• 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.

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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?”

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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.

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