• 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.

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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.

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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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