Printed on: April 01, 2010

Cheers & Jeers

A fine tradition


Post Register editorial board members are Roger Plothow, publisher; J. Robb Brady, publisher emeritus; and Corey Taule, Opinions Page editor

Cheers to Idaho Public Television and the taxpayers who fund it. IPTV is continuing its three-decades-long tradition of broadcasting statewide political debates between candidates in the May 25 primary election.

Sure, there's a lot of information out there, and some of it is even true. But the IPTV debate has historically been the only shot for voters to see statewide and congressional candidates on the same stage.

Here's the schedule:

May 4, 8 p.m., Idaho Supreme Court race.

Sunday, May 9, 7 p.m., Republican candidates for Idaho's 2nd Congressional District.

Tuesday, May 11, 8 p.m., Republican candidate for Idaho's 1st Congressional District.

Tuesday, May 18, 8 p.m., Republican gubernatorial candidates.

Of course, to have a debate, one needs candidates. Last week, we dinged Sen. Mike Crapo for skipping out on the IPTV debate. This week's honor goes to:

Jeers to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. While Crapo skipped the debate because he disagrees with public television anointing his opponent a serious candidate, Otter took the opposite view. He's bypassing the debate because IPTV didn't include all the Republicans in the gubernatorial field.

Strange stuff. Nobody, after all, would have blamed Otter had his intention been to avoid proximity to this eclectic group. One guy announced his candidacy in a Boise bikini bar. Another wants separate bathrooms for gay students. And a third constantly refers to himself in the third person and called a new conference Thursday to announce he now intends to pull a large, green dinosaur behind an RV with his picture plastered all over it -- to demonstrate his commitment to states' rights.

Speaking of eastern Idaho's best-known former elk rancher:

Jeers to GOP gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell. Goofy antics aside, there's always been something a little disturbing about the anger surrounding Rammell's candidacies for the U.S. Senate and governor.

Idaho Statesman editorialist Kevin Richert described Rammell's recent interview with that newspaper's editorial board as "over the top and paranoid."

In the interview, which can be heard on the Statesman's website, Rammell chastised Otter for saying he would follow the rule of law should the United States Supreme Court throw out Idaho's challenge to health care reform. Rammell? He'd fight. "I do not believe it's constitutional whether the Supreme Court says it is or not." OK, that's problematic, but let's dig into what he means by fight. Not a physical fight, right? Not Americans vs. Americans, right, Rex? "The federal government will not take over the state of Idaho," Rammell told the Statesman. "Now, how far will we have to go? I don't know. But we'll go as far as we have to."

What's that mean? "If the federal government came in here with force, I would order Idaho to resist with force," Rammell said.

Not much to say about that. Just remember that Rammell said if he loses this race, he's done. Mark the date, May 26, the day the Rex Rammell sideshow, T- rex and all, will have finally, mercifully come to an end.

Cheers to Heidi Parson, a 32-year-old mother of three from Idaho Falls who will represent the Gem State in the Mrs. America Pageant this summer in Tucson, Ariz.

Competing in just her second pageant, Parson won the Idaho qualifier last week in Boise, beating out a field of 18 competitors thanks to best-in-field scores in the interview, swimsuit and evening gown competitions.

The Mrs. America Pageant is not to be confused with the better-known Miss America contest. These are grown women with families, careers and responsibilities.

"I think any organization that looks at women who are married and celebrates how beautiful they are inside and out is amazing," Parson told the Post Register.

We couldn't agree more, and wish Parson the best in her efforts to bring the Mrs. America crown home to Idaho Falls.

Cheers to University of Idaho President Duane Nellis. In his first State of the University address, Nellis did not hide his displeasure at the short shrift higher education has received.

Nellis quoted the numbers: a 21 percent reduction in state funding the past two years, 49 academic programs already discontinued or restructured, and far too many others venturing out "to the edge of the cliff," Nellis said. "We're at the threshold of no return."

Frankly, higher education needs more outspoken champions in Idaho who simply won't accept cut after cut with a shrug and tuition increase. Higher ed funding has been cut deeply and consistently.

Nellis said he tried talking to lawmakers about the senselessness of continually gouging the institutions that will provide Idaho's future work force, but that their minds appeared made up. So, he went public. Good for him. Here's hoping he keeps it up. This is too important an issue for anyone to hold their tongue.

Cheers to Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank based in the Treasure Valley. Hoffman and his crew of reporters have ruffled feathers on the left and in the traditional media with their approach to news gathering and unwillingness to let folks know who is paying their bills.

But there's no doubt Hoffman is asking questions that others aren't. For instance, how much does Otter spend on those Capitol for a Day junkets around the state? The answer, thanks to Hoffman: about $8,200 a pop.

Not much, but something. Reminds us of the time a former Idaho Statesman reporter, also named Wayne Hoffman, curiously enough, infuriated members of the Kempthorne administration by demanding to know how much had been spent on monogrammed napkins. Sometimes, you just have to ask.

Jeers to Republican Vaughn Ward, a candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Democrat Walt Minnick. Ward has spent ample time this campaign railing against federal bailouts, specifically naming the Federal National Mortgage Association, Fannie Mae. Just one problem: It turns out that Ward's wife works for Fannie Mae and is in fact supporting the family while Ward runs for Congress. We know this because federal candidates have to report income sources.

Ward's foibles are a prime example of why Idaho's legislators should be forced to tell us how they and their spouses earn money. Preventing corruption ought to be reason enough. But exposing these kinds of base hypocrisies in candidates for office is another. Idaho is one of three states that don't require state legislators to supply this information. Idaho's Legislature simply cannot go another session without making this change.

Cheers to Vail Van Leuven of Roberts for sharing his story in Tuesday's Post Register. Vail is one of our more, well, colorful letters to the editor writers. Sometimes he must leave the younger generation scratching their heads a bit. Until you understand where he's coming from.

As told to reporter Sven Berg, Vail came of age during World War II, a farm boy from eastern Idaho thrown onto the shores of Okinawa. It was, literally, kill or be killed.

This event shaped his life and has undoubtedly inspired some of the letters Vail writes to this paper. So, next time, instead of wondering what planet this guy comes from, we can reflect back upon his experiences and give thanks that Vail and people like him fought, killed, bled and died to preserve freedom in the world.

Corey Taule