CHEERS ... to U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.
Bet you didn’t believe this veteran Idahoan had a political backbone.
When President Donald Trump failed to protest Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, Risch dismissed the intelligence accounts as “grossly inaccurate.”
When Trump refused to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for atrocities in Yemen or the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did nothing.
Risch snoozed through Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.
Risch famously belittled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf as a “nothing burger.”
Whether he desired to maintain access to the thin-skinned president or worried that an angry tweet might alienate GOP voters at home, Risch went along.
Until last week.
In an interview with Orion Donovan-Smith of the Spokesman-Review, Risch acknowledged Joe Biden won the Nov. 3 election and will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20.
“This is my second transition where we move from one political party to another in the White House,” Risch said. “After an election where you transition from one party to another, it is an entirely different feeling or dynamic. It is a change in the music that is playing in the background. We go from heavy metal to classical music in one fell swoop. The cadence changes dramatically, and we’re in the process of that right now.”
Biden’s popular vote margin over Trump rivals Ronald Reagan’s romp over Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Biden’s 306 electoral vote tally is a decisive win.
So far, however, it’s the rare Republican who’s willing to challenge Trump’s assertions that the election was tainted by fraud.
For instance, news outlets including NBC and Politico listed Risch among a handful of GOP senators who had have stood up to Trump. Among them are Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida and John Cornyn of Texas.
Who would have thought Risch — Idaho’s most partisan politician — would become the outlier among his fellow Republicans, who either like Congressman Russ Fulcher are solidly behind the president or like Congressman Mike Simpson are remaining silent.
Idaho went nearly 64 percent for Trump and even a newly reelected Risch knows speaking the truth about this president will get you branded as a traitor. So it bodes well for Risch that he’s willing to be a champion for democracy and the orderly transfer of power.
JEERS ... to Risch.
Just when you thought he had found a spine, Risch twisted himself into such a pretzel that he suffered the political equivalent of a herniated disk.
Without saying he was misquoted, Risch clarified himself in a statement released by the Idaho Dispatch, edited by Greg Pruett.
“I continue to support the president’s efforts to ensure an accurate vote count in the presidential election,” Risch said. “Regardless of what is reported by the media, the only entity with the constitutional authority to determine the president-elect is the Electoral College, who will meet on Dec. 14.”
Of course, Risch didn’t wait for the Electoral College to act before he referred to Trump as the president-elect four years ago. You’ll find him doing that in a Nov. 10, 2016, Miami Herald story — two days after the election.
Rather than a profile in courage, Risch apparently would prefer to be the latest personification of what commentator Michael Kinsley once observed: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”
JEERS ... to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.
Add her to a long list of congressional Republicans who refuse to break with Trump’s denial of Biden’s election victory or his willingness to undermine the country’s well-being by refusing to begin a normal transition process.
What is she afraid of?
The Washington Republican handily won reelection with more than 61 percent over Democrat Dave Wilson.
She’s no longer in GOP House leadership.
With Washington’s top-two primary system, McMorris Rodgers can afford to be less subservient to the hard core Trumpian base of the GOP.
She comes from a state that backed Biden.
But the last word from the Washington Republican came about a week ago.
“There’s been enough stories — whether it’s in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or Arizona — where there’s stories that are concerning enough to me that I support the president’s effort to make sure every legal vote is counted, but also where there are disputes that he can pursue that,” McMorris Rodgers told KXLY of Spokane on Nov. 11. “He can pursue it legally and that’s what we’re working through right now.”
By the way, at this point in 2016, McMorris Rodgers not only was referring to Trump as the president-elect, but she was courting his nomination to be Interior secretary.
CHEERS ... to the volunteers behind Idaho’s phenomenal election.
As Secretary of State Lawerence Denney noted, Nov. 3 set an Idaho record: At 81.2 percent, that breaks the voter turnout high water mark of 80.46 percent set in 1992.
Some 878,527 people cast a ballot — and about half of them voted in person.
That’s where the volunteers came in.
It’s never been an easy task. The job typically requires a 13-hour day and it barely pays more than minimum wage.
Many of the people who typically serve as election workers are older. They could not afford to take the risk of getting exposed to COVID-19.
The rules kept changing. The voters were polarized and, frankly, some of them carried that animosity into the voting stations.
Volunteer election workers arrived anyway. Nez Perce County, for instance, was able to handle the heavier volume of voters with the help of 189 volunteers from Lewis-Clark State College, the University of Idaho law school and the YWCA, among others.
You can thank them for keeping the polling stations open and the lines shorter.
“State and county election officials and workers are to be commended for their dedication, patience and flexibility in staging a successful general election under the challenging circumstances of a global pandemic,” Denney said.
Here’s one thing we can all agree on. — M.T.