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Posts published in March 2020

Vietnam Veterans Recognition and Covid-19


Idahoans are urged to thank Vietnam Veterans for their service on March 29 and to “give them the welcome home they never received.” Idaho’s Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day is part of the celebration of National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which commemorates the return of all U.S. troops and POWs on March 29, 1973. A ceremony had been scheduled for March 29 at the State Capitol, but was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns.

Having arrived back home from 407 days of service in Vietnam on August 30, 1969, I can say that the reception was not particularly unpleasant. On the way home we’d been warned to expect anti-war demonstrators when we landed in California. There were a few, but not too strident. The folks at home in Magic Valley were generally supportive but I quickly learned there was not much point in talking about my Vietnam experience.

During the next three years, I worked in former Senator Len Jordan’s office in Washington and was the staffer who discussed the Vietnam War with the thousands of people who visited the office to lobby against it. Most were well intentioned and made valid arguments against the war. Quite a number accused the troops of atrocities, using words like “baby killers.” I told them there were a few bad apples but that the great majority of the soldiers were there to honorably serve their country.

Like many Vietnam Veterans, I was proud of volunteering to serve in that war. Those who were drafted to serve did so with equal dedication. We did not expect to be welcomed home as heroes, but as people who had done what was asked of us.

Nine million Americans served during the Vietnam era, 2.7 million of them in Vietnam. 58,220 Americans died in the War, about 251 from Idaho. 2,500 were prisoners of war and 1,587 are still missing/unaccounted for. Over 300,000 were wounded and many more have suffered from PTSD, drug or alcohol abuse, suicide or Agent Orange. The majority went on to lead productive lives.

I have met Vietnam Vets who came to believe it was shameful to have served in that war. They thought so because they met with indifference or disrespect when they came home. Movie and TV stereotypes of crazed Vietnam Veterans did not help. While it is fair game to criticize a war, dislike for a war should not extend to those who honorably served in it.

We were told we were protecting our country by fighting international Communism. Looking back, I have questions about that, but hindsight is always 20-20.

What I do know is that I came home thinking we would prevail in the war. I was hoping so because I had worked and lived alongside many dedicated South Vietnamese troops who became friends. It broke my heart when South Vietnam fell. I knew my friends were either killed or imprisoned. It still eats at me.

Like many of my fellow vets, it is hard to see what we accomplished at such a cost. From my perspective, the very best thanks and welcome home would be that the country learn from the Vietnam experience and never repeat it. Unfortunately, that did not happen with the disastrous war in Iraq. If we can resist the march to another unnecessary war, I’d feel blessed.

One thing that is particularly heartening is the way returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated--with thanks and respect. Even if people have serious concerns about the wisdom of either or both wars, they have rightly embraced those who stepped forward to serve. That is good progress.

Jim Jones served in Vietnam from July 1968 to August 1969. He has written about that experience and its effect on his life in “Vietnam…Can’t get you out of my mind.” His book is available for purchase on this website.

When it gets personal


The entire world is wrapped up in this COVID-19 pandemic.

We’re bombarded with death counts, state-by-state information on new cases and deaths, medical bulletins and political statements. Some of which are lies and damned lies from our “president” and his coterie of truth slayers.

We’re inundated with scenes of medical personnel doing heroic things at the risk of their own health. We’re told where the worst of it is at the moment, how bad and where new cases - hundreds of thousands of new cases - are likely to happen next.

Most of us are now under orders to stay home. Staying isolated. Staying separated from everyone else. Many of us are concerned for family and friends who are far away. Most of all, we’re a bit fearful for what the next day will bring and how soon our neighborhood will be among the statistics. Whether we’ll be infected and, if so, what will happen to us.

I’ve previously told you of our large, Arizona neighborhood of seniors. Three communities - cheek-by-jowl - of about 92,000 folks over the age of 55. Based on three years of desert residency, I’d guess about 60,000 of us are over the age of 70. And some 10-15,000 over 80. That would seem to make us a handsome target for any infection. Especially this one.

We have two modern, well-equipped, well-staffed hospitals. Each has about 100 beds. You do the math.

Barb and I did the math. And it ain’t good!

We’re sheltered at home with sufficient provisions for a month or so. We’ve ventured out for medical appointments but that’s about it. Lots of time on the old computers, reading or binging on Netflix. Pretty typical. Cloistered. Which gives us a lot of time to think.

Here’s where it gets personal. During that thinking time, a single scenario keeps playing in my head.

I get the symptoms. Coughing, sweating, flu-like stomach problems, etc.. Barb takes me to the hospital - a five-minute drive.

The emergency room is full. Takes about three-hours to be seen by a nurse. She tests and soon confirms COVID-19, calls an orderly and, suddenly, I’m on a gurney in the hall on the sixth floor. Me and dozens more. And there are five similar floors below.

Time passes. The sound of coughing never ceases. Workers appear, do their duties and disappear. Coughing. People talking in hushed voices. Once-in-awhile a gurney is moved someplace else.

Then a doctor arrives and introduces herself. She tells me what’s currently going on in the hospital, how rushed everyone is, how supplies are running low and describes the never-ending line of old folks still in their cars outside.

Then, she lowers her voice, bends closer and says “We’re out of ventilators. We’ve been out of ventilators for three days and we’ve had to make some hard choices.”

That’s where this repeated scenario ends. Each time, it ends with that doctor and those words. Each time.

Then, it’s back to all that time to think. Hearing those words and imagining what happens next.

The reality is I’m 83-years-old. Though healthy for my age, there are some things that can be medicated but not fixed. I’ve been blessed to have a long, mostly healthy lifeline. Survived cancer and some broken bones. With occasional prescriptions to mask various elderly afflictions, living a comfortable retirement. But, still 83.

That means there are lots of younger people. Lots. They’ve got years ahead of them that I’ve already crossed off life’s calendar. They’ve got things to do I’ve already done. They’ve got things to see I’ve already seen. They’ve got time to go. Time I’ve already used up.

Suddenly, the news we’re watching gets very personal. Very. The endless statistics become more meaningful. The number of cases and the number of deaths more real. Concern for Barb and the rest of the family are more important than ever before. Thoughts of the end-of-life more immediate.

We are a nation under siege by an enemy we can’t see and can’t control. While most of us are trying to follow the new and, hopefully, temporary rules, others are not and they’re endangering us as well as themselves. For too many, the seriousness, the reality, the eventuality that it will suddenly become personal has not registered. But, it will.

Barb and I elected to stay where we are largely because there are so many doctors, specialists of every stripe and easily accessible health care facilities for people our age. With some 92,000 of us, medical necessities would seem to have been met.

Which creates a significant irony in my scenario when the doctor says “We’re out of ventilators.”

The same excellent and plentiful health care that caused us to change our lives may now play a significant role in our end-of-life.

During those anxious hours


Now that the Legislature has wrapped up its 2020 session and vacated the Capitol, citizens can rest somewhat easier. Legislators could not bring themselves to provide adequate school funding and residential property tax relief. However, they did address some critical issues--letting out-of-staters pack concealed weapons in our State without a license, passing two transgender bills that are likely unconstitutional, and striking a blow against affirmative action.

The House of Representatives proudly stood up for the right to hate in our State. When we were able to rid our State of hateful racists in the 1980s and 90s, the slogan “Idaho is too great for hate” became popular. Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb has proposed a bill in the last two legislative sessions to make a “Too Great for Hate” license plate.

The cost of the plates would be paid by purchasers, with any excess going to the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. Last year, the legislation sailed through the Senate but got sandbagged in the House. This year, the Senate passed the legislation by a 26-9 vote on February 11. It languished in the House for over a month and was defeated on the last day of this year’s session by 32 Republican “no” votes. I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would think about these members of the party whose banner he carried in the war against southern hatred.

On the national scene, I was fascinated to learn that the President has offered to help both North Korea and Iran in fighting the coronavirus. Apparently, our efforts to fight Covid-19 are going so well that we can offer assistance to others. I’m wondering, however, why our state governors from coast-to-coast are begging for supplies and help from the federal government and having a hard time getting it.

Kim Jong-un and Ayatollah Khamenei must have known of our government's tardy, erratic and paltry response to the pandemic and thought it was a trick to spread the chaos to their countries. Khamenei declined, calling U.S. leaders “charlatans and liars.”

Kim was kinder, calling Trump’s offer “good judgment and proper action.” It is not clear that Kim wants the help, though.

Trump could have done both adversaries a real favor by suggesting that they seek help from South Korea, which has implemented an effective Covid-19 program. We and the South Koreans learned of the coronavirus threat at the same time in mid-January. The South Koreans raced into action, testing their population, finding the ill, tracking the disease and providing life-saving treatment. Their new cases peaked earlier in March and are now falling. During all of this, the President downplayed the threat and did little to prepare to meet it until a raging problem was at hand. Instead of having the disease at bay like the South Koreans, we are headed into truly dangerous times.

Instead of telling state governors that the feds are not “shipping clerks” for life-saving supplies, Trump should enlist the military’s logistics system to acquire those supplies and get them to where they are needed. Private companies should be required under the Defense Production Act to mass produce testing kits, masks, swabs, ventilators and other critical materials for an all-out attack on the pandemic. States should not have to be competing against each other to purchase critical supplies at inflated prices.

This disease does not care about state boundaries and it is the absolute obligation of the federal government to meet this kind of threat head-on. It is incomprehensible that the President has not pulled out all of the stops. If he had done that when the South Koreans did, we might have a real example and competent advice to provide the North Koreans and Iranians.

How we live now


NOTE: I reached out this week (thanks social media) to a great reporter I’ve known and respected for a long time who now lives in northern Italy.

I was hoping Andrea Vogt, an Idaho native, would give me some fodder for my regular column in the Lewiston, Idaho Tribune where she used to work. Andrea writes regularly for European newspapers and has produced documentaries for the BBC.

Andrea’s sobering, enlightened essay was more than I expected. I want to share it in full.

Idaho has always been a bit of a paradise oasis, even when all hell breaks loose in the rest of the world: a safe place to live, a reassuring place to come home to, a remote place where it is easy to say with a blithe shrug “well, it won’t happen here.”

As the coronavirus pandemic swept through northern Italy, where I now live, I watched it encroach – despite a strict lockdown — toward my region, then toward the nearest city and then eventually into my small town.

I live in one of the most affluent regions of Italy, with quality socialized health care, free and accessible for all – and yes, we pay for it with high taxes, but I have rarely had to wait long for an appointment and never had to worry about how to pay a medical bill. And yet, the severity of pneumonia associated with the coronavirus epidemic severely strained and at times overwhelmed the system here, mostly because so many patients needed serious help all at once and because Italy has such a large population of high-risk elderly and because, in the beginning, they underestimated the swift and deadly contagion.

It is easy to make the mistake of debating the risks of coronavirus, when the more pressing concern is that the pandemic creates a shortage of ICU beds available for other emergencies – things like ATV wrecks, logging mishaps, highway collisions, accidents at home or in the shop, or patients needing surgeries for other reasons, like cancer or hip replacements. Are the region’s hospitals and clinics equipped to meet all the needs of its residents as the pandemic bears down?

Idaho has the advantage of being naturally socially distanced by its wide-open spaces and sparse population. But this can also provide a false sense of security – I hope I’m wrong, but I imagine that even though an invisible menace is threatening “everyone else,” in Idaho, life is probably chugging along fairly normally: farmers meet for coffee at the diner, loggers line the barstools at the tavern, prayer meetings and family gatherings still seem safe enough and the daily shifts at the factories – Simplot, Micron, Clearwater Paper — hum on, oblivious to the danger facing production lines.

That was the case where I live, too, an initial hesitance to close everything down, for fear of hurting the economy. It was gradual, starting in late February, but now everything (except commercial activities strictly linked to the basic supply chain and essential services) has lurched to a dramatic halt, as the economy (and personal freedoms) began playing second fiddle to desperately saving lives.

In a little town not far from me called Medicina, population 16,000, the virus raced silently through the local senior center, killing its cook, its handyman, the vice president and a whole table of retired card players – this virus tends to kill more men than women. They felt safe. They were healthy and lived in a small town. They didn’t see it coming. Now Medicina is mourning their grandpas.

The day that happened I wrote an urgent email home to my mother, sister, aunts and uncles in northern Idaho. Ten days before there was any discussion of social distancing in the U.S., I urged them all to begin canceling appointments and preparing. I wonder about others who may not have such a personal connection to the pandemic, who did not receive a dire warning from someone they know and trust. I worry about the lack of unified, coherent federal response in the United States, which will leave poorer, less resourceful states more vulnerable.

Washington State, California and New York perhaps can manage on their own. But can Idaho? Will Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d’Alene have enough respirators (and what about overflow from Spokane?) How about St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston-Clarkston, with its large number of retirees? What about Gritman in Moscow and St. Luke’s in Boise?

These are the questions to put to Idaho’s elected officials, who were apparently busy passing bills to regulate transgenders as the pandemic approached. They were elected to protect and represent you. Hold their feet to the fire and ask each one of them how prepared the hospital nearest you is, and what is plan B? How many ICU beds, how many respirators, how many masks in the storage closets for the frontline doctors, nurses and staff?

This is going to matter to you much more in 10 days time than whether or not John or Betty changes their gender on their birth certificate. I pray Idahoans don’t end up facing the dilemmas unfolding in the rest of the world – but as a remote, self-sufficient, independent place that has always prided itself on preparedness, I hope Idaho’s elected officials, at state and local levels, are all pragmatically preparing a vigorous, level-headed plan to address to the real problems they could encounter. When there is a record snowstorm in the forecast, they get the plows ready. Now, they need to make sure Idaho’s hospitals are equipped to respond to this very different kind of storm, which they cannot say they didn’t see approaching.

In the meantime, fellow Idahoans, my advice is to stay home and stock up, not just on flour and butter for your pantry, but on the goods you might not expect to have needed to cope in the coming weeks: compassion, creativity, patience and strength.

A political moment


If for a moment you’d like to think about something other than Covid-19, try this: The subject I’d ordinarily address around now in an even-numbered year, which is filings for Idaho office by candidates.

And really, it’ll only take a few minutes.

The Idaho filings lay out the contours of the election year in the state. We get to see, in them, where the major races are and how many contests are likely to emerge.

The general election at the top of the ballot, for U.S. senator, doesn’t look tough for the incumbent, Republican Jim Risch. There is nonetheless a contested primary between two Democrats who both have run for higher office before, Jim Vandermaas, who two years ago ran (unsuccessfully) in the Democratic primary for the 1st District U.S. House, and Paulette Jordan, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for governor. Jordan is much better known, while Vandermaas is getting some interesting endorsements. It may be competitive.

There are Democratic primaries for both of Idaho’s House seats, where the Republican incumbents also have big advantages. But the scope and shift of the contests may say something about what the Idaho electorate is looking for.

Considering races for the Idaho Legislature involves looking at contests for 105 seats, so the best way to approach them is statistically.

First - zero surprise here - Republicans start with a massive advantage. In fact, it’s more than that. If you assume that no minor party candidate will be elected to the legislature this year - not a bad bet, since none have in more than 80 years - and that no write-ins win, then by failing to field a candidate for 20 of the 35 Idaho Senate seats, Democrats already have ceded control of that chamber.

Democrats have a larger percentage of candidates for House seats, but still left open 33 of them for Republicans, meaning the GOP’s odds of retaining control can be reasonably supposed just from looking at the candidate filings. The filings tell us more generally that the next legislature will look a lot like the current one, and the one before that, and the one before that ...

Which does not mean all those Republicans have what’s called a free ride - de facto re-election because only one candidate filed. Many Republican incumbents face contested primaries without later facing a Democrat, and several open seats will be fought over by just Republicans (or, at least, without any Democrats in the mix).

There are 14 completely unopposed candidates running for the Idaho Senate - meaning they account for nearly half of the seats - and 21 for seats in the Idaho House.

There’s some interest here, though, in that a significant number of those unopposeds are Democrats, two among the senators and six among the House contenders. That seems like a higher number of Democrats unopposed than in most recent elections, and could suggest a little further hardening of deep blue territories to match with some of the larger dark red regions.

The closest to a real attention grabber for me was the candidacy of a newcomer, Rick Just, a well-known former Department of Parks and Recreation employee and author of a number of Idaho history books. (Disclosure: I got some help from him last year when I was working on an Idaho history book of my own.) Just’s background is only part of the reason for the interest. He’s running in District 15, a long-time Republican area where Democrats in 2018 flipped two House seats and came recount-close to doing the same with the Senate seat. That senator who came close to losing last time, Fred Martin, is running again this year. Should be a hot contest.

The Senate seat in District 5 (the Moscow area, featuring another rematch) will also be strongly contested, as well a scattering of House seats. But overall, this looks like a quiet election cycle on the Idaho level.

In contrast, of course, with the national.

Okay. You can go back to Covid-19 now.



I loved the Calvin comic strip. He and the tiger played Calvinball. There were no rules in Calvinball. The Idaho legislature must love Calvinball too. For the second year in a row they have not approved any rules.

The legislature passes laws (we hope with clear intent) and the details are left to administrative departments. The departments publish proposed rules, take public comment and often negotiate with the businesses or organizations that will be affected by the rules. The rules are then brought back to the legislature for review to make sure the rules reflect the legislative intent.

You may remember in the 2019 session no resolution was passed by the legislature to approve or reject the rules. That’s because the House and the Senate could not agree on how they should be doing this process. So newly elected Governor Little sent his departments to work and trimmed a lot of obsolete rules. They worked hard to make sweet lemonade from legislative sour lemons and sold it as such quite publicly. Good work; now do it again.

This session the legislature (at about $20K/ day) spent the first five weeks reviewing and not agreeing on the big pile of rules. And they adjourned AGAIN last week with no concurring resolution. We’re wasting our money paying these children.

Also remember, the legislature fought to get their review protected by the Idaho Constitution. They ran an amendment on the ballot in 2014; it failed. They brought it back in 2016 and with lots of Farm Bureau support, got voters to approve. It seems like they desperately wanted to protect their right to review, approve or reject administrative rules so bad they needed a Constitutional amendment to protect it. Now that they have the right protected by the Constitution, they don’t even bother to do the work. They are acting like Calvin.
Big deal you may say. The Idaho didn’t grind to a halt in 2019. All the rules were made new. And why do we need these silly rules anyway? Idaho does great playing Calvinball.

Consider the law that we all have to live by, even the legislature. They passed this law thirty years ago. It reads in part:

…no pending rule or portion thereof imposing a fee or charge of any kind shall become final and effective until it has been approved by concurrent resolution. Idaho Code 67-5224(5)(c)

Of all the rules review I did for weeks on end the first weeks of the legislature, fee rules were the ones I paid attention to the most. Most of the time when a law is passed, fees are directed to be charged for specific state services. A certified Death Certificate will cost you $16. (Admin Rule I pay $200 every year to the Idaho Board of Medicine to renew my medical license, though the rule says they can charge “less than $600”.

Rather than raise your taxes, if you want government to do some work for you, they charge a “user fee”. Seems fair to me. Only, without a legislative resolution to adopt these fees on record, to quote the law: “no fee or charge of any kind shall become final and effective”.

I think a lot of folks should be scratching their heads when they are asked to pony up for state fees. When I get my license renewal request from the Board of Medicine, I’ll be asking them “Why do I have to pay this?” The way I read the law, I don’t see how they have any authority to charge me a fee. But I appreciate that they are doing their job.

Don’t get me wrong, I kind of like when government does work for us. And I haven’t run into any specific fees that seemed onerous. Think of it though; vehicle registration fees, hunting and fishing tag fees, cattle brand registration fees; all of them are not “final and effective” because our legislators love playing “no rules” Calvinball. Some adult should send them to “time out”.

Forget the markets


The three victims had been in rapidly deteriorating health for a couple of weeks when they suffered a sudden collapse on Thursday, March 12. The indicators were not good for Dow Jones, Nasdaq and S & P. All had suffered declines of about 10% in just one day and nobody knew where the bottom was. Drastic action had to be taken and quick. The question was how to revive them from the dreaded coronavirus.

Would doctors and health experts do the trick? It did not seem that medical intervention would help. Every time the experts spoke about the health of the public and the worsening outlook for the people, it hurt the three victims that apparently counted most in the President’s mind, the financial markets.

Perhaps a meeting of business titans to announce a long-delayed serious response to the coronavirus would do the trick. The President’s announcement was timed for 30 minutes before the close of the markets on Friday the 13th. Just to show that things were not really that serious, Trump shook hands with everyone in sight.

Low and behold, the markets jumped out of bed when traders learned that the government looked like it was going to actually take the coronavirus pandemic seriously and try to do something about it. During the 30 minutes before closing, the Dow shot up 1,985 points, just 367 short of matching the 2,352 point dive the day before. The other two indexes responded similarly.

The President was clearly pleased with the market response. At a news conference the next day, he said he “was honored to see that the stock market set a record in a short period of time,” and that he ought to hold a news conference “five times a day.”

Trump also sent a note to supporters, showing an autographed chart of the Dow’s Friday performance. An accompanying note said, “The President would like to share the attached image with you, and passes along the following message: ‘From opening of press conference, biggest day in stock market history!’” High fives all around. Trump failed to mention that his clueless indifference to the pandemic on Wednesday shocked the business community and caused the Thursday crash that laid the groundwork for the remarkable rebound on Friday.

A report from CNN noted that, Trump’s “message did not mention the overall coronavirus crisis, the number of people who have died or are sick, nor the fact that he had just declared a national emergency.” CNN obviously does not understand the concept of trickle-down health care. If the health of financial markets is given first priority in a pandemic, the beneficial effects might trickle down to all of the rest of us who are further down the priority list.

Instead of just obsessing about the health of the financial markets, Trump would be well advised to think about the health of the people. After all, it is the people who sustain the economy and the markets. They, and the small businesses that are suffering on main streets across the country, and the caregivers and first responders who are risking their safety, should have the very first priority in our efforts to combat the pandemic. If they are all brought through this emergency in good shape, the markets will do just fine and Trump will get the praise he so greatly craves.

Besides, it is risky business to focus on manipulating the markets, rather than protecting the health of the people. The very next trading day, March 16, saw the markets crash again, wiping out Friday’s “historic” gains. I don’t suppose signed Dow charts will be circulated. And, perhaps five news conferences a day would not be helpful.

It ain’t the same


Politicians and TV’s talking heads have been saying our current COVID-19 international crisis is much like living during WWII. It’s not. For those of us who lived that period from 1938 to1945, the differences are stark and numerous.

My father was too old for the draft at that time. So, he volunteered to be a warden for the feds. Living on a ranch of several thousand acres, his assigned area was quite large. His responsibilities: assure other ranch homes had their black blinds in place every night; make sure drivers had black coverings on headlights with the little slit that allowed a small sliver of light to see the road; notify authorities of anything unusual; keep a detailed, written record of his rounds.

That warden authority came a pith helmet and an armband. Though unarmed, his duties were largely respected. Neighboring ranch owners followed whatever directions he was authorized to give and some even joined him on his lengthy, blacked out, nightly trips. A hundred miles each night. Then some.

What Dad did as a single citizen was a representation of a national effort - an effort where everyone on the “home front” was expected to become active in thousands of small ways to back up the military on the front lines. Regardless of age. And volunteer we did!

I remember saving pennies, nickels and dimes to take to school to put in a can on the teacher’s desk. Each 10-cents earned a small stamp that went in my little book. When filled, I got a “war bond” for the 18-dollars the book represented. At the end of the war, we would get 25-dollars back.

Mom saved cooking lard for reuse. Put black blinds on all windows. We kept a large garden and raised our own beef, pork and chickens, supporting not only ourselves but some neighbors and some city folks at church. Gas for all vehicles and farm equipment was rationed. Unnecessary travel was banned. No outside lights at night. We used federal food rationing stamps.

Even as a kid, I was part of an all-out national movement to support and defend the country. There was work. There were responsibilities. There was a sense of urgency and seriousness. But, most of all, there was an all-encompassing “we’re-in-this-together” feeling everywhere.

There’s nothing like that now. We’ve become more divided - acting more as single citizens and less as a whole. This is not 1944!

When the emergency COVID-19 relief bill passed the Senate, eight Senators voted “no.” When told to stay home, thousands of college kids hit the beaches in Florida and other coastal states. A guy who tested positive checked himself out of the hospital and went back to work, obviously endangering others. Newspapers across the country reported similar acts of defiance of law, order and sensibility.

We’re no longer the united “home front” of WWII. We’ve become a nation of individuals, clearly divided by race, sex, morality, social standing, economics, religion and anything else you can think of.

While individualism is not all bad, at this time, battling an unseen enemy that could - and likely will - eventually kill millions, it’s not the best personality trait you want to see displayed.

And, there’s this important difference. During WWII, we had a President who not only told the truth, he made an extreme personal effort to reassure a frightened nation. His “fireside chats” were informal radio talks. A New Englander’s voice of calm and a voice of real leadership, despite a crippling disease that would kill him before the war ended.

Now, we have a “president” who looks you straight in the eye and lies! And lies! And lies! And LIES! He even attempted to “classify” details of our pandemic so only he and his handpicked “spokesmen” would be allowed to brief Americans with whatever information was deemed supportive of Trump.

Then, something began happening. Voices of experts began being heard - unclassified voices of people with expertise - with knowledge - with facts. People with valuable information began working around the White House. And, eventually, even the “president” was forced to face facts, bad though they are.

Now, we’re being told it’s “up to the 50 states” to equip health care professionals who’re leading our defense against COVID-19. “Not the federal governments responsibility,” we’re told. Let the states fend for themselves is the attitude. And we have a “president” who looked into the TV camera and said he bears “no responsibility” for hiding facts, for lying about the dangers we face and for screwing up the administration’s disastrous response to the pandemic.

No. There’s little connection - if any - to how this nation reacted to the dangers posed by WWII. That was then. This is now.

The armed military we nationally supported then has become an army of health professionals we must now support with life-saving equipment, new isolation facilities, staffing and reliable information. And we need to forego some of that “individualism” by obeying orders to stay home, to isolate ourselves one from the other, to practice good personal care to avoid any possible spread of the virus.

What we’re being asked to do - what we must do - has nothing to do with “over there.” This war is “over here” - anyplace you happen to be. National security and an assured future are up to each of us to be shared by all of us.

I remember the ‘40's and the times we lived through. But, now, it just ain’t the same.

Lessons from ’76


In 1976, I spent my final semester of college traveling to Nebraska, Oregon, and California in support of Senator Frank Church’s bid for President. I believed that, despite his late entry into the race, Church could beat the peanut farmer from Georgia who had momentum but lacked Church’s profound understanding of foreign affairs, depth of experience on domestic issues, and inspirational vision for our country’s future.

En route home to Idaho from the California primary, I was heartsick to learn from a static-filled radio that Jimmy Carter had garnered the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. How was this possible? How could my fellow Democrats not see what I saw – that Church was a far superior choice? And I wept.

I find myself reflecting on that experience now that it has become apparent that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee, and that Bernie Sanders’ tenacious campaign has, for all practical intents and purposes, come to an end. It will not be easy for Senator Sanders, or many of his supporters, to accept that Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Those supporting Bernie don’t just support a person, they passionately support his stands on both substantive and process issues, and many will be more than disappointed, they will be devastated or angry, or both. Many will be reluctant to embrace Joe Biden. That is human nature. It is extremely difficult to summon enthusiasm for the person who prevailed against your champion – the person who inspired you to engage and gave you reason to believe that profound change was possible – when you are grieving.

Many, if not most, of Senator Sanders’ supporters will ultimately get behind Joe Biden because he is so much closer to Bernie on the issues than Trump will ever be; and their commitment to issues, which motivated their passion for Bernie’s candidacy in the first place, will ultimately prevail. After more than three years of Trump's failed presidency, they know the incumbent to be an existential threat to our nation. But they need time. And they need Biden and his supporters to reach out to them.

Eventually, we trust, they will reach back.

As we give Bernie’s supporters the time they need to grieve and realign, we must beware of those – in Russia and here at home – who see dividing progressives as their path to re-electing Trump. Some purported “Bernie supporters” who appear to vilify Biden are not, in fact, Bernie supporters at all but Trump trolls in disguise who want nothing more than to pit Democrats against each other and prevent any healing.

Likewise, I hope Bernie supporters will consider that Trump trolls will also be hard at work parading as Biden supporters. They will appear to diminish Bernie’s effort, or gloat, or say hurtful things on social media, or elsewhere. They, too, seek to divide and conquer. Almost every true Biden supporter I know respects Bernie Sanders – his effort and that of his supporters – and they know better than to be smug, or dismissive.

Healing is possible, but it takes time. I know. I eventually became enthusiastic about the peanut farmer from Georgia, and he got elected. But I still thought Idaho’s Frank Church would have made a better president.