Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:

Cheers & Jeers: Irony is dead

June 18

The Lewiston Tribune

JEERS ... to U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.

Now that Joe Biden is president, Risch has pivoted from Donald Trump’s Shih Tzu into a Doberman pinscher.

In a June 11 Washington Post column, the ranking member and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee lashed out at Biden’s summitry with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Said Risch:

Putin is a threat to America’s transatlantic alliances.

Putin is an international outlaw who has imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Putin empowered Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who hijacked a Ryanair airline to nab dissident journalist Roman Protasevich.

Putin is amassing more than 100,000 troops on the Ukranian border.

Add to that Russian interference with the U.S. embassy in Moscow, pressuring Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty out of the country, holding two former Marines hostage in Russian prisons and disregarding its commitments toward arms control.

And Biden is failing to stop it.

“Dialogue for the sake of dialogue will only grant Putin the validation he craves. Honest dialogue cannot take place until Putin’s actions demonstrate his willingness to engage in good faith diplomacy,” Risch wrote.

Remember when Risch took Trump to task for taking Putin’s word over that of the American intelligence agencies, which concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 election?

We don’t, either.

While the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took Trump to task, Risch remained mute.

Remember when Risch urged Trump to at least protest Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan?

Neither do we.

The Idaho Republican dismissed the intelligence accounts as “grossly inaccurate.”

And remember how Risch sounded the alarm about Russian belligerence?

Didn’t think so.

While Trump coddled the Kremlin, Risch minimized the threat: Russia, he told the Boise Metro Chamber, was “the most overrated country on the face of the planet.”

In Risch’s world, irony is dead. So is any sense of shame.

CHEERS ... to Greg Casey of Star.

His Republican bona fides are impeccable: chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.; president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry; and sergeant-at-arms of the U.S. Senate.

In the late 1990s, Casey helped oversee Capitol security when police officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson died protecting House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and others from a deranged gunman.

When it comes to the Jan. 6 melee Trump unleashed on the Capitol, Casey told Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press: “This is exactly what it looked like: An insurrection.”

Establishing a bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of the insurrection, he says, is “the right thing to do.”

That puts him at odds with most of his party.

“What are we afraid of? We’re letting our own partisan positions get in the way of the safety of the people who work on Capitol Hill and the Capitol Police,” Casey said.

Congressman Russ Fulcher and Sens. Mike Crapo and Risch — who have opposed establishing the commission — should follow his advice.

JEERS ... to state Sen. Dan Johnson and Rep. Mike Kingsley, both R-Lewiston.

You’d expect Kingsley to defend the Idaho Freedom Foundation against Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder’s assertion that the far-right group is a threat to Idaho’s democracy.

After all, Kingsley parrots the IFF party line 95 percent of the time.

Johnson has gone his own way so often the IFF has issued him a 60 percent score. Yet he told the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce that IFF’s influence is overrated.

“I think indifference is a much bigger threat to democracy than any one of the legislative advisory groups we see in Boise,” Johnson said.

Most “legislative advisory groups” don’t actively undermine public and higher education.

Most don’t disregard facts when it comes to demonizing campus diversity programs.

Few revel in attacking Idaho’s meager efforts to support early childhood learning.

All of this, IFF does blatantly.

CHEERS ... to Fulcher.

Earlier this week, he joined Simpson, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and 403 other House members in awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the Capitol Police who defended Congress against the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.

Issuing one of the nation’s highest honors to people who were hurt and killed as a result of the assault is wholly appropriate. But 21 House Republicans played politics with it, contending the mob should not be called “insurrectionists.”

Among them were Congressmen Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who frequently find Fulcher in their company.

Not this time. Good for Fulcher.

JEERS ... to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.

Last week, her inquisition of Idaho’s public and higher education systems lost its sole patina of legitimacy. Lone among the anti-diversity ideologues on McGeachin’s task force was Idaho School Boards Association President-elect Jason Knopp of Melba.

But one session into the process, Knopp had enough and quit: “ ... The lack of education professionals on the committee would leave its members to make under-informed, disparaging statements about the thousands of professionals who take very seriously their responsibility of educating all of Idaho’s schoolchildren. ... ”

Replacing Knopp is Pete Coulson of Notus, who as far as anyone can discern, supports McGeachin for governor and is an Idaho Freedom Foundation acolyte.

McGeachin’s anti-education echo chamber is complete.

Online: The Lewiston Tribune


Idaho, other red states beat their chests over economy, but success comes at a cost

June 17

Idaho Statesman

Idaho Gov. Brad Little this week on LinkedIn posted an essay from the Republican National Committee’s website titled, “Red states lead the way on jobs.”

The essay, using newly released data from the Labor Department, shows how states led by Republican governors led the nation in jobs recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the top of the list is Idaho, with a COVID-related job loss of 79,600 but a subsequent increase of 91,100, for a 114.4% job recovery rate.

Little has much to celebrate.

“Republican-led states are leading the way in getting Americans back to work,” Little wrote in his post. “Idaho now has more jobs than when the pandemic hit. Years of fiscal conservatism, swift action during the pandemic, few COVID restrictions, responsible allocation of federal relief dollars, and our relentless focus on cutting red tape are the reasons Idaho’s economy is catapulting ahead of other states right now.”

Idaho is followed by a string of Republican-led states: Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Alabama, Nebraska and South Carolina in the top 10. Indiana and Mississippi come next before you even hit a Democrat-led state.

If those states’ names sound like they belong to another list, you’d be right.

Those are also among the states with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections.

South Dakota, Utah and Tennessee have the third-, fourth- and fifth-highest rates in the country. Nebraska and South Carolina are Nos. 9 and 10. Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana and Idaho are all in the top 20.

In fact, eight of the top 10 states with the highest COVID-19 infection rates and 15 of the top 20 are led by Republican governors.

Further, half of those red states in the top 10 of job recovery also make the top 10 list for COVID-19 infection rates.

It makes sense, as Republican governors tended to eschew the strict public health mandates and shutdowns that Democrats favored. Those measures helped the economy but also led to greater spread of the coronavirus.

Idaho’s success stands out even among other red states. Not only is Idaho tops in job creation and low unemployment, Little announced last week that the state government is expected to have an $800 million budget surplus, the highest ever.

But it’s important to understand the circumstances of Idaho’s economic success.

As the Idaho Statesman previously reported, Idaho’s economy benefited from a series of factors, both fortuitous and planned, that put the state in a kind of sweet spot to weather the pandemic.

Idaho’s economy is heavily reliant on such sectors as construction, food manufacturing and agriculture, all of which were declared essential services and continued as normal — or even above normal during the pandemic.

Not to be overlooked — or underestimated — is the $1.25 billion Idaho received from the federal government in coronavirus relief money.

Idaho’s $1.25 billion payday represents about 16% of the state’s total $7.944 billion budget. By comparison, the state of Nevada also received $1.25 billion in relief money, but that’s only 5% of its $26.4 billion budget.

This doesn’t even count other direct federal relief dollars that went straight to Idaho businesses and individuals to help prop up our economy.

Idaho seems to have threaded that needle of maintaining its economy without quite hitting crisis standards of care. But even though Idaho was in the middle of the pack for COVID-19 infection rates, the Gem State still had a higher rate than most blue states, such as Vermont, Oregon, Washington, California and Massachusetts.

While it’s fine to beat your chest about economic success, it’s equally important to recognize that those successes come with a price.

Online: Idaho Statesman


Hats off to these freedom fighters

June 11

Coeur d'Alene Press

They’re unheralded stars, true defenders of liberty and freedom.

They’ve made sacrifices. They’ve endured discomfort, and sometimes outright pain. For the good not just of themselves and their families, but of their neighbors and even strangers, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

They got vaccinated.

This is not a put-down of those who, to this point, have chosen not to get vaccinated. Shaming, taunting and ridiculing them advances the cause not one inch. People have a right to say no, and the rest of us possess no veto power or authority to force a needle into those arms. We’re all free to choose.

But for those who have chosen the vaccination route — welcoming one or more injections of a pandemic-snuffing substance that was created in record time — we applaud you. Wearing a mask, while important in the battle against COVID-19, has been a critical tool, but it is not invasive like a pair of shots. Getting vaccinated is a major step beyond self.

The percentage of positive cases in our area remains significantly higher than the rest of the state, and it’s our hope that more North Idahoans will roll up their sleeves — if not to protect themselves and their families, then perhaps to boost the drive toward herd immunity.

This really is a freedom train. With herd immunity, we can put our masks away until the next pandemic arrives. Businesses can tap into a broader employee pool, and our simmering economy can reach a full and healthy boil. The restrictions that have upset us all can die a quick death.

No matter what motivated you to take action, today we salute you who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Rather than just talking about freedom, you’ve actually done something to assure it for yourself and others.

You’re ushering in a new and most welcome Independence Day.

Online: Coeur d'Alene Press