Guest column: Making an informed decision

The spitting match between Congressman Mike Simpson and challenger Bryan Smith is insulting to the voters’ intelligence, writes Jason Joyner.

The most significant race for eastern Idaho is the Republican primary between Congressman Mike Simpson and challenger Bryan Smith. It is so refreshing to hear candidates coming together in forums locally, discussing the issues and their differing approaches with intelligence, candor and civility.

Oh wait. That’s the fantasy version.

In reality, we are being bombarded with commercials and flyers picking out the poorest picture of either candidate, boldly labeling the other with the worst names in Idaho politics: “liberal” and “trial lawyer.”

The most frustrating aspect is how little both candidates seem to think of the voters. Both sides fling superficial terms and half-truths, avoiding any aspect of substance.

Simpson has a record and a lot of experience. This challenge should afford him the chance to reconnect with Idahoans and explain why he votes the way he does. Instead, he thumps his chest as a conservative and puts down his opponent as a greedy lawyer. Where’s the contrast in positions? It would be great if Simpson made a counter to Smith’s stance on issues, and let Idahoans vote on the strength of their ideas for representing us in Congress.

As the challenger, Smith has a higher hurdle to overcome. It’s too bad he gave up his opportunity to debate Simpson in Idaho Falls because the moderator was such a mean person, a constitutional scholar who couldn’t be trusted to be fair.

Then there are Smith’s constant attacks. His strategy of trumpeting half-truths and twisting the truth is very demeaning to our intelligence.

One example is Smith continuing to tout that Simpson was one of three Republicans to vote to fund ACORN, the controversial organization tied to President Obama. In reality, it was a funding bill for Homeland Security and the amendment that Simpson voted against was a grandstanding gesture by another Republican that had no bearing on what really came out of that appropriations bill. It took a few minutes of research to show the fallacy of this talking point Smith continually throws out.

By no means is Simpson a liberal. Maybe we need someone willing to work with others to get something done in Washington? Or is that just crazy talk? Bipartisanship wasn’t always a dirty word in government. Smith seems to think it is.

Perhaps the fault is with us the voters. Are we willing to demand accountability from incumbents like Simpson? Will we expect a thoughtful explanation of Smith’s positions instead of listening to the shrill shouts of “he’s not conservative enough?”

Simpson has served Idaho for many years. Perhaps a change is needed, but his position on the committee that funds the INL is a key assignment that can benefit the region. Smith should be applauded for stepping out to challenge an incumbent, but his tactics speak poorly of him.

Why don’t we voters do our research, skip the talking points and attacks, and make an informed decision on May 20?