2022 Election, GOP, Idaho Politics

It Wasn’t Inevitable …

The moral collapse of the American conservative movement has taken place with remarkable speed.

The movement that advanced a measured, careful, temple worthy LDS Church bishop, Mitt Romney, as its presidential candidate just a decade ago has morphed at warp speed into an election denying, white-centric party of grievance and bat crazy conspiracy.

The Republican Party that put forward Romney and then-Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as its candidates in 2012 was, measured in the long arc of conservative politics, pretty standard issue: tax cuts and controlling the size of government with a conservative commitment to national security and foreign policy. Romney’s characterization of Vladimir Putin as the world’s greatest geopolitical threat was widely dismissed a decade ago. Now with many in his party openly embracing the Butcher of Ukraine, Romney seems a genuine prophet

Mitt was criticized for carrying his dog on top of his car not for wanting to be an authoritarian

Romney was hardly a great presidential candidate. His private equity career was easily demonized, particularly after his campaign was roiled by a tin ear remark claiming that “47 percent” of the country were effectively deadbeats. Even then few of his partisan detractors could reasonably claim that Romney was going to take his party over an authoritarian cliff.   

Mitt didn’t traffic in hate. Didn’t demean his opponent. He didn’t accuse Barack Obama of being a dangerous Muslim and didn’t surround himself with a bottom feeding collection of conspiracists, grifters, law breakers and people most of us would cross the street to avoid.

Unlike the current leader of his party, Romney hasn’t spread lies about the recent attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband and he didn’t refuse to concede an election he clearly lost.

So, what happened to the Grand Old Party? Well, start with the fact that the nutjob fringe has long been lurking in the dark corners of a party that once celebrated Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and The Gipper. Goldwater gave the Birchers and the Klan a dog whistle in 1964, while opposing civil rights legislation and claiming “extremism” as a conservative virtue. Nixon went all “law and order” in 1968, while stoking fear and loathing among his “silent majority.” And Ronald Reagan was smart enough to know that cementing a solid, deeply race conscious American South for the GOP long-term was essential to winning the White House. Ronnie was also savvy, as Democrats were not, about courting middle class, blue collar white voters who had seen their small towns and factories wither and die.

But this represents only a partial answer to what happened. The rest of the story is the near total capitulation of elected Republican “elites” who have hunkered in office while many of their followers celebrate political violence and rally to Putin.

Only since Romney’s run has his party come to resemble – and emulate – the full-on authoritarianism of would-be rightwing dictators in places like Brazil and Hungary. The current leader of the party of Reagan doesn’t praise the western democratic alliance. He likes the “strength” of the new Chinese Mao or the “brilliance” of a 21st Century Stalin. And who counters him?

This is a party of moral rot and character perversion, a danger to the very idea of democratic pluralism.

Idaho is as good a petri dish as any to assess the wholesale abandonment of conservative principle in pursuit of political power, no matter the cost to democracy.

Next week Idaho’s very conservative Republican governor, Brad Little, will win re-election against a no-name Democratic challenger and the widely acknowledged leader of a West-wide militia movement, a law breaking radical named Ammon Bundy, who is running as an independent.

This race is a political weathervane indicating how far, far right the unhinged Idaho white nationalists are willing to go – people I respect worry that Bundy will win 20 percent of what would  normally be the GOP vote – as well as a missed opportunity for Little and other officeholding elites who might have used the contest to assert control of a party they have largely lost.

Ammon Bundy gets a free pass from Idaho’s GOP “elites”

Imagine had Little, knowing he could coast to re-election, made the election a referendum on a more sober, sane and serious type of conservatism. What if he had made Bundy and his violent ways an explicit example of what is wrong with the radical right? Yet, near as I can tell Little hasn’t uttered a word about Bundy, his antics or lawless past. And no debate and not much of a campaign.

I’ll just remind you that Bundy organized demonstrations outside elected officials homes aiming to intimidate during the worst of Covid times. He and some of his followers broke down a door in the state capitol building, a stunt ultimately earning Bundy and his big hat a jail term. The judge who sentenced Bundy after he blew off a requirement for community service told the radical had made a “mockery of the sentence you received.”

Bundy threatened state police officers with a promise that, “I’ll come after you, each one of you personally.” He is still embroiled in a lawsuit with a Boise hospital where he forced a shutdown. Bundy’s ridiculous 2016 takeover of a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon where a protester died should have marked the end of his rise, but radical politicians in Idaho and elsewhere embraced him with little or no pushback from people like Brad Little. Now he’s on the ballot.

Bundy has been endorsed by the PAC connected to the radical Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), an anti-education, anti-government, anti-science lobby group that is no friend of Governor Little. Bundy also “enjoys” the endorsement of Roger Stone, the corrupt Trump advisor, Ron Paul, the crackpot former Texas congressman and Louisiana Klan leader David Duke.

If it’s true in politics that you are defined by your enemies these jokers would be worthy enemies.

Had Little the intestinal fortitude to cast the decency spotlight on this collection of radical right misfits he might have begun the process of leading the Idaho GOP back to sanity. That he has stayed quiet while Bundy peddled nonsense about schools, the state budget, the courts, Covid vaccines and more explains the ultimate moral rot that has eroded the foundations of legitimate conservative politics.

Little and other Republican elites know that Bundy – you could substitute the name Trump, as well – represents a real danger, long ago proving what he’s capable of doing. Rather than making him an example of what is wrong with the conspiracy mangled radical right, Little has ignored him hoping he’ll go away. He won’t.

At so many points in the remarkably swift descent of the modern GOP into a fun house arcade of conspiracy, mendacity and hate the Brad Little’s of the party could have – but did not – make an explicit stand for truth, decency, personal character and a better way. 

It’s really too bad history doesn’t offer us examples of what can happen when hate peddling demagogues given to violence are left unchecked by people who should know better.

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Additional Reading:

Some things I’ve found that you may find of interest …

Was Nixon’s Reelection Ted Kennedy’s Fault?

There is, for good reason, great anticipation about John A. Farrell’s new biography of Edward Kennedy. Farrell’s book about Richard Nixon is one of the great political biographies in recent memory. His Ted Kennedy book looks to be just as good.

John Farrell and the cover of his new book

This piece by Farrell appeared recently in Politico.

“Kennedy’s career has many might-have-beens. The most widely known occurred in 1991, when one of his investigators, Ricki Seidman, was the first Senate aide to speak to Anita Hill and hear her allegation that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her in the years before his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The piece goes on to explore Kennedy’s role in not investigating Watergate in 1972. Here is the link:


Reading Langston Hughes’s Wartime Reporting From the Spanish Civil War

Black Americans were some of the most powerful voices warning about the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s, including Langston Hughes’s warnings about Franco’s Spain.

“Hughes was not a bombastic speaker, but rather spoke in an even, assured tone. He could sometimes appear bored while reading his older poems for audiences, but when discussing contemporary events, his understated and direct speaking style conveyed passion and urgency. ‘Yes, we Negroes in America do not have to be told what Fascism is in action,’ he said. ‘We know. Its theories of Nordic supremacy and economic suppression have long been realities to us.'”

A fine piece by historian Matthew F. Delmont in Literary Hub.


Russians Used a US Firm to Funnel Funds to GOP in 2018

This story has flown under the political radar in the run up to the midterm election. It should be getting more play.

The story illustrates two huge problems: the toothless tiger of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and the fact that vast sums of foreign money continue to pollute our politics.

“Anyone who follows campaign finance knows that the FEC has been toothless for years due to GOP commissioners’ opposition to any enforcement of laws designed to oversee money in politics. But Weintraub and Broussard suggest the agency hit a new low by letting the US firm, American Ethane, off with a deal in which it agreed to pay only a small civil fine.”

The FEC was created in the post-Watergate world and it’s never been particularly effective in policing money in federal politics. It’s a scandal. One of many, I fear. Here’s the story from Mother Jones.


That’s it. Vote for democracy.

Economy, Education, Idaho Politics

Who Needs Enemies With These Friends …

Years before it became an engine of the Idaho economy, and a leading American manufacturer of what Micron Technologies describes as the “world’s most advanced memory and storage technologies,” the Boise-headquartered company was a struggling start up.

Founded by twin brothers Joe and Ward Parkinson in the basement of a dental office in the late 1970s, Micron became a home-grown Idaho success story, not unlike Jack Simplot’s sprawling agri-business empireSimplot was an early Micron investor – or Joe Albertson’s big grocery store company.

A home grown Idaho success story

Like many successful startups, Micron often depended on support from politicians to go from the ideas hatched in that basement to a company today with facilities in 17 locations around the world and 40,000 employees. Micron recently received some of that governmental help, the so-called CHIPS Act, a bipartisan initiative that invests billions in “semiconductor research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development.” Days after Joe Biden signed the legislation, and not coincidentally, Micron announced a $40 billion expansion, including a $15 billion commitment to new manufacturing facilities and many new jobs in Idaho.

Here is the curious thing, indeed the mind-boggling thing: Idaho’s all Republican congressional delegation opposed the CHIPS Act. So did the Chinese government. Square that circle if you can.

As Reuters reported: “The Chinese Embassy in Washington said China ‘firmly opposed,’” the legislation “calling it reminiscent of a ‘Cold War mentality.’” In other words, China wants a weak American manufacturing sector, particularly when it comes to technology.

Biden pointed out that the US needs computer chips for major weapons systems like the Javelin missile. “It’s no wonder the Chinese Communist Party actively lobbied U.S. business against this bill,” Biden said.

Boise’s mayor supported the legislation and is entitled to celebrate

Here’s another curious thing: the all Republican Idaho delegation voted against the legislation that paved the way for the hometown expansion of a major Idaho business, and then celebrated the company’s decision to expand. It is the most shamelessly hypocritical act of political jujitsu that I can remember in more than 40 years of following Idaho politics.

The shameless pandering was widely pointed out by among others the editorial board of the Idaho Statesman. “There’s something worse than hypocrisy going on here … There was no clearer beneficiary from the CHIPS Act than Idaho. Roughly half of Idaho’s total manufacturing exports are computer chips, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Indeed, chips are on par with, though a bit behind, agricultural products. Idaho exports more value in microchips than in potatoes.”

The newspaper concluded Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Congressmen Russ Fulcher – Fulcher was an early Micron employee – and Mike Simpson ignored a basic duty of their office to support a policy that directly benefits Idaho and the country, while attempting to keep this vital manufacturing here at home.

The no votes were votes against jobs, against international competitiveness, against common sense. Apparently, the Idaho delegation was more focused on opposing a policy that originated in a Democratic administration, even though many House and Senate Republicans ignored the pleas of party leaders to deny Biden a legislative victory.

The most shameless pander of all came from Risch, who had the gall to say on his social media feed that “Idaho & Micron have been partners since Day One of the company’s founding. This announcement of a new fab coming to Boise deepens that partnership.”

Senator Jim Risch’s celebration of an event his vote tried to prevent

In Risch’s case that statement is particularly untrue. I know. I was there.

In 1988 when Risch was president of the state senate, then Democratic governor Cecil Andrus championed increases in educational support, including the first concerted and ultimately successful effort to bring higher education science and technology courses to the Boise Valley. Risch was a no then, too.

In 1988, Micron was in its first big expansion phase with plans to create a new manufacturing facility and 1,000 new jobs, but the company worried that Idaho – and legislators like Risch – wouldn’t support its aspirations for better educational offerings close to its Boise headquarters. Micron seriously considered siting its new facility in Oregon.

But Andrus intervened, along with then Boise State University president John Keiser, and quietly helped engineer a land swap and funding from the university foundation to build the necessary educational infrastructure. Risch, not surprisingly, defaulted to his kneejerk position which was to oppose anything Andrus tried to accomplish. He complained that Andrus negotiated the deal without legislative input. On that Risch was correct.

The governor was afraid that age-old rivalries between Boise State and the University of Idaho over control of engineering offerings would kill the deal, and he worried that land values would skyrocket with speculation about a new university building. And that nearly happened, as Risch complained that he’d “never seen a situation like this,” meaning apparently, he’d never seen a governor solve both an educational problem and secure an economic development win by leaving naysaying Republicans on the sidelines.

So, when Risch says Micron and Idaho have been partners since day one, he’s counting on the fact that none of his constituents will remember that 34 years ago – Risch really is a career politician – he actively opposed the educational investments that jump started Micron’s rise to become one of the biggest international players in semiconductor technology.

As far as I can tell no one in the Idaho business community, including Micron, has called out Risch and the rest of the Idaho delegation for opposing the CHIPS Act, and that is really a shame because failing to hold the shameless responsible for turning their backs on a major employer, not to mention ignoring a national security matter, will merely encourage more such behavior in the future.

Twin Falls Times-News, April 17, 1988

It wasn’t always so. In 1988, then-Micron CEO Joe Parkinson, hardly a liberal, took Risch on, saying the company was dismayed with his legislative leadership. “We thought we were talking to a senator who represented us,” Parkinson said in an interview where he announced Micron would oppose Risch’s re-election due to his lack of support for education.

Risch responded that he was just doing what his “constituents want,” which was to hold the line on educational spending “and not raise taxes.” The senator’s position was as shortsighted then as it is now. And, just to complete the history lesson, Risch lost re-election in 1988 by more than 10,000 votes.

After that election, which Andrus described as “a referendum on education,” Risch told reporters he was done with politics. “I never intended to make politics a career,” he said.

It wasn’t the last time he misled his constituents.

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Additional Reading:

A few other stories from around the Internet …

The Bizarre Story of Piggly Wiggly, the First Self-Service Grocery Store

Another economic origin story.

“Before Piggly Wiggly, groceries were sold at stores where a clerk would assemble your order for you, weighing out dry goods from large barrels. Even chain stores used clerks.”

The Pig, as my mom called the store, changed the game. Link here.


Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness

A review of a book by Elizabeth D. Samet who teaches at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“The great thing about the American empire,” observes historian Niall Ferguson—a fan of that empire—“is that so many Americans disbelieve in its existence.” Samet argues that a major reason for this disbelief is the collective misrepresentation of America’s triumph in the Second World War. Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation, Steven E. Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, and Stephen Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan are only some of the better known evangelical texts of American exceptionalism. A sea of popular culture—books, movies, newspapers, radio and TV shows, comics, and social media campaigns—has transformed the war into what Samet calls an enduring “testament to the redemptive capacity of American violence.” This, she writes, “leads us repeatedly to imagine that the use of force can accomplish miraculous political ends even when we have examples of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan to tell us otherwise.”

From Dissent Magazine.


THE QUEEN OF THE WORLD

The Queen is dead.

The Financial Times front page

“On Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday, she delivered a radio broadcast that would define her life. Addressing all ‘the peoples of the British Commonwealth and Empire,’ and specifically ‘the youth of the British family of nations,’ she asked for their permission to speak as their representative. Delivered from Cape Town, South Africa, this was not a message to England, or Britain, or even the United Kingdom, but to the already fading empire.

“The message was designed to inspire, but also to begin a transition. The princess declared that just as England had saved Europe from Napoleonic domination in the 19th century, the British empire had saved the world from Hitler in the 20th. The task now before the empire was just as pressing, she said: It needed to save itself.”

From The Atlantic.


I’ll be away from my regular Friday column for a while, but may be posting here and there during some down time. I’ll be in touch and thanks for reading. All the best.

2022 Election, Abortion, Idaho Politics

Famous Litigation …

Bill Hall, the acerbic and very funny one-time editorial page editor of the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune, once got his dander up about the fact that southern Idaho’s most famous crop – the russet Burbank potato – had come to define the state’s image. For decades Idaho’s license plates have proclaimed the state home to “Famous Potatoes.”

The rest of the state, the mighty rivers, the massive lakes, the Swiss-like snowcapped peaks and waving wheat fields were ignored, while the state’s image became a baked spud smeared with butter. Why not, Bill Hall argued, “Famous Peas and Lentils,” a solid cash crop prevalent north of the Salmon River?

Needless to say, that never caught on. Still, it is time for a refresh of the state’s steadily eroding image. A new proposal: “Idaho: Famous Litigation.”

Idaho is back in the national news cycle with the U.S. Justice Department suing the state – an utterly predictable development – over one of the most misguided pieces of anti-abortion legislation in the country. Idaho finds itself, three decades after then-Governor Cecil Andrus prevented the Famous Potato state from becoming embroiled in high-profile, costly and likely futile litigation over abortion, smack in the middle of a needless, thoughtless fight.

Andrus vetoed a misguided piece of abortion legislation in 1990 that had as its sole purpose an effort to influence the national debate over Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision overturned earlier this year by six Christian nationalists on the current Court. Now, the state’s ultra-conservative leadership has teed up just the kind of fight that Andrus avoided. You’d think a state fighting an image as a haven for white supremacists, anti-Semites and education-hating radicals might have sought to avoid become known for imposing a government mandate denying health care to pregnant women.

But this is Idaho where no crazy idea goes unrealized.

The potato state has become a poster child for performative, shoddy, punishing lawmaking that ignores real-world realities and ends up costing millions to defend, most often unsuccessfully. You can tell how thin the state’s defenses are when it comes to its abortion law by reading the ridiculous statement issued by Governor Brad Little who termed the Justice Department’s action “Biden overreach” and “federal meddling.”

There was no attempt by state officials to counter the federal government contention that Idaho’s law conflicts with federal law and creates the very real prospect that a pregnant woman would be denied an abortion even if her life were in danger. This really happens in a variety of circumstances according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, including when the woman is suffering infection or severe bleeding.  

The Idaho law also seeks to criminalize medical professionals, putting them in a legal vice between an oath requiring them to provide necessary care for a patient and the state’s mandate to prevent such care.

“The law places medical professionals in an impossible situation,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said of the Idaho lawsuit. “They must either withhold stabilizing treatment … or risk felony prosecution and license revocation. The law will chill providers’ willingness to perform abortions in emergency situations and will hurt patients by blocking access to medically necessary health care.”

The radical ideologues in Idaho’s rightwing party ignored these real-life consequences when they passed, and Little signed the law they must now try to defend.

The governor must have flinched on Tuesday night as the election results rolled in from ruby red Kansas. Voters there overwhelmingly rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would almost certainly have led to abortion restrictions like those in Idaho. Democratic turnout surged in Kansas, Republican voters said enough and the measure failed in every congressional district, even the two most super-conservative districts.

This is the Kansas Donald Trump carried by nearly 15% in 2020.

New York Times graphic

As Bill Scher noted in Washington Monthly, radical Republicans in Kansas – just like their fellow travelers in Idaho – have made “two big miscalculations.” They assumed all Republicans want to ban abortions and they under-estimate the willingness of Democrats and independents to show up and defend a right that many, many Americans thought was secure but is now severely threatened in many states.

Many elected Republicans do not yet realize – or refuse to consider – that there is no constituency for forcing a woman facing death or severe injury to carry a pregnancy to term. Likewise, they don’t appreciate how odious most Americans feel about criminalizing medical practices. The party known for opposing “mandates” is now the party favoring mandates requiring death and prison for women and medical professionals who don’t have the luxury of viewing the world in stark absolutes.  

This type of reckless, blind ideology, however, has become the defining characteristic of the modern Republican Party. Every fevered notion ever harbored by the John Birchers, the Q-Anon conspiracists, the Trumpy election deniers and, yes, the “let’s outlaw abortion” crowd is now in the party platform. The elected elites of the Grand Old Party find themselves marginalized by a lunatic minority who have taken to manipulating the party’s rules and dominating the party’s primaries. 

The spud state is leading the way.

The Republican Party “elites” have responded to this crisis of legitimacy by cowering in fear of their own supporters. As the conservative writer Jonathan V. Last noted a while back, “If the institutions within the Republican party were strong, they would exert their will … [and] shape popular opinion. Instead, these institutions dare only to assert their will under the cover of darkness, out of sight from their voters.”

That, Last says, is “the definition of weakness.”

A Brad Little, given his weakness and fear of the most pyretic elements – even the clear minority elements – of his own party, can’t buck them, can’t reason with them and certainly can’t lead them any more than a Kevin McCarthy can embrace a real investigation into the crimes of January 6. The fever swamp won’t let them be responsible and they lack the guts to try to be.

Therefore, every defense becomes hackneyed laugh line. In the Idaho governor’s case, a pathetic attempt to label entirely legitimate concerns over critical health care for pregnant women and prison for doctors as “federal meddling” or, in McCarthy’s case, drumming a truth seeker like Liz Cheney from the party.

“A party that is afraid of its voters is not sustainable,” Jonathan Last writes. “Either the voters will leave or the party institutions will transform to their liking.” This is a party that is not sustainable.

Two outcomes seem possible for the one-time party of Lincoln. The GOP will continue to collapse, perhaps bringing the Republic down with it. Or the majority of Americans who reject the utter nonsense that has come to define the Republican Party, like voters this week in Kansas, will finally move on to the bright sunlit uplands of political sanity.

Meanwhile, see ya in court, Idaho.

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Weekend Reading:

The Greatest – Bill Russell

The passing of a great Celtic and a great man.

President Obama presents Bill Russell with the Medal of Freedom

“This truth cannot be debated: Russell and the Celtics owned the NBA like no other team ever has or ever will. He cared only about winning and he did it better than anyone – in any team sport – ever has. He encountered 10 Game 7s and left each one with a victory. How improbable is that? The likelihood of flipping a coin the same way 10 times in a row is 0.098 percent. Russell’s teams were the NBA’s 1 percent. He has as many rings as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson combined. He won eight straight championships during one stretch.”

I grew up watching big number 6 and mourn his passing. This is a great piece on Russell.


Vin Scully Was Los Angeles

If Russell was the greatest winner ever in basketball, Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully was the greatest behind the mic talent in sports history.

The broadcast voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Vin Scully, is shown the pressbox of Dodger Stadium before the start of their baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“When Kirk Gibson smashed that home run against Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley to set the tone for the Dodgers’ upset of Oakland in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Scully exclaimed: ‘In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!’

“For one minute and eight seconds, he remained silent, allowing the roaring Dodger Stadium crowd to fill the television speakers. The echoes continue to this day.”

I’m no Dodger fan, but I sure love Vin. Great piece Scott Miller piece in the New York Times.


The fundamental flaw in ‘Make America Great Again’

Historian Leonard Steinhorn has an excellent take on what is driving the effort to whitewash American history.

“Few Americans want to bring back the worst injustices and excesses of the 1950s. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that those who want to restore this bygone era — to ‘make America great again’ — would re-create a society that resurrects some version of them. Talk as they may about the prosperity, respect and values of the 1950s, it’s the impact of their policies today that have the potential to reopen the wounds and inequities we have spent the following decades healing.”

From Made by History, a regular feature of the Washington Post.


Keep after it. Citizenship is a full-time job. Thanks for reading.

GOP, Idaho Politics, Insurrection, Trump

Political Survival …

Note: Adam Serwer, writing in The Atlantic, reminded us – again – this week that Republican senators had a chance in February 2021 to convict Donald Trump and guarantee that he would never again hold public office.

Most Senate Republicans twisted themselves into political pretzels to avoid hold Trump accountable for the Capitol attack on January 6, even though no one attempted to defend his actions.

As Serwer wrote: “Although seven Republican senators broke ranks and voted to convict Trump, most of the caucus remained loyal to a man who attempted to bring down the republic, because in the end, they would have been content to rule over the ruins.”

Which brings us to very Republican Idaho …


Idaho congressman Russ Fulcher was one of 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election for the winner, Joe Biden.

Idaho congressman Mike Simpson has called the House committee investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “a witch hunt.” Simpson’s dismissal of the investigation as a purely partisan exercise ignores the fact that a string of Republican witnesses – the former attorney general, several Trump White House staffers, the Georgia secretary of state and the Arizona speaker of the house – have provided unrefuted testimony under oath. Some witch hunt. 

Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher posted this photo on social media. He’s signing a document on January 6 objecting to the presidential election

Idaho senator Mike Crapo, while accepting the endorsement of the former president of the United States has had almost nothing to say about that president’s increasingly well-documented efforts to overturn the election and prevent Congress from carrying out its constitutional duty to count electoral votes.

Idaho senator James Risch, like Crapo, opposed creation of an independent panel to investigate the Capitol insurrection and what caused it. Risch remains mum as more testimony implicates the former president in what a federal judge has called “a coup in search of a legal theory.”

Idaho attorney general candidate Raul Labrador, we know from text messages assembled by the congressional committee, implored then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 6, as Labrador put it, to “get Trump to say something to calm down the people.” Labrador, who supported a bogus legal strategy aimed at overturning state elections, also said to Meadows: “I believed in Trump and I would probably object to the certification today.”

This is the top leadership of the Idaho Republican Party systematically ignoring a Constitutional and political crisis that makes Watergate look like a family picnic. And all in the name of party solidarity.

The Idaho Republican party once included the principled leadership of conservatives like Phil Batt, Jim McClure, Jim Jones and Dirk Kempthorne. The party’s elected leaders today seem as far from principled as Bonners Ferry is from Malad. To steal a line from the late columnist and commentator Mark Shields, these Idaho politicians make Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s loyal sidekick, “look like an independent spirit.” 

In commentary in Idaho newspapers recently, former newspaper reporter and one-time GOP publicist Chuck Malloy suggests he knows what Fulcher, Simpson, Crapo and Risch are up to – I include Labrador, as well – with their not so artful dodge of the political issue of our time. The Idaho Republicans are, Malloy wrote, “political survivors,” and “political survivors” know “better than to cross” Donald Trump.

Idaho’s “political survivors”

“Political survivors” don’t “buck leadership” because survivors – guys like Crapo in Malloy’s telling – get ahead by making a “political career of being a loyal soldier for Republicans.”

I’m certain my old friend Chuck wrote that to explain – and excuse perhaps – the motivations behind a lack of character on the part of these political leaders. Perhaps inadvertently Chuck also hints at an even bigger truism. Idaho Republican leaders are scared – scared of Trump, scared of the most radical elements in their own party, scared of losing office and power, scared of the mob coming for them. They’re like Mafia capos, the middlemen in the crime syndicate, who aren’t directly in charge of the wrongdoing, but know about it and condone, afraid to cross the Big Boss.

“Republican lawmakers fear that confronting Trump, or even saying in public how they actually feel about him, amounts to signing their political death warrant,” Jonathan Martin, journalist and author of This Will Not Pass said recently. “For most of them, it’s not more complicated than that.”

Survival at all cost no matter the price. 

Rusty Bowers, the very conservative Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who testified recently before the January 6 committee, is a living, breathing example of the chaos and danger that has been unleashed by the Trumpian Big Lie about the election. After telling the committee that he told Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that he would not violate his oath to defend the law and the Constitution to further the former president’s lies about the election, Bower related what happened to him and his family.

Pro-Trump supporters used bullhorns as they protested outside Bower’s Mesa home. Protesters filmed Bower’s house and at least one man showed up with a gun and threatened a neighbor. A recall effort was mounted against the devout Mormon and BYU grad. He was accused of corruption and pedophilia. His friends attacked him. Trump lied about him.

All this happened, while Bower’s daughter lay dying inside his home under siege. All this happened because a conservative Republican told the truth about Donald Trump and pushed back on the stolen election lies. Election workers in Georgia and elsewhere have similarly been threatened and intimidated.

It may well be that Idaho’s Republican leaders are merely pragmatically invested in continuing to be, as Chuck says, “political survivors,” toeing the line and tending to tribal loyalties, but what if they won’t tell the truth because they are merely political cowards rather than survivors? Considering the threats and intimidation raining down on who have dared to tell the truth – Rusty Bowers and this week former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson among them – who can really blame these small, timid and quiet men from Idaho?  

Yet, like Bowers, like the Georgia secretary of state, like young Ms. Hutchinson, like the Capitol Police officers who fought – and some died – to protect Fulcher, Simpson, Crapo and Risch on January 6, these Idaho Republicans also took an oath to “preserve and protect” the Constitution of the United States.

That oath, as we heard from Speaker Bowers, is a solemn, honorable commitment. It doesn’t apply only when things are easy or convenient. There is no escape clause. You can’t suspend it when the politics get ugly, when Trump demands it, when the mob comes calling, or when too many of your constituents embrace nonsensical conspiracy theories. There is simply no oath that offers an “opt out” for “political survivors.”

Malloy suggests Idaho Republicans believe political courage is for losers. And they may be right. If that be so then we are all losers, and our democracy is the biggest loser of all.

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Additional Reading:

A few other carefully curated items for your consideration …

Punchbowl and power in Washington, DC

I’m admittedly pretty “old school.” My sense of journalism in rooted in the memory of Walter Cronkite, David Broder and Ben Bradley. Oh, I look at all the “new” stuff out there – the newsletters, Substack posts, and even Punchbowl, a strange name for a news organization, but OK …

If you care. He’s a dive into what is driving political news out of Washington, D.C. these days.

From the Columbia Journalism Review.


Mystery of Waterloo’s dead soldiers to be re-examined by academics

Waterloo …

“Writing in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Prof Tony Pollard, director of the centre for battlefield archaeology at the University of Glasgow, has collated vivid descriptions and images from those who visited Waterloo in the aftermath of the 1815 battle, which pitted Napoleon’s forces against a British-led coalition and a Prussian-led one.”

The image is, well, a bit grisly. From The Guardian.


The Early Life of the Renowned Leader of the Lakotas, Sitting Bull

Growing up in South Dakota I’ve always been fascinated by the great Sitting Bull. There is a new book.

“There was no such thing as emptiness in the world,” one Lakota remembered from his childhood. “Even in the sky there were no vacant places. Everywhere there was life.”

Here is an excerpt.


Liz Cheney at Reagan Library

Another tumultuous week in American politics and history. I’ll leave you with encouragement to listen to Liz Cheney’s speech this week at the Reagan Library.

“Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution,” Cheney said.

Here’s a link to C-Span’s coverage.


Thanks, as always, for following along. Stay in touch. And stay informed. These are perilous times.

2022 Election, Idaho Politics

The Crazy Continues …

Idaho avoided a full-on political catastrophe this week as the state’s Republicans largely decided who will hold public office. 

But by no means has Idaho shed the ongoing influence of an ultra-conservative, authoritarian Republican Party.

Idaho voted and Little will change

Pick your metaphor. The bullet was dodged, but the glass is half empty. Consider:

  • Brad Little, an incumbent Republican governor, riding a wave of economic expansion and sitting on massive budget surpluses, won renomination with, hum, less than 53% of the vote. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from his party, particularly when you consider that the governor’s principal opponent is a serial embracer of the most odious positions floating around the alt right universe. At least take heart that there will not be Proud Boys providing security at the inauguration next January.
  • A competent, serious, civil secretary of state candidate, Phil McGrane – you should thank your lucky stars – was selected to oversee Idaho’s elections. McGrane’s two election denying opponents garnered 57% of the primary vote. Had this been a two-way race – a sane and sober conservative versus a Trumpified “stop the steal” clown – the clown would have won. This bullet was caught in the teeth.
  • A very conservative speaker of the house, the longest serving speaker in state history, received just over 51% in a contest for lieutenant governor against a candidate so loathsome her own colleagues censured her for misconduct in a rape case.
Incumbent governor Brad Little won his primary in underwhelming fashion
  • A mostly invisible state school superintendent lost to a much more competent challenger who received less than 40% of the vote in a race where the second-place finisher, a former Democrat turned alt right favorite, was cited in April by a Washington state judge for “contempt of court on four occasions related to the custody agreement with his ex-wife.” The ex-wife also accused him of child abuse.

And that was the good news. There is ample bad news.

The state legislature seems almost certain to be as radically right as it has been and depending on leadership elections and committee assignments a swing farther right seems entirely possible. While it is true that some of the most irresponsible right wingers lost in what was generally a blood bath for incumbents, and support for public education may – may – have been bolstered, the trend line of crazy stuff was hardly bent and certainly not broken.

Idaho will come to rue the day it handed over the attorney general’s office to a political provocateur who made his reputation, such as it is, by repeatedly battling his party’s leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Raul Labrador really doesn’t want to run state government’s law office, he wants to be governor and he will spend the next four years employing every scheme he can devise to make Governor Brad Little’s life miserable.

The state’s expensive penchant for quixotic but performative legal battles will now only increase. Labrador will surely move out many of the career lawyers who have made the office a largely non-partisan source of legal advice and representation. His chief argument against long-time incumbent Lawrence Wasden, who will be remembered as one of the most effective and least political AG’s in recent history, was that Wasden refused to sign on to the bogus legal challenge Texas mounted against the 2020 presidential election.

Labrador will enter office running for governor and he’ll bully and bluster his way to the front of that line. Few politicians in recent Idaho history have been so thoroughly disliked by his peers, but now he again has a platform. Watch him use it, use it to the determent of the state and its taxpayers.

So, what should a Brad Little do now to lead this troubled party and divided state ?

Well, he’s entitled to a few moments of satisfaction that he defeated an opponent who openly courted white supremist support, denied a deadly pandemic, did her part to destroy public education, brandished her Bible like a light saber and was endorsed by the malignant force from Mar a Lago, but then what?

Barring some remarkable and exceedingly unlikely outcome in November, Little will have four more years to make his mark on Idaho. What will he do? After all, there are only so many regulations you can eliminate, tax cuts for the wealthy you can engineer, or draconian abortion bills you can sign.

He might take his “mandate” as a call for a return to sanity in the state’s conservative world. He could use the presence of militant, government hater and independent gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy on the general election ballot to isolate Bundy and his type. Call them out for what they are – a threat to democracy. It’s past time for yet another reckoning of Idaho’s reputation for harboring dangerous nuts like Bundy. Little could lead the repudiation, and at no cost to his political future.

He could address, forcefully and candidly, the intolerance and ignorance that goes with banning books in school libraries, and he could shame the alt right efforts to intimidate educators and health care workers. He could speak out against the shameful targeting of trans kids.

He could disown the Idaho Freedom Foundation and its blatantly disruptive and dishonest agenda. They hate him. He should make them an example.

The governor could make an early trip to Coeur d’Alene to meet with the new board of the venerable community college there that, momentarily at least, has been rescued from the clutches of the crazy wing of his own party.

A governor who cared about Idaho could appeal to the better angels that certainly must be lurking out there. If he wanted to, he could.

Like most of America, much of Idaho is crying out for real, principled political leadership – from the right and the left. Not slogans or appeals to the worst in us, but real substance about real things.

The Idaho primary settled nothing about the overall direction of the state’s politics, which will, barring real leadership, continue to wander, neck deep, in a swamp of conspiracy and grievance.

Rejoice for a moment that some of the absolute worst did not happen this week but take no comfort for little is likely to change.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Other items that may be of interest …

No sea serpents, mobsters but Tahoe trash divers strike gold

“Cleanup organizers say one of the things locals ask most is whether they’ve found any gangsters’ remains near the north shore. That’s where Frank Sinatra lost his gaming license for allegedly fraternizing with organized crime bosses at his Cal-Neva hotel-casino in the 1960s.

The recovered debris mostly has consisted of things like bottles, tires, fishing gear and sunglasses.”

For a pretty pristine lake there is a lot of trash at the bottom of Lake Tahoe.


Forgetting the apocalypse: why our nuclear fears faded – and why that’s dangerous

Have we forgotten the danger?

“The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the whole world afraid of the atomic bomb – even those who might launch one. Today that fear has mostly passed out of living memory, and with it we may have lost a crucial safeguard.”

Daniel Immerwahr in The Guardian.


TEXAS’ WHITE GUY HISTORY PROJECT

“The 1836 Project will perpetuate stubborn 19th-century myths that will not die: Texas, for instance, has always stood on the side of freedom and liberty. Hard work alone inevitably leads to success. “Business-friendly” tax breaks make for a prosperous populace without the need for a robust social safety net and social services.

“In reality, thanks to its stingy government, Texas has the fourth-lowest literacy rate in the U.S., the highest rate of medically uninsured people nationwide, and ranks eighth in income inequality. The governor wants to stop teaching noncitizen children who attend public schools—an idea as cold-hearted as it is illogical and dumb. Forget our obesity epidemic, infrastructure failures, and militarized border.”

The Lone Star State experience with the cultural war over teaching history is both a joke and a warning. From Texas Monthly.


Being Gabe Kapler: Inside the mind of the San Francisco Giants’ nonconformist manager

Giants manager – and non-conformist – Gabe Kapler

Long-time readers know I’m a Giants fan, have been since Willie Mays was roaming centerfield at Candlestick Park. I’m biased, but the club by the Bay (with apologies to the A’s) is a fascinating collection of personalities and talents, and somehow under the leadership of the Zen-like manager Gabe Kapler – the Phil Jackson of baseball? – it works.

From Tim Kweon at ESPN.


Thanks for reading. Please share this posts with anyone you think might find them of interest. All the best.

2022 Election, Andrus, GOP, Idaho Politics

Idaho is Indeed a Patsy …

In the fading twilight of Friday afternoon – March 30, 1990 – then-Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus walked across State Street, the avenue running behind the Idaho Capitol building in Boise, and entered a conference room in the glass-sided state office building that houses the Department of Commerce and other state agencies.

Normally the Democratic governor would make public announcements from his own office on the second floor of the Statehouse, but this announcement was different. A large room was necessary to accommodate the dozens of out-of-state reporters and television crews on hand to hear what Andrus would say. Many seats in the room were occupied by activists and advocates on both sides of what may have been the most contentious single political and cultural issue in modern Idaho history – abortion.

When Cecil Andrus vetoed anti-abortion legislation in 1990, a strong majority of Idahoans exhaled with relief. The state wouldn’t be swept into a protracted and incredibly expensive effort to overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe V. Wade, that had been the law of the land since 1973. And Idaho would not forever be identified with legislation so punitive to women who had been raped or victims of incest as to be, as Andrus said, lacking in all compassion.

Idaho State Capitol building and a bust of Cecil Andrus on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

As one who worked for Andrus, I simply could not envision how Idaho’s politics would unfold after that veto. Andrus, whose own views held that abortion was tolerable only in extreme cases, was vilified by all-or-nothing anti-abortion forces. He was accosted by protesters at nearly every campaign appearance during that election year, some demonstrators even showing up in a cold, damp potato field in eastern Idaho to try to get the attention of a network TV crew airing a segment on the state’s signature product.

Yet, when all the shouting subsided Andrus won a fourth term in a runaway – nearly 70 percent – against an opponent who accused him of being a “baby killer.” Two Democrats were elected to Congress in 1990, the first time that had happened since the 1960’s. A brilliant young lawyer and member of the Pawnee Nation, Larry Echo Hawk, was elected attorney general, the first Democrat in that post since the early 1970’s. Democrats commanded a majority on the state land board, and Democrats won enough seats in the state senate to share power with Republicans.

The election of 1990, in the wake of an abortion battle, constituted the modern era high-water mark for Idaho Democrats.

The front page of The Idaho Statesman – April 1, 1990 – where a fellow says of Cece Andrus: “Last night, we should have appointed him governor for life.”

Nothing with politics lasts forever, of course, and with the perfect hindsight of 32 years and, while looking at the state’s disordered, increasingly authoritarian and dangerously militant politics, it is easy to see that Idaho’s flirtation with bipartisanship was as fleeting as a spring snowstorm.

Three decades after what appeared to be a Democratic breakthrough in 1990, Idaho is defined increasingly as a haven for white supremists, an intolerant sanctuary for book banners – one Idaho school district this week voted to “forever” ban 22 books from a high school library, including titles by Margaret Atwood, Sherman Alexie and Toni Morrison – and a place, as a friend once observed, where you must be born, while you’re alive no one is going to help you and if you screw up, they kill you.

Oh, Idaho – how far you have fallen.

A radical right candidate for lieutenant governor continues to flaunt the state’s public record disclosure law as she attempts to cover up her morally bankrupt involvement in what ultimately became another Republican legislator’s rape conviction.

While running for the top job the current lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, overspent her office budget and lied repeatedly about it. She courts militia and neo-Nazi support and assaults public education. McGeachin, a supremely malignant, barely coherent radical endorsed by Donald Trump, also recently demanded a special session of the legislature to outlaw abortion even for rape and incest victims, as if the criminal penalties for health care providers in existing Idaho law were not dystopian enough.

The radical Republican candidate for attorney general was, while in Congress, a ringleader of the Freedom Caucus that has done so much to poison national politics. Wait until he becomes the state’s top law enforcement officer and takes his marching orders directly from Texas, or indirectly from the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Two of the Republican candidates for secretary of state are election deniers who would, if elected, finally destroy the Idaho tradition of non-partisan election administration. Meanwhile, vast amounts of out-of-state campaign money floods the state, surely coming from national groups determined to cement Idaho’s reputation as an easy laboratory for more radical right experimentation.

The former president has attempted to play in the Idaho governor’s race, endorsing the current lieutenant governor over the incumbent who has moved sharply to the right in response

In this mess of rightwing rot also sits the incumbent governor, Brad Little, a man seeking a second term who was once celebrated as a policy wonk and a non-crazy conservative. But the tidal wave of stupidity that has pushed the Idaho GOP to the brink of insanity has fully swept Little along. The state’s new Democratic Party chair, Boise state representative Lauren Necochea, perfectly captured the state of radical politics in Idaho when she told The Guardian recently: “The difference between Little and McGeachin is really more style than substance. She personifies the far-right extremism while he panders to it.”

Little’s pandering has never been more on display than when he signed the state’s latest anti-abortion legislation even while speculating out loud that the proposal to allow a rapist to collect a cash bounty when a victim seeks an abortion was likely unconstitutional. Little was man enough to worry that the legislation just might have “unintended consequences” for “victims of sexual assault,” but still servile enough to the radicals to put his name on garbage.  

Ironically, whether he intended to or not, Little used almost exactly the same language in signing a draconian abortion bill in 2022 that Cecil Andrus used to veto one in 1990. One big difference: Andrus had the guts to do the right thing for Idaho despite what might have been serious personal political fallout, while Little did what he hopes will be the right thing for his re-election.

And that neatly sums up the modern Republican Party in Idaho and across the country. These folks stand for little, pardon the pun, beyond staying in power. The governor’s policy agenda is confined exclusively to cutting taxes and eliminating regulation. Idaho is sitting on a bulging budget surplus but gives no thought to urgently needed investments in public and higher education, or affordable housing or a dozen other needs. The policy is simply to pander to the extremes.

When Andrus vetoed that awful abortion bill in 1990, he famously said that outside forces believed Idaho could be a convenient patsy in their plan to overturn Roe. But Idaho was “no patsy,” Andrus said, in a quote that was published around the country. Three decades on Idaho has indeed become precisely the kind of patsy Andrus sought to prevent – a breeding ground for rightwing radical politics that have already warped the state in ways that will require years of recovery, if indeed recovery is remotely possible.

With this crowd of misanthropes in power you can count on one thing. It will only get worse.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

How Putin’s invasion returned Nato to the centre stage

A deep dive into the history of the alliance that Trump threatened to end and Biden has strengthened.

Current Nato members with Finland and Sweden likely to join soon

“Nato’s return to the spotlight has been accompanied by a renewed debate about its history. Every interested party has a different story to tell. For Moscow, Nato has long been a project to subjugate Russia and reduce its influence to a memory. For Washington, Nato began as a way of protecting western Europeans from themselves and from the Soviet Union, but in the 90s it became a forward operating vehicle for democracy, human rights and capital. For eastern Europeans, Nato is the sacred pledge to keep Russian tanks at bay. For most western European states, Nato has provided a bargain-price American nuclear umbrella that allowed them to fund social welfare rather than armies, when they were not using their Nato obligations to justify austerity. For the rest of the world, Nato was once an Atlantic-based, defensive alliance that quickly transformed into an ever-farther-afield, offensive one.”

From The Guardian.


The Southwest is on fire, with iconic deserts and towns at risk

New Mexico and Arizona are facing a dangerously early fire season. It has left neighborhoods in ashes and is having such devastating effects that President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration for New Mexico. Over 600 fires had broken out in the two states by early May, and large wildfires had burned through hundreds of homes near Ruidoso and Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Flagstaff, Arizona.

A Q-A with University of Arizona fire scientist Molly Hunter.


How Lady Bird Johnson Saw the President Die

An excerpt from what looks to be a fascinating new book about Lady Bird Johnson.

Lyndon Johnson takes the oath of office standing between his wife and the widow of the man he replaced

“November 22, 1963, the day in Dallas that, as Bird described it in her first diary entry, ‘all began so beautifully,’ had ended with a flight back to Washington with Lady Bird, the surrogate, now the new First Lady, Lyndon the president, Jack in a coffin, and Jackie a widow.”

The author is Julia Sweig who writes about America’s most famous second lady-turned-first.


The Korean Immigrant and Michigan Farm Boy Who Taught Americans How to Cook Chow Mein

La Choy soy sauce bottles and canned bean sprouts are a familiar sight in American grocery stores, but behind this hundred-year-old brand is a story fit for Hollywood.

And some great Muppet commercials, too.

The whole story of La Choy is perhaps more complex than the flavors of its sauces.


Thanks for reading. Be careful out there.

GOP, Idaho Politics

Idaho’s Déjà vu … 

The Idaho Republican Party is divided, deeply divided. The incumbent governor faces a serious primary challenge from the far right. The challenger is a favorite of what was once considered the party’s “fringe,” and benefits from a grassroots movement to take the party back from its more moderate wing.

The governor can – and almost constantly does – boast of a booming economy that he contends happened only because of his careful management of the state budget.

The challenger counters that the incumbent is not a true conservative and is out of touch with the party, claiming “If I am elected, the office of governor will become a place where the governor listens.”

The governor recently signed controversial legislation that has drawn condemnation from many quarters. The legislation has been challenged in court and will certainly be an issue in the coming election.

The Republican Party’s ideological battle lines are further defined by the role of the party’s last presidential candidate, a charismatic and deeply controversial figure who some worship, cult-like, as a political savior and others condemn as a threat to American democracy.

Overall voters are in a sour mood. The economy is strong, but inflation is problematic. The Democratic president is unpopular. Federal spending is a concern and Washington is consumed by a little understood war in a far-off place. The conflict has international implications that threaten to pull the country ever deeper into the conflict. In many ways it’s a difficult time to be an incumbent.

Idaho in 2022? Yes.

But also, Idaho in 1966, the last time an incumbent Republican governor was seriously challenged within this own party.

Today the names are Brad Little, Janice McGeachin and Donald Trump. Fifty-six years ago, the names were Bob Smylie, Don Samuelson and Barry Goldwater. The parallels between the two elections are, frankly, a bit eerie.

Barry Goldwater campaigns in Boise in 1964

History does not repeat, at least not precisely. But, if history were to repeat, incumbent Governor Brad Little would be losing sleep, as his predecessor Bob Smylie did toward the end of his 1966 Republican primary.

Smylie, a three-term incumbent and a moderate, was coming off two major accomplishments: he had engineered passage of the first ever Idaho sales tax and in the wake of a Supreme Court mandate had championed a sweeping reapportionment of the state legislature. Both remain part of Smylie’s very impressive legacy during his 12 years as governor, and each also contributed something to his downfall.

Samuelson, a Sandpoint state senator and darling of the far right, was a little-known legislative backbencher when he announced, at the urging of some of the party’s most fervent Barry Goldwater supporters, that he was going after the governor of his own party. Hardly anyone gave Samuelson, a big, backslapping politician with a flattop haircut, any chance. Many ridiculed his less than polished speaking style. He had no legislative record to run on short of opposing Smylie’s sales tax measure. Still, he had what often counts for a lot in politics. Samuelson was in the right place at the right time.

Much like Brad Little now, Smylie barely acknowledged in 1966 that he had an opponent. He touted the economy on his watch and pretended to be above the bitter controversy roiling the Republican Party. A good deal of that controversy related to Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964, when the very conservative Arizona senator lost the presidency in a landslide, but arguably became the most consequential loser in American political history. As William F. Buckley famously quipped: Goldwater lost the presidency to Lyndon Johnson but won it for Ronald Reagan in 1980 when the most conservative wing of the GOP established itself as the dominant force in Republican politics.

The fight raging in Idaho now will help determine if the party goes even farther right and embraces the most militant elements of the right, the foot soldiers and Trumpy loyalists who power Janice McGeachin’s insurgent campaign. In words that fit today’s circumstances one Democratic Party leader called the 1966 Republican race: “a melodrama complete with confusion and terror.” Maybe history does repeat.

Smylie realized too late that basically ignoring Samuelson’s challenge was a mistake. The two men got into a squabble over whether Goldwater had effectively endorsed the incumbent – Goldwater said he hasn’t – which made Smylie look a bit desperate. By late July – Idaho primaries were held in August at the time – Smylie, the polished political pro, was playing defense with Samuelson attacking him on the oldest issue in the Idaho political playbook: water. Smylie had complete control of the state water resource board, Samuelson charged, and was constantly overriding the board’s “wise and important” decisions. The implication was clear. Smylie wasn’t protecting Idaho’s water. (Paging Mike Simpson.)

The other millstone around Smylie’s neck was that old and fatal political disease: the voters were sick of him and ready for change. Combine the substantial and frequently warranted criticism Little has received for his lack of management of Covid-19 with the reality that he has been, as lieutenant governor and governor, at the top of Idaho’s political ladder for 14 straight years, his sell by date could be a factor next month.

Don Samuelson, the guy very few took seriously as a challenger to an entrenched incumbent, absolutely crushed Bob Smylie in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 1966, winning more than 61% of the vote. He went on to win a close contest in November that featured an up-and-coming young Democrat from Orofino by name of Cecil Andrus, as well as controversial third-party candidates – another parallel with 2022, perhaps.

Four years later, Andrus came back and defeated Samuelson who had been a barely competent chief executive. That election ushered in 24 consecutive years of Democratic control of the governor’s office. Here’s where the parallels break down – maybe.

McGeachin is a profoundly flawed candidate who has demonstrated she can’t manage the low six figure budget of her own office let alone the state’s billion-dollar finances. She’s also advanced wacky positions on education and public health, any of which ought to be disqualifying. Yet she has the Trump’s endorsement. And as for wacky positions, if those were disqualifying a lot of Republicans would be looking for work.  

Little, a lackluster campaigner, is sitting on a lead hoping to run out the clock, never a smart political play. A month out from the May primary he must be considered the heavy favorite, if only because a lot of Idahoans see him as a safer choice than a candidate who associates regularly with white supremacists and militia radicals. Little is, in other words, the lesser of evils, a McGeachin lite in blue jeans with many of the same policies packaged more presentably. It’s probably enough to get him across the finish line.

Then again lots of people said the same about Bob Smylie.

—–0—–

Additional Readings:

A few more things I hope you will find of interest …

The guy who brought us CRT panic offers a new far-right agenda: Destroy public education

Hard to believe, but believe it – some on the far right, well-funded and passionate, are out to destroy public education.

“The man in question is Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. Since he helped elevate CRT into a national culture war in 2020, Rufo has frequently been cast (or cast himself) as the new master strategist of the right, playing three-dimensional chess as he lays out his battle plans publicly and counts every media mention of them as a win. In the spring of 2021, he famously crowed on social media that he’d ‘successfully frozen’ the CRT ‘brand’ as the overarching ideology behind almost everything conservatives dislike. This January he tweeted about his new goal to ‘bait the Left into opposing [curriculum] ‘transparency,’ in order to trigger conservative suspicions that public schools have something to hide.”

Be worried. These jokers are serious.


Ginni Thomas Is Not A Liar

Politico has a provocative look at the ideology – and belief system – of the wife of the most prominent Supreme Court justice.

Justice Thomas, his very politically active wife and some guy I can’t place

“[Ginni] Thomas’ fervid text messages to then-Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others, urging vigorous efforts to halt Biden’s ascension to the presidency and keep the incumbent in place, have some evidentiary value to the House’s select Jan. 6 committee as it develops a chronology of events leading to the deadly mayhem on Capitol Hill.

“The Thomas texts, however, are far more revelatory as psychological disclosures — a breathtaking window into the mind of a Trump believer. In that sense, there are three distinct ways in which the Thomas texts illuminate the broader historical moment.”

Worth your time.


In the Judiciary Wars, Republicans Like Lindsey Graham Play Dirtier Than Democrats

Speaking of the judicial branch. From Bill Scher in The Washington Monthly.

“Politics ain’t beanbag, and that’s doubly true for judicial politics. But let’s have a clear-eyed assessment of how both parties have waged battle. 

“Democrats have been more selective in their targets, aiming to block far-right ideologues and set high standards regarding past sexual misconduct. Such an objective does require harsh treatment of individuals. Republicans have sought to deny Democrats the ability to fill seats with anyone.”

Read the entire piece.


The Notorious Legends and Dubious Stories of 10 Literary Deaths

Emily Temple on how some writers left us, like say Evelyn Waugh.

“His body was found in the bathroom, by some accounts with a gash on his forehead and water in his lungs.”

From LitHub.


Thanks for reading. Stay in touch.

Education, Idaho Politics

Entrepreneurial Hypocrisy …

Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation, officially a public charity under federal tax law, has become a force in Idaho politics. The group is similar to several dozen like-minded libertarian-leaning political actors that for a decade or more have been trying to influence education and other policies in every state. These groups get their money from secret sources, but you can make an educated guess as to who funds their pernicious, frequently fact-free advocacy. The Idaho edition of this template is particularly odious.

—–

In 2020, the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), a libertarian “think tank” funded by dark money, deep pocket donors, did something wholly inconsistent with its self-proclaimed mission of “exposing, defeating, and replacing the state’s socialist public policies.”

The IFF took help from the government, namely a $130,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan – since forgiven – that was part of the Trump Administration’s plan to stave off economic collapse due to the Covid pandemic.

These free-market gurus, who lobby like crazy while enjoying IRS status as a non-profit, public welfare “charity” organization, have become a force in Idaho conservative politics by helping drive the state’s Republican Party into a ditch of crazy conspiracy, medical misinformation and hatred of public education. Former Republican attorney general and Supreme Court chief justice Jim Jones has correctly called IFF an “extremist political outfit.”

But apparently extremism in the defense of hypocrisy is no vice. When IFF received its taxpayer money back in 2020, Wayne Hoffman, the lobbying group’s president was indignant that anyone would point out the irony – or was it the hypocrisy – of his anti-government, low tax group putting its Milton Friedman-like snout in the federal government trough.

IFF was, by the way, getting taxpayer cash at the same time it was working overtime to deprive health care for thousands of Idahoans, limit rent relief during the pandemic and make it harder for citizens to put an issue on the ballot. Freedom is clearly a one-way street.

When called on the PPP hypocrisy, Hoffman railed “fake news,” and insisted the government made him do it.

“The government shut down Idaho’s economy,” Hoffman said, “Idaho business, and therefore the donors who we depend on to generously support our work.”

Let us linger over those words: “the donors who we depend on …”

That statement baldly suggests the free marketers were in the same boat as millions of other Americans. A world-wide pandemic that has now claimed more than 900,000 American lives – IFF has militantly opposed public health efforts to contain the disease – was going to hurt the “think tank’s” bottom line. The PPP loan was a lifeline. A poor little free market charity was just being prudent in taking the government “handout” in violation of all of its stated beliefs since, well, they needed to make payroll. And lest we forget, five board members of IFF also received PPP loans.

But wait, there’s more.

Posted on the IFF’s website is a copy of the organization’s most recent Form 990, the annual filing with the Internal Revenue Service. And right there on page one, just below Hoffman’s name, is an accounting of the group’s prior year and current year “contributions and grants.”

In 2019, IFF pocketed over $708,000, but in 2020 – the year of the PPP loan when “donors who we depend on” were “shut down” – IFF reported more than $967,000 in contributions and grants, including the PPP loan.

In other words, the Freedom Foundation free marketers not only didn’t need your taxpayer dollars to match their previous year level of contributions, they actually exceeded their prior year take even without the forgiven taxpayer loan.

Like with so much else that attaches to the IFF – University of Idaho president Scott Green recently termed the group “conflict entrepreneurs” – Hoffman’s explanation for his PPP loan is a lie. Turns out Wayne’s conflict spreaders aren’t merely a public charity, but a charity case.

But before dismissing the lies and this hypocrisy – after all, what would conservative politics be these days without both – recall the real mission of Hoffman and his grifting team. They aim to destroy public education in Idaho, a state that already funds schools worse than any other state and that last year let IFF craft, as the U of I’s Green told legislative budget writers last month, “a false narrative” about higher education that cost the state’s institutions of higher learning $2.5 million last year – $1.5 million hit to Boise State University and a half million each to Idaho State and at Idaho’s land grant school, the University of Idaho.

University of Idaho president Scott Green recently called IFF “conflict entrepreneurs”

Hoffman and a loyal group of his trained seals in the legislature have been pushing a fake narrative about “social justice” education, alleging that the impressionable minds of Idaho students are being “indoctrinated” with dangerous notions about equality and history. Green dismissed it as a lie, which it is.

“In short, the entire social justice narrative on which the University of Idaho was penalized $500,000 was a false narrative created by conflict entrepreneurs who make their living sowing fear and doubt with legislators and voters,” Green said, in what must count as one of the most straightforward and honest putdowns of Hoffman’s brand of grievance-based conspiracy politics ever uttered by a senior Idaho official.

Standing up to bullies and shysters who specialize in conflict requires guts, a commodity that is in dangerously short supply among Idaho elected officials. Many of them know that Hoffman’s grift – he pays himself $139,000 a year – is as phony as his PPP loan explanation. Yet, most conservatives – there are some growing exceptions – treat this dark money cesspool as though it were something legitimate. It’s not.

IFF is part of a network of more than 60 similar hard right and libertarian “think tanks” in every state, part of a web of influence peddlers called “The State Policy Network.” In Montana they fly under the “Frontier Institute” banner. In Oregon it’s the “Cascade Policy Institute.” In Wyoming they call themselves the “Wyoming Liberty Group.” The groups are all about demanding transparency for everyone other than themselves. Where their high six figure or larger budgets come from is a well-guarded secret.

The Guardian newspaper got its hands on grant applications in 2013 from more than 30 of these state-level “think tanks,” not Idaho’s, however. The paper reported that “the documents … cast light on the nexus of funding arrangements behind radical rightwing campaigns. The State Policy Network (SPN) has members in each of the 50 states and an annual war chest of $83 million drawn from major corporate donors that include the energy tycoons the Koch brothers, the tobacco company Philip Morris, food giant Kraft and the multinational drugs company GlaxoSmithKline.”

Add to that list “the American taxpayer” who helped pay Wayne Hoffman’s salary in 2020 so he could work full time spreading lies about education and educators. It’s a pretty clever con, but it’s still a con.

After reviewing those grant applications, The Guardian concluded the state-level “think tanks” were involved in a “coordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment.”

Idaho policymakers are too often a little slow on the uptake, but these “conflict entrepreneurs” have once again exposed themselves for what they are: dishonest dividers with a nasty and ultimately destructive agenda for Idaho and every other state where they peddle their lies.

It’s way past time to give Hoffman and his cronies all the respect they deserve, which is zero.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few things I stumbled across this week…

‘A deranged pyroscape’: how fires across the world have grown weirder

Coming to a neighborhood near you.

“Australians call the event Black Saturday – a scorched hole in the national diary. There, it contends with Red Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Black Thursday, Black Friday and Black Sunday on Australia’s calendar of conflagration. But recently it has been surpassed – they all have – by the Black Summer, the cataclysmic 2019-20 fire season that killed hundreds with its smoke and burned an area the size of Ireland. A study estimated that the bushfires destroyed or displaced 3 billion animals; its stunned lead author couldn’t think of any fire worldwide that had killed nearly so many.”

A frightening straight up take on climate change and fire from The Guardian:


What is ‘legitimate political discourse,’ and does it include the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol?

Quite the moment in American political history when the national Republican Party proclaimed the January 6 insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol “legitimate political discourse.”

“Legitimate political discourse…”

Here is a good backgrounder.

“Persuasion, even in its most vigorous and aggressive form, is an invitation. When a person seeks to persuade someone else to agree with their viewpoint or values, or to recall or ignore history in a particular way, the recipient may choose to go along, or not.

“Coercion, on the other hand, is a kind of force – a command, not an invitation. Coercion denies others the freedom to choose for themselves whether to agree or disagree. Coercion and violence are anti-democratic because they deny others their ability to consent. Violence and coercion are the very opposite of legitimate political discourse.”

From The Conversation:


What Will It Take to Resuscitate American Democracy?

Regular readers know that I worry a lot – a lot – about this.

“The alarm has been rung, and often enough. Any American who can read knows that democracy is in crisis. The US government increasingly struggles to fulfill its most basic tasks, like guaranteeing the debt, passing budgets or confirming the diplomatic corps. Meanwhile armed groups of insurrectionists, like the one that stormed the US Capitol just over a year ago, spread incoherence. Think tanks on the right and universities on the left still debate policies like the tax rate or parental leave but they’re playacting by this point, whether they know it or not. They distract themselves with antiquities while the temple collapses around their shoulders. The questions have become much more basic than abstruse policy. Will democracy survive? How to keep America’s institutions alive?”

Worth your time from Stephen Marche:


That’s it for this week. I’ll sit back and with for the attacks from the Idaho Freedom Foundation. In politics – or writing about politics – you are known by your enemies, as they say. Stay well. All the best.

2020 Election, Idaho Politics, Trump

An Obligation of Office…

Idaho’s senior senator Mike Crapo did something unusual. His constituents should find it unsettling, even arrogant.

The Republican announced that he will seek a fifth term in the Senate by issuing a press release. No questions asked or answered, thank you very much.

Crapo, who calls himself an “unwavering conservative,” did serve up a little political red meat in his release – no substance, but plenty of fear. “The threats to our values, our way of life and our Constitution itself are intense, extremely well-funded and well-organized,” Crapo said.

I’d like to hear more but Crapo’s not taking questions.

Idaho Republican Mike Crapo.

There once was a tradition – perhaps more an obligation – that when candidates announced for high public office they would tour the state, making a series of appearances at airports or hotel ballrooms and engage journalists on why they were applying for a job. A big part of the deal was to answer questions, or at least act like you were doing so.

Like so many other things we can be bemoan as lost to a better past is the notion that a politician, particularly one asking to be re-elected, has an obligation to answer questions. Crapo, long ago more at home in Washington than in Weiser, doesn’t stoop to answering questions. I know this because I asked him, or more correctly asked his staff, a few questions via email.

The first was: “Do you believe Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 presidential election?”

I also asked: “Why have you not spoken out against the lies and misinformation that have been spread about that election? For example, on January 6 you made no statement at all about the events of a year ago, even while the former president was continuing to repeat lies about the election.”

I wanted to know how Crapo feels about the investigation underway into the events of January 6, 2021, so I asked: “Do you support the House investigation on the events of January 6, 2021?” And “why did you oppose an independent commission (to investigate the Capitol attack) when it was considered by the Senate?”

Knowing that Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican Party and shows every inclination to run for president again in 2024, I asked Crapo: “If Donald Trump were to run again for president in 2024 and win the Republican nomination, would you support him?”

Trump endorsed Crapo long before the senator announced his re-election last week, so I thought it would be interesting to know whether Crapo sought that endorsement and how it came about, so I asked.

Just before the Idaho governor proposed to increase funding for Idaho State Police protection of the State Capitol in Boise – 13 new positions at a cost of $2.8 million – presumably in anticipation of more violent stunts like the militant Ammon Bundy pulled off in 2020, I sought Crapo’s views about the danger of politically motivated violence.

Just to jog your memory, a police officer who testified at Bundy’s trial in 2021 said, “It was chaos,” with six State Police officers “pushed, shoved and battered” by a crowd of protesters. The day before Bundy was arrested, an angry mob stormed into the Idaho House gallery. A door was broken down. Bundy is, of course, seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Idaho.

So, I asked Crapo” “There is growing evidence that many Americans on the political right are willing to engage in violence in the interest of their political positions. Do you view this as a danger to democracy?”

And since the senator has been around for a long time, I posed this question: “Given Idaho’s long history of dealing with various hate groups, including the Aryan Nations, why have you not spoken out against this trend or condemned, for example, groups like The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and the rightwing activist Ammon Bundy? There have been anti-Semitic attacks on, for example, the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise, but you have made no effort to condemn them. Why?”

At one level, I didn’t expect much from Crapo, the thirteenth most senior member of the Senate. He long ago became a get-along, go-along Republican in lock step with his party’s leadership, voting to convict Bill Clinton and let Trump skate, twice. Crapo rarely utters anything beyond the sterile talking points that GOP political consultants crank out for him.

But frankly I did expect an answer to the question about Biden being legitimately elected. South Dakota’s very conservative Senator Mike Rounds, for example, said recently when asked the same question I put to Crapo: “The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency. And moving forward — and that’s the way we want to look at this — moving forward, we have to refocus once again on what it’s going to take to win the presidency.”

I thought a question about whether Crapo would support Trump – again – might get a “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it” type response. Or an invitation to zing Bundy or disavow the radical Proud Boys might actually present an opportunity for a career politician to show a bit of leadership, not to mention backbone.

By the way, I told Crapo’s staff I would publish any response in its entirety.

Here’s the totality of what I got in response to my questions:

“Marc, we have known and worked with you a long time in your various roles. But, these questions indicate a blatant partisan bias. Senator Crapo has repeatedly addressed these questions and people know how he feels about these issues. Moreover, to suggest Senator Crapo has not spoken out against acts of violence or hatred – political or otherwise – is categorically false. He won’t participate in such a thinly-veiled partisan effort intended to distract voters’ attention away from the national debacle unfolding at the hands of Biden/Schumer/Pelosi.”

I guess Crapo could have saved time by simply giving me a two-word answer.

In fact, most of his constituents don’t know where Crapo stands on a lot of these questions and many others, because silence on big issues is a political strategy in the modern GOP. Much safer to invoke a “national debacle.”

But you might ask why a guy who has been in Congress for 30 years won’t answer even a simple question, knowing his entire answer will see print, about whether the last election was honest. Why is a senator who has Trump’s endorsement unwilling to talk about it? And when given an opportunity to condemn political violence or anti-Semitism attacks the premise of the question.

What is Crapo afraid of? What should you be afraid of?

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Some other items for your consideration…

The Long-Term Care Challenge

My pal, Rob Saldin, a really talented scholar and political analyst, is out with a deep dive into the challenges of “long term care” – LTC. Rob teaches at the University of Montana and heads the Mansfield Center’s ethics and public policy programs at the university.

“LTC is expensive — so expensive that it can deplete a middle-class family’s lifetime of savings in a few short years. Notably, the term ‘middle class’ here includes a vast demographic range, from those just over the poverty line to those maintaining six-figure retirement accounts decades after they leave the workforce. To be sure, once individuals have burned through their assets to the point of impoverishment, Medicaid swoops in to pick up the tab. But this intervention only shifts the burden to state budgets, which crowds out other spending priorities.”

Here is a link to the piece in National Affairs.


‘Don’t Look Up’: Hollywood’s primer on climate denial illustrates 5 myths that fuel rejection of science

The cast of “Don’t Look Up…”

Perhaps you have seen the film. I enjoyed it, even as it’s a little over the top. Apparently, folks either love it or hate it. Here’s a good piece on how the film explores some myths about science denial.

“The movie is an allegory for climate change, showing how those with the power to do something about global warming willfully avoid taking action and how those with vested interests can mislead the public. But it also reflects science denial more broadly, including what the world has been seeing with COVID-19.”

Link to the piece in The Conversation.


The Last Time We Had an Insurrectionist President

He was the long forgotten John Tyler, who as a former president helped stoke Civil War. Goodness, history can enlighten.

“Whether and how Donald Trump thinks about his legacy is known only to him, but the rise and disgrace of John Tyler, the traitor-president, should serve as a warning about how insurrectionist presidents are remembered—in Tyler’s case, with disgrace at first, and then hardly at all.”

Here’s the story.


Many thanks, friends. Stay safe. Get your booster.

Idaho Politics, Pandemic

When Political Leaders Fail…

In 1968, journalist Tom Wicker – he covered politics and wrote a column for the New York Timesproduced a little book about the diverse personalities he observed during the presidencies of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Wicker was an observer, not a partisan, and he had a sharp eye for detail. I stumbled across the book recently and was surprised to find it remains a compelling read – an insightful account of when political leadership works and when it fails. One passage stays with me.

“The first and most fundamental task of the American politician ought to be that of public education,” Wicker wrote, “the enlightenment of the electorate he represents, a constituency that in the nature of the case and in the process of its own busines will not have the time, opportunity, or inclination that he had to inform itself about the realities of an ever more complex and shrinking world.”

Imagine that: the chief job of a politician ought to be educating his/her constituents.

As northern Idaho plugged into the dank and dangerous waters of a health care system in breakdown it is worth pausing for a moment to consider how one entire state has reached the point where it’s first-world health care system is in chaos. Ten Idaho hospitals and health care systems are now dealing with rationing health care because their facilities are overrun with unvaccinated patients and lacking adequate staff. Republicans, it seems, have finally found their “death panels.”

The simple answer to the question of how Idaho got here is, of course, a deadly strain of virus – the Delta variant of COVID-19 – but the deeper and even more troubling answer relates to propaganda, misinformation, political manipulation, and a rank inability by many of our fellow citizens to think critically and act responsibly during a crisis.  

The Idaho Capitol Sun presented a remarkable example of all this earlier this week in an interview with a physician in the mountain town of McCall, Idaho. Dr. Patrick Kinney is at the end of understanding.

“We just don’t understand why people have trusted us for years,” Kinney told reporter Audrey Dutton, “and they’ve gone through all manner of uncomfortable things on our recommendation. Right? Like every 10 years, they’ve agreed to letting us put a 6-foot camera up their butt for a colonoscopy. Every year or three years or five years … they’ll get up in the stirrups, get a cold metal speculum put in their vagina for a Pap smear. And, you know, get a flu shot and get a pneumonia shot, get a shingles shot.”

Yet, Kinney said, with this deadly virus it’s different. “It’s like you just say the words ‘COVID vaccine,’ and their faces change, their eyes glaze over,” Kinney said. “They somehow feel like they’ve got better information than we do. And I don’t understand it, I really don’t. I don’t get it.”

Here’s the cultural and political reality: the origin story of where Idaho began to change – go off the rails – goes back to when the state became the exclusive reserve of one political party that has increasingly found itself playing to the most extreme elements in that party. Idaho has become a case study of what happens to a state where political leaders, over an extended period of time, systematically underfunded education, denied science, debased expertise, and lied to supporters about a host of issues.

The breakdown in basic trust of public institutions – hospitals, doctors, health districts, scientists – the near total disdain for education and the rejection of expertise are all aspects of a political system that seeks to appease its most far out members rather than lead them. Little wonder Idaho’s vaccination rates are among the worst in the country.

Consider one example. Earlier this year, the overwhelmingly Republican Idaho Legislature voted to strip the power of local public health districts issuing orders related to public health. Only partisan county commissioners – most of whom have refused to act or embraced conspiracy and misinformation – were left with any meaningful role in dealing with the kind of public health emergency that has now taken Idaho hospitals to the edge.

“Listening to experts to set policy is an elitist approach,” Republican state senator Steven Thayn declared, as he perfectly summarized the deadly incoherence of the GOP’s governing elite. “I’m also fearful that it leads to totalitarianism,” Thayn said, “especially when you say well, we’re doing it for the public good.”

Hospitals in northern Idaho, overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, are now rationing health care

It was then totally predictable that the health district serving Idaho’s capitol city would act recently to appoint to its board a patently unqualified, COVID denying pathologist. That doctor, Ryan Cole, immediately began dispensing policy advice, the kind of advice that is apparently OK in Idaho since it conforms with what the most fevered Republican voters want to hear.

“I think we need to be prudent and say it’s time to let children be children, Delta is going to spread, we cannot stop it,” Dr. Cole told the board of a local charter school. “Everybody’s essentially going to get it.” In short: ignore science, let them die.

Cole’s advice, of course, contradicts vast expert opinion about how to control the pandemic, and completely ignores the deaths that can be prevented. Southern Idaho is almost certainly now headed toward the level of hospital crisis already overwhelming the north.

Yet, no Idaho Republican of standing – the governor, statewide elected officials, the congressional delegation, the party’s legislative leadership – has had a word to say about the lies and misinformation. Doing so, let’s be honest, would subject them to instant abuse, perhaps physical threats, and certain political challenge.

The impacts of the wholesale political manipulation of conservative voters we are seeing now has been a long time coming. The serial Republican lies – tax cuts pay for themselves, Marxists runs higher education, climate change is a hoax, liberal judges are the activists, immigrants and refugees present a danger to America, an election was stolen – and the fears these lies spawn have swamped the political right for decades. Little wonder people began to believe them.

Republican elected officials, the handful who really know better, know they have lost any ability to educate and reason with many of their followers. They stood by in silence while Fox News polluted cable television, while the crackpots at the Idaho Freedom Foundation defined the party’s agenda, while a corrupt con man took over their party, and while lies and misinformation kill thousands.  

To those who harbor a belief that this will change, that reason and enlightenment will one day seep back into conservative politics, I say – get over it. Most Republicans aren’t even trying to educate and inform their electorate. They are afraid of what will happen if they suddenly begin to speak the truth. We should all be afraid of what will continue to happen now that they have quit trying.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few items I came across this week that I hope will be of interest…

Jimmy Carter and Afghanistan

There are two excellent new biographies of President Jimmy Carter, including The Outlier by Kai Bird.

Bird had a piece recently in The Washington Monthly charting Carter’s connection to the long U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. It’s good history, and a reminder of why hot takes on current events often miss the long backstory.

“If you think America’s exit from this Central Asian country concluded a 20-year war, think again. Some forgotten history goes a long way to explaining how we got where we are. The United States first intervened in Afghanistan in the summer of 1979—six full months before the Soviet Union’s land invasion—when Carter was president. Prodded by his hawkish national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter reluctantly agreed to authorize a small covert action program to provide aid to a motley group of mujahideen guerrilla forces challenging the central government in Kabul. Take note: These mujahideen were extreme Sunni Muslim fundamentalists, and more than a decade later they would morph into the Taliban. But they were anti-communists—and for Brzezinski, who viewed the world with Cold War blinders, that’s all that mattered.”

A helpful reminder of how we got mired down in a place we didn’t understand and still don’t. Here’s the link:


George W. Bush’s Wars are Now Over. He Retreated a While Ago.

This Washington Post story is in the same category. Fearless prediction: the eventual verdict of history will not be kind to the president – George W. Bush – who initiated a war in Afghanistan and then got diverted to a war in Iraq.

It didn’t go quite to plan…

“Bush’s own popularity has clearly benefited from his time out of office. Irrelevance proved to be a disinfectant. In 2018, a poll from CNN found that Bush was viewed favorably by about 6 in 10 Americans. It got to the point where another familiar face had to come out from retirement to stage an intervention.

“‘I just wanted to address my fellow Americans tonight, and remind you guys that I was really bad,’ Will Ferrell said, reprising his role as Bush for an SNL guest spot in 2018 year. ‘Like, historically not-good.’”

Tough, but nasty, too.


How to Make a Netflix-Style Documentary

I have to say – I’m a big fan of Netflix. And a fan of documentaries like the kind that you find all the time on the streaming service. Heck, I even made a couple documentaries back in the days of black and white TV.

So, this is fun.

“In this short video, YouTuber Paul E.T. shows how you can make a Netflix-style true crime documentary about anything. Even stolen toast. The equipment needs are pretty minimal – a good camera, a couple of lenses, some lighting, and a decent mic. The magic is in the editing.”

It’s short…and funny. The link:


Thanks much for reading. Stay safe.