Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:

This line the Republican Party will not cross

Feb. 4

The Lewiston Tribune

One thing — and one thing only — will get you in hot water with the Republican Party.

Eric Peterson of Lewiston knows that only too well.

Peterson, currently the vice chairman — and former chairman — of the Nez Perce County Republican Central Committee, authored a letter to the Lewiston Tribune last week urging the U.S. Senate to hold former President Donald Trump accountable for inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“Impeaching and disqualifying the president now will improve our national security, sending the world and our citizens a clear message that the constitutions of our nation and states and our rule of law have meaning and teeth,” Peterson wrote. “This message needs to be sent particularly to those other nations that are directly challenging us at this time.”

Local GOP Chairman Jim Evans wants Peterson fired because he included his party positions on the letter.

“... You publicly submitted a letter to the editor representing the Nez Perce County Republican Central Committee by signing your name as vice chair,” Evans said.

Peterson made it clear he was expressing a personal opinion, but so what if he spoke as a ranking local Republican?

A party officer can not state the obvious — that the whole world is watching how the United States will respond to one of the darkest days in its history — without being drummed out of the party?

Talk about a double standard.

State Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, openly flew the Confederate flag six weeks after a white supremacist massacred nine people in an African American church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. A day after the deadly Charlotteville, Va., rampage in 2017, Scott posted on Facebook that a white nationalist is “no more than a Caucasian who (sic) for the Constitution and making America great again.” When the pandemic struck last year, she said the economic shutdown was “no different than Nazi Germany,” and called Gov. Brad Little “Little Hitler.”

She remains a Republican in good standing.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin embraced the militia movement, such as The Real Three Percent of Idaho, and encouraged owners of the Hardware Brewing Co. of Kendrick to break the law by violating the shutdown orders last spring.

Nobody’s kicking McGeachin out of the GOP.

Reps. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, and Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, joined Scott five years ago by lending support to Ammon Bundy’s armed insurrection at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore.

Did the Idaho Republican Party even raise an eyebrow?

When former state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, openly refused to pay his taxes — and then used his office as a shield against enforcement — nobody thought to banish him from the party.

Former Bonneville County GOP Chairman Doyle Beck was involved in using the personal papers of the late grand dame of the Idaho Republican Party, Sheila Olsen of Idaho Falls, in a smear campaign against former Idaho GOP Chairman Steve Yates.

Nobody yanked Beck’s membership card.

Remember when former state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, practically started an international incident by besmirching one of the world’s great religions? “Hindu is a false faith with false gods,” she said.

The party did not object.

Nor did it complain when former Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, struck an equivalence between gays and slaveholders: “They (slave owners) weren’t terrible, rotten horrible people ... and that’s how I see gay people.”

If Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Iona, used his office and an openly carried hand gun to intimidate a Boise restaurateur, that’s fine with the GOP.

If Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, wants to claim the death of Caldwell nurse practitioner Samantha Hickey from COVID-19 last summer was a hoax, the Republican Party won’t challenge her.

And if Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, wants to condemn Idaho’s teachers as a bunch of goldbrickers who “don’t want to be there” in the classroom, there will be no push-back from her political party.

You see the same dynamic playing out nationally.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., can advocate violence against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or label the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings as a hoax. As long as she remains in Trump’s good graces, the party faithful at home won’t complain.

But just let two serious Republicans — Congressman Dan Newhouse of Washington or Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming — cast a principled vote to impeach Trump and the base at home becomes inflamed.

This is the GOP under Trump: Egregious behavior is emboldened while constructive dissent is shown the door.

If it comes to this, Peterson can afford to walk away from the Nez Perce County GOP.

But can the GOP afford to lose Peterson?

Online: The Lewiston Tribune

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The variants are coming

Feb. 5

Idaho Mountain Express

Put on your crash helmets, here come the COVID-19 coronavirus mutations.

Three new variants have been detected in the U.S., and they reportedly spread 50 percent faster than the old version. If the virus were a car, instead of traveling at the Idaho freeway speed limit of 80 mph, it can now travel at 120 mph.

Even so, the Idaho Legislature wants to strip Idaho Gov. Brad Little and the state’s health districts of any power to impose emergency restrictions or to mandate safety measures in a pandemic. It wants those powers reserved to the Legislature, which regularly meets only three months a year.

With nearly a dozen pieces of legislation to do so rattling around the Capitol, it hasn’t settled on one yet. However, Republican lawmakers seem determined to do so.

One legislator has gone so far as to declare the pandemic over.

Gov. Little lifted an order this week that had limited the size of crowds. It looked like an attempt to placate legislators incensed by any limitations at all. It may placate them, but it will increase infections.

Republican legislators appear to prefer to let Idahoans make their own choices—the safety of others be damned. They don’t seem to care that the pandemic has hammered Idaho’s hospitals and health-care workers.

Witness the legislators, most of whom operate in the state’s Capitol with no masks.

Witness the Republican leaders that kept COVID-19 infections among staffers a secret.

Witness them ignoring a statement by a former St. Luke’s Regional Health System CEO and physician that there is an ongoing 95 percent chance that at least one legislator is infected and spreading the virus.

Witness them stuffing their ears to the call by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson “to end the political jockeying and untruths about emergency declarations and do what is right for the people of Idaho and our state’s economy.”

If there were real justice in this world, the legislators ignoring safety measures would not be eligible for a vaccine or for a hospital bed if they become seriously ill.

With Idaho’s legislative leaders not caring a hangnail about Idahoans’ health, is it any wonder that others are following their lead? That attitude has crept into Blaine County. It has left us once again with the highest infection level in the state per 100,000 people and put us at the “critical” level for infection, according to the county’s risk assessment.

To date, the scarcity of vaccines makes them like a Band-Aid used to stop blood gushing from a major wound. It would take only a little patience and common sense to slow the bleeding until vaccinations become widespread. Too bad that so many Idahoans don’t have any.

So, party on, COVID deniers. Rip off the masks. Give all your friends and relatives a big hug. Ignore the warnings, ignore the science—follow the leaders who tell you that there’s no problem.

Everyone else should play it safe, stay distant and keep trying to sign up for a vaccine.

The variants are coming.

Online: Idaho Mountain Express

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State resources would help vaccine distribution efforts

Jan. 30

Idaho Press

Signing up for a COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho can be a confusing, disjointed process.

We admire health care workers who are working hard and giving up their days off to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible, but we would like to see more structure from the state to help organize the process.

It should be simple to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine. Idaho officials should look to other states for best practices and take action to make this chaotic distribution more streamlined.

We see a lot of promise in West Virginia’s approach. The state, which already has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates nationwide, debuted an online portal on Monday for residents to register for a vaccine appointment. West Virginians can pre-register through the portal, and receive updates on vaccine availability. Those with limited internet access can register through a phone call.

In Idaho, state officials can help health districts and health care organizations carry out this massive task of vaccinating over 1 million people by having a more unified approach. We urge Gov. Brad Little and Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen to watch West Virginia’s rollout closely and prepare an Idaho portal based on that model.

This statewide management would also help problems like acquiring ultracold freezers needed to store vaccines. Rural cities and counties may not have the funds for this costly equipment. Having state logistical support would ensure that rural communities get the freezers needed, or receive a vaccine that doesn’t require ultracold storage. This monumental challenge is currently being left to individual health systems — which are also still trying to care for COVID-19 patients, patients with other health issues, and also give the COVID-19 vaccine.

Our health care workers are doing the best they can with what they’ve been presented. But we cannot continue to ask our overtaxed health care workers to also be logistical support staff. We need them to do health care. We need our state government to step up with the distribution support.

One of our board members is a health care worker, and shared another difficulty that would be easier to overcome with a portal: sometimes, people don’t show up for their vaccine appointment, so there are vials of vaccine that have been prepped for use — with a very short shelf life — but no arm available. A central portal for the vaccine would allow individuals and companies to sign up for an “on call” list. This ensures we’re not wasting Idaho’s limited vaccine allotment, and more people are helping us get to herd immunity.

A central portal would also make it easier to translate vaccine information into other languages, for our migrant worker and refugee communities, and ensure the information reaches these communities, which are often overlooked.

We hope that, as vaccine rollout expands in Idaho, our government can centralize the distribution of vaccines so more Idahoans can protect themselves.

Online: Idaho Press