• 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

There is an opportunity for any one of the three Republican candidates for Idaho’s governor – Lt. Gov. Brad Little, First District congressman Raul Labrador, or medical doctor and developer Tommy Ahlquist – to show some gutsy leadership skill as well as an understanding that a governor’s role is to solve challenges.

For that matter, the same opportunity exists for either of the possible Democrat gubernatorial nominees, A.J. Balukoff or former State Senator Dan Schmidt.

The issue is that of holding the Department of Energy’s feet to the fire regarding their continuing to adhere to the agreement worked out with former Governor Phil Batt to have removed from Idaho all the various nuclear wastes stored in some form at the Idaho National Laboratory site west of Idaho Fall by 2035.

The Energy Department accepted this part of the Batt agreement because at that time they allegedly believed America would have its National Nuclear Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, up and operating. They badly underestimated the power and skill exercised by the former Senate Majority Leader, Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid.

Reid was able to cut off the funding and stop the project dead in its tracks.

The Batt agreement also forbid the importation of additional spent fuel rods recognizing it made little sense to add to a supply of nuclear waste you were supposedly committed to removing down the road.

The implication for many was Idaho would become the de facto repository, keeping all high level wastes on-site while accepting additional spent fuel rods for “research.” Support for this passive acceptence of the status quo quickly became a political litmus test for candidates for statewide office if they wanted support in eastern Idaho.

The reasoning was that keeping waste material on site (other than low-level transuranic wastes which are shipped by rail to salt caverns in New Mexico) would assure continued funding for the site and thus remain an integral ingredient in eastern Idaho’s economy.

Folks in the Idaho Falls Chamber are more than willing to accept the risks of possible contamination of the Snake River Aquifer which could devastate the economy down river in the Twin Falls area.

There is a real possible solution, however, that requires an ability to look over the horizon and recognize what is best for Idaho is removal of all the waste material despite the short-sighted bias of the IF Chamber.

The operating asssumption for several years has been there is no alternative repository with the demise of Yucca Mountain.

Wrong. There will be a fully certified operating nuclear waste repository capable of accepting nuclear waste as early as 2024 known as Onkalo on an island off the coast of western Finland. It has under construction for years, but is nearing completion and is being built by a Finnish company called Posiva.

Presumably Finland would negotiate agreements with the United States, the European Union, Japan and other countries which have nuclear energy facilities but are storing spent fuel rods on site. To prod the process along a governor and a state attorney general could conceivably open its own negotiations.

The point is there is a viable solution. Any or all of the major candidates can and should get on a plane and go see for themselves what the Finns have accomplished that no one else has been able to do.

They’ll see an entrance bored into near seamless bedrock, called gneiss, that is geologically stable and water resistant.

It drops 1500 feet down and then has a series of tunnels that run for miles with storage chambers where spent fuel rods are encased in cast-iron canisters further encased in two inch thick copper which is extremely resistant to corrosion. The chambers and access tunnels will then be backfilld with bentonite clay, which also absorbs moisture.

Here’s hoping all the candidates for governor visit Finland and see for themselves the potential viable solution to an issue that has vexed Idaho for years, but now just may be on the threshold of a real solution for which future Idahoans will be most grateful.

Column

carlson

Without Carol Andrus there never would have been a Cecil Andrus.

Amidst all the well deserved accolades for the good, great former four-term governor her role in his success understandably gets overlooked, but it shouldn’t. The Latin phrase “sine qua non” is appropriate. It means “without which there is nothing”and without Carol it is doubtful he would have achieved as much as he did.

Few outside of the immediate family realized how much Cece respected her political instincts, used her as a sounding board, and often listened as she had the last word. She too had multiple roles to handle from the formal duties of being the First Spouse to being a mother to their children, protecting their zone of privacy and fighting for family time.

At times being a political spouse must have been draining to say the least, especially when one values their privacy yet knows that an adoring public expects to know everything and anything about a governor.

I started off on the wrong foot with Carol and ran smack dab into the “Mama Bear” role. It was the winter of 1969 and I was the rookie political reporter at the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello. I’d begun writing a weekly political column and the key question then was would State Senator Cecil Andrus try again to make a run for governor. If so he woulld have to win a contested primary.

Without thinking one day I threw into one of those “bits and pieces” columns an item that State Senator Andrus might have a special in with students at Idaho State because Andrus’ oldest daughter, Tana,was dating the ISU student body president. My bad and big mistake.

The next thing I knew I was on the phone with an angry Carol Andrus who explained in no uncertain terms that unless a family member was actually out campaigning for the candidate they were off limits and their right to privacy was to be respected. She was correct and I was wrong and I had the good sense to apologize.

Fast forward to December of 1972 with Cece now being governor. He comes to the breakfast table one morning where Carol is reading the Idaho Statesman. She looks at him with those penetrating eyes and coldly states “I see where I have to read in the paper that you’ve hired Chris Carlson as your press secretary.” Cece acknowledged the obvious and wisely let the subject drop.

It took a couple of years and a long car drive from north Idaho back to Boise during the 1974 campaign in which just the two of us were in the car and we discussed many subjects. I gained an invaluable insight into the multiple roles demanded of Carol and had a new respect for how well she handled all of them.

Another key role for political spouses is to keep the politician’s ego in check. Carol was a master of the well-timed put down. The classic example came early in Cece’s first term as governor. He and Carol were fshing for steelhead on the Clearwater. Cece gave her a few pointers and fairly quickly Carol pulled in a couple of nice fish. Cece still had not landed anything so in a bit of role reversal Carol suggested a couple of pointers.

Naturally, Cece didn’t like the role reversal and the teacher didn’t like the student offering suggestions, so he got a little huffy. Carol looked at him and then struck right to the heart, saying, “well why don’t you just throw a few of your business cards overboard and let the fish know who is up here!” Ouch.

Carol was particularly good at protecting family time and keeping matters private that she felt should be private while still accomodating public interest. The most recent example was the decision by the family for a private funeral church service and a private internment balanced off with a public memorial service at Boise State and the lying in state ceremony at the State Capitol.

Cece had some exceptionally competent administrative assistants over the years—Zuriel Brown, Billie Jeppsen, Clareene Wharry. The common denominator was all three knew the importance of consulting with Carol on the governor’s scheule. Furthermore, they knew they were to assist in preserving Cece’s family time, especially time at their get away cabin on Cascade Reservoir.

I couldn’t help admiring how well Carol composed herself and carried with her usual grace and aplomb the last public role Carol was called to fulfill in late August. Obviously tired she nonetheless displayed steadfast stoicism while comforting grief-stricken daughters and the extended family.

Cece and Carol were married for 68 years. Their devotion to each other and her willingness to share him with the demands of politics was clearly a key to his success.

I invite all those who admired and respected Cecil Andrus to join me in a heartfelt thanks to Carol Andrus for sharing, nurturing, protecting, humbling Cece when needed, and throughout their 68 years loving him as only a spouse can.

Without Carol Andrus there never would have been a Cecil Andrus.

Column

carlson

President Donald Trump continues to play a form of Russian Roulette virtually unseen since the nation’s founding. In the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., he continues to reinvent the rules seemingly with little forethought and leaves confusion, anger and anguish in his path.

Each day the 24 hour news cycle is all about Trump all the time and his latest tweets, which jump all over the map, portray a man who can flip flop in a nano-second and thinks nothing of lying. His ego seems to need insatiable feeding all day every day.

His strategy appears to be always playing to his hard core base in the belief that other Republicans will jump into the primaries for the 2020 presidential race and again will be unable to coalesce under one challenger. Thus, with a mere plurality, he will win again the Republican nomination.

That assumes he will not have been impeached and removed for his erratic and dangerous game of providing constant entertainment to the media and his base. Unfortunately, his fumblings and bumbles in foreign affairs could have real catastrophic consequences that lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Some speculate the House has not approved impeachment charges and then asked the Senate to conduct the trial because there is little stomach for tearing the nation apart. Additionally, insiders have a great deal of confidence in the three US Marine Corps generals who surround POTUS: General James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense; General John Kelly, the chief of staff and General Mark Dunfeld, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

This triumvirate of generals, along with the vice president, and a majority of the cabinet can in fact under the 25th amendment remove a president if he becomes deranged. The Congress does not have to concur.

The voters can of course send their own message in November of 2018 by voting for the Democratic or the Independent candidate running for Congress against a Republican incumbent. In modern times the mid-term elections usually see the party of the president lose about 11 seats.

There have been, however, some tidal wave elections in which the electorate cleans out and cleans up a mess. Good examples are the New Deal in 1934, the post WW II 1946 election, the lanslide election of LBJ in 1964, and, the Gingrich Revolution of 1994.

Members of Congress go to great lengths to keep their seats and further rig the system through shrewd gerrymndering of district boundaries. Are you surprised that after each election nine times out of ten the incumbent wins?

The key to the casting of an informed ballot is most often one taking the time to read about the issues and knowing where one’s member stands. Too often one has to cut though a great deal of baloney before they can start to ascertain the congressman’s real views.

For the system to work best though it is incumbent upon the minority party to put up viable candidates for office and to provide decent party support to the viable candidate. One need look no further than the congressional district immediately to the west of north Idaho, the 5th District in the state of Washington, currently represented by Cathy Mc-Morris­-Rodgers.

Two weeks ago former State Senator and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, announced her candidacy to replace McMorris-Rodgers. A former professor of economics at Eastern Washington University and the former head of the WSU-Spokane campus, Brown is a shrewd, canny political veteran and should give the incumbemt a competitive challenge.

If there is an anti-Trump tide Spokane Democrats have come up with a more than qualified challenger, a political veteran who can do a decent job of representing their interests.

Look now by contrast at Idaho’s First Congressional District, an open seat now that Rep. Raul Labrador has decided to run for governor. So far three have announced their candidacy – all Republicans. They are former attorney general and lieutenant governor David Leroy, the presumed front-runner, former State Senator Russ Fulcher from Canyon County, and State Rep. Luke Malek, from Kootenai County.

On Labor Day at the annual North Idaho Labor Rally and Picnic in Post Falls I asked one of the region’s top labor leaders, Brad Cedarbloom, if he was aware of any potential Democratic candidate for the seat. He said he was not aware of anyone.

There is an old political saying that applies: “You have to have somebody to beat somebody.”

Voters even in Idaho may want to send a message of dismay to D.C. in November of 2018, but won’t have the opportunity. Voters in the state of Washington’s 5th district, by contrast will be able to send a message.

Will they?

Column