• 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

Found myself pondering “Father’s Day” this past week. Yes, I know I’m a week late writing about it. I’m one of those folks, however, who spends time pondering what it means to be a “father” and the difference between a “father” and a “Dad.” Fatherhood carries with it an awesome responsibility to provide guidance to the children one helps to create by setting a good example and always being there.

My wife and I are blessed with four wonderful children all of whom have found their place in the world, all are college graduates, healthy and happy, and in the case of the three oldest, are mature women dedicated to helping others. Their brother, our youngest, is a Vandal and a Major in the US Marine Corps.

We’re proud of all. They all called and wished the old man a good day. Two of them took “Dad” to see a double header Northwest League baseball game between Spokane and Boise. Not only do they all love baseball, like their Dad, all also know how to keep a scorebook.

I’m fortunate I still have a great relationship with all for sadly too many fathers and children become alienated. I readily concede though that the credit goes to my spouse. We also luckily figured out things we could do as family such as enjoying Idaho’s wilderness by backpacking and going on rafting trips.

In the beginning the two older girls called me by my nickname, but it came to a screeching halt one day when overheard by a colleague, Mike McGavick. He jumped all over them that I was to be called Dad, that a father is not just another name, that Dad conveys a special relationship and is to be respected and cherished.

I thought once again about that incident upon reading a note from Mike that his father, Joe, had passed away a few days earlier. Like many father and sons, they at times had a contentious relationship. Both loved politics and both made their mark in the business world. Both were strong personalities and could clash easily. At the end of the day, however, one knew a deep and abiding love was present also.

There are a variety of phrases that use the word father. For example, Mike honored me by asking that I be the godfather of his first born, Jack (and my wife to be the godmother).

Most men never consider taking a parenting class, but despite what one may think, it doesn’t just come naturally, and all men and women could make use of parenting classes. All too often the father figure does not realize the degree to which the son tries to imitate the father. One of the great songs in the 60’s was “Cat’s in the cradle” by Harry Chapin. It is all about how a Dad does not have time to spend with his son. Then when the son is an adult and the Dad is retired the son doesn’t have time to spend with the Dad.

I can say that while my Dad tried to a limited extent to be a good father to my brother, my sister and me, he failed. He had lost his own father when he was three. His mother, trying to live as a waitress in Chicago during the Depression, couldn’t take care of him and so gave him away to a relative in far away Burke, Idaho.

That experience coupled with ten battles in the Pacific created mental issues and along with bad migraines, led to his committing suicide when I was 14. It was more by the Grace of God and my wife’s skill that I managed to be a tolerably decent Dad.

I was blessed to have two other types of “fathers” to whom I owe a deep debt of gratitude for their patience and guidance. One father is a priest, Father Steve Dublinski, who I worked with when he was the Vicar General for Bishop William Skylstad in the diocese of Spokane. I introduced Father Steve to fly fishing and in three weeks he was better than I. He has become a superb fly fisherman. I have benefitted, however, in that for ten years now, on an average of three times a month, we go fly fishing on his day off up the St. Joe or the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene. We’ve also fished other streams in Idaho and Montana. The scenery is always great as is the company.

Then there are those rare individuals who truly become “surrogate fathers” for fatherless folk like me. Over the years I worked for Idaho Governor and Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus our relationship evolved into a father/son relationship. He tutored and taught me much. Those times I have stumbled almost all have the common denominator of my failure to pick up the phone and seek his counsel.

Andrus is a natural teacher and father. He dotes on his three daughters, but he also keeps an eye out on his surrogate sons – I am just one of three or four other sons he keeps track of.

I end this “Father’s Day Salute” to Father Dublinski, to Dad Andrus, and to Mike McGavick with a belated “best wishes” to you all and thanks for your kind and compassionate interest in this wondering waif. And a happy 58th birthday to Father Steve on June 26th and a happy observance of his 33rd anniversary of his ordination on June 29th. I am so blessed by you all. Thanks so much.

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carlson

It appears Rep. Raul Labrador (R-1st CD-Idaho), despite being a darling of those enamoured with the Tea Party wing of the Grand Old Party, missed one of the fundamental principles of the movement encapsulated in the phrase “We don’t like politics as usual.”

This past week Labrador and his fellow Tea Party type, former State Senator Russ Fulcher, announced one of those cynical “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” that is a classic form of politics as usual.

After telling many of his supporters that he was not a place-holder for Rep. Labrador, that he was in the Governor’s race to stay, he and his friend, Raul, are now in cahoots together trying to pull off a job switcheroo.

Surprise! Fulcher is now running for Labrador’s congressional seat with Labrador’s endorsement. Can you ask “is that a quid pro quo? You betcha. Fulcher gets the endorsement and Raul has one less conservative to overcome in the primary.

Everybody is happy because the politicians each have something. It’s only the voters who get suckered that get hurt, the people who took Fulcher at his word that he wanted to be governor, and wrote checks because they believed him.

Labrador has to be chuckling to himself all the way to the bank. He thinks it is a no lose for him, but a little knowledge of Idaho history might have given Labrador at least some pause.

If history is any guide, voters take exception to this kind of cynical game and often to the surprise of those who play the game, the voters do remember and both politicians, if they hold a current political office, get punished.

The most cited example of this form of gamemenship came in November of 1945. On November 10th, 1945, Republican United States Senator John Thomas died while still holding the Senate seat. Then Idaho Governor Charles Gossett, a Democrat, must have seen a senator staring back at him in the mirror on Armistice Day morning when he was shaving.

He met with Lt. Governor Arnold Williams, also a Democrat, and the two cut a deal. Gossett would resign the governorship, which he did on November 17th, presumably having waited until Senator Thomas was buried in the Gooding cemetery, and Williams, who had become governor upon the Gossett resignation, named Gossett to fill the vacancy created by Thomas’ passing.

Retribution by the voters was swift and fatal. Voters tossed both out of office: Gossett lost to Rep. Henry Dworshak less than a year later on November 5th, 1946, and Williams, despite being the first Mormon in Idaho history to sit in the Governor’s chair, was soundly beaten by State Senator C.A. “Doc” Robins, MD, from St. Maries and the first governor to hail from north Idaho.

The moral of the story is clear: “Voters do not like seeing such games being played for it truly does smack of politics as usual.” Fulcher and Labrador can deny it until the cows come home but that won’t change how most will view this development.

Lt. Governor Brad Little should benefit from this move by Labrador for it demonstrates just how political as opposed to principled Labrador is.

Likewise, David Leroy should benefit because he is skilled enough to make sure every voter in the First District understands that Fulcher is an opportunist who just wants a government paycheck and would prefer the anonymity of being one of 450 members of congress rather than the leader of his state.

In the end the voters do win because they see what chameleons the two men really are.

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carlson

For those who know, understand and follow Idaho politics an important variable is the calculus one has to factor into the Idaho scene derived from what is happening to the south of Idaho in the corridors of the Utah state capitol and the offices of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.

While the days of bishops “testifying” about a brother standing for office on the Sunday before an election have long passed, or permitting the undeclared use of a stake house to make and assemble yard signs, Mormons in Idaho vote heavily on the Republican side of the ledger. Thus, the LDS vote looks monolithic, but it isn’t. It is just dyed in the wool Republican.

Nonetheless, the LDS vote can and is impacted by where and whom respected business and political leaders support. Exhibit A in Idaho would be Frank VanderSloot, the founder and chair of Idaho Falls’ Melaleuca Corporation. The Sandpoint born and raised VanderSloot is a billionaire who openly concedes he enjoys being influential on the Idaho political scene.

He is a generous donor primarily to Republican candidates and a player not only on the Idaho political scene, but the national scene as well. He served as the national chair of the Mitt Romney for President Finance committee and contributed over a million dollars from his personal fortune to the Romney campaign. They remain close.

A sub-plot being played out behind the scenes is the gubernatorial contest between developer and medical doctor “Tommy” Ahlquist and First District Congressman Raul Labrador for the favor and support of VanderSloot.

Ahlquist appears to have scored a coup with the announcement last week that Damond Watkins, the former government affairs director for Melaleuca and the Republican State National Committeeman, was going to chair the Ahlquist campaign. This though does not necessarily indicate who VanderSloot will back.

Supporters of Congressman Labrador point out that he announced his campaign for governor at three stops around Idaho, one of which was the Melaleuca facility. A spokeswoman for VanderSloot made it clear this did not constitute an endorsement, that the facility is available for rent. If Labrador paid the rental fee that answers the question, but if his campaign did not then the usual rental fee should be reported on the first public disclosure report as required.

Though a member of the LDS Church, some observers believe Labrador will not run well in Idaho’s Second congressional district due to some self-inflicted wounds. First, he questioned whether the National Lab west of Idaho Falls and a major employer in the area should be getting federal funds at the excessive rate he perceived.

Secondly, he unwisely backed a primary challenger to the popular and long-time congressman from the district, Mike Simpson, who hasn’t forgotten nor forgiven the blunder. For those two reasons alone Ahlquist might do well in the second district even if the savvy Watkins were not his chair.

Other observers think Ahlquist will not do well anywhere in Idaho. They cite a variety of factors, but they all come down to his being a wealthy, out-of-state doctor who parlayed his fees into partnering in a Utah-based development company that owns over a dozen office buildings around the west.

These critics believe Ahlquist will be susceptible to a carpet-bagger charge and to trying to buy an Idaho election. He is already running the classic “tell your story” biographical tv ad in the Boise valley with a huge enough buy that has alienated some. His pledge to spend one more dollar than what it takes to win also did not resonate.

He has hired a talented team and found an exceptional leader in Watkins, but a slick state-wide mailing and the patronizing use of “Tommy” strikes some as too cute by half. There’s little doubt that even his moniker is the result of polling and review by focus groups to gauge whether folks will be more responsive to “Tommy Ahlquist” as opposed to say “Doc” Ahlquist.

The evolving political scene in Utah may also limit the time VanderSloot will spend on Idaho matters as well.

Reportedly Mitt Romney is seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year since Orrin Hatch, who will be 84 next March, is not going to run for an eighth term. There are also reports that Josh Romney, Ann and Mitt’s middle son (they have five boys), is preparing to run for governor in 2020.

With Congressman Jason Chaffetz announcing his retirement from politics, the former chief of staff to Governor Jon Huntsmsn, Jr. will be conceding the competition between the Huntsman and Romney families to the Romney’s.

The former Massachusetts governor was harshly critical of Donald Trump’s candidacy (though he made a bid to be Trump’s secretary of state – a move that puzzled everyone), but if anything has consolidated his position with the RNC which is now headed up by his niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel. Needless to say they have differing views of President Trump.

The bottom line though is that Romney’s plans could have an indirect impact on Idaho’s gubernatorial race.

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carlson

Republicans and Independents across Idaho will be thrilled to learn I have left the Democratic Party and filed to re-register as an independent.

Yes, I know some Democrats will say “good riddance.” Like many Idahoans, they know I vote often as an independent, have never voted a straight party ticket, that friendship and the person take precedence over party.

I call myself a “business” or “Andrus Democrat.” I’m a fiscal conservative and a social liberal who believes government exists to help the many who through no fault of their own need assistance. We have to pay as we go, though. On the federal level we simply cannot sustain the unbalanced budgets we make and the money we spend while pretending we’re not saddling our children with debt that will restrict inevitably their quality of life.

Character counts and the person is more important than the party. This has led me to vote for the Republican candidate for president four times in the 13 presidential elections since I was first eligible. I also have voted for and contributed to reasonable and responsible Republican conservatives where the Republican was clearly the superior candidate like Senator Mike Crapo, Governor Butch Otter, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and State Senator Shawn Keough.

Under their breath many Democrats have called me a DINO (Democrat in Name Only). I freely confess I thought seriously about registering as a Republican to vote in their May primary because that’s where most of the action will be. However, I could not rationalize the hypocrisy.

For too many years I could easily explain why I thought the Republican party was just wrong on too many issues I cared about. Unfortunately, at the same time Idaho Democrats moved away from the lunch-bucket carrying, hard-working, outdoor-loving Idahoan who understood and subscribed completely to the message of Cecil Andrus: “First you have to make a living, then you have to have a living worthwhile.”

Andrus turned that message into four successful elections to Idaho’s governorship and John Evans turned it into two winning elections.

If I’d become a RINO I would have been the poster child for Bonneville County Republican chair Doyle Beck’s drive to further restrict those voting in the closed Republican primary to true blue Republicans. If Beck has his way, the next iteration of tamping down the vote (and thereby increase the clout of your better organized, ideological kin) will be to move to a caucus system whereby one has to show up and stand up for the candidate of their choice.

Beck would go a step further. He would require signing a loyalty oath to the party’s platform with its some 76 largely absurd positions. Among those sterling positions are such “progressive” ideas as repeal of the 17th amendment which provides for direct election of U.S.senators, and return to the gold standard.

As an independent no one will be telling me what positions I have to take. Beck’s narrowing of the GOP base is inevitably going to lead to the demise of the party, yet he is pushing for Idaho Republicans to seek a caucus system.

The irony is the biggest, most obnoxious RINO out there is President Trump. He is a liberal, not a conservative, a deficit spender, not a budget hawk and before long his base will wake up to how much he is subsidizing the rich at the expense of that base. He is truly a narcissistic, lying, two-faced, ignorant individual who all Americans should feel a sense of shame over his representing us. President Trump has no guiding philosophy, no character, no sense of history, no decency nor any honor.

To have become a RINO would have associated me with the party he professes to be his. Frustrated as I am with the D’s, I simply could not get on their horse. For the rest of my trail ride I’ll b e on the horse called independence. You should think about getting on the same horse.

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