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Posts published in August 2022

The waste goes on


Leave it to lame duck Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin to turn her job into something that it isn’t.

To be clear, a zoo animal could do the lieutenant governor’s job when the Legislature is not in session. In fact, a zoo animal might be overqualified for the position.

McGeachin will have a useful purpose (presiding over the Senate) when the Legislature meets in special session. Otherwise, she has no constitutional duties for the rest of her term. Technically, she’s supposed to serve as acting governor when Gov. Brad Little is out of the state, but lately he has not notified McGeachin of his travel plans and who can blame him. McGeachin used a couple of his out-of-state ventures to impose politically charged executive orders that Little immediately reversed upon his return to the state. So, as far as Little is concerned, she forfeited her right to be “acting” anything for Idaho.

But don’t think for a minute that McGeachin will serve the last months of her tumultuous term quietly. She asks, “Is this what you expect from your elected officials?”

In her case, yes.

“Would it even be appropriate for an elected official to do nothing with six months left in a term of office? I would never do that. It’s not in my nature to sit back and do nothing and I think it would be unjust to the taxpayer.”

Again, in this case, give the taxpayers a break. Do nothing, please.

Conservative politicians often talk about limited government, waste in spending and bureaucrats running amok. McGeachin, who seems to be continuing with her failed campaign for governor, has become Idaho’s boondoggle queen. Instead of winding down, McGeachin has chosen to expand the scope of the office. She started by giving a fat raise to a former administrative assistant and elevating “constituent service” operations in her office.

Of course, there are other avenues for constituent services – including state legislators and the congressional delegation. The governor’s office has been known to help Idahoans wade through the bureaucratic maze.

Her most notable role has been promoting former President Trump – as if he isn’t getting enough help from Idaho’s all-Republican congressional delegation. But the delegation is not nearly as blatant as McGeachin. Republican members are not shy about criticizing Biden and Democrats, but they don’t go as far as promoting Trump’s agenda.

There are rules against doing that sort of thing in Congress. But McGeachin, as an independent state constitutional officeholder, apparently thinks she can make up her own rules and cry “fake news” if anyone pipes up.

A few weeks ago, she was gushing about her attendance at the America First Agenda Summit in Washington. As she describes, “It was wonderful to mingle with like-minded conservatives, dedicated to the restoration of America’s greatness.”

The star of the show was Trump himself, with McGeachin dutifully outlining the “America First” agenda. “We must take strong action to ensure that the America First agenda is implemented here in Idaho. We need courageous legislators who are committed to combating the threats facing our country and to restoring the traditional conservative values that made our country great.”

She promises that “You will be seeing more from our office in the coming months as we continue to champion and advance this historic agenda for a free and prosperous nation.”

More recently, McGeachin sent out another press release that included a celebration of Rep. Liz Cheney’s defeat (McGeachin spelled the name “Chaney”) in Wyoming’s primary.

“It’s refreshing to see conservative Republicans rejecting out-of-touch elitists who have forgotten who they are supposed to represent. Victories such as (Harriet) Hagerman’s in Wyoming and Keri Lake’s in Arizona reflect a growing resurgence in respect for conservative values and America First principles. Despite the questionable outcome of the 2020 presidential election, the movement to Make America Great Again has only continued to grow. We can look forward to some monumental victories this November.”

McGeachin is sending a message that she’s not going away, which is fine. She may well be running for another office, working to reshape Idaho’s Republican Party, or taking a job with Trump. All that is fine, too.

But there is nothing fine about using a dime of taxpayer money to essentially promote a Trump campaign. Somebody needs to pull the plug on this operation.

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

Christians, they ain’t


I grew up during years when families went to church. Together. And regularly.

Ours was one of the “mainline” variety. We were taught to love, to honor, to do good works and to respect others. Christianity, they called it. Taught it. Tried to live it.

Christianity. A simple five-syllable word. Very familiar. Denoting love, industry, honor, charity, giving, caring for others and living with adherence to the laws of God. A word spoken in nearly all the languages of the world.

But, nowadays, something’s happened to the word “Christianity.” It’s been hijacked by some folks who’ve used it as justification for disruption, distortion and attacking some of the norms of society.

There’s a form of Christianity extant in our world these days that says, “My way or the highway.” Its adherents believe - make that strongly believe - all of us should abide by and live our lives as they do. Their rules should be the rules for all of us.

We’re seeing this version of Christianity used as a shield in a story out of Boundary County, Idaho, for example. There, a small group of these good “christians” (deliberately small “c”) have demanded the local Librarian toss out 400 books these “christians” say promote homosexuality, bestialityand other indecent lifestyles not to their liking.

The pressure’s been so bad Librarian Kimber Glidden is quitting the job after only nine months, saying nothing in her background could have prepared her for the extremist pressures.

Bonners Ferry is a town of about 2,500 souls. At one of the entrances to downtown there’s a large, red sign saying “This is Trump Country” with an adjoining poster promoting a far-right candidate for Governor.

The Librarian, the Library Board and county commissioners have been inundated with disrupted meetings, attempted recalls and baseless charges for nearly a year by a couple dozen of these “christians” who want those 400 books eliminated. Now!

Well, the “christians” may have their list of books they want banned. But, the library doesn’t have those books. Not one title. None!

Still, that hasn’t stopped the near-rioting, outrageous demands and constant badgering by the “christians” who’ve now driven out the Librarian. No books they want banned exist there. Not one!

Does that “christian” bunch represent all of Boundary County? No, not at all. But, the “christians” have their agenda - their demands that no one in the entire county should have access to “those filthy” books. No, Sir. “Not here!”

This sort of minority bloviating is not confined to Idaho. Or Oregon or Washington. And, the “christian” minorities here and there have demands for all sorts of things. Basically, they want to impose their will - their lifestyle - their religion - their rules on everyone else.

There seems to be a constant that connects most of these malcontents. And, that is they are Trump voters. Their Trump hats, shirts and flags are ever-present in their demonstrations.

For me, there’s a huge disconnect in these people. They call themselves Christians and many actively quote -at length - from the Bible. But, they pay allegiance to a guy who’s currently under investigation by several government agencies and who has at least 22 active court filings charging him with fraud, sexual misconduct, cheating on his taxes and more.

I just don’t get it. This guy doesn’t only have feet of clay. He’s clay clear to the top of his chemically-treated hair. And, one of these days - sooner rather than later - one of those investigations is going to lead to his being formally charged with a crime and a likely conviction. Maybe more than one.

We’re seeing more of this “my-way-or-the-highway” playing out in our politics. Both local and national. Creating these groups, giving them far-right books/videos, furnishing lists of demands for this-or-that, making distinctive clothing and flags - all of this has become a new right-wing “cottage industry” of sorts.

And, it isn’t just libraries in small towns under attack. Our national system of public education is a prominent target. Their demands of our tax dollars to support their private schools - read academies - is a popular subject at the moment. Legislatures from coast-to-coast are being inundated with carbon-copy demands.

Yes, these folks call themselves Christians though they don’t live the teachings of Christ. They don’t shelter the homeless, feed the hungry or clothe the poor. They demand rather than ask. They want others to obey their made-up rules. They follow another “Pontius Pilate.” Or, maybe a new Judas.

These folks will disappear, in time, along with their man-made ideas. They’ll find some new “culture” to adopt. A new leader.

But, real Christianity, in its many forms, will survive. It will outlive them all. Always has. Always will.

The Winmill decision


On August 2, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed its first-in-the-nation suit against a state law preventing women from receiving necessary emergency care when their lives are threatened by dangerous pregnancy complications. The Idaho law makes it a felony offense, with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years, for anyone to perform or assist with an abortion. The DOJ correctly asserts that the Idaho law “preemptively criminalizes all abortions…even where a denial of care will likely result in the death of the patient.

A doctor can be prosecuted, even if an abortion procedure was essential to save the life of an emergency room patient. The doctor can escape prison and license revocation only by convincing a jury that the abortion was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest that was reported to law enforcement.

The DOJ claims the Idaho law conflicts with a federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires hospitals receiving Medicare funding to provide emergency care to those who come to their emergency rooms with conditions that seriously jeopardize their health. Emergency conditions include dangerous pregnancy complications such as an ectopic pregnancy that could cause a woman to bleed to death, sepsis that could result in organ failure, and life-threatening eclampsia. The DOJ seeks a court ruling that the law cannot apply in the emergency room setting.

The main problem with the law is that it was poorly drafted and rushed through without any informed medical input. Practically no consideration was given to the serious problems that arise for doctors, lawyers and the courts in the interpretation and application of sloppy, ambiguous wording.

Raul Labrador, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, strongly supports the law and has objected to the emergency room lawsuit. He told the Idaho Press, “the people of Idaho understand better than ever why we need a strong Attorney General who will stand up to the bullies in DC and defend Idaho’s duly enacted laws. Idaho respects life. Our Idaho elected officials have enacted strong pro-life laws to defend the rights of the unborn. In filing this lawsuit, the Biden Administration seeks to replace the will of Idaho’s citizens with President Biden’s pro-abortion priorities.”

Labrador’s opponent, Tom Arkoosh, responded, “it is not enough to fulminate over federal overreach, like my opponent. The State’s top lawyer must take a clear-eyed view of a case like this and arrive at the response that best serves the State and its people. I have said there is no valid legal defense to the case. Nor is there a moral or ethical defense against a law that would deprive women of emergency health care and subject emergency room workers to criminal prosecution. If I were Idaho Attorney General, I would negotiate a settlement that would allow the emergency room doctor, with the patient’s consent, to provide the medically necessary care without fear of prosecution.”

On August 25, the judge issued a decision that mirrors Tom Arkoosh’s legal analysis of the case. The abortion ban will not be enforced in the emergency room setting until the judge issues a final ruling on the merits. The judge indicated the DOJ would likely prevail in the case. Idahoans can judge for themselves which candidate evaluated this case in a legal, ethical and commonsense manner.

The two thirds


Are the two districts most directly facing each other across the Columbia, the third congressional districts of Washington and Oregon, really the same kind of district – only on opposite sides?

Control of the U.S. House next year could hinge on the answer.

Washington’s Congressional District 3, site of a dramatic primary election and possibly a dramatic general election, is ranked by national analysts as a solid Republican district. That’s the same rank as the district facing it most directly across the Columbia River, Oregon’s 3rd district, a solidly blue – Democratic – district.

The partisanship of Oregon’s 3rd district is undisputed. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, one of the more liberal members of the House, has been reliably re-elected since his first term in 1996. He has scored upwards of 70% of the vote in every general election since 2004, and more than two-thirds before that. Also, state legislators from the district are overwhelmingly Democrats, and the 3rd district votes reliably and overwhelmingly for Democrats for major office.

That’s a “safe” Democratic district, much as Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District, to the east over the Cascades, is “safe” Republican.

Drive one of the bridges north across the Columbia, and you enter Washington’s 3rd District, which under current districting runs a few miles east into Skamania County, north not quite to Olympia, and west to the Pacific. About two-thirds of its people live in Clark County, anchored by Vancouver. Nationally, it is described as “solid Republican” by the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections and “likely Republican” by Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

It has been represented for the last dozen years by Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, a relatively moderate Republican who has worked more on local and regional concerns than on national headlines. Her one significant entry into national controversy, a vote in favor of impeaching then-President Donald Trump, was the pivot behind her primary loss this month. Before her election in 2010, the 3rd district was represented by a Democrat, Brian Baird; for four years before that by Republican Linda Smith, but in the 32 years before her by three Democrats. The district historically swings between the parties.

Herrera Beutler’s general election track record is far different from Blumenauer’s. In 2020, she received 56.4% of the vote, and in 2018 she won with 52.7% – clear wins, but far from landslide territory. And those more recent numbers marked a slide from the elections just before, when she topped 60% in 2016 and 2014. On the state legislative front, the four legislative districts representing Clark County long have had a Republican lean, but Democrats usually have won a significant portion of the seats.

Another useful measure of partisan lean is the presidential vote. Washington’s 3rd district has been remarkably close in its presidential vote for decades. In modern times, the vote percentage peak in the district was hit by Ronald Reagan in 1984 with a modest 52% (amid a national landslide), and the next best since was won by Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. The district did back Republican Trump, but in 2020 he received 51%, winning by four points – no massive margin. (In Oregon’s 3rd, Democrat Joe Biden won by 51 points.)

Altogether, Washington’s 3rd has the look of a Republican lean, but short of a lock.

That’s the backdrop for the upcoming contest between new nominees Republican Joe Kent, who beat Herrera Beutler, and Democrat Marie Perez.

He starts with more money and name identification while she had no major primary contest to raise money. But money is unlikely to decide this race: Millions probably will pour in on both sides. Kent has a compelling story: He was a decorated green beret with years of active service, and his wife died in Syria from an arttack by a suicide bomber. But he also has baggage, including extensive and tight connections to numerous extremist, Christian nationalist and violent groups, and his endorsement by Trump came after hard-line support for the former president and his claims about the 2020 election. Perez is a lower-profile figure.

Former Republican U.S. Representative Tom Davis, a veteran national congressional campaign strategist, remarked about Kent, “The problem for Republicans is you can probably get away with this in 50 districts in the country. But this does not strike me as the kind of district where you don’t pay a price.”

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has shifted Washington’s 3rd from solid Republican to lean Republican and added that Herrera-Beutler “didn’t offer any support for Kent, who ran with endorsements from Donald Trump, Rep. Matt Gaetz and Michael Flynn and has bashed Kevin McCarthy as part of the ‘establishment.’ And Kent’s far right politics could put the Trump +4 suburban Portland seat in play in November.”

The reputable FiveThirtyEight aggregate site has listed the district as likely Republican – 97 chances out of 100 – but the number has edged down as of Aug. 14 to 90, in the “deluxe” estimate; in the polls-only version, Kent’s chances are rated at 73, seriously competitive.

This may be a close-fought race, unlike anything Oregon’s 3rd has seen in generations. Democrats now have a serious shot at a pickup here, if they make the effort.

This column originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

Zealots coming for your rights


The venerable New York Public Library – you probably have seen a photo of the library with its two massive marble lions guarding the entrance – hosted an event recently to show support for Salman Rushdie, the British-American writer who narrowly survived an assassination attempt two weeks ago.

Rushdie became a political target after the publication of his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, a work of fiction that features a dream sequence involving the Prophet Muhammad that the supreme leader of Iran at the time declared blasphemous.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader who engineered that nation’s revolution in the late 1970s, never read Rushdie’s book, the journalist Robin Wright confirms. Nevertheless, for largely political reasons, the Ayatollah ordered death for a writer. For years thereafter Rushdie lived a life of isolation, surrounded by bodyguards. Years later he assumed a more public life, and nearly died as a result.

Wright, who has covered the Middle East for years, recently wrote that “Khomeini often capitalized on issues that distracted public attention from the Revolution’s fissures and failures. He had done the same thing after students took over the U.S. Embassy in 1979. In the months after the Shah was ousted, the revolutionaries split over Iran’s political future, a new constitution, and the powers of the clergy. (They also started killing one another.) The Embassy takeover provided a useful diversion.”

So, too Rushdie’s book. It was all political.

The attack on a writer by a knife wielding assailant is a good a reminder of what political and religious zealots determined to destroy fundamental personal freedoms are capable of. Rushdie nearly died after ten stab wounds that will likely cause him to lose an eye, severed nerves in his arm and damaged his liver.

The attack is an extreme example of the kind of anti-intellectual craziness and free speech denialism that is now running wild in the United States. Threats to personal freedoms, like the freedom to check out a particular book at your local library, a right we once took for granted, are under broad assault.

Librarians, as a class, the nicest, most caring and interesting people in every community, are under attack. School boards are facing down angry, and wildly misguided parents who demand that books be banned.

Some political candidates, ironically the Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, J.D. Vance, a best-selling author, are applying ridiculous restrictions on reporters covering their public events.

Vance held a rally recently with Florida’s book banning governor, Ron DeSantis. Reporters were told they could cover the event only if they agreed to a list of conditions, including not interviewing anyone in attendance.

The editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer called b.s.: “Think about what they were doing here. They were staging an event to rally people to vote for Vance while instituting the kinds of policies you’d see in a fascist regime. A wannabe U.S. Senator, and maybe a wannabe president.” Appropriately Vance and DeSantis got the bad publicity they deserve.

The GOP lieutenant governor of North Carolina wants to go farther. Mark Robinson, a likely candidate for governor in two years, says he’d abolish the state board of education and eliminate science and history education in elementary schools. “In those grades, we don’t need to be teaching social studies,” Robinson writes. “We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to be talking about equity and social justice.”

The religious zealot and free speech deniers are literally everywhere. “For months,” NBC News reports, “a group of conservative Christians have inundated the staff and board of a public library in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, with complaints about books they didn’t want to see on the shelves.

“Their list of more than 400 titles predominantly focuses on young adult books with LGBTQ characters, scenes describing sexual activity or invoking the occult.”

Ayatollahs are alive and well in Boundary County, Idaho. None of the 400 books are even in the library. These zealots want to pre-emptively ban books, which you can be certain, like the Ayatollah, they haven’t taken the trouble to read. If they don’t like “young adult books with LGBTQ characters,” they shouldn’t read them. But the zealot’s real aim is to restrict your choice, your freedom of action, to think for you.

And, of course, they seek to intimidate and frighten. The Boundary County librarian, Kimber Glidden, resigned saying, “Nothing in my background could have prepared me for the political atmosphere of extremism, militant Christian fundamentalism, intimidation tactics, and threatening behavior currently being employed in the community.”

At the Keller Independent School District near Fort Worth, Texas, more than 40 books were ordered off the library shelves, including the Bible and an illustrated book based on Anne Frank’s diary, because someone complained.

Seriously? The Bible? Anne Frank?

One Texas parent got to the heart of the matter. Laney Hawes, parent to four children, said she understood that some parents might not approve of some materials for their children, and perhaps for very good reason, but why ban books that another parent might deem appropriate for their child?

“I don’t think that certain materials that you don’t feel like are appropriate for your children should be withheld from my children, too,” she said. Exactly.

Andrew Solomon, a free-speech activist who spoke at the New York library rally supporting Salman Rushdie, put a fine point on the threats to personal freedom the book banners and free speech tramplers engage in. “We are living at a time when the right of free speech has been under constant assault from both the left and the right,” Solomon said, “when there have been closures of libraries, books removed from schools, when everything that used to be tokens of America’s freedom of speech is under threat.”

Like Khomeini’s death order against Salman Rushdie, the American book banners and thought police are acting on a zealous religious and political agenda. They want to shape how you think, what you read, what you say and what you believe. They don’t trust you to make decisions for yourself.

This is real. Act on these threats, as more than 200 people did recently in Meridian, Idaho when they showed up to support their local library after zealots demanded book bans.

Act. Show up. Pay attention. Don’t let them censor and ban. You won’t know what you’ve lost until its gone.

Of course they wouldn’t


Here is one of the most remarkable court arguments I have ever heard of, and it happened last week in Boise, in federal court.

The subject before U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill was the Idaho abortion trigger law - tripped with the reversal of the Roe v. Wade case - and whether it conflicted with a federal law, which actually is about Medicare. The U.S. Department of Justice has pointed out that the Idaho statute smacks into a requirement that any medical provider taking Medicare money must “provide necessary stabilizing treatment” to patients; meaning, sometimes, an abortion.

The state trigger law generally provides severe penalties for any physician (or nurse) performing an abortion. There are some potential defenses (mainly involving an assessment of the likelihood of death of the mother), but any physician performing an abortion in Idaho, even to save the life of a patient in an emeregency situation, would risk arrest, prosecution, prospective loss of livelihood and incarceration and more even before rolling the dice on a favorable outcome at trial.

This point was raised in court. Idaho Deputy Attorney General Brian Church contended that Idaho law would protect medical personnel working in “good faith medical judgment” to avoid a patient’s death, but did acknowledge that prosecution could happen in the case of severe medical problems, health complications or injuries.

But - and here’s the remarkable statement - attorney Monte Stewart, representing the Idaho Legislature, said that the doctor should go ahead and do as seems best because “in the real world, there will not be a prosecution. … Idaho is capable of many things, but it’s not capable of producing a prosecuting attorney stupid enough to prosecute an ectopic pregnancy.”

Hmm. In other words, the attorney for the legislature is arguing that the Idaho Legislature didn’t really expect county prosecutors to enforce the plain terms of the law - that they’re too smart to do what the legislature explicitly told them to do.

(Possibly he meant the ectopic pregnancy instance only as an example, since there are many prospective medical issues where abortion could come into the picture; but ectopic pregnancies and other emergency conditions are not exempted under the law. Remember that the Idaho State Republican Party, at its convention this summer, specifically opted not to exempt ectopic pregnancies from conditions that should be exempted from the abortion ban.)

As his soon-to-be-issued decision suggests, Winmill wasn’t buying: “The Legislature would not have adopted the law unless they intended for it to be enforced.”

That seems obvious. Stewart might want to ask his clients whether they really meant it when they passed the trigger bill: Doubtless, they did. The legislature passes some measures - resolutions, memorials, proclamations - that are just expressions of opinion. But this was a bill, and when it passes a bill, it is saying to the state, “you must comply:” It’s an order, not a suggestion.

Of course, prosecutors do have discretion about how to enforce laws. There are so many laws on the books that no prosecutor (or law agency) could even try to fully enforce them all.

But high profile laws like this, and those people feel very strongly about, are a different matter. You might ask Andrew Warren of Florida, the former Hillsborough County state attorney (prosecutor) who was effectively fired by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, after Warren spoke out against some of the new laws (abortion among them) sought by the governor. What would be the risks a prosecutor might incur in Idaho for refusing to go after a physician in an abortion case? For one: Can you say “recall election”? Or maybe even disciplinary charges?

Winmill did stay a slice of the abortion law pending further action in court. Since - as a quirk of timing - the Idaho Legislature will be back in (special) session in the coming week, maybe Governor Brad Little would add the subject matter of abortion law clarification - about abortion law enforcement, example - to his call.

Or, considering how the legislature might react to that, and that the general election is only a couple of months away, maybe he’d rather not.



Susie ducked behind the faux marble column on the main floor of the Idaho Capitol as the projectiles whizzed past. It seemed like solid cover as she noticed the paint balls splattering the near floor and walls.

“Paint balls?” she exclaimed.

“Yeah,” the other woman affirmed. “They want to ruin our dresses.”

Susie looked at the other cowering figure. A young woman in a nice dark dress and heels was pressed against the column.

“Why are they shooting at us?”

“It’s war,” the young woman shrugged.

Susie’s mind raced. “But I’m just here to testify about the education bill!”

The other young woman shrugged. “Yeah, and I’m just here to testify about immunizations. We’re at war, don’t you get it?”

Susie took a deep breath and wondered about heading on across the rotunda to the committee room. Paint balls don’t kill. She said so to her fellow cowering witness.

“They could have guns. And real bullets.”

Susie stared at her with her mouth a bit agape. “No!”

The other woman cited the words of the new Idaho Republican state chairman. “She said they would be ready with guns loaded and ready to defend…”

Susie had read the article but had dismissed the threat. “She was talking about shooting Democrats! I’m not a Democrat!”

The other young woman looked down at the red splattered shiny marble floor. “You’re as good as one if you plan to testify against their bills.” She took a deep beath. “I’m no Democrat either but I just think immunizations make good sense. They will soon be burning crosses in my front lawn and doxing my family on Facebook.”

Susie appreciated the pause in splatters and considered their shared predicament and the wisdom of this fellow victim. “So just who is shooting at us?”

“Hard to say, I haven’t really gotten a good look.”

Susie glanced at her watch. “The committee is supposed to start soon.” She fretted. “Where is Security when you need them?”

“I’m pretty sure I saw them clustered around the Governor’s door on second floor when I came in.” They shared an eye roll.

The pause in splatters lengthened. “I’ll bet they’ve moved on to the JFAC hearing. The librarians’ budget is up today.”

Susie groaned. “My sister is a public health nurse. She warned me this could be tough, offering public testimony. She’s gotten harassed in the grocery store. Her boss quit because of the threats. And she’s thinking about it.”

The other woman softly shook her head and looked down at the marble floor. “They’re winning the war and not even killing any of us yet. They just threaten, intimidate, and bully. I think it’s time to stand up.” She looked around the three-foot column, scanning for snipers.
Susie looked at the neatly printed testimony she had folded in her hands. “I thought this was how we should stand up. I resolved to speak truth to power about the policies they wanted to enforce on us teachers, on schools, on students, on learning.”

Her anonymous compatriot stood quietly in the open scanning. “I think it’s clear.” She reached over and put a firm hand on Susie’s shoulder. “Let’s go do what we think is right.”

Susie smiled at her courage and felt buoyed. She stepped around the column and slipped on the paint splatters on the marble floor. She got some red on her black high heels. But she didn’t fall.

The abortion law, stayed in part


This is the introduction to U.S District Judge B. Lynn Winmill's decision and order in the case filed against the state of Idaho by the U.S. Department of Justice concerning the about-to-be-effective abortion law banning the procedure in the state; Winmill stayed one portion (not all) of the law in his decision on August 24.

Pregnant women in Idaho routinely arrive at emergency rooms experiencing severe complications. The patient might be spiking a fever, experiencing uterine cramping and chills, contractions, shortness of breath, or significant vaginal bleeding. The ER physician may diagnose her with, among other possibilities, traumatic placental abruption, preeclampsia, or a preterm premature rupture of the membranes. In those situations, the physician may be called upon to make complex, difficult decisions in a fast-moving, chaotic environment. She may conclude that the only way to prevent serious harm to the patient or save her life is to terminate the pregnancy—a devastating result for the doctor and the patient.

So the job is difficult enough as it is. But once Idaho Code § 18-622 goes into effect, the physician may well find herself facing the impossible task of attempting to simultaneously comply with both federal and state law. A decades-old federal law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requires that ER physicians at hospitals receiving Medicare funds offer stabilizing treatment to patients who arrive with emergency medical
conditions. But when the stabilizing treatment is an abortion, offering that care is a crime under Idaho Code § 18-622—which bans all abortions. If the physician provides the abortion, she faces indictment, arrest, pretrial detention, loss of her medical license, a trial on felony charges, and at least two years in prison. Yet if the physician does not perform the abortion, the pregnant patient faces grave risks to her health—such as severe sepsis requiring limb amputation, uncontrollable uterine hemorrhage requiring hysterectomy, kidney failure requiring lifelong dialysis, hypoxic brain injury, or even death. And this woman, if she lives, potentially may have to live the remainder of her life with significant disabilities and chronic medical conditions as a result of her pregnancy complication. All because Idaho law prohibited the physician from performing the abortion.

Granted, the Idaho statute offers the physician the cold comfort of a narrow affirmative defense to avoid conviction. But only if she convinces a jury that, in her good faith medical judgment, performing the abortion was “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman” can she possibly avoid conviction. Even then, there is no certainty a jury will acquit. And the physician cannot enjoy the benefit of this affirmative defense if she performed the abortion merely to prevent serious harm to the patient, rather than to save her life.

Back to the pregnant patient in the emergency department. The doctor believes her EMTALA obligations require her to offer that abortion right now. But she also knows that all abortions are banned in Idaho. She thus finds herself on the horns of a dilemma. Which law should she violate?

Fortunately, the drafters of our Constitution had the wisdom to provide a clear answer in Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution—the Supremacy Clause. At its core, the Supremacy Clause says state law must yield to federal law when it’s impossible to comply with both. And that’s all this case is about. It’s not about the bygone constitutional right to an abortion. This Court is not grappling with that larger, more profound question. Rather, the Court is called upon to address a far more modest issue—whether Idaho’s criminal abortion statute conflicts with a small but important corner of federal legislation. It does.

As such, the United States has shown it will likely succeed on the merits. Given that—and for the reasons discussed in more detail below—the Court has determined it should preserve the status quo while the parties litigate this matter.

The Court will therefore grant the United States’ motion. During the pendency of this lawsuit, the State of Idaho will be enjoined from enforcing Idaho Code § 18-622 to the extent that statute conflicts with EMTALA-mandated care.

Critchfield and the education culture


Debbie Critchfield of Oakley, the Republican candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, isn’t running against the two-term incumbent that she defeated in May’s primary election. But she makes it clear that, if elected, it will not be business as usual in Idaho’s Department of Education.

Critchfield is telling voters – especially Republican educators who jumped ship and voted for Democratic candidates in the last three elections for state superintendent – that they can feel comfortable with the GOP candidate this time around.

State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra won two elections by the smallest of margins, with both races being declared “too close to call” the morning after the election. She was the only Republican who had any trouble winning races for the state constitutional offices.
Critchfield looks to win in a more convincing fashion against Democrat Terry Gilbert of Boise, a retired teacher.

“There were two attitudes about her,” Critchfield said of Ybarra. “People either knew nothing about her, or there were high negatives attached to her. A lot of promises were made, and nothing happened, or she took credit for what the governors or Legislature did. Legislators were frustrated. They want someone who will bring ideas to them and someone who will work with them when they have ideas.”

Critchfield had more than 30 Republican legislators endorsing her campaign in the primary and, if elected, she thinks she’ll have appeal with some Democratic lawmakers as well.

“I will have a different approach,” says Critchfield, a former president of the State Board of Education. “There will be a different culture in the department. I will work with the governor, and I will need support from all branches of government. A key part also is the working relationship with the Board of Education, which is overlooked a lot. It was extremely difficult for board members to work with (Ybarra).”

Regardless of who wins – whether it’s Critchfield or Gilbert – Idaho will have a new state superintendent leading the Department of Education. But as Critchfield says, the challenges of the job go beyond building working relationships with educators and political leaders.

“The bottom line for education in Idaho is that people are frustrated, and the frustration is not only with parents. Teachers are frustrated. Kids are frustrated and we can’t afford in any sense of the word to do business as usual,” Critchfield says. “We’ve got to bring education into the modern context. How do we make it more relevant for students who are graduating and getting jobs? How do we provide the tools for the modern classroom and our teachers? How are we interacting with our parents and communities to reflect their values? There are long-standing issues that are going to take solutions that, in some cases, we haven’t even thought of yet – everything from funding to school safety and security.”

Critchfield doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. But living in a rural community, she knows there are talented people throughout the state who are willing to work on solutions. Critchfield is the public information officer for Cassia County schools and is a former school board member for the district.

Her opponent has talked about a trigger law that would devote at least half of the state’s surplus to education and is backing the Quality Education Act promoted by Reclaim Idaho. Critchfield rejects both ideas.

On the issue of the state surplus, Critchfield says, “to say that half should go to education … I don’t know what that number is. One of the issues we’ve had over time is that we don’t target where that money is going. We can’t just say that education needs more money. For what? And where? We have been putting millions of more dollars into education, yet people are still frustrated with the outcome.”

On the education initiative, she said, “I don’t believe we should have a massive tax hike with the kind of surplus we have and people dealing with inflation. That’s not the solution.”

Those are topics that can, and should be, kicked around in debates. And Critchfield, to her credit, plans to discuss these issues with Gilbert in televised debates. She says she’s also anxious to hear how Gilbert “stands up” for policies imposed by the Biden administration.

Yes, debates do serve a valuable purpose.

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