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Posts published in “Richardson”

Fan boy in chief

richardson

There’s an old saying that goes “show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are.” Increasingly, our president is showing us who his friends are – and aren’t. And in the process, we’re learning ever more about the infantile narcissist who occupies the Oval Office.

In the aftermath of the Singapore summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, I envisioned the follow-up letter Mr. Trump might send the dictator of the most oppressive regime on the planet. It might read something like this:
Dear Mr. Chairman,

I was so honored to meet you!

Some of my nervous Nelly advisors told me we would have little in common, but – boy – were they ever wrong.

I was especially impressed to learn of your execution of your Deputy Premier for Education for having a disrespectful posture in a meeting. The NFL owners sure could learn something from you.

And you rightly consider Christianity a threat to your regime. You are wise to bar its practice in North Korea. (Let’s keep this between us. Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson might not understand.)

To your great credit you have set new standards for sexual violence. (I’m embarrassed to say that my compulsion to “grab ‘em by the pussy,” pales in comparison.)

You might be a rough guy, but you are the very model of an inclusive leader. Your willingness to torture, enslave, starve and murder hundreds of thousands of your countrymen on political, religious, racial and gender grounds is really something, top drawer all the way.

And it turns out we're both anti-choice. I don't think women should have control over their bodies and neither do you. We're sort of on different sides of the same coin. I think we should punish women who have abortions. You force women to have abortions. Either way, we get to tell women what to do with their bodies.

And talk about the rule of law. You’re as ruthless with children as you are with adults. Why cut them any slack? I’ll see if we can send some ICE agents to Pyongyang to pick up a few pointers.

Yes, I was so honored to meet you, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to welcoming you with open arms to the White House.

In the meantime, I just want to reiterate my view that “there’s a special place in hell” for that whiner from Canada.

Your biggest fan boy,

Donald J. Trump

It’s torture

richardson

When I was a little girl growing up in the Orchards of Lewiston, Idaho, in the 1950s, it was a wonderful adventure to take the bus downtown with my mom, something we did perhaps once a month. I remember passing under the canopy of trees on Eleventh Avenue, the thrill I got from pulling the string that signaled the driver that ours was the next stop and the joy of sitting at the soda fountain inside Newberry's on Main Street enjoying a burger and shake.

But one day when I was four, the adventure turned into a nightmare.

Somehow, I had gotten separated from my mom. I remember the shock of suddenly realizing she was nowhere near. I ran frantically from aisle to aisle, the store suddenly becoming a terrifying maze, my heart pounding. I called out loudly, repeatedly, urgently, "Mama! Mama! Where are you, Mama?!" I was desperately frightened and remembered thinking, "What if I can't find her? What if I never see her again?"

Maybe only a few minutes passed before Mom found me and gave me an earful for wandering off. But it seemed like an eternity. The fact that I remember this incident with painful clarity all these years later is significant because it speaks to the inevitable trauma being experienced by little children, some as young as 18 months, who are forcibly taken from their mothers at the U.S. border.

I imagine the terror these children experience, which multiplies my short-lived anxiety many times over, and fear the imprint of anguish will stay with them all their lives. They cannot understand why they are being taken away from their mothers; they cannot be sure they will ever see their mothers again. And their mothers must be no less terrified to lose their children to nameless, faceless bureaucrats who, in the indifferent words of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will see to it that “the children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.”

In a recent guest opinion in the Washington Post, Jaana Juvonen, a professor of development psychology at UCLA, and Jennifer Silvers, an assistant professor of developmental neuroscience at UCLA, make a compelling case for the proposition that separating vulnerable children from their parents is not only inhumane, but torture. They write:

“Children arriving at the U.S. border in search of asylum are frequently a particularly vulnerable population. In many cases fleeing violence and persecution, they also encounter hunger, illness and threats of physical harm along their hazardous journey to the border. This combination of experiences puts migrant children at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Such anxiety and mood disorders can be debilitating and intractable, particularly when they start in childhood. . . . The practice of separating families at the border is reprehensible and – based on science – goes against international and U.S. law, because the suffering it inflicts constitutes torture of children.”

Now imagine the exponential damage done to children who were not only taken from their parents at the border but are now unaccounted for. Credible news services tell us that as many as 1,500 children seized from their mothers at the border are now "lost.” For those children and their parents, the question of reunification may not be one of “When?” but “Whether?” There is no certainty that they will see one another again. Happy reunions– or reunions of any type – are not a given.

Several people familiar with the failed bureaucratic response to protecting migrant children taken from their parents express concern that the children could be subjected to various forms of abuse, including sexual abuse, and even human trafficking.

There is no time to waste. Our nation has a moral obligation to find these missing children and reunite them with their parents. This is a national imperative because for these children, every minute of separation from their mothers is not just painful, it’s torture.
 

Dear Brad Little:

richardson

Congratulations on winning the Republican nomination for governor. After begging Democratic voters to register as Republicans to help you defeat Raul Labrador – and getting quite a few takers – you hustled so far to the right that you became a pathetic echo of your opponents.

One of your most repugnant commercials, an ad attacking Raul Labrador, repeatedly referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegals.” You claimed Labrador had voted for welfare for “illegals,” defended criminal “illegals,” and supported amnesty for “illegals.” By my count, you used the term “illegals,” six times in a 30 second ad.

Your incessant use of this pejorative and divisive term was unconscionable. When you refer to people as “illegals,” you use the term as a noun, implying that the person’s very existence – as opposed to their actions – is criminal. Writing for the Huffington Post, Robert Stribley observed that “[t]he term seems especially egregious when the undocumented immigrants are typically coming here because American businesses are actively courting them.”

During the run-up to the primary election, it often appeared that you and Raul and Tommy couldn’t cozy up close enough to Trump; your ad might have been taken straight from Trump’s playbook of innuendo and slurs. Earlier this week, the president ranted, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals . . . “

A day after making this sweeping comment, Trump “clarified” that his remark was meant to be directed at members of MS-13, an especially vicious and brutal gang. But that’s not what he said. Unmistakably, his initial statement conflated MS-13 gang members with all immigrants, implying they were less than human.

Where have we heard this before – this crass characterization of a group of people as something less than human, as “animals?” Of course, you know the answer. We heard it from Adolph Hitler who said, “Jews are not people; they are animals.” It is so much easier to exterminate people when one does not see them as human. Calling them “animals” serves that purpose. So does labeling them “illegals.” It’s a slippery slope.

The language we use in our public discourse matters. Other law-breakers are not referred to as “illegals.” So why apply this polarizing and demeaning term to people unlawfully in the country? One need not condone illegal immigration to treat others with dignity. One need not approve of open borders to refrain from dehumanizing others.

You won your party’s nomination, Brad, and you won it, in part, with this despicable ad. Now grow up and start acting like a thoughtful, decent human being. And remember – in the words of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel – “No human being is illegal.”
 

Making people think

richardson

There has been a disturbance in the force. Bill Hall has passed away.

The first time I met Bill Hall I was an impressionable 13-year-old in the company of my dad, a force of nature whose esteem was not easily earned. Pointing to a gentleman some way from us on the sidewalk, Dad said, “There’s Bill Hall. I want you to meet him. He’s the editorial page editor for the Lewiston Morning Tribune.”

I could tell by Dad’s tone of voice that he held this Bill Hall fellow in high regard.

As he saw us approaching, Bill greeted my Dad with mingled wariness and respect, no doubt bracing for Dad to hold forth, as he was wont to do, on the latest issue of the day. But that day Dad wanted only to introduce Bill to his young daughter and to impress upon her his belief that journalists were important members of the community and political writers had tremendous ability to influence public opinion.

Bill was gracious and greeted me warmly. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, we went on our way, and I remember Dad saying, “I don’t always agree with Bill Hall, but he does what an opinion writer ought to do – he makes people think.”

Indeed he did.

I was a nerdy kid, one who read the editorial page before I read the funny page. I cut my teeth on politics reading Bill’s columns. It was the late 60s and there was no dearth of fodder for a decidedly independent-minded political writer. With the support and encouragement of publisher Bud Alford and later his son Butch, Bill pulled no punches. His hard-hitting commentary was frequently punctuated with humor.

Bill delighted in hoisting self-satisfied office-holders on their own smug petards. And though his world view was most often left of center, he did not hesitate to hold to account those he admired when he thought they fell short.

In my senior year in high school, I was among a group of students who had somehow come to understand that Bill enjoyed our company and would welcome us to his home. He loved to share his thinking about contemporary issues, and was eager to hear our take on the topics of the day.

Bill could be provocative, both in print and in person, and occasionally he would say something a bit outrageous to elicit a response. If you didn't catch the twinkle in his eye, you might think he meant it.

Once, when a group of us was visiting, Bill said something with which I disagreed, and I offered another perspective. He forcefully rebutted, and I was quick to concede my point. Bill wouldn’t have it. “Betty, defend your position. Don’t just accept mine.” And so I did. He could not have been prouder.

Two decades later, in my bid for Congress, Bill was in the room when the Lewiston Tribune staff grilled me on any number of issues. I stated my positions without hesitation and, when pressed, defended them with vigor. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Bill remembered, as I did, his early instruction.

The last time I saw Bill Hall was at the memorial service for another north Idaho statesman, Mike Mitchell. Several months earlier, with the help of his beloved wife Sharon, Bill had penned a column letting his readers know that the column would be his last, explaining he had been diagnosed not only with cancer, but with progressive cognitive impairment.

Yet, as I visited with Bill after the service, he seemed his old self – bright-eyed, quick-witted, and, though the circumstances were sad, delighted to see old friends. We had a warm reunion, and I was about to thank him for having a profound impact on my thinking and writing, for encouraging a shy, but civic-minded high school student to express herself well and stay true to her convictions.

But then he and I were both drawn into conversations with others, and the moment passed. Later, I thought to myself, “I will see Bill Hall again before long and thank him then.”

Death has a way of bringing one up short.

When I learned yesterday afternoon that Bill had passed away, my first thought was profound regret that I had not explicitly thanked him for his mentorship and told him how much his friendship had meant to me. But believing, as I do, that our departed loved ones know our hearts, I thank him now.

I thank Bill Hall for years of informed and influential prose that stimulated civic discussion, making his readers wiser and our communities better. I thank him for his tutorials, often impromptu, on rhetoric, argument, and logic. And I thank him for modeling excellence in punditry.

Finally, I thank Bill for his many years of friendship and for seeing some potential in a teenager with strong opinions who wanted to make a difference in the world and encouraging her to do so. I expect I speak for many in noting that Bill was, quite simply, an extraordinary mentor. As my Dad rightly noted so many years ago, he made people think.

Indeed, there has been a disturbance in the force.
 

No joke

richardson

White House aide Kelly Sadler recently responded to Sen. John McCain's principled opposition to Gina Haspel, President Trump's nominee for CIA director. In an offensive remark that she later called a “joke,” Sadler dismissed McCain’s concerns saying "he's dying anyway.”

A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, McCain was almost killed during the Vietnam War when he was shot down over Hanoi. Over his five and a half years as a prisoner of war, despite episodes of torture, McCain refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation. He chose to stay with other imprisoned Americans, soldiers whose fathers – unlike his – could not pull strings.

The serious injuries McCain sustained during the war left him with lifelong physical disabilities. He cannot raise his arms above his shoulders and walks with an off-kilter gait. Now he has been diagnosed with a truly horrible brain cancer. He is indeed dying.

Against this backdrop, it is impossible to construe Ms. Sadler’s utterly insensitive and cruel statement as a “joke.” But we shouldn’t be surprised at this latest display of incivility. Vicious, ignorant rhetoric has become a hallmark of this White House. It started with the president, who set the tone for vile personal attacks from the outset of his presidential campaign. He has been the very model of a crude school-yard bully. It is not remarkable that his staff emulates him.

Trump, who repeatedly avoided military service due to supposed bone spurs, famously denied that McCain was a hero, sneering, “I like people that weren't captured." This hateful barb came from a man who never donned our nation’s uniform, who called himself a “brave soldier” for avoiding STDs and who compared the risks occasioned by his promiscuous sex life with the dangers of serving in Vietnam.

McCain’s politics, more often than not, are at odds with my own; but I would never, not for a second, deny that he is a hero and a patriot.

Trump and those in his administration who belittle Sen. McCain, and who, like General Kelly, approve the disparagement by their silence, have come to define what it means to be a Republican.

Somewhere, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ike Eisenhower are weeping.
 

President’s lapdog

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The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence recently released its Report on its purported investigation into Russian meddling in our nation’s 2016 election. The Report found “no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government.”

That finding is breathtakingly premature and almost certainly wrong. It reveals that the Report, like the inquiry itself, is a sham.

At the outset of the Committee’s investigation, the Chairman Devin Nunes and Ranking Member Adam Schiff promised that the Committee would fully investigate all the evidence it would collect and to follow that evidence wherever it might lead. Schiff and the minority members of the Committee did their utmost to keep that promise. Nunes and his fellow Republicans broke that promise at every turn.

Thorough and credible investigations take time and a genuine desire on the part of investigators to uncover the truth. This investigation was a rushed job, focused on concealing and distorting the truth, all in an effort to give the president cover. It appeared a partisan charade from the outset. Now, Nunes and his GOP colleagues may be accessories after-the-fact to the Administration’s ever more apparent obstruction of justice.

In response to the Committee’s Report, the Democratic members of the Committee issued a Minority Report addressing with chilling specificity the Committee’s failures. It provides a litany of the ways in which the Majority actually obstructed the investigation by refusing to call in key witnesses, refusing to request pertinent documents, and refusing to compel and enforce witness cooperation and answers to key questions.

The Minority Report also called out the Majority’s conduct as undermining Congress’ independent investigative authority: “Their repeated deferrals to the White House allowed witnesses to refuse cooperation, and permitted the Administration to dictate the terms of their interaction with Congress, or evade congressional oversight altogether, setting a damaging precedent for future non-cooperation by this President and, possibly, by his successors.”

Immediately after the Committee released its Report, the president predictably renewed his calls for an end to the Special Counsel’s investigation, as if the House Republicans’ spurious findings should be the final word. But former CIA Director John Brennan rightly rebuked the president saying, “A highly partisan, incomplete and deeply flawed report by a broken House Committee means nothing. The Special Counsel’s work is being carried out by professional investigators – not political staffers. SC’s findings will be comprehensive & authoritative. Stay tuned, Mr. Trump.”

Now that the Russian lawyer who attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Kushner, Manafort, and Don. Jr. has revealed herself to be a Kremlin informant, which is to say a Russian spy, the haste with which Nunes closed up shop is even more jarring.

It’s hard to see that which is in plain sight when one is wearing a partisan blindfold. It’s easy to miss the truth when you don’t really want to find it.

Long after this Administration is gone, the Committee’s response to an attack on our country will live on as a sorry reminder of the damage done when one branch of government surrenders its independence to another, when — as the Minority Report makes clear — Congress becomes the President’s complicit lapdog.
 

Taking the fifth

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The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states in pertinent part: “No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

The Fifth Amendment was adopted by our founders in reaction to the excesses of Britain’s Star Chamber proceedings where convictions were often obtained by browbeating the accused. Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the right to refrain from testifying against oneself attaches in any civil or criminal proceeding at which the answers might incriminate the speaker in the future.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump claimed that innocent people don't "take the Fifth." He also declared that the Fifth Amendment was most likely to be invoked by members of “the Mob.”

Now that Trump's personal attorney/fixer Michael Cohen has announced he will "take the Fifth" in the civil lawsuit filed by Stormy Daniels, a lot of people are gleefully trying to hoist the president on his own petard. According to Trump's thinking, they say, Cohen's assertion of his constitutional right to remain silent permits the inference of guilt.

As tempting as it is to beat this drum, it is important to remember that protecting oneself against "self-incrimination" is not the same as "admitting guilt." As the Supreme Court has noted, innocent people can be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances. In criminal actions, jurors are routinely instructed not to draw inferences of culpability from a defendant's decision not to testify. And prosecutors may not reference a defendant’s refusal to testify as probative of guilt.

By many accounts, Michael Cohen is likely to be indicted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York. If he is indicted, Cohen will be entitled to a fair trial, which includes the presumption of innocence unless and until the government proves him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Michael Cohen is not a sympathetic defendant - not by any stretch of the imagination. But we must soundly reject Trump's simplistic and erroneous pronouncement that invoking the Fifth Amendment is tantamount to proof of guilt.

To accept that notion is to undermine the rule of law; and unfailing protection of the rule of law must transcend and "trump" any distaste for Mr. Cohen and his most famous client.

Candidate Trump aspired to be “the rule of law president.” However, he has repeatedly shown himself to have little, if any, understanding of what that phrase means. Unfortunately, Trump’s misapprehension of the law resonates with segments of our population. The rest of us – and especially my fellow attorneys – cannot allow Trump’s ignorant views, which he asserts with unbridled conviction, to become conventional wisdom.
 

A history lesson

richardson

Earlier this week, we learned with much sadness that Linda Carol Brown had passed away. Linda, you may recall, was the little girl who could not attend the all-white school just 5 blocks from her home. Instead, she had to walk through the Topeka, Kansas, rail-yard to get on a bus that would take her several miles away to a segregated school.

Linda’s father thought his daughter should be able to attend the neighborhood school, and he sued the Topeka Board of Education to make that a reality for his little girl. The case, famously, wended its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where a unanimous court overruled Plessy v Ferguson (1896) and declared that “separate is not equal” in public education.

In Plessy, there was but one dissenting vote, that of Justice Harlan who wrote: “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.” His was a solitary, but barely audible, voice crying in the legal wilderness of the late 19th Century. It would take more than another half century for change to come.

In the wake of Linda Brown’s passing, it is fitting to reflect on the landmark case of Brown v Board of Education. And it is important to consider what many do not know - the decision almost went the other way. At the halfway mark of the last century, segregation was enshrined into law in many states and, in other states where segregation was not legally protected, it was nonetheless practiced openly.

Brown v Board of Education was first argued in December, 1952 and, at the time, many thought it unlikely the Supreme Court would reverse Plessy even though the appellant firmly established that legal segregation harmed black children. The Court was deeply divided and, in June of 1953, ordered that the case be re-argued.

But before the re-argument scheduled for September 1953, Chief Justice Fred Vinson died in his sleep. His replacement, California's governor Earl Warren, took the time and made the effort to move a seemingly intractable mountain. He did what many thought impossible: he built a consensus of his fellow justices, and - in the end - brought even the most recalcitrant justices along.

The result of Earl Warren's labors was a unanimous decision that declared: “[I]n the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

These many years later, we remain indebted to Linda Brown, her father, and an extraordinary team of lawyers led by Thurgood Marshall, who would later join the Supreme Court, for their skill, courage and tenacity in challenging a holding repugnant to the first “self-evident” truth stated in our nation’s founding document – “that all men are created equal.”

And we remain mindful of the fact that the replacement of even one justice on the nation’s highest court can change the course of history.

With that thought in mind, we must do everything in our power to ensure that the balance of power in the next Senate is one that will soundly reject any Trump nominee to the high court – and every other federal court – whose judicial moorings suggest he or she would take our nation backwards. Among the current Supreme Court justices are some who would repeal not only the progress of the Twentieth Century but of the Nineteenth Century as well.

Our nation has come too far to turn back now. Every issue of consequence to the functioning of our republic will, eventually, be addressed in some manner by our nation’s highest court. As the Brown case makes clear, who sits on the Supreme Court can make a real difference in the outcome of critical decisions. We don’t vote for the justices, but we do vote for the senators who confirm or reject them. In 2018, the future of the Court is on the ballot.
 

The Balukoff case

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Idaho Democrats are fortunate to have two qualified candidates seeking their party’s nomination for governor, and I will gladly support whoever wins the primary. That said I believe that A.J. Balukoff not only has a better shot at winning in the general election, he would make a more effective governor from day one.

As I see it, the five most important challenges facing Idaho in the years to come involve education, health care, job creation, equal access to justice, and public lands. Both candidates’ positions on these topics largely align with my own, but A.J. has the depth and breadth of experience to propose sound, progressive legislation and the skill set to persuade a Republican legislature to enact his proposals into law.

A.J. believes that a state’s future is only as strong as its commitment to quality public schools. For 21 years, he has been an active member of the Boise School Board, constantly and consistently advocating for top-flight public education for all children. He knows that public education enables children to grow into well-informed citizens who can contribute to their neighborhoods and communities and effectively compete in the work force. As Idaho’s governor, A.J. will make our public schools, colleges and universities a top priority.

And A.J. knows how important it is for all Idaho families to have access to quality health care. He has been a Board Member for St. Luke’s Hospital for 13 years and is firmly committed to expanding Medicaid to ensure that the almost 80,000 Idahoans without such access receive coverage. A.J. wants all Idahoans to have the certainty of knowing they will not face dire straits – even bankruptcy – if they are sick or injured.

A.J. grew up in a middle class family and knows first-hand the importance of hard work. He has built strong, successful businesses, created jobs, and developed economic opportunities for hundreds of Idahoans. He is an entrepreneur who will use the skills he honed in private life to keep businesses in Idaho and attract new industry to our state, all to the benefit of Idaho families. In his many years of public service, A.J. Balukoff has generously shared the bounty he has earned with countless others in support of the greater good.

A.J. strongly supports equal access to justice and will work to ensure that all Idahoans are treated equally under the law. He believes that women should receive equal pay for equal work, that Idaho should “add the words” to ensure that legal discrimination against LGBT individuals is a thing of the past, and that the government should not interfere in health care decisions made by a woman in consultation with her doctor.

Finally, A.J. is an outdoorsman who knows the importance of keeping our public lands in public hands. As a life-long member of what Governor Andrus used to call the “hook and bullet club,” A.J. will fight to ensure that Idaho’s public lands are not sold to the highest bidder, that our children and grandchildren are not locked out of our unique legacy of hunting, fishing and recreation in Idaho’s great outdoors.

The three frontrunners for the Republican gubernatorial nomination all present a poor choice for Idaho. Probably the most concerning candidate is first district Congressman Raul Labrador, a Tea Party darling whose ideological extremism and ineptitude is exceeded only by his grandstanding. I believe that A.J. Balukoff has the best chance of defeating Labrador, should he be the Republican nominee, in the general election.

A.J.’s exceptional work ethic, remarkable record of accomplishment, and clear vision for Idaho’s future make him my choice in the Democratic primary. I hope Idaho Democrats will nominate A.J. Balukoff on May 15th. His proven record of leadership in the private and public sectors make him the strongest candidate in the general election and the best prepared to serve in our state’s highest office.