Tuesday’s so-called special legislative session did the rest of Idaho a huge favor. It exposed the entire membership of the state’s Convention of Imbeciles.
With each one present and accounted for, they pretended to know more than they do, wildly overstated their support and underdelivered on every outlandish claim they made.
This was supposed to be a frontal political and legislative assault upon Gov. Brad Little’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including his emergency declaration and stay-at-home order issued in late March. Instead, Little — whose efforts no doubt saved a bunch of lives — enjoyed a burst of vindication at their expense.
Start with a comedy of errors masquerading as a legal strategy.
The Idaho Freedom Foundation had to go all the way to Arizona to find a pair of attorneys to read into obscure Cold War-era Idaho laws a premise for calling the Legislature back into special session. They argued COVID-19 was an enemy attack by China on the U.S., the equivalent of nuclear war.
Enemy attack? Prove it.
The equivalent of a nuclear war? Every death is a tragedy but COVID-19 has taken fewer than 100 Idahoans’ lives thus far.
Somebody’s synapses misfired.
But this cognitive delusion further managed to ignore the Idaho Constitution. It says only the governor can decide when a special session convenes.
You don’t have to bother the Idaho Attorney General’s Office to make that point, but somebody did and the AG said so.
Neither do you have to ask the Legislature’s own attorney, Bill Myers of Holland and Hart. But Myers agreed.
Nor, for added measure, do you need conservative Coeur d’Alene attorney Art Macomber’s 53-page opinion to reiterate the same points.
Any Idahoan armed with an eighth-grade education will do. First, he’ll inform you about how a state constitution trumps law. Then he’ll go into the separation of powers. If the Legislature has a beef with the governor, it turns to the courts, not the streets.
And that’s just what the GOP leadership said in warning away every single Republican senator from participating in an “illegal and ill-advised special session (that) will violate the Idaho Constitution and be contrary to Idaho Code; it will also undermine the legitimacy and authority of the Idaho Legislature and the office of the governor.”
So in spite of ringleader Ammon Bundy’s boast that as many as 30 House members would attend, he got only 15.
That’s not a majority of the 70-member body.
It falls far below half of the House GOP caucus.
Not a single member of House leadership appeared.
And a lot of the hard-core rightwingers you’d expect to show up didn’t.
For every Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, who appeared, there was a Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, who did not.
For every Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, who joined in, there was a Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, who remained out of sight.
For every Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, who lent his support, there was an Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, who was nowhere to be found.
And for every Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, and Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, who appeared in the House chamber, there were Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, or Steven Harris, R-Meridian, who were otherwise occupied. In fact Harris, who was in the Capitol on other business at the time, took a pass: “I want to do it legally, I want to do it lawfully.”
And where was Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin?
She wasn’t reticient about undermining Little’s shutdown orders at a Kendrick tavern, at a Rexburg rally or through social media. But when the GOP Senate leadership linked her with this fiasco, Idaho’s second banana took to Facebook:
“Quite frankly, I’m shocked and disappointed and somewhat saddened that a body known for a high level of professional decorum decided to launch a smear campaign rather than reach out to me to verify the facts.”
Bundy next banked on drawing a big crowd.
“We want 500, 600, 1,000, 2,000, we want that many people there,” Bundy said in a Facebook video.
He got 200.
Bundy, whose notorious rap sheet includes escorting a mob to a Meridian cop’s residence, hinted at a confrontation with law enforcement.
What he got was a pleasant, uniformed Idaho State Police officer greeting him at the door and ISP Col. Kedrick Wills’ friendly rejoiner that the Capitol “is the people’s house.”
As if this weren’t buzzard’s luck enough, their timing was impeccably off.
It’s been two weeks since Little essentially lifted most of his shutdown orders. The bars are open. So are the movie theaters.
Meanwhile the number of new COVID-19 cases has shot up alarmingly.
Wednesday, the state reached a new record — 243 new cases in one day — beating the previous high of 222 on April 2.
And the rate of positive tests in Ada County now rivals the worst of what was occurring last March in Blaine County — when the resort community’s outbreak rivaled that of the epicenters along the Atlantic seaboard. In the midst of that hot spot, these 200 people gathered in an enclosed setting without practicing social distancing or wearing masks.
So instead of pursuing Scott’s goal of impeaching Little or even passing Rep. Judy Boyle’s list of particulars against the governor in a three-page proclamation, you got empty speech-making and prayer.
Talk about a political flop.
You haven’t seen anything this bad since President Donald Trump landed in Tulsa, Okla. — M.T.