• 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

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.

Column

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?

Column

carlson

While certain businesses in Idaho have always been deeply involved in politics and public policy – Idaho Power, Simplot, Boise/Cascade, Avista, Union Pacific, Micron, Hewlett-Packard, Monsanto, to name a few – the recent election cycle has seen more involvement by more Idaho businesses than ever before.

In several instances this has not been helpful to the public good, but in one instance it clearly has. Starting with the positive is the effort being put forward by a group called Idaho Business for Education.

Headed by Rod Gramer, a former reporter for the Idaho Statesman, and a long-time director of public and political affairs for two television stations, Boise’s KTVB and Portland’s KGW, this group has expanded rapidly under his leadership. When Gramer first accepted the position there were only 27 members. Today there are over 160.

Gramer was lured home from Florida by Skip Oppenheimer, a well-to-do community business leader who has long harbored concerns about growing disparities and slipping standards for many of Idaho’s schools and the children supposedly being prepared to compete in the ever increasingly competitive future job market.

The group does its best to eschew partisanship and seeks to work collaboratively with all the various educationsal interests, from the Board of Education to the Idaho Education Association to the offices of the governor and the superintendent of public instruction.

They seek to be a catalyst for progressive, meaningful reform across the board. While more dollars for teachers and fully funding education’s needs are priorities, they know reform is not just throwing more money at the challenges. Thus, they hve worked closely with Governor Otter’s education reform task force and have embraced most of their recommendations.

Gramer skillfully avoids being baited into saying anything negative about the Legislature, knowing that the 105 “gubernatorial house guests” still have to adopt the group’s recommendations. He politely says the group does not look in the rear view mirror. Instead they look ahead.

IBE members fully embrace a statement first made by former four-term Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus that “the classroom is the engine room on the train that drives the state’s economy.” As a group the IBE members stay relentlessly focused on their core principles of placing the highest priority on best practices which lead to the best outcomes for Idaho students.

They also understand the importance of better pay for teachers and the need to stop the drain-off to nearby states where teachers can be better paid. As business leaders they demand data-driven information and stress the importance of transparency and accountability. Of course, they are keenly aware of staying current with evolving technology as well as constant review to find the best, most effective and efficient systems.

Gramer has been traveling the state in recent months to discuss with members their ambitious agrnda for the 2017 Legislature. This agenda includes the Idaho School Readiness Act which is designed to teach children how to read in kindergarten.

Other measures include the Idaho College Completion Act which will incentivize students to finish college. Idaho ranks near the bottom nationally with high school graduates who actually obtain a college degree.

IBE will also introduce a Idaho Workforce Incentive Act, as well as a program of industry sector grants. Further, they will keep an eye on the previous Legislature’s commmitment to appropriate the next installment of $56 million to improve the Teacher Career Ladder.

This positive stands in marked contrast to two other initiatives Idaho businesses have collectively pursued. The two are self-servng items running counter to the obligation to work for the greatest good for the greatest number.

Led by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, this business group has been funding a misnamed Idaho Citizens for passage of HJR 5 which is nothing less than a pure power grab by business to increase its power over state government by vetoing outright rules and regulations written by agencies charged with implementing new laws.

To their credit, Governor Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden oppose the move. Unfortunately, Lt. Governor Brad Little, in a disturbing kow-tow to business, has chosen to support this effort, as have some Democrat legislators such as Pocatello State Rep. Mark Nye.

Many IACI members also bought into providing financial support to State Senator Curt McKenzie’s campaign for a vacant seat on the Idaho Supreme Court. Robyn Brody, an attorney from Rupert, is (was) clearly the better choice. She was rated much higher by the Idaho bar and no one would ever charge she was bought and paid for by Idaho business.

The irony is that many of the members of IBE are also members of IACI. Thus, some display a split personality and send a mixed message.

One can only conclude that in Idaho the business of business is no longer business, it is sometimes “monkey business” and the people are the real losers.

Column

carlson

“A Time to Weep, and a Time to Laugh…..” ……Ecclesiastes 3; 4

In less than a week millions of Americans will trudge to the polls without much enthusiasm, to cast a ballot for one of the two most disliked and flawed nominees in American history, if one is to believe the polls.

To cast a vote for President based on who is the least trustworthy, least honest, least qualified, least divisive is a travesty. It undermines faith in the Democratic process and feeds the forces of selfishness, greed and evil. It prompts some to talk in apocalyptic terms of revolution, civil war and anarchy, especially when one candidate says in advance the outcome is rigged.

Notice the qualifier at the end of the first graph: “if one is to believe the polls.”

This is one long-time political observer who puts little stock in polls. This election is going to be closer than the public has been lead to believe. Here’s why:

1) Fewer voters have landline telephones, especially those under 35. Most carry cell-phones. Because one carries their cell phone regardless of the area code it is difficult for pollsters to obtain a fix on this demographic. It takes longer and it costas more to identify a generic voter pool.

2) A heavier than normal turnout trumps easily a poll prediction. Trump clearly has hit a chord with the disaffected, disenchanted and the diss-all-levels-of-government types, which has resulted in some states having record turnout and a slew of new voters. The lesson to be drawn is enthusiasm and grass root sentiment can trump organizational turn out the vote efforts.

3) All the major polls missed badly on Justin Trudeau’s victory in Canada’s recent parliamentary elections. Pollsters missed badly on how the British voter was going to vote on BREXIT (getting out of the European Union) in large part because the turnout was much higher than historical averages.

4) There’s a prospect that on election day the 10% polls predict nationally for the Libertarian candidate could fade. If just half those voters who say they are voting for former New Mexico Governor Garry Johnson morph into votes for Trump the electoral vote map changes dramatically. Take Ohio. Current polls show a dead heat with 47% for Mrs. Clinton and 46% for Trump. Johnson polls at 5% and Mrs. Stein polls at 2 %. If half of Johnson’s vote switches to Trump he takes Ohio.

5) There’s no way pollsters can guard against the person being polled from lying. Some put this lie factor at 5%. Trump insiders are claiming that there’s a hidden 5% for their guy that will materialize – they may be correct.

6) Regardless of who wins, the Republic will survive. Yes, a President Trump can use his executive authority and sign a variety of decrees that would change the direction of certain policies, but ours is a system of check and balances. Ironically, a President Trump would soon discover he and his agenda inextricably caught up in a war within the Republican party for its soul.

7) Many can recall similar dire predictions issued by the media and liberals when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. He turned out to be a pretty good president.

Personally, despite reservations about her honesty and the character of both she and Slick Willie, I’m still voting for Mrs. Clinton. There’s no substitute for experience, she knows issues inside and out, does her homework and will present a thoughtful, disciplined face to the world.

The presidency, as we should know from watching President Obama take six years to master the job, is no place for on the job training.

There are two other more than qualified women on the ballot readers should support. The first is Kathy Kraack Kahn, a recently retired St. Maries school teacher, and a former student of mine. She is far more qualified and thoughtful than the incumbent and proudly calls herself an Andrus Democrat. Cece has of course endorsed her.

The second is Robyn Brody who is seeking a vacant seat on the State Supreme Court. The Idaho Bar judged her to be far more qualified than her opponent, Senator Curt McKenzie. He has shamelessly tried to play up his Republican credential in a non-partisan race by such stunts as placement of his campaign signs in the cluster of other Republican signs.

Ms. Brody has adhered to the non-partisan requirement though she too is a Republican as she and her husband were Minidoka county co-coordinators for Senator Larry Craig’s last campaign. Shame on McKenzie. I also have to express disappointment in State Senator Shaun Keough, who should be supporting Robyn, but out of traditional loyalty to a senatorial colleague is supporting McKenzie. Election night will see whether I laugh or cry.

Column

carlson

A couple weeks back this column critiqued a “double truck” ad in the Coeur d’Alene Press written and paid for by a prominent local real estate executive, Chris Walsh, who owns Revolutionary Realty.

His firm caters in part to the “preppers,” those who seek out somewhat isolated property in northern Idaho where they build their homes, stockpile food and weapons and wait for Armageddon.

Walsh fired back and we each took another shot at the other, stereotyping the other, getting snarkier while getting close to the line, if not outright crossing it, of engaging in personal attack. I’ve long had a policy of not responding to comments on or attacks at my political musings, but also try not to engage in any sort of personal attack.

Something about Walsh’s passion as well as his still seeing Republican nominee Donald Trump as the only agent of needed change captured my attention.

So I sent him an e-mail suggesting we cease shooting and instead sit down over breakfast and listen to each other. I also apologized for the stereotyping as well as my snarky overtone. Walsh graciously accepted both the apology and the offer of breaking bread together.

We met for breakfast at the Elmer’s just off I-90 and Highway 95. We began by focusing on what we agreed upon. There was a surprising amount:

  • We felt both political parties have been captured by their large contributors, have lost touch with their base and reflect the special interests, not the public interest.
  • Both party caucuses in both houses of Congress are equally responsible for the gridlock that holds the nation’s capital in its thrall.
  • Too many federal agencies are filled with too many folks who see preserving their jobs as their prime purpose, instead of providing the public with efficient, effective service.
  • A systemic issue in the bureaucrats’ desire to preserve their jobs necessitates the writing of more and more regulations for them to interpret and administer.
  • The best vehicle for really changing the D.C. culture would be the imposition of term limits on both our elected representatives and those in the civil service.
  • Critical issues facing America and whomever becomes president are not being addressed, such as the looming bankruptcy of many of the nation’s pension funds, which all will look to our empty Treasury expecting a federal bailout which Congress will not be able to do.
  • The Simpson/Bowles Commission on Restoring Fiscal Accountability to the nation’s finances by starting down a path of reducing spending and paying down debt is an unfortuate lost opportunity.
  • Resource conversion is what brings new dollars into the economy, whether trees into 2 x 4’s, wheat into bread, minerals into metals and computers; and, while it is important to undertake more of these activities, it has to be done in an environmentally responsible way.
  • An educated workforce is critical to the betterment of any state and Idaho has to do more in the arena of support for public education.
  • The shrinking middle class does indeed subsidize the top tenth of 1% many of whom take full advantage of the numerous loopholes in the ungainly, overly complicated U.S. Tax Code, which has to be simplified.
  • Health care costs more than ever while covering less than ever.

Where we still disagreed is Walsh’s belief that because Trump is the only outsider left in the race, and the public knows change is needed, therefore he is the one a citizen should vote for.

Even if elected (which seems more and more unlikely given the release of another embarrassing tape), Trump has alienated so many of the constituencies one has to work with in order to get things done he will be utterly impotent and unable to produce anything he has promised.

With all due respect, I told Walsh my conclusion was the Donald was not the man to lead us out of the wilderness and the slough of despair. We parted friends, both the better for having sat down and listened to each other with full respect to our free speech rights. We agreed to meet again.

I presented Walsh with a copy of my three books and I accepted his offer of a flying tour of north Idaho in his vintage Beech Bonanza. I divined that he well understood the old caution to flier’s: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots. There are no old, bold pilots.”

Column

carlson

Former Arizona Governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was in Coeur d’Alene recently to address the first annual north Idaho dinner for the Idaho Conservation League. The dinner is also a living memorial to the late Scott Reed, a Coeur d’Alene attorney who helped found the ICL, and who also became an expert on Environmental Impact Statements and water law.

Reed is survived by his beloved spouse, former State Senator Mary Lou Reed, a daughter, Tara, and a son, Bruce, who served former President Bill Clinton first at the Democratic Leadership Council and then as President Clinton’s chief domestic policy advisor.

Fellow Coeur d’Alene attorney and ICL board member Buddy Paul spearheaded the effort to put the sold-out dinner together.

At 78, Babbitt still is ramrod straight in posture, quiet and modest in demeanor, has a ready smile, a great sense of humor, an intellect like few others, and an undiminished passion for protecting the environment.

For an hour before the dinner, Governor Babbitt (the 47th Secretary of the Interior) sat down to discuss the future prospects for survival of the ocean-going salmon on the Columbia and Snake River systems, with two of Idaho’s leading conservationists: Pat Ford and Rick Johnson. For years Ford headed up the Boise office of the group “Save Our Salmon,” and before that was the executive director of the Idaho Conservation League.

Rick Johnson is the current executive director of ICL.

Ford is a strong advocate of taking out the four lower Snake dams, breaching them to restore natural river flow. Once again (4th time?) a Federal District Judge in Portland, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, has ruled that the Biological Opinion on whether the dams too adversely inhibit the journey of the smolt to the sea is deficient. Therefore, ipso facto, the EIS so dependent on the BIOP, is also deficient.

Ford is the quintessential “lean, mean fighting machine,” and a vigorous advocate for restoring the salmon and steelhead runs, He speaks eloquently and writes with style and passion on the need for the region to take the proper steps before wild salmon and steelhead are extinct.

Still freckle-faced with red hair, he was quickly called “Pixie” while attending Columbia and receiving his undergraduate degree. Though “retired” Ford is still a master of detail as well as a master strategist.

This particular day Ford has a specific ask given that new hearings have been ordered by the judge. Ford has chafed at the inadequacy of the previous BIOP’s and EIS’s in part because none of the previous one’s did an honest and diligent examination of the breaching option.

He instinctively knows that a better examination by the Task Force charged with the responsibility will create more support for his goal. He wants to make sure that the incoming administration knows the importance of the issue. He also has spotted a shortcoming that has contributed to the inadequate reviews: there is no one from the Interior department’s fish and wildlife agency or from the Environmental Protection Agency on the Task Force.

His ask of Babbitt then is a letter to another former Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, who heads up Hillary Clinton’s Transition Team with Babbitt encouraging the Transition Group to pay heed to his request.

The former Arizona attorney general and 9-year governor still absorbs quickly and acts decisively.

He jokingly tells Johnson and Ford that he is once again a public employee working for the State of California at the behest of Governor Jerry Brown, heading up a Task Force that is examining California’s overworked, overdemand, overconsumed rivers.

He tells Johnson and Ford he is already zeroing in on the need salmon have for stream temperature no higher than 56 degrees if one wants to maximize the reproduction capabilities of the salmon and steelhead.

Ford commits to doing a draft and is rightly pleased to have achieved another small step in his relentless pursuit of preserving at least some of the historically magnificent salmon runs. Three warriors for the environment to whom future generations will owe much amble off to the reception.

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carlson

A few weeks ago former Idaho Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor David Leroy turned 69. He has stayed in good shape (Obviously exercises daily)and except for his all white, perfectly coifed hair one might think he was in his late 40’s or early 50’s.

With apologies to Irish poet Dylan Thomas, Leroy is not quietly going into the good night, nor with apologies to General Douglas MacArthur, is he like an old soldier fading away.

Still bursting with energy, a ready smile, a sense of humor and plain smarts tell one why he came so close to winning Idaho’s governorship in 1986.

Early in his political career Leroy idolized former governor and U.S. Senator Len B. Jordan, a principled but reasonable conservative. The Leroys even named their first child, a daughter, after Jordan. In addition, he gave an eloquent and heartfelt eulogy at Grace Jordan’s funeral services.

Somewhere along his political path Leroy became more and more enthralled with the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. He stumbled, metaphorically speaking, across the factoid that Lincoln had signed the legislation creating the Idaho territory in 1863. The more he read the more enthralled he became. It truly can be said that he is a self-educated genuine Lincoln scholar.

He has traveled the state talking about Lincoln and his impact on Idaho. He easily won a grant from Idaho’s Humanities Council to support some of the expenses for these lectures. The grant, however, does not cover all his expenses so he donates his time as well as his treasure to the cause.

During these past years he and his wife accumulated a decent collection of Lincoln memorabilia which they have donated to the Idaho Historical Library and a wing of the Idaho archives contains a fine display of much of their donation.
In early September Leroy announced the formation of the Idaho Lincoln Institute, a non-profit that will be dedicated to public education, opinion research and presentations taking educated guesses on where Lincoln might be on divisive political issues of our time. Early next year he intends to announce the formation of an advisory board and to begin fund-raising.

With the announcement, Leroy sent out several pages of quotes from Lincoln on issues still under debate today such as amending the Constitution and holding a constitutional convention.

Oddly, though Leroy had no quote touching on one of the major issues still dividing Idahoans today and that is the grants of every other section of public land to the routes railroad companies constructed across the west. The grants were incredibly generous incentives to the timber firms that emerged from these railroad firms—companies such as Weyerhauser, Potlatch and Plum Creek can trace their lineage to these grants which in places like Idaho’s upper Lochsa and the upper St. Joe have become management nightmares.

This has led to often controversial land swaps in which the public land agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management try to work out equitable in value land swaps and block up holdings for more efficient management.

Leroy does mention Lincoln’s equally important signing of the Homestead Act that especially in southern Idaho spurred economic growth as settlers received 160 acres of land to farm.

Leroy’s selection of quotes does make it clear that Lincoln had no problem with selling public lands to private interests and he clearly believed in public/private partnerships.

Oddly enough, this stance by Lincoln would put him at odds with the Republican nominee for president today, one Donald Trump. When asked about the selling of public lands to states or private interests at a September 22nd fund-raising event in Boise, Trump’s son, Donald Junior, raised more than a few conservative eyebrows by saying: that he and his father have “broken away from conservative dogma a little bit” on public lands. “We want to make sure that public lands stay public,” he said. “I’m a big outdoorsman, I’m a big hunter, when I lived out here that’s what I hunted on, public land, and I want to make sure that the next generation has that ability to do that.” He said if federal lands were transferred to state control, they could be sold off when a state has a budget shortfall, “and then all of a sudden, you never have access to those lands ever again.”

At least Trump has one issue correctly sized up. The more things change the more they stay the same.

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Chris Walsh, the realtor who has made a fortune selling north Idaho land to “preppers” – those folk who believe they have to stockpile food and weapons to protect that food from hungry urban hordes come Armegeddon or the Russians invade – is buying three “double page” ads for three Sundays in a row in The Coeur d’Alene Press telling readers Donald Trump is the person to lead America back to prosperity.

Why not spend $3000 a pop or about $10,000 total? After all, his business feasts off fear and people being afraid, so afraid that they spend a fair amount of money purchasing land from which they can plug the starving hordes trying to steal their food-supply.

Walsh was recently quoted extensively in a long piece on the American Redoubt Movement in the Washington Post by Kevin Sullivan, one of their fine reporters.

Donald Trump, therefore, is the only choice. Trump doesn’t mince words as he plays to American insecurities about the future, too much illegal immigration, crime, the drug epidemic, American troops fighting proxy wars; and, the state of the economy. You’ve heard it all and so supposedly you’ll blindly stampede to the polls to vote for the biggest con man in history.

So, you bet, Mr. Walsh, let’s do what’s good for your business and urge people to vote for the fear-mongering artist par excellence, Donald Trump.

Walsh buries his real goal in copy that says the universal answer is creating more good-paying jobs.

In looking at his polemic it is easy to spot classic rhetorical devices such as rhetorical questions, false either/or’s, false syllogisms, use of the vague “they” as in “they said,” and the straw dog argument one builds and then tears down.

Early on Walsh uses a false syllogism regarding youth’s alleged lost work ethic. He claims if the unemployed young had good-paying jobs they would rediscover the forgotten virtues of a decent job. Not necessarily so, Mr. Walsh.

Then he makes use of the vague “they,” as in “they sold us down the river,” “they told us that moving jobs overseas would not hurt,” “they were wrong, it’s a lie.”

Just who are “they?” Well, of course, the politicians and the super-rich. You can bet when Mr. Walsh is flying any of the super-rich around looking for property he doesn’t read this part of his thesis.

He throws out for consideration one of the mantras of this world’s cons: “The answers are actually simpler than most think.” I’m sorry but that is a pure lie. Life is full of complexities, ambiguities, and nuance. The thoughtful know there are no simple solutions to any serious divisive issue. Those that say otherwise just don’t get it and probably never will.

Walsh then lays out four ideas on how to create jobs and get America moving. He sees a resumption of more natural resource conversion as the first principle. He sees a hard-working citizenry; he sees government at all levels as supportive, not dictatorial; and, he sees the need for legitimate trade agreements. Even I can agree with much of this and we could find common ground. The trouble is this is Walsh speaking, not Donald Trump. Like many, Walsh thinks he knows where Trump is coming from. The truth is he doesn’t have a clue and neither does Trump himself.

Walsh also believes all these Trump generated jobs will end racism in America. I wish. Where’s he been the last eight years as the hard-right mounted its vicious, hate-filled campaign against President Obama?

Given all these preliminaries Mr. Walsh stuns with his primary reason to support Trump: “Because the Democrats and Establishment Republicans hate him.” That’s it, Chris? Seriously? Because he is hated Trump should be elected?

Walsh ends by saying it comes down to a hard choice. However, he again makes the mistake of framing matters in the false language of the either/or.

He ends by invoking a phrase made famous by the Beatles: The words “come together.”

The entire phrase in the lyrics is “come together, right now, over me.”

Not going to happen, Chris. Trump is a divider, not a unifier, and you know it.

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