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A blogger’s call for a Simpson primary

The conservative Adam's Blog (Adam Graham) caught some attention with this take: "I would hope that at some point a true Conservative would challenge Simpson in the primary. Maybe they wouldn’t win, but a significant showing might make Congressman Simpson more circumspect."

About? Essentially, about spending (and prompted by a Club For Growth report on federal spending; Idaho's other House member, Bill Sali, gets a much more favorable rating in the report than Simpson; Sali was a CFG-backed candidate last year). Graham writes: "Doubtless some Republicans will feel me disloyal to the party in making these comments. Well, Congressman Simpson has been disloyal to me as his constituent in wasting my taxpayer dollars and refusing to reign in spending. Congressman Simpson is part of a bi-partisan group leading our country to fiscal catastrophe, taking my hard-earned money and spending it on nonsense. This is an issue that’s too important to shut up about and play nice."

Will others pick up the standard?

Signs of Paul

We pay some attention, as most observers of politics do, to the signage candidates develop during campaign season. We factor it in, but filter it: Signs are useful indicators, but only to a point, and they can be misleading.

Case in point in eastern Washington, where a small forest of Ron Paul yard signs has been sprouting. And if the name doesn't quite ring a bell . . . which it may not . . . Paul is one of the lesser-known Republican candidates for president, and a Texas who has been a member of the U.S House on an off, and previously (1988) a Libertarian Party candidate for president. And he is the one distinctly anti-war candidate among the Republicans running this year.

He is not a frontrunner, and he does not have a massive organization. But people in eastern Washington, where he does have some determined supporters, are finding out about him, via Robert Chase, a Libertarian from Liberty Lake (you gotta love that), who himself once ran for the U.S. House, in 2002. Jim Camden's Spin Control blog has the background.

Moving here and there

Gordon Smith

Gordon Smith

Now wait a minute. If someone - including someone on Oregon Senator Gordon Smith's staff - has some way to clarify what he said Tuesday in Roseburg about Iraq, we'd be interested in seeing it. As is, the Roseburg News Review is reporting a view of Iraq that's hard enough to characterize.

The line that's picked up the most national attention is this: “When the president stood on the aircraft carrier (and said) ‘Mission accomplished,’ he was right. He was right as to all we could win." He was . . . right that the mission was accomplished? He doesn't seem to be saying so, in his statement overall, and neither does he seem to be endorsing Bush's larger approach for Iraq. But it's hard to tell.

Here's what he said next: "The rest is for them to win and we need to facilitate that happening instead of forcing our vision on them. They will be democratic if they’re together in their community, not if we’re jamming them together. There, they want to kill each other.”

If they're together, but not jammed together. Smith: “If we have to get moving vans, build housing here and there, I assure you that is much, much cheaper than military action.” Move them . . . where?

Somewhere: “Rather than trying to force something that was first imposed upon the Iraqis by the Europeans in the Treaty of Versailles, let us help them live apart because they can’t live together.”

They will be democratic if they're together, but they want to kill each other if they get too close, so we need to help them live apart. Is that it?

These points evidently were central to Smith's proposed solution to Iraq, which, the News Review said (though Smith's web site has not) he also has passed on to the Bush Administration.

We can't think what else to add. Clarification, anyone?

Them what don’t belong

On Monday we noted that most of what had surfaced about freshman Republican Representative Bill Sali's tenure in Congress has been ordinary - the usual run of national and regional issues, discussed with ordinary conservative slant. Look on his web site and that's what you'll see: Nothing out of the usual for a Republican congressman.

Which doesn't mean, as we semi-pointed out, that there isn't more to the picture. As emerges, for instances, in the fallout from the July 12 Hindu prayer in the U.S. Senate. That event marked the first time a person of that faith had delivered the prayer, and that expression of religion was met with sounds of protest in the gallery - three people who shouted "No Lord but Jesus Christ," "There's only one true God," and called the prayer an "abomination."

Sali did not issue a press release on the matter. But he did have this to say to the American Family News Network:

Although the event generated little outrage on Capitol Hill, Representative Bill Sali (R-Idaho) is one member of Congress who believes the prayer should have never been allowed.

"We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes -- and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers," asserts Sali.

Sali says America was built on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. He also says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through "the protective hand of God."

"You know, the Lord can cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike," says the Idaho Republican.

According to Congressman Sali, the only way the U.S. can continue to survive is under that protective hand of God. He states when a Hindu prayer is offered, "that's a different god" and that it "creates problems for the longevity of this country."

When we asked Wayne Hoffman, Sali's press spokesman, about the context of the comments (and whether they were accurate), he at first couldn't recall the comments, then quickly corrected himself: "Ah, I get it now . . . Congressman Sali was invited to be on American Family News, a nationally syndicated talk show. This would have been last week, and the comments were made during that show. . . . I would hasten to add that several bloggers have gone into a weird place with regard to this comment, adding bizarre analysis onto this. I’d take it for what it says, nothing more."

Okay . . . So, first, the Family News article is evidently accurate enough, and fairly represents what Sali said - at least, Hoffman didn't indicate it didn't. You don't have to stretch far to see a reasonable source for some of the critical comments piling up, on matters from the apparent misunderstanding of the Hindu faith to the idea that a prayer delivered by a member of a faith adhered to by many Americans (more than 900,000) would endanger the nation's future. (Not to mention the constitutional ban on religious tests for office.) By all means scan the debate (66 comments at this writing) at the American Family News article on Sali - you'll see the religious conservative nerve touched here, and get a sense of some of the counter arguments.

Sali's critics may have to look farther afield than just the official record to find their best grist. Evidently, though, it's there.

RESPONSE A comment from Hoffman on the precedingpost: "Randy, I feel the need to clarify the post you have on your website. Congressman Sali was merely expressing a personal opinion, based on his strong belief in the need to reach out for God’s guidance at the start of each day. That’s all. He bears no ill will toward Hindus, and he has no issue with working with Representative Ellison, nor with the fact that people of his district elected him. If you have questions, please ask."

And Spokane is Homeland secure

Darin Earl Wanless was a security guard for the federal government, assigned to watch atop the federal courthouse at Spokane. In the interest of enhancing homeland security, he was given the use of various pieces of equipment, including strongly-powered cameras.

What he did with that equipment on the evening of May 31 and evidently on a number of other occasions as well, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports, was to "watch women undress in the West 809 condominiums at Main and Lincoln and the Davenport Hotel, a block away from the courthouse at Sprague and Lincoln, court documents say."

Since his approach to security surveillance was uncovered by his superiors, he has been charged with four counts of felony voyeurism (hadn't known that was a felony) and no longer guards the courthouse roof. Secure Solutions LLC, which provides the security guards for the courthouse, has replaced him. Do we all feel more secure now?

AFTERWORD Did the mention of Secure Solutions LLC get your attention? Let's pause and take a look. (More below the fold) (more…)

Idaho, on the D side

Republicans in Idaho seem to have made their choice for president. Not only an overwhelming number of elected officials but, indications are, plenty of other Republicans as well seem to be in the Mitt Romney camp. However many other states he may have, the former Massachusetts governor evidently has Idaho locked down.

But what about Idaho Democrats?

Supporters for John Edwards and Hillary Clinton can be found, but indications now are that Barack Obama seems to be surging. The candidate himself was recently nearby, at a rural issues conference at Elko, Nevada, and drew a strong response there (considering that Elko is, after all, heavily Republican).

Red State Rebels has an enlightening report on a recent Obama staffer appearance in Boise: "Pengilly's was packed Monday afternoon to greet Raul Alvillar, Western region political director for the Barack Obama campaign. Fresh from Obama appearances this weekend in Salt Lake City and Elko, Nevada, Alvillar said that although no Idaho campaign stops are certain, he'll be working hard to get Obama to Boise. Close to 100 people showed up at the historic Boise saloon to welcome Obama's emissary. People bought Obama Ts and signed up to volunteer on the campaign (see below). At one point, organizers asked people inside to move up so people waiting on the sidewalk could get in."

The site quoted Alvillar as saying "I want to have an event here for Barack with 10,000-plus," noting the heavy recent turnout for former Vice President Al Gore.

Next R out: Butler

Tom Butler

Tom Butler

The tally of Oregon House Republicans opting out - well over half a year before the filing deadline - rises now to six (that's six out of a total of 29), with the upcoming departure of Tom Butler of Ontario.

Unlike some of the other Republican departures, this one has only a slim chance of affecting the partisan balance in the chamber. His district 60 is the southeastern part of the state - Malheur, Harney and Baker counties and the remote southeastern part of Grant - and this is solidly Republican territory, all of these counties running 2-1 (or better) Republican. Butler, elected five times to this seat, was solidly entrenched. But since this is an open seat, in what is looking like another Democratic cycle, Democrats may be encouraged to run a candidate to try to pull higher than normal numbers here, as an added push for local and statewide Democratic candidates. Still, Butler's successor will highly likely be a Republican. (One side note there: Baker City's Chuck Butcher, who has run for the U.S. House, probably would make a strong Democratic nominee here.)

His departure has another impact at the Statehouse. Butler has been one of the leading figures on tax issues in the legislature, and the mix of discussion and pressure points is likely to change with his departure.

First impressions and Bill Sali

Bill Sali

Bill Sali

Today's poll numbers on Idaho 1st district politics have a parentage that makes them difficult to bypass: Ordered and distributed by Democrat Larry Grant's congressional campaign, but conducted with analysis by Republican pollster Greg Smith. An unusual kind of combination, regionally, but one suggesting solidity in the results.

The issue at hand is the numbers for the man who last year beat Grant for the U.S. House seat, Republican Bill Sali; and little wonder Grant wanted to note them, since Sali's support doesn't look especially strong from an incumbent who hasn't yet stepped in any major hornet nests. Not yet posted on the Grant web site, here's the summary from Smith:

The poll was conducted July 11-13 among 253 randomly selected and statistically representative Idahoans eighteen years of age or older (who live in Regions 1, 2, or 3) who are either very or somewhat likely to participate in either the Democratic caucus or Republican primary election in February and May, 2008, respectively. These respondents were interviewed utilizing the most modern CATI (computer assisted telephone interviewing) techniques. . . .

Among those with an impression of Larry Grant, the ratings are quite positive. For instance, 28% of Idaho voters in Regions 1/2/3 have a very/somewhat favorable impression of Grant, whereas only 13% have an unfavorable impression. This results in a 2:1 favorable/unfavorable ratio, which is quite positive. The challenge, however, is to create and/or enhance Grant’s image among the approximately 60% of Region 1/2/3 residents who either have heard of him but have no impression, or say they are unaware of him (about 30% in either case). The aware/no opinion concern is particularly present north of the Salmon River (Regions 1/2), where about 40% of respondents give this response.

In some ways, Bill Sali has similar impressions to Grant. He has an equally high level of “favorables” (29%), with 15% having a somewhat unfavorable impression. However, fully 31% of Region 1/2/3 voters have a very unfavorable impression of Sali, which is even slightly higher in Region 3 (38%). The resulting data have a margin of error of + 5.7% at a 95% confidence level.

A bottom line impression is that many of the negatives, or at least concerns, significant numbers of 1st district voters developed about Sali last year, appear to remain in place. And that may demonstrate the difficulty of changing impressions once formed, because the impression you could reasonably get of Sali during last year's campaign are fairly different from those of the last few months.

(more…)

Clinton’s Oregon beach head

Darlene Hooley

Darlene Hooley

Hillary Clinton hasn't so far made a lot of headway in the Northwest; among the Democratic presidential contenders, John Edwards and Barack Obama (and maybe Bill Richardson too) seem to have made more progress in the region. All of which seems a little odd for the candidate generally considered the Democratic front runner.

But on June 21 she picked up Washington Representative Jay Inslee as a supporter in that state, and now in Oregon Representative Darlene Hooley, who also was named as a co-chair of the campaign's rural issues group.

Showing that Clinton is beginning to pick up a bit in the Northwest. (Wondering, though, who in Idaho will dare to lead the Clinton march?) But considering the start her rivals have had, she's not yet to the point of pulling even in the region.

A hatch of termites

We've been uneasy about the state of the national economy for - well, pretty much the whole decade. In recent years some of the normal leading economic indicators look good, but underneath we note the persistence of termites chewing away at the foundations.

Recommended Sunday reading today has to do with one of those batches of termites: The steady transition from well-paid to low-paid work. A Seattle Times analysis says that "Observers suggest several reasons for the shift toward lower-paying new jobs: the long-term move away from manufacturing toward services; higher-wage jobs being outsourced overseas; and workers in a globalized economy having less leverage to negotiate raises. . . . In any case, working full time in an in-demand occupation no longer guarantees financial stability — particularly in a pricey area such as central Puget Sound."