court system, prisons and natural resources.”

The lieutenant governor’s office does not make policy, but Bedke could provide a sound voice on a host of issues – again, depending on who is governor.

“I have a track record of bringing people together and crafting solutions,” he said. “That’s not easy, but I think I’m pretty good at it.”

Bedke won’t talk about how McGeachin has handled the job, other than to say, “I will be completely different. I’ll be one who will be looking for solutions and trying to conduct business cordially and with civility and respect.”

How’s that for making “no comment” about McGeachin?

Over the years, lieutenant governor has been a nice “waiting area” for those with higher political ambitions. Phil Batt eventually became governor … Butch Otter went to Congress, and later governor … Jim Risch became a U.S. senator … and Little is the sitting governor. So, where is Bedke looking?

As House Speaker, Bedke already is one of the most powerful figures in Idaho politics, but officially it’s a part-time position. He could do well as a congressman or U.S. senator, but it doesn’t appear that members of Idaho’s delegation will be leaving anytime soon. Being a lieutenant governor could put him in line for governor, assuming that Little wins re-election and would serve no more than two terms.

Bedke’s priority at the moment is winning the lieutenant governor’s race and at least one candidate (Giddings) isn’t going to make it easy.

“I welcome Scott Bedke to the race,” Giddings said after Bedke announced. “As House speaker, he has single-handedly kept the grocery tax alive. With his departure from the House, Idahoans may finally get grocery tax relief. Sadly, both Speaker Bedke and lawyer Luke Malek have a long track record of championing policies which harm small businesses, damage our schools, and which can hurt real people.”

The fireworks are under way, just in time for the Fourth of July.

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

Risch, liberated

malloy

Sen. Jim Risch’s political life was much more fun with Donald Trump as president and Republicans had control of the Senate. But perhaps there is something liberating with President Biden in the White House.

For one, Risch got to write an op-ed for the Washington Post in advance of Biden’s summit with Russian strongman Vladmir Putin. Afterward, the senator released a statement expressing his disappointment with the outcome of the high-level meeting.

Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, remains fairly measured in his criticisms of Biden, but he’s not shy about speaking up when he finds flaws with the administration’s actions.

That wasn’t the case when Trump was president and Risch was the committee chairman. During those days, Risch would not dare to pen op-eds or circulate press releases criticizing Trump. Risch has said that any disagreements with Trump were discussed privately. He did not test Trump’s volcanic temper.

Of course, Risch was part of Trump’s inner circle – a confidant on foreign policy issues. Risch remains as one of the Senate’s foremost experts on foreign policy, but he is not part of a Democratic president’s inner circle. So, Risch can say what he wants about Biden and there’s a wide audience that will listen to what he has to say.

That must feel liberating. And it’s all done in the name of congressional oversight.

In his op-ed with the Washington Post, Risch discussed Biden’s objective to put the relationship with Russia on a stable and predictable path. “Yet, despite repeated statements from the Kremlin that it is open to normalization, progress on arms control and cooperation on issues of mutual interest, it has yet to take a single step that would demonstrate any commitment to these goals. In fact, Putin thrives on chaos,” Risch wrote.

The senator dinged Biden for heading into the summit without a clear agenda or defined strategic goals.

Not surprisingly, Risch came out with a list of “disappointments” with the outcome of the Biden-Putin meeting. “I’m disappointed Biden made no efforts to address Russia’s Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty violations, while the Biden administration unilaterally disarms,” Risch said. “Summits are about delivering results … so to learn there was no tangible progress made with Russia on any issues is both unfortunate and disappointing.”

During Putin’s 20-year rule, Risch said, “the West has failed to meet his aggressive conduct with any response that has generated lasting change. I am disappointed by issues that remain unresolved following President Biden’s meeting with Vladimir Putin.”

Without saying so directly, Risch was taking a swipe at Trump – who was president for four of those 20 years. As far as dealing effectively with Russia, Risch is saying in effect that both presidents failed.

Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, had a decidedly different perspective than Risch. The Democratic chairman was far from disappointed about the outcome.

“President Biden did his job and stood up for the American people by making it clear that the United States will respond to Kremlin aggression where and when it happens,” Menendez said. “This was a necessary reality check for Putin and a welcome departure from the past four years of Trump’s coddling of the Kremlin. President Biden made it clear his administration understands the critical principle that we have to engage with Russia on arms control issues to ensure a nuclear war never happens.”

We can pray that a nuclear war between two giants never happens. Politically, it’s understandable that Menendez and Risch offer praise and criticisms of the president. But if things go terribly sideways in our country’s relationship with Russia, those two senators could play leading roles in putting this on the right course.

And if that national emergency were to occur, it would be nice to think that the senators would be non-partisan in their approach to solving the problem.

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

Just where she wants them

malloy

Pity the poor soul whose job is to write press releases for Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who (as some see it) has drawn attention to herself for the wrong reasons.

If you are just tuning in, she issued an executive order prohibiting governmental mask mandates in Idaho while Gov. Brad Little was out of the state, attending a Republican governor’s conference. What’s worse, she took the action without bothering to tell Little of her actions before his plane lifted off.

That went over about as well as stealing sheep and cattle from Little’s family ranch in Emmett. The governor reversed McGeachin’s executive order upon his return to Idaho, offering plenty of harsh words in the process. Then she was scorned by the media and chastised by the political establishment for her actions.

The bottom line is McGeachin got exactly what she wanted – plenty of attention and lots of steam coming from the governor’s office. If this were a hockey game, she scored a hat trick (three goals). If this were basketball, she’d had a triple-double. If this were baseball, she would be a bloop single away from hitting for the cycle.

This was a perfect way to start her campaign to unseat Little in next year’s primary election.

The governor, left-leaning editorial writers and the political establishment had a field day kicking around McGeachin. Little called her actions “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt. This kind of over-the-top executive action amounts to tyranny – something we all oppose.”

The governor had cause for being upset. That’s not how business is done in Idaho … but this state has not had a lieutenant governor anything like McGeachin, who has turned a once-quiet office into a political sideshow.
All of that is to the delight of her supporters, who view the governor in the same light as Darth Vader. Neither McGeachin nor her backers liked it when Little effectively declared some businesses as “non-essential” during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. And they don’t trust anything the governor says or does today.

As for the editorial writers and the political establishment, the heck with them. They won’t endorse or vote for McGeachin anyway. While they were stewing over her executive order, McGeachin was with Tucker Carlson on Fox News talking about critical race theory, the branding iron of her campaign for governor.

Bryan Smith of Idaho Falls, a vice chair of the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee and former congressional candidate, takes issue with Little – particularly his claim that McGeachin’s executive order ran contrary to the conservative principle that a government that is closest to the people governs best.

“No decision maker is closer to the people than the people themselves,” Smith wrote in a widely circulated op-ed. “And when it comes to personal health decisions like wearing a mask, I ask why government needs to be involved at all. The fact is that Little offers a false premise that local government can govern personal health choices better than individuals making decisions for themselves.”

McGeachin’s odds of winning the governorship are long at best, especially with a couple other like-minded “conservatives” in the race. She absolutely won’t win by being “nice.” Her restaurant in Idaho Falls serves chicken wings hot and spicy and she will add even more fiery Buffalo sauce to this campaign.

Her political inspiration, and perhaps role model, is Donald Trump. I suspect that if the former president were running for governor of Idaho, he’d do as McGeachin did -- wait until the governor leaves the state and issue some hair-raising executive order just to shake up things. And, with Trump-like flair, she could offer this stern warning to the governor:

Don’t you dare step foot out of the Gem State to attend a political event.

Lining up with Trump, as disgusting as it might be to his detractors, may well work in McGeachin’s favor in a Republican primary election. There are a good number of Republicans who still feel that the election was stolen from Trump.

Being a Trumpian martyr – which McGeachin has become in all the political uproar – also isn’t the worst thing that can happen to her campaign.

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