• Andrus and Carlson

"I've long thought that Governor Andrus has never been given the full credit he deserved for the critical role he played in leading the way to passage of the greatest single piece of conservation legislation in American history. So I set out to make sure the history books properly reflect this excellent piece of his legacy." - Chris Carlson

carlson

Listening to President Trump’s rambling, meandering rant against the media and its allegedly dishonest coverage of his Administration last Thursday, as well as his claim that he had inherited a mess, reminded me of an old political story. It also led me to conclude that the POTUS is due for a refresher media training course.

The old story goes thus: A newly elected young governor was paying a courtesy call on the older veteran governor he had defeated in the November election. He was smart ernough to ask the veteran whether he had any counsel to impart.

The veteran governor said “as a matter of fact I do. I’m going to pass along to you the same package of three letters my predecessor handed me. When you first run hard into a sticky-wicket of an issue open the first letter. And when you run into a second crisis, open the second and if you have a third crisis open the third one. Then follow the advice in the letters.”

Sure enough, about one year into the new administration the new governor ran into a seemingly insoluble problem. Remembering the packet with the three letters he went to his desk, opened a drawer, took out the first letter and opened it. It simply said “ blame your predecessor!”

So he called a press conference and kicked the living daylights out of the previous governor. And it worked.

Another year went by and the governor ran into another, complex and complicated matter. Remembering the packet he went to his desk and extracted the second letter which he immediately opened. It simply said “blame the Legislature!”

So he called a press conference and ripped the Legislature. And it worked.

Another year passed before the governor hit the biggest bump in the road, a seemingly intractable matter with no solution in sight. Remembering he had one more letter he went to his desk, grabbed the last letter and ripped it open. It simply said “prepare three letters!”

The moral of this story is that executives, regardless of whether they are a president, a governor, a mayor or the chairman of a county commission, all are elected to solve problems and meet challenges head on without blaming anyone else. President Trump ought to take note.

He also should schedule and commit to taking a media training refresher course. Being the Donald, I’m sure he thinks he doesn’t need such training, but he clearly does.

The first rule is “never, ever lie to the media.” Rather than say he can’t say or he’ll get back to you, he shucks and jives media reporters. He continues to erode the one true sine qua non for any president or governor: the public trust. Without the implied consent of the governed a leader can never really govern. That he lies is incontestable; that he seems to get away with it is debatable; that he is rapidly losing the public trust also seems incontestable.

President Trump has to relearn how to stay on message and how to avoid the negative. Rather than deny his administration is so far a chaotic organization, he should block the thrust of the question and bridge to a positive message. So, rather than deny the chaos, which is manifest to all, he should not implicitly accept the premise of the question.

He should have said, “The premise of your question is wrong. While we’ve encountered a few bumps in the road here and there, we have taken on more campaign promises than any previous administration. We’re getting things going which will become more clear to you down the road.”

Notice, one does not repeat the negative in the question, but rather quickly says it is incorrect and then bridges to their message of the day.

The fact that neither the President nor his abused press secretary, Sean Spicer, understand this is one of many reasons they are coming off as rank amateurs.

Look for the Republicans in the House and Senate to recognize that by the mid-term elections in 2018 they had better impeach and remove Trump from office or they’ll suffer catastrophic losses.

The first rule of politics is the imperative to survive and riding the wooden rocking horse of Trump is not going to pave the way. Here’s hoping the Republic can survive the turbulence coming down the road.

Column

carlson

At the risk of dating myself some readers may recall an old folk song by Pete Seeger made more famous by the Peter, Paul and Mary trio whose first line is “Where have all the flowers gone/Long-time passing?/Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?” It is a poignant plea for something lost which never will be recovered.

Sometimes on weekends, my wife and I prowl through thrift stores and old bookstores. Recently, while cruising through a thrift place in Kellogg, I came across a tear sheet of a page from the Idaho Statesman of September 1, 1912. The tear sheet was full page write up by the Statesman’s Washington, D.C. News bureau on the considerable legislative accomplishments of “the Lion of Idaho,” Senator William E. Borah, during the five plus years he had served in the Senate.

The old Pete Seeger song ran through my mind with a slight variation in the words: “Where have Idaho’s senators gone/Long time passing?/Where have the statesman gone/Long time ago?”

Admittedly, the full page article was a “puff piece” so glowing was the praise. It was clearly slanted with quotes from other senators on what an energetic dynamo the Idaho senator was.

Borah had been chosen by the Idaho Legislature to take a vacant senate seat in March of 1907. The 17th amendment to the Constitution changing senators’ elections to a popular vote had yet to be enacted. The Statesman article was also clearly signaling that the paper would be supporting Borah’s bid for a second term, which Borah received from the Idaho Legislature in early January of 1913.

Here are two quotes from the article. As you read ask yourself if you have ever heard anything similar said about Idaho’s two current senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.

From the Statesman of September 1, 1912:

“A review of the Congressional Record for the past few years shows that no member of either branch of congress has been more successful than Senator Borah of Idaho in securing the enactment of legislation, and important legislation at that.”

Another quote:

“So successful has Senator Borah been with his bills of late that it is a matter of comment among senators. Not long before adjournment, one of the senate leaders, who has been in public life for nearly thirty years, remarked to some of his colleagues that “Senator Borah is the most successful man in charge of a bill that has been in the senate since I have been a member of that body.”

Few of the issues were simple or easy. Borah’s list of legislation passed included the three-year homestead law, the children’s bureau law, the eight-hour workday law, and the law giving early patent for homesteaders on government reclamation projects.

Borah also took pride in defeating an Alaskan government bill which would have denied Alaskans any voice in their government. He led the charge for an alternative bill which provided a great degree of self-government. He also strongly supported passage of the 17th and 19th amendments which provided for the direct election of senators and the vote for women.

Though a staunch Republican, Borah was a true progressive. History notes his opposition to the League of Nations and his isolationist views, which, coupled with his reputation for great oratory, would have one think he was more of a show horse.

Aside from the fact that his favorite form of exercise was horse-back riding early each morning through Rock Creek Park, Borah was clearly a work horse.

By all accounts a decent, honest, hard-working senator and loyal to his friends the only blemish on his distinguished record was a rumored affair with Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who was married to the then House Speaker Nicholas Longworth (a notorious rake himself). The affair produced a daughter and the story is the Speaker vetoed naming the daughter Deborah (as in de-borah). Instead she was named Paulina (and nicknamed Aurora Borah Alice) and sadly took her life at age 30.

Borah collapsed and died in 1940 at age 74. His widow, Mary McConnell (herself the daughter of a former Idaho governor and senator), survived him by 36 years, passing away in 1976 at the age of 106.

Some 77 years later Borah is still remembered in Idaho along with his progressive record of accomplishments.

I have a challenge for readers: Name one piece of legislation today you can attribute to Senators Crapo or Risch. They hold the two safest seats in the United States Senate. Senator Crapo has just been re-elected to his fourth term, which when completed will tie him with Frank Church for the second longest tenure. He could go on and perhaps break Borah’s record of 33 years. Thus, he still has time to make a mark.

Right now, though, neither he nor Risch are going to be remembered by history for anything other than warming the seats. I wish it were otherwise.

“Where have the Statesmen gone/Long time passing?”

Column

carlson

It gets downright depressing to see conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats oiling their guns, sharpening their knives and starting to circle each other in a modern day version of the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral.

It is the latest iteration of that age-old fight which starts off with “he hit me, first! Therefore I’m entitled to hit him back.” Yet even a pre-schooler in a sandbox knows two wrongs don’t make a right. Democrats correctly called foul on the refusal of Senate Republicans to take up President Obama’s nomination of Merick Garland to the Court just about a year ago.

So much for the “advise and consent role” the Constitution lays out as a major responsibility of the U.S. Senate. Instead, the Republican Senate cynically would not even hold a hearing on the nomination let alone hold a Judiciary or floor vote on the nomination.

One reason, however, many Republicans held their noses and still voted for Donald Trump was his promise to nominate Judge Antonin Scalia’s replacement from a list compiled by conservative of “acceptable” court nominees.

Worthy though Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch is, Senate Democrats are planning on filibustering the Trump nomination offering as an excuse that “turn about” is fair play. Because it takes 60 votes to overcome a Senate over-ride of a filibuster, many folks expect Gorsuch may have to withdraw his name, especially if Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky does not avail himself of the “nuclear option” – a simple majority vote of those present and voting.

Even then, if just two Republicans abstain a tie vote would go to the chair to cast the tiebreaker, and this is the only situation that allows the sitting vice president, Mike Pence, to cast the tie-breaking vote.

The net result is two exeedingly competent nominated justices, Merick Garland and Neil Gorsuch, both with exceptional records, could be destroyed in this overly politicized gunfight.

Can this stalemate, this at loggerheads ever be resolved? Yes, there is still room for compromise and bi-partianship and there is a path forward that could neutralize the vitriol and animosity.

Here is the proposal:

Step #1: This step is designed to reduce the overt and crippling partisanship now surrounding Supreme Court nominations.

The Senate Judiciary Committee creates a Special Subcommittee to vett all Supreme Court and Federal Distict Judge nominations. The subcommittee chair would be Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. the sitting chair. The ranking minority member, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, would also be a member.

Altogether there will be seven members: one seat will be allocated to the sitting president of the American Bar Association. Another seat will be assigned to those who once served as U.S. Solicitor Generals. The majority party will name qualified members of the legal profession to two seats and the minority party will nominate the last seat.

In order for a name to move forward to the full Judiciary Committee a person must have five of the seven votes.

Step #2. This step is designed to forge the only realistic compromise now clouding the nomination of Justice Garland and Justice Gorsuch. Neither should become “road kill” or “collateral damage” in the current fight.

The key though is for one of the several judges on the current Supreme Court who should resign because of age or illness. One of them is the linch pin to this win-win compromise. For arguments sake let’s say Justice Ginsberg volunteers to step down.

The judiciary committee then resurrects the nomination of President Obama’s nominee and the two nominations, Garland and Gorsuch are vetted by the full committee and then sent to the floor for a vote where, based on qualifications alone, both are approved and once again there is a functioning nine-member Supreme Court.

Thereafter future nominees for all federal judgeships are run through the process outlined in Step #1. This is a realistic solution but probably too sensible to be adopted. If someone has a better solution I’m all ears.

Column

carlson

During the confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s designee as U.S. Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) went after his colleague on his vote not to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Idaho’s member of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Mike Crapo, is a strong proponent of the Act, and was solidly for reauthorization. Issues are rarely black and white choices, though Senator Leahy tried to portray Senator Sessions as indifferent to the plight of abused women.

Sessions strongly denied the charge. In doing so he alluded to an issue that calls for more understanding and awareness, especialy by non-Native Americans who reside on Tribal lands or are married to a Native spouse.

It turns out Senator Leahy had not offered a “clean” reauthorization bill. Instead, the Vermont senator attached a new provision which troubled the Attorney General designee. Sessions had constitutional reservations about a provision that allows a non-Indian charged with abusing a Native American within the boundaries of a reservation to be tried in a Tribal Court.

Sessions believes the Constitution guarantees individuals a trial in front of a jury of one’s peers. A non-Indian standing trial for assault in front of a jury of Natives does not meet that standard.

Senator Crapo, however, accepts the provision because elsewhere the bill makes it clear this provision is restricted just to non-native assaults against natives, primarily spouses. In addition there is language providing for pilot project funding which encourages tribe’s to align their legal codes with state and federal codes and to meet other criteria spelled out in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, in particular the requirement that the jury pool in a tribal court be drawn from all those living on a reservation, not just enrolled tribal members.

Of the 566 federally recognized tribes across this nation only four have met the criteria laid out in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Three of those four reside in the northwest—-the Tulalips in western Washington and the Warm Springs Tribe and the Umatilla Tribe in eastern Oregon.

The arbiter of whether tribes have established a truly independent judiciary is the Department of Justice. This is part and parcel of Congress’ ability to exercise its plenary powers, even over treaties with tribes. Understandably, tribes who believe their sovereignty is absolute, chafe at requirements that in effect say “prove your judiciary” is an equal and independent agent in your governmental structure.

Tyrel Stevenson, for nine years a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s legal staff and the newly designated director of government affairs for the Tribe, states flatly that the vast majority of tribal judiciary are “law trained” or “law qualified.” Whether judges in the tribal courts, prosecutors, defense counsel, bailiffs, or court reporters, they all received the proper training and the attorneys all admitted to the applicable bars.

He quickly cites the legal precedents for current law applied to Native Americans in a way one wishes Senator Crapo could have done when queried about his stance.

Stevenson cites the seminal laws and their being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court: the Winter’s Doctrine of 1902; the 1924 legislation finally conferring the right to vote on America’s first citizens; Suquamish vs. Oliphant, the case which clarified a tribe’s right to decide who is a member; the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act which said tribes were not subject to the U.S. Constitution but that individual tribal members are; the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010; and the Violence Against Women Act of 2013.

To date no non-Indian has gone before any Tribal Court in Idaho on a charge of domestic abuse, nor is it likely there will be such a case for some time. Thus, in a sense it is a moot point. Why in response to a series of questions regarding how expanding the jury pool on a reservation met the constitutional test of a trial by a jury of one’s peers, Senator Crapo could not provide a better explanation is a mystery only he can answer.

The time willl come when Senator Crapo will have to clarify his thinking on this issue of a right to a trial in front of one’s peers. He can duck my questions, but down the road he won’t be able to hide.

Column

carlson

From time to time when out in public I’ll bump into a reader of the column or an old friend who inevitably asks how am I doing in dealing with my major health challenges. As they and a few others know, I have been combating a rare form of Stage IV neuroendocrine cancer which was diagnosed in November of 2005. I was given the proverbial six months left to live.

This, coupled with an earlier (1999) diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, as well as a few other maladies, makes me somewhat of a medical marvel to my team of doctors.

In responding I always thank them for their interest, and also thank them as a taxpayer for their assistance with ensuring my welfare because Medicare has paid a small fortune to my physician team aad to hospitals that have helped me fight so far with success. Costs have far exceeded what I paid in over the years.

This is my way of segueing to the current national political debate over the issue of ObamaCare, its alleged failures and the prospects for reform of our overly costly system of health care. Indeed, most folks who follow this debate will do so from the same place and ask the same question: How does this impact my family and me?

The unvarnished truth is there are features of ObamaCare that have been implemented which enjoy broad support and one can rest assured the Republican Congress will not touch these. The public now sees them as entitlements, and as such, they have become institutionalized.

These features include no denial of coverage for a pre-existing condition and no caps on the cost an individual may incur. I am and continue to be the beneficiary of these features. My critics may find it disconcerting to learn that through their paid taxes, especially Medicare, they are indirectly paying a part of the cost that keeps me on the sunny side of the earth.

Allow me to explain. After the initial diagnosis I sought a second opinion like everyone should The number of tumors on my liver, as well as the deterioration of the tri-cuspid valve, led doctors at M. D. Anderson in Houston to decline to even see me – the CT’s, MRI’s and blood work made it look hopeless. Administrative personnel at M.D. Anderson have since apologized and also have reviewed their entrance criteria.

I ended up at The new Huntsman Cancer Center attached to the University of Utah in Salt Lake. During the course of 2006 and early into 2007 I underwent five chemoembolization procedures where they enter a major artery and with an incredibly small wand are able to place the emolsion directly on the tumors to literally shatter them.

The last procedure at Huntsman involved placing radioactive pellets, Y-90, on the tumor remnants to ensure they are indeed killed. The pellets were flown in from Australia the day of the procedure. All of these procedures were of course expensive.

Mercifully, I stabilized and slowly began to regain weight and recover. There is no cure for this cancer, but we certainly knocked it back and have held it in check ever since.

During all the intervening years I monthly receive the maximum allowable amount of a sandostatin called Octreotide. I call it my “golden rear” shot because I receive half the dose in my left butt cheek and half in my right butt cheek. It is an expensive drug, one which I could not begin to afford did I have to pay the cost myself.

Fortunately for me, I am covered by Medicare and from the beginning I purchased the best supplemental insurance plan one could. Much as an insurance company might have wanted to deny me coverage they could not because ObamaCare prohibits denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions.

If Congress makes the mistake of repealing the act first without having put in place the replacement bill guaranteeing continued access and coverage, I’ll be at Raul Labrador’s door along with a thousand others.

One last note: I polled 12 of the doctors I have utilized over my 11 year battle as to whether they would not have preferred Congress to have expanded Medicare into a single payer system that cut insurance companies out altogether. To my surprise all 12 said yes, that it was the devil they knew and it was working. Like me, all Americans, especially those covered by Medicare should be watching carefully.

Column

carlson

The end of one year and the beginning of another is often a good time for reflection, introspection, and the reading of a book or two providing one with new information, insights and perspective.

Besides the fine memoir written by the 90-year-old former Idaho Second District Congressman, Orval Hansen, the subject of last week’s column, there are two other fine books published recently that should command attention.

The first is a fascinating compilation of anecdotes, stories, experiences, observations and reflections by Jim and Holly Akenson who spent a total of 7003 days in the Idaho backcountry serving as the caretakers of the University of Idaho’s Taylor Ranch on Big Creek a few miles upstream from its confluence with the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

This is deep in the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. It takes a special kind of person to live and thrive off the grid and deep in a wilderness area. Jim and Holly, however, have what it takes, as do a few others who belong to the fraternity or sorority of wilderness thrivers.

What it takes is an ability to appreciate solitude, to treasure the wind soughing through the trees, to listen for the yip of the coyote, the howl of the wolf or the hoot of the owl. It takes appreciation for the isolation, and ability to sit quietly by a campfire watching the coals while a yarn is spun.

The book’s intrepid couple are both trained biologists so little escapes their eye, from discussing their use of pack mules, to staving off approaching fires, to talking with visiting dignitaries. And of course they hold Maurice Hornacher and his seminal studies on cougars in the Big Creek drainage in high regard.

Backcountry residents also form a special bond with the pilot who despite troublesome weather almost always gets their mail to them. For the Akenson’s it was most often Ray Arnold at the controls. In earlier times it was Sid Hinkle.

Once in a while one will stumble across these wilderness reincarnations of the elusive “RidgeRunner,” all of whom will describe the magic of the time they have spent in the backcountry. The chief editor of the Ridenbaugh Press, Linda Watkins, spent the better part of eight years as a cook and a ranch hand in the back country, for example.

Marty Smith, who owns Three Rivers Rafting, a firm that runs rafts and kayaks on the Selway and Lochsa, would spend every day of the year in the wilderness. Guests on his trips are always surprised when about half way through a trip he’ll casually mention that he graduated from Yale with a degree in history and played for Yale’s football team.

The book, 7003 Days, is published by Caxton Press of Caldwell.

Another book, A Little Dam Problem, published by Caxton, is worth one’s time even if they aren’t into the complexities of Idaho water law. Retiring Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court Jim Jones has done the public a favor by writing in clear, lucid language about the bitter dispute surrounding the re-licensing of the Swan Falls/Guffey dam.

Jones, who early in his career worked on the staff of Senator Len B. Jordan, it can safely be said, revered Senator Jordan. One can tell part of his mission was to hold Idaho Power to the commitment the company made in 1952 to subordinate their water rights to the upstream irrigation companies in exchange for Jordan’s suppport to build three smaller dams in Hells Canyon rather than one huge (larger than Grand Coulee) federal or privately built dam.

Idaho Power spends the next 40 years trying to renige on the agreement, but Jones, as Idaho’s then Attorney General, with the support of then Governor John Evans, won’t let Idaho Power squirm off the hook. It is an interesting tale well told by Jones.

Unfortunately, the book, while avoiding some legalese nonetheless is repetitive at times because the former AG merely slaps press releases and talking points he wrote together at various times rather than summarize and produce new narrative.

What is most entertaining is Jones’ description of matching wits with and out maneuvering Idaho Power’s salty, in-your-face chief lobbyist, Logan Lanham, and “Lanham Lite,” Greg Panter.

Jones also errs when he claims that while serving as President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of the Interior, former Governor Cecil Andrus entered the fray on the company’s side. This is simply not so. Anyone who has followed Andrus’ career knows Idaho Power never supported him, especially after his Public Utility Commission vetoed the proposed Pioneer coal-fired generation plant.

Nonetheless, Jones has written a fair account of one of those issues, had it gone the other way, could have been catastrophic for the state.

Column

carlson

Democrats across the nation and Idaho are engaged in a debate over the future direction of the party given its electoral loss of the presidency and continuing Republican gains at the state level.

In particular, there are those like Vice President Joe Biden, who openly criticize the failure of Hillary Clinton’s campaign to appeal to the traditional blue collar, middle class, white male worker who, if he has a job, worries about his company moving it overseas. For these usually reliable Democratic voters free trade has become a code phrase for job losses.

There are others, like former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who also lament the failure of the Clinton campaign to appeal to rural voters who comprise 15% of the electorate. Ignoring the issue of job creation and the needs of these two major constituencies is what cost Mrs. Clinton her expected victory.

Others argue that the white male is increasingly becoming a distinct minority in the American electorate and the party should rely upon continued growth among Hispanics as well as other minorities, new immigrants, urban dwellers, environmentalists, computer nerds, gays and lesbians, and women voters. The changing demographics favor staying on the Clinton “coalition” message, they say.

There’s a third group that says Democrats can do both—work for more jobs, but not abandon the social message. The race for the new chairperson of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has become a proxy fight in this debate.

One would think Idaho’s contribution to this debate would be to remind fellow Democrats there was a time when the conservative Idaho Republican electorate voted for Democrats to be governor – for 24 years. The Democratic candidates had the right message and the party should return to that message.

What was that winning message? It was what its best explicator, Cecil Andrus, called the “three e’s”: Democrats had to work on expanding the Economic base of the state; they had to support fully funding public Education for schools are the engine room, and they had to stand for reasonable Environmental protection of the many special areas across Idaho.

Every member of the Democratic National Committee ought to have branded on their forehead the concisely stated Andrus philosophy: “First, you have to make a living. Then, you have to have a living worthwhile.” The road back starts with embracing a message that says we’re all about job creation – and the key to good well-paying jobs is a truly modern educational system coupled with a good environment where one can recreate during their time off.

One would think that would be the message for Democrats from Idaho to the DNC.

So what is Idaho’s message? It is that Idaho does not think “message change” is in order; rather, it thinks the DNC ought to change the messenger. And, oh, by the way, Idaho just happens to have the right messenger.

That’s correct, folks, the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, Sally Boynton-Brown, thinks she has “a unique skillset that joins high level strategic thinking with day-to-day operational execution.”

Many Democrats across the state challenge that claim, and with reason.

These critics correctly point out that while she has been executive director Idaho Democrats have never won a major statewide or federal office. Most believe a DNC chair has to have overseen a few wins.

Secondly, a DNC chair has to be able to raise money – lots of it. Literally, millions of dollars. They have to have extensive contact lists and have developed relationships with the party’s major heavy hitters. There is zero evidence that Ms. Boynton-Brown could do this.

In her e-mail announcement to fellow Idaho Democrats she claimed to be “accessible, responsive” and . . . . “a professional who people trust.” There are Democrats who would challenge all those claims.

Finally, contenders for the DNC often have to spend several hundred thousand dollars while seeking the designation. Few believe she has the resources (Though her husband may), whether her own or otherwise, to pursue the chair. Indeed, if she unilaterally spends any State Democratic funds without the explicit permission of the state party’s executive committee, there will be hell to pay.

She appears to think that since she is the only female among the seven current contenders, all the women on the DNC committee will fall in line. She also must think that her three years as chair of the Association of Democratic State Executive Directors will translate into votes.

That is dubious and almost laughable, much like the hyperbole in her announcement.

The on ramp to the freeway to ensure future success is the importance of walking the talk of job growth and the economy. It is not selecting a chair who more than likely will take the party down the exit ramp of a freeway.

Column

carlson

President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team continue to dish out surprises. The latest example is the bait and switch they pulled on Fifth District Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, 47, from Spokane. Leaks from the transition team to the media, in this case no less than the Wall Street Journal, led media to believe she was Trump’s choice to be the 52nd Secretary of the Interior.

She may have been the president-elect’s preference, but she wasn’t the choice of eldest son, Donald Junior. Both Junior and Eric Trump love to hunt, and Junior made it abundantly clear last October at a fund-raiser for his father in a hangar at the Boise Airport that the Trump family opposed selling off any federal land to states or private entities.

In an interview with the Spokesman-Review’s intrepid Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, Donald Junior mentioned that while working in Nevada he enjoyed hunting and the access to good hunting. He readily conceded the family might be out of step with Republican orthodoxy, but he firmly believed turning over federal land to the states would ultimately lead to public sale of those lands.

We may never know whether in her interview on Monday at the Trump Tower the congresswoman stuck to her position that some lands ought to be sold by the Feds to states because in part the need for a greater supply of timber for cutting, or she indicated she could tailor her view to conform with Junior’s bias.

If she stuck to her guns on principal that may have done her in or if she indicated she could adapt that may have come across as expediency and that could have done her candidacy a fatal blow also. The guess is she stuck to principle.

It is a safe bet that the freshman congressman from Montana, Rep. Ryan Zinke, hammered home his opposition to the sale of any federal lands to the states. This also cinched support for Zinke from many of the nation’s hunting groups.

Whatever the reason, it was unconscionable the manner in which the transition team floated her name as a trial balloon then took note on how many of their base interest groups took potshots.

It is also a shame because Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is a pragmatic conservative and not an ideologue. The Department of the Interior over the years has worked much better with the former and done much to thwart the latter. It’s the difference between former Idaho Governor and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, who was wildly successful, and James Watt, who was an enormous failure.

She is the true conservative, one who knows it is the root word of conservation, which means resource conversion, whether it is wheat into bread, timber into 2 x 4’s, or minerals into metals is done sustainably.

The League of Conservation Voters, prematurely opposed her nomination. That was a mistake. She is the highest ranking Republican woman in the Congress, and she didn’t get there by accident.

She would have listened to the LCV and other environmental groups’ views and while not necessarily endorsing them all, would have incorporated what she could where she could. With Zinke it will be all adversarial. The “take no prisoners” attitude on the part of the ex-Navy SEAL will be problematic.

The congresswoman also would have brought a far more extensive background in dealing with Interior-related issues to the post. Based on “time in grade” and experience alone she is far more qualified than Zinke.

She represents a sprawling district highly dependent on sustainable resource conversion. Vaagen Brothers Timber is a major employer, so she follows closely timber supply issues and served with distinction on a bi-partisan legislative task force that worked diligently on possible solutions to the supply challenges..

She is conversant with Native American issues because the district has four tribes with reservations and she has worked well with all of them..

Though Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation operates the Grand Coulee Dam, the National Park Service runs the National Recreation Area behind the dam. Her office frequently has dealt with Interior’s Fish nd Wildlife Service as well as the Endangered Species office.

She is probably one of the few people who knows that the dollars which flow into the Land and Water Conservation Fund to be used by Uncle Sam to purchase significant sites threatened by development come from the royalties Uncle Sam receives for off-shore oil and gas leases.

McMorris also understands the critical role Interior plays in Alaska. It’s a safe bet she and Senator Lisa Murkowski would have become good friends.

Yes, McMorris is a devout Christian, but she doesn’t wear it on her sleeve. She walks the talk and lets her actions speak. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan once wrote a book on President Reagan, entitled “When Character was King”.

If Donald Trump had selected Cathy McMorris-Rodgers to be his Interior Secretary, when her tenure was over people would know that character also has a queen.

Column

carlson

The late David Broder, a political columnist and the long-time chief political editor for The Washington Post, at the end of each year used to review his 52 plus columns, and then share with his readers his self-critique.

He highlighted columns where his crystal ball was clairvoyant as well as those that badly missed the mark. He enjoyed popping the balloon of “conventional wisdom” when it was wrong and he was correct. His goal was to provide insight, perspective, knowledge; and, hopefully give his reader the critical information one needs to make an informed decision, such as voting for a president.

He wanted to inform and educate. He was always fair and balanced, did his homework and kept his personal views out of the column. He surely would have subscribed to the trademark phrase of tv detective Jack Webb: “Just the facts, mam’, just the facts.”

Broder gave voice to the voiceless and a certain of amount of power to the powerless. They don’t come any better than David Broder. What follows is inspired by his excellent example.

1) Being first. It’s always gratifying when something one writes in a column is actually news worthy and note worthy. Topping the list was a column that appeared in late January that was one of the first in print to expose the American Redoubt movement as the reincarnation of the old posse comitatus gang cloaked in a toga of slightly more respectability.

The column came to the attention of Kevin Sullivan, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter for the Washington Post who later in the year wrote several insightful articles. The column’s purpose was to flag to Idahoans a new group of extremists who could quickly remind the rest of the world that Idaho was once a haven for the racist, white supremist neo-Nazi movement.

Other columns revealing unique or breaking news included the rediscovery and re-publication of three lost novels written by Syd Duncombe, a much beloved political science instructor at the University of Idaho; a couple of columns endorsing Robyn Brody for a vacancy on the Idaho Supreme; a column showing that contrary to the myth that congressmen never go back to Pocatello, slightly more than half of Idaho’s congressmen had; and, a couple columns addressing solutions to the on-going issue of the declining salmon and steelhead runs on the Snake River.

2) Columns off the mark. Like almost every other political pundit I missed the significance of the chord of anger and frustration, especially across the white middle class, regardless of income or education, that Trump tapped. He was the only true outsider in the race and almost half of all voters wanted a non-politician.

Despite a column explaining why all polls were flawed, I still was sufficiently taken in by the Clinton p.r. machine that I missed the truly significant shift of the ground underfoot. There must have been at least a dozen columns ranting about Trump and the danger he could lead us into. Quite simply, I blew it.

3) Columns requiring corrections or apologies. Its always hard to admit a mistake, but I made two major ones for which I want to apologize. First apology goes to University of Idaho President Chuck Staben. I listened to only one side—those critical of his decision on rejoining the Big Sky Conference in football. It was just plain wrong for me to tell him to pack his bags.

I made two major journalistic blunders, the second being a failure not to have even talked to him to get his side of the story. I’m now convinced he’s doing a solid job. I hope he accepts the mea culpa.

I made the same mistake with Idaho State University President Arthur Vailas in part because I believe he was mislead by Governor Otter on the creation of a private/public partnership to establish a so-called Idaho Medical school in Nampa. So, apologies to Dr. Vailas, also.

In reviewing the columns I owe an apology to the reader for failure to always be balanced and fair. I recognized an element of cynicism crept into the columns, that at times I was downright snarkey. The column is well received by all the state’s political cognoscenti to whom I have an obligation to provide an informed and interesting perspective they might otherwise not see.

You have my promise to do better in 2017.

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carlson

Once again inhabitants of the pacific northwest’s Columbia River basin are being put through an “examine your belly button” exercise regarding the future of the four Lower Snake River dams and their adverse impact upon migrating salmon and steelhead.

This is the fourth time a Federal District judge has ordered the Bonneville Power Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation; and, NOAA Fisheries to go back to the drawing board.

The flaw the court finds is the inadequacy of the agencies examination of the “remove the four dams” option. A team from those agencies spends years and millions of dollars developing a “BIOP” or the biological opinion on operation of the dams and the consequent environmental impact.

When the judge agrees with plaintiffs, again, almost always lead by a contingent of fish and wildlife adherents, such as Save Our Salmon and the National Wildlife Federation, he finds the biological opinion to be insufficient. This time, though, the judge added a twist saying the EIS also had to be redone because the previous one, started in the 90’s was clearly outdated.

Federal agencies have become “sophisticated” about public input to the process required by law. Rather than hold a formal hearing they have adopted the “information session” model. One is told that for several hours an “open house” will be held and the public is invited to see static displays. Unfortunately, these displays seldom say one word about why an EIS is underway nor is there any admission regarding their defeat in the court.

This column has two recommendations to the agencies:

(1) Expand the BIOP and EIS task force by providing a seat at the table to Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and to the EPA. It is a no brainer that adding the agencies which have expertise in environmental law will ensure a better more complete analysis. To date they have been excluded.

(2) Have a section that examines options for paying for dam removal if ordered by the court. An often heard refrain is even if a court orders the four dams breached Congress will never appropriate the funds. That’s probably correct. Are there other ways to obtain the funding? Yes.

Congress passes legislation that mandates the BPA to accelerate the pay-off of the Federal debt it owes to the Treasury for the construction costs of the Federal Base System (the dams). The legislation mandates the FBS be sold to the four northwest states for a reasonable price. The four states reincorporate BPA with the Northwest Power Planning Council becoming the board of directors. The new entity is to work out a lease agreement with the Army Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation to continue operating the dams with the excess revenue from power sales beyond standard costs of operation and maintenance for the dams and upgrades on transmission lines being distributed to the four states on the basis of population.

This could bring new revenue to these states in the billions of dollars. It would facilitate investing in new infrastructure and help cover the costs of the states’expanding needs without any new tax increases. A small portion of the excess revenue would be diverted to a fund that would be drawn upon to pay for breaching the dams.

Far-fetched? Not really. BPA’s outstanding debt right now is $15.2 billion. Last year, BPA made a higher than average payment to the Treasury of $1.9 billion. In earlier years payment on principal and interest had been approximately $1 billion, but over the last three years BPA has made higher than average payments.

The average interest BPA calculates and includes is 5.11%. The $15.2 billion includes both non-federal debt (which has a priority) and the federal debt. On the surface then, accelerating the debt repayment and then selling the system back to the region looks doable. BPA could help the proposed process by renegotiating the interest rate given that home loan mortgage rates are currently hovering around 3%.

BPA could also drop out of its “o and m” costs the massive subsidies that undergird supposed efforts to restore salmon and steelhead fisheries. To some, items like “the Columbia Basin Accords” look like nothing less than legal bribery – payments to fish and wildlife agencies and tribes not to talk about breaching the four lower Snake dams through 2018.

BPA officials will argue that for years they have been operating on a plan which would never have them paying off the debt completely primarily because they do crank so many other costs into the budget and are constantly reinvesting in system upgrades.

More than anything agency chiefs and the region’s political leadership have to recognize where there’s a will there’s a way. For too long too many have just paid lip service to the law’s requirement that the fish runs be restored. Creative thinking has to be undertaken, collective will has to be established and the dams breached. This proposal could be a win/win for all and achieve removal of the four lower Snake dams without using taxpayer money.

Does anyone have a better idea?

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