Editorial Roundup: Idaho

Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:

Just what exactly makes Bundy so unsuitable?

June 9

The Lewiston Tribune

The Idaho Republican Party has standards.

Who knew?

Case in point: Idaho GOP Chairman Tom Luna says Ammon Bundy is unsuitable to challenge Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, incumbent Brad Little, Ed Humphreys of Eagle and whoever else runs in next year’s Republican gubernatorial primary election.

Bundy is no Boy Scout.

Only by the grace of God and an inept U.S. Justice Department is he not occupying a federal penitentiary cell for insurrections at Bunkerville, Nev., in 2014 and at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., in 2016.

In the name of opposing facemask mandates, he has disrupted everything from a public health district board meeting to a local high school football game. His antics at last summer’s special legislative session got Bundy exiled from the state Capitol — and jailed for trespassing.

But unsuitable?

The state Constitution requires him to be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen and a resident of Idaho for at least two years prior to the Nov. 8, 2022 election.

Check, check and check.

Luna asserts Bundy is not a genuine Republican.

Tell that to Republican Reps. Judy Boyle, Heather Scott and Sage Dixon, who lent their support to the Malheur occupation or to Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman, who celebrated Easter 2020 at Bundy’s defiance of the spring COVID-19 pandemic shutdown order.

Besides, Republican fealty hardly mattered before.

Did anybody make a big deal about anti-tax activist Ron Rankin running as an independent in the 1994 gubernatorial election — in an open bid to drain support from Republican Phil Batt? Two years later, Rankin came home and ran as a Republican for Kootenai County commissioner.

How about Rex Rammell? After he sought to derail Jim Risch’s 2008 Senate campaign by running as an independent, Rammell returned to the 2010 GOP primary against then-Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. He ran in 2012 as a Republican for the Idaho Legislature and, later, as a Republican for Wyoming’s congressional seat.

How could anybody forget anti-abortion rights activist Walt Beyes or biker Harley Brown — whose primary election antics created must-see TV during the 2014 primary election debate?

It’s true, as Luna asserts, that Bundy has no party affiliation and is not registered to vote.

He’s got nine months before the filing deadline to remedy the issue.

Luna can’t condone Bundy’s “antics or his chaotic political theater. This is not the Republican Party, and we will not turn a blind eye to his behaviors.”

The GOP didn’t mind the antics of former Congressman George Hansen from Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District.

Between an ethics rap he ultimately beat in the U.S. Supreme Court and a fraud case he did not, Hansen was in and out of prison. The New York Times headlined his obituary: “George Hansen, Idaho congressman and convicted swindler, dies at 83.”

Nobody threw Hansen out of the GOP.

How about former Sen. Larry Craig? He became a national punch line for his 2007 conviction in a Minneapolis airport bathroom gay sex sting operation. Not only did the GOP turn a blind eye to that, it welcomed him back as financial chairman.

Offenses large and small have gone unremarked.

When Rep. John Green got ousted from the Legislature after a federal jury convicted him of conspiring to defraud the government, House Speaker Scott Bedke called it a “solemn and difficult day.”

Former Sen. John McGee followed up a bizarre drunken driving conviction by sexually harassing a female staffer. He was booted out of the Senate, but not the GOP. In fact, many of the party faithful rallied to his side when he successfully ran for the Caldwell City Council.

Whether it’s former Rep. Phil Hart, a tax scofflaw who wrote tax laws for the rest of us; Scott, who enthusiastically posed with the Confederate flag, or, more recently, former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, who resigned rather than be kicked out of the Legislature on charges that he abused a 19-year-old intern, the party has never closed its doors to them.

So what is so uniquely awful about Bundy that Luna is willing to risk driving him into an independent candidacy that might drain Republican voters in the fall 2022 campaign?

Says Luna: Bundy “openly supports defunding the police and has known alliances with the radical factions of the Black Lives Matter movement. Republicans are the party of law and order, and Ammon Bundy is not suited to call himself an Idaho Republican, let alone run for governor of our great state.”

Such apostasy Idaho’s GOP will not abide.

Online: The Lewiston Tribune

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So this is what Gov. McGeachin looks like

June 9

Coeur d'Alene Press

Thanks goes to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is giving Idahoans a sneak peek at what she’d look like as the state’s governor.

A pretty picture it is not.

The announced Republican candidate recently issued a toothless executive order when the governor was out of town. Yet that publicity stunt wasn’t as revealing as her handling of a simple public records request from the Idaho Capital Sun, a nonprofit, Boise-based news website staffed by veteran journalists.

The Capital Sun requested a copy of the spreadsheet generated by McGeachin’s task force looking into alleged indoctrination of students at various levels of education in the state. On that spreadsheet are comments from more than 3,000 people.

Hit copy, paste and send, right?

Not a chance.

Team McGeachin took six weeks before finally sending a ridiculously censored document to Idaho Capital Sun. McGeachin’s crew redacted names and email addresses of those making public comments — emphasis on public — and the comments themselves were also blacked out.

Here’s what McGeachin posted on the official lieutenant governor’s Facebook page:

“Not only are they requesting the comments, but they are also demanding the names and email addresses of those who made the comments. We have been making an effort to comply with their requests in a manner that is respectful of Idahoans and their personal information, but they are insistent that we give them YOUR personal information. I believe this would violate your rights and I am doing everything I can to protect your information.”

Here comes the punchline, which is definitely not funny.

As part of her defense, McGeachin said some of the requested public information isn’t really public because certain communication with Idaho legislators is legally allowed to be censored. Because Rep. Priscilla Giddings is on the indoctrination task force, McGeachin’s alleged logic goes, much of the info sought by Idaho Capital News is legally not fit for public consumption.

Giddings, you might recall, is the subject of ethics complaints because she publicly disclosed the identification of the teenager who says she was raped by Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger. Giddings, a candidate for lieutenant governor, is the last person who should stand with McGeachin in declaring citizens’ identification sacrosanct.

When citizens submit their names, email addresses and comments in a public comment forum where anonymity was never promised or even hinted at, the full expectation should be that those comments will be exposed to the broader citizenry.

Maybe McGeachin and Giddings simply relish the opportunity to waste taxpayer money by forcing media to sue for what clearly should be a matter of public record. But it’s also possible that their fight against disclosure has more to do with covering their rear-ends than those of the comment submitters.

Mild curiosity about what those thousands of indoctrination comments say — and who said them — has been ramped up a couple of notches.

Nobody is going to be bored between now and the Republican primary election next May, not with the likes of McGeachin and Giddings trying to take control of Idaho leadership.

Online: Coeur d'Alene Press

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Please, Idaho, buckle up, talk to your kids about safe driving, avoid a tragic summer

June 7

Idaho Statesman

This summer driving season is off to a really bad start on Idaho’s roads.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off what’s ignominiously referred to as the “100 Deadliest Days.” These are the 100 days of summer when traffic fatalities are highest, when the risk is greatest.

And things are rather terrible in our state so far.

Through Memorial Day weekend, Idaho State Police troopers responded to seven fatal crashes that killed 12 people, many of them children and teens.

One simple way we can reduce fatalities by half is with the use of seat belts. It is confounding that in 2021 we still have to keep discussing this topic, but data show that’s the case.

More than half of Idaho motorists killed in crashes are not buckled in, according to the Idaho Transportation Department Office of Highway Safety. From 2015-2019, 56% of vehicle occupants killed in Idaho were not restrained, and 1,207 unrestrained vehicle occupants were critically injured in traffic crashes, according to the Office of Highway Safety.

Among drivers and front-seat passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45% and cut the risk of serious injury by 50%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Of the 22,215 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2019, 47% were not wearing seat belts, according to the NHTSA. Seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017 alone and could have saved an additional 2,549 people if they had been buckled in.

Recognizing the importance of seat belts, the Idaho State Police stepped up patrols during the last two weeks in May. And troopers wrote 233 citations to motorists for not wearing seat belts.

That number is astonishing.

Are we regressing as a society in our use of seat belts? Have we ignored the lessons of how important they are in saving lives?

Seat belts prevent drivers and passengers from being ejected. People not wearing a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3 out of 4 people ejected die from their injuries.

“I’ve been to so many crashes, even low speed or single-vehicle crashes, or crashes in the center of town, where a seat belt would have kept someone secure in the vehicle or otherwise prevented serious injuries,” Idaho State Police Sgt. Steve Farley said in a press release.

We’ve also noticed that driving habits coming out of the pandemic seem to be much worse. And we recognize that someone who is not already in the habit of wearing a seat belt or driving safely probably is not going to read this and suddenly change their ways.

But perhaps it will convince a few people, and perhaps that will be enough.

This editorial is directed at family members, moms and dads, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, grandparents, to have a conversation with their children and loved ones about wearing a seat belt, not texting and driving, keeping a safe distance, not speeding.

If you wear a seat belt, you drive safely, you know the value of doing all the little things right, then please impress upon others the importance of this.

In particular, have a talk with new teen drivers.

Those 16-17 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash than their adult counterparts, according to AAA Idaho. Nationwide, seven people are killed every day in crashes that involve a teen driver.

Idaho ranks 23rd in the country for most per-capita crash fatalities involving teen drivers.

From 2009 to 2019, more than 7,000 people died in crashes involving a teen driver during the 100 Deadliest Days, including 77 in Idaho, according to AAA Idaho.

“In states with large rural areas, it may be tempting to think that somehow the wide-open spaces will prevent bad things from happening,” AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde said in a release. “But youthful inexperience can have dangerous consequences anytime, anywhere.”

Consider this: Nearly two-thirds of the people killed in a crash involving a youthful driver are someone other than the teen, including passengers, pedestrians and drivers of other vehicles, according to AAA.

In the AAA Foundation’s most recent Traffic Safety Culture Index, about 72 percent of teen drivers ages 16-18 admitted engaging in at least one risky behavior in the past 30 days:

- speeding (47%)

- texting while driving (35%)

- red-light running (32%)

- aggressive driving (31%)

- drowsy driving (25%)

- driving without a seat belt (17%).

So please have a talk with your teen driver and other loved ones about the 100 Deadliest Days. It’s not lame or cliche to do so. Let them know that the last thing you want is a visit at your door from a police officer who’s there to inform you that your loved one was killed in a car crash.

“We at ISP hope that families and communities will talk about and reinforce the importance of safe driving habits,” ISP Col. Kedrick Wills said in a release. “Keeping families whole and motorists safe on our roadways is important to all of us, and the only way we can make that happen is to work together.”

Impress upon your children that the most important thing they can do to save their lives is simply buckle up.

Having that talk with a family member could mean the difference between a trip to the hospital and a trip to the morgue.

Online: Idaho Statesman

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Senate must stop filibustering majority rule

June 9

Idaho Mountain Express

The U. S. Senate had its chance to show that bipartisanship is possible. Instead, Republican senators proved that it is not. Legislation favored by the majority will never see the light of day unless Senate Democrats eliminate the filibuster now.

On May 28, the Senate voted 54-35 to create an independent national commission to investigate the Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. Nevertheless, there will be no such commission because of an arcane Senate rule known as the filibuster.

The filibuster, with the exception of a limited number of financial bills, allows one senator to prevent a vote on any legislation unless at least 60 vote to “close” debate. The upshot is that nothing contentious can pass without at least 60 votes, far more than a simple majority.

The U.S. Constitution enshrines the democratic concept of majority rule combined with protection for the civil rights of minorities, a concept the nation is still trying to perfect. The filibuster, on the other hand, is nothing more than senators’ using and misusing Senate rules since 1837.

Because of the filibuster rule, the basic democratic principle of majority rule has been turned on its head. Senate no votes count more than yes votes.

Look at the filibuster another way. On the national commission vote, the two senators from some states split their votes between yes and no. In a simple majority-rules world, the commission would have passed even if all the split yes votes had been changed to no.

In this minority-rule filibuster world, however, enough split votes came from senators who represent less than 1% of the U.S. population. In other words, fewer than 2 million people became more important in the U.S. Senate than the hundreds of millions represented by the senators who voted in the majority.

It should also be noted that in a YouGov/Economist poll released just before the Senate vote, Americans favored the commission’s creation by a 56-29% majority.

The bill to create the commission included the changes that Republicans wanted. Some voted for it, but in today’s Washington, D.C., bipartisanship doesn’t guarantee majority rule.

The notions that the Senate is a noble deliberative body above the passionate dustups of the House of Representatives or that the little guy can triumph over wheeler-dealers are fantasies. In the real world, majority rule is about the power to make it so.

Democrats should live in the real world and eliminate the filibuster. Whenever Republicans regain the majority, they surely will.

Online: Idaho Mountain Express