In feeding the “big lie” — that former President Donald Trump defeated President Joe Biden in the 2020 election — as well as gaslighting the Trump-instigated Jan. 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying the presidential election results, the nominees are:
Congressman Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho. Alone among Idaho’s congressional delegation, Fulcher sprang into action on Jan. 6. He outlined his plans to a “Fox and Friends” audience. Even after the insurrectionists attacked, Fulcher returned to the House floor as if nothing had happened and continued his efforts to overturn Biden’s victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Fulcher, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., with Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both R-Idaho. They opposed forming an independent commission to investigate Jan. 6. Fulcher, McMorris Rodgers and Crapo joined a majority of their GOP colleagues in voting against it. Risch was absent, but told Boise’s KTVB he would have done the same.
The entire Idaho GOP congressional delegation. Not once have they spoken up. Not when the Idaho Falls Post Register urged them to draw “a line in the sand. It means saying clearly that the election was fair and its outcome definitive, and anyone who says differently is lying.” Not when a poll commissioned by Boise State University’s Frank Church Institute noted a majority of Idahoans believed the election was rigged and that nearly 1 in 5 believe political violence is acceptable — a finding that speaks to last October’s Turning Points forum in Nampa where one man famously asked: “When do we get to use the guns?” And certainly not when the House committee appointed to investigate Jan. 6 produced email traffic documenting how toxic the insurrection was.
And the JEERS go to — Fulcher.
In preserving the survival and success of liberty in the United States, the nominees are:
Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler, both R-Wash. They joined eight House Republicans in voting to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection.
Congressmen Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Newhouse. They were among 35 House Republicans who supported an independent commission to investigate Jan. 6.
Greg Casey of Star. Former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., former president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and former sergeant-at-arms of the U.S. Senate, Casey minced no words about Jan. 6: “This is exactly what it looked like: An insurrection.” Establishing a bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of the insurrection is “the right thing to do,” Casey told Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press. “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.”
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney. In April, Idaho’s chief elections officer said the level of fraud in Idaho was miniscule — maybe no more than 29 votes out of 878,527 cast in Idaho on Nov. 3, 2020. And when “My Pillow Guy” Mike Lindell accused Idaho of stealing some of Trump’s votes and giving them to Biden, Denney launched recounts in Camas, Butte and Bonner counties, proving Lindell’s claims fraudulent.
Nez Perce County Republican Central Committee Vice Chairman Eric Peterson of Lewiston. It nearly cost him his leadership role but Peterson urged Trump’s impeachment: “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.”
And the CHEERS go to — Denney.
For the individual who did the most to facilitate a deadly pandemic, the nominees are:
Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. Nothing deterred this would-be governor.
Not medical science. Whether it was a British medical study or expert advice, she either misread it or deliberately lied about it to promote her anti-vaccine agenda. McGeachin wanted to stop public service announcements urging people to voluntarily get the shot.
Not the state constitution. When Gov. Brad Little’s occasional absences from the state left her temporarily in command, McGeachin issued unconstitutional executive orders banning local face mask mandates or blocking nonexistent vaccine passports at Idaho schools and institutions of higher learning.
Not private property rights. When Primary Health Group, Saint Alphonsus Health Systems and St. Luke’s Health System decided to require their own staff members to get protected, McGeachin forgot she was a pro-business Republican. She became Big Mother and tried to interfere.
Gov. Little. To be fair, the governor followed science and encouraged Idahoans to do the right thing by getting vaccinated and following protocols. But he never insisted. When the Biden administration sought to remedy the situation by imposing mandates on federal employees and contractors, recipients of federal Medicare and Medicaid dollars as well as in the work force, Little went to court.
On Little’s watch, the Gem State recorded one of the lowest rates of vaccination in the country, with predictable results: During the delta surge, overwhelmed hospitals operated under rules that allowed them to ration life-saving care to those with the best prospect of long-term survival.
“The lack of solid leadership that we’ve had in this community with consistent guidelines and clear messages has been abhorrent,” Alicia Luciani, a registered nurse at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center’s COVID-19 unit in Boise, told the Idaho Statesman. “If you walked into poisonous gas, sarin gas, and the leadership you were with said, ‘Hey, put on your gas mask or you’re gonna die,’ you would do it. Nobody’s willing to do that, is what it feels like.”
During an AARP town hall meeting, a viewer asked Little: “Are you concerned your opposition to vaccine mandates is harming the state’s efforts to get the population vaccinated?”
“Yes,” the governor replied. “That’s my short answer. ... We continue to do all we can to reach out to encourage people.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise. If they refuse to protect their own people, why would you expect them to look after the rest of us? They managed a superspreader event under the Capitol dome. No mask mandates were imposed. No social distancing was required. And they refused to allow those lawmakers with special health needs to work from home.
In mid-March, a half-dozen House members took sick — and the entire session was forced to recess for several weeks.
Not content with endangering themselves, House members insisted on returning to Boise in November in a heavy-handed move to interfere with federal vaccine mandates as well as private business decisions. Fortunately, the state Senate did not agree.
And the JEERS goes to — McGeachin.
For the person who labored to slow the spread of COVID-19, the nominees are:
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Ordering all educators, health care workers and state employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their job provoked outrage and reaction.
But it worked.
As Asotin County Public Health officer Dr. Bob Lutz told the Lewiston Tribune’s Craig Clohessy in November, Washington’s low COVID-19 death rate is remarkable, given the state’s comparatively larger population.
“Those proclamations and mandates have been based on the science and I think history will look back and say some states did better than others. Those (mandates and regulations) have been, in many ways, life-saving for Washingtonians,” Lutz said.
In contrast, Inslee watched his neighbor to the east flood Washington hospitals with COVID-19 patients. His pleas to “Idaho and the leaders there to lead and take some commonsense measures” went unheeded.
Ken Krell of Idaho Falls. He saw the best and the worst of COVID-19 from the vantage point of Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center’s intensive care units. After enduring COVID-19 denial, anti-vaccination rhetoric and a health care system overwhelmed by patients, Krell announced his retirement last month.
One of Krell’s lasting contributions may be these words written to his staff as the delta variant was taking hold:
“In the end, what sustains us, and what we will remember about having survived this madness, are the remarkable people who endured this with us, the best of humanity — all of us — who demonstrated the best of our calling. We endured this together, and supported each other. We saved lives and lost lives, and we did both with compassion and competence. We will not forget this.”
John W. “Lucky” Brandt of Kooskia. If anybody could persuade vaccine skeptics, it would be Brandt, who shared his experience with the public.
In late July, seven of the 11 people attending a family gathering came down with the delta variant. Among them were Brandt’s wife, Nancy, and their son, John.
Both required extensive treatment.
“I believe this delta variant is a much more potent and dangerous virus which spreads easily and is dangerous even for the very healthy,” he wrote. “I still have concerns about the vaccine, but now fear the bug more. I will be getting the shot ASAP and encourage you to do the same.”
Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley.
When his chamber’s COVID-19 deniers promoted bills undermining vaccine mandates, the House’s only physician stuffed nine of them in his desk drawer, effectively stopping the measures.
When pressed about the rights of employees, Wood countered: “I have the right not to be infected by somebody that has a communicable disease.”
And the CHEERS goes to — Brandt.
For Idaho’s greatest embarrassment, the nominees are:
Former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston. On the job less than a year, von Ehlinger resigned rather than essentially be thrown out after a unanimous House Ethics Committee found his sexual exploitation of a 19-year-old intern to be “conduct unbecoming.” The unrepentant von Ehlinger, who insisted he engaged in consensual sex, is now facing trial in Ada County on two felonies — rape and sexual penetration with a foreign object.
Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird. In the midst of von Ehlinger’s ethics hearing in April, Giddings identified the intern by name and photograph on social media. After the ethics committee caught her lying about it, two dozen of her colleagues referred Giddings to an ethics probe of her own. Last month, the full House voted to censure Giddings and strip her of a minor committee assignment. Remorse? Contrition? Empathy?
No. Giddings thinks she’s due a promotion to lieutenant governor.
Lt. Gov. McGeachin. Her malfeasance while acting governor led Gov. Little to reinterpret the state constitution. Unless the courts see things differently, the only way McGeachin can ever again pose such a threat to the common good is to win the office outright.
McGeachin’s inquisition failed to turn up evidence that Idaho educators were transforming gullible young people into communists, socialists, Marxists and critical race theory adherents. But her refusal to relinquish public records related to her committee — until a judge insisted — may cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Makes you wonder why former President Donald Trump thinks McGeachin would make a good governor, doesn’t it?
Boise State University political science professor Scott Yenor. The state remains haunted by his Halloween address to the National Conservatism Conference at Orlando, Fla.: “Our independent women seek their purpose in life in midlevel bureaucratic jobs like human resource management, environmental protection and marketing. They’re more medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome than women need to be.”
Idaho’s Republican legislative leadership. Only a unanimous Idaho Supreme Court prevented them from repealing your rights to bypass lawmakers and enact laws through the initiative process. Piling on the chutzpah, they promoted a proposed constitutional amendment that would ask the voters in 2022 whether the Legislature could declare its own special sessions. Today, that’s the governor’s prerogative. But rather than wait for the voters’ permission, lawmakers went ahead and had a special session in November anyway.
And the JEERS goes to — von Ehlinger.
In the profiles in political courage category, the nominees are:
Congressman Simpson. He has framed the debate about rescuing salmon and steelhead from the effects of — while weaning north central Idaho and eastern Washington from economic dependence on — the four lower Snake River dams.
In the 11 months since he announced his plan, Simpson has enjoyed some vindication.
The Biden administration has launched negotiations with tribal, conservationist and Oregon state officials who have challenged federal fish and dam management plans in court.
Washington Gov. Inslee and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have moved toward breaching: “Both of us believe that for the region to move forward, the time has come to identify specific details for how the impacts of breach can or cannot be mitigated.”
Tri-Cities area irrigators have suggested drawing down the reservoirs behind Little Goose and Lower Granite dams to preserve their own water supply.
Yet Simpson has earned nothing but grief from his own political base. The GOP state central committee issued a vote of “no confidence” in the 2nd District congressman in May. Since then, Simpson has drawn a challenger, Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, in next May’s Republican primary election.
Former state Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. It didn’t matter that he was the first to enter the race for Idaho’s lieutenant governor. Once House Speaker Bedke jumped in, it all but guaranteed that the two of them would split the same group of voters — essentially handing the GOP nomination and probably the office to Rep. Giddings.
So Malek withdrew and endorsed Bedke.
Wrote Malek’s hometown newspaper, the Coeur d’Alene Press: “Malek took one for the team, and we don’t mean the Republican Party. We mean the state of Idaho. He clearly understood that he and fellow challenger Scott Bedke would split the vote among rational Republicans, leaving Priscilla Giddings to potentially lasso every vote from far-right party participants. And that was the deal killer.”
Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee. Any number of people, notably the five House Ethics Committee members, deserve accolades for their work in censuring the morally bankrupt Giddings. But it was Troy who notably stood up during the House debate and refused to allow Giddings and her allies to dominate the record with half-truths and distractions.
“We are held to a higher standard than those of our citizenry that we represent here. What we do and what we say is important,” she said.
Former Idaho GOP Chairman Trent Clark of Soda Springs. When few spoke up, Clark chastised members of his own party for ignoring early clues about von Ehlinger’s character: “The relevant question is how (von Ehlinger) could be nominated by a Republican central committee, sworn in as a Republican legislator, inducted into the Idaho House Liberty Caucus and then abuse power to troll for one-night stands with 19-year-old legislative interns.”
University of Idaho President Scott Green and Lewis-Clark State College President Cynthia Pemberton. While much of the political leadership kept its collective head down, they took Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman to task for his blatant opposition to public schools and higher education
“There is a troubling void of voices in the Legislature standing up for the principles of critical thinking, the pursuit of knowledge and the ability of students and faculty to explore ideas, examine the facts and come to their own conclusions,” Green wrote.
Said Pemberton, the IFF had engaged in “hyperbolic distortions and acerbic falsehoods” against LCSC. “To do these things, and do them well, we must be equitable; we must value difference; and we must continue to work to expand educational access and foster a welcoming campus culture of inclusion so that all our students are empowered to succeed.”
And the CHEERS goes to — Simpson. — M.T.