Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, lacks the judgment and the moral character to serve as Idaho’s lieutenant governor — literally one heartbeat away from the governor’s desk.
That became clear Monday.
Giddings, who is running for the office against House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and former state Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, in next spring’s GOP primary, was censured and stripped of a committee assignment for “conduct unbecoming” a lawmaker.
Nor was this done by a narrow margin.
The 49 to 19 vote against her reflected widespread revulsion at how Giddings went out of her way to expose and ridicule a 19-year-old intern who accused 38-year-old former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, of rape.
Virtually every group in the House — Democrats, moderate Republicans, conservatives, leaders and back-benchers — shared in that assessment.
Margins that high are sufficient to override a gubernatorial veto or amend the Idaho Constitution.
Giddings had her defenders — the typical uncompromising Idaho Freedom Foundation acolytes.
But not one of them republished the woman known as Jane Doe’s picture and identity on her Facebook and weekly newsletter.
Not Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard.
Not Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg.
Not Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens.
Not Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley.
Not Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton.
Not Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot.
Not Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls.
Not Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale.
Only Giddings crossed that line.
Only Giddings was caught up in her own prevarications when she appeared on von Ehlinger’s behalf during the Ethics Committee hearing that led to his resignation in April.
Only Giddings engaged in the same egregious behavior after more than two dozen of her outraged colleagues hauled her before an ethics review in August.
How is a lieutenant governor — or, if a succession occurs, a governor — going to work with a Legislature that overwhelmingly found her behavior so repugnant?
How does a Legislature trust someone who says, as Giddings did on Monday: “I would not have done anything differently. I think that my intent was pure”?
In the weeks and months since this began, not one fact in mitigation has been offered in the von Ehlinger case.
What Giddings initially shrugged off as “allegations (that) are straight out of the liberal playbook; they are a blatant liberal smear job” have gained credibility.
Upon their investigation, Ada County and Boise officials filed not one, but two felonies against von Ehlinger — rape and forcible penetration by use of a foreign object. If convicted, he faces life in prison and will be required to register with the Idaho Sex Offender Registry.
At von Ehlinger’s preliminary hearing, prosecutors offered medical evidence including testimony from a nurse who examined the intern and documented injuries, such as a goose-egg-like lump on the back of her head. A detective said a DNA sample taken from von Ehlinger matched body fluids collected from the young woman during a rape examination.
That’s not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, but it did meet the burden of proof required to bind von Ehlinger over for trial.
Yet, not one word of contrition, empathy or regret came from Giddings.
She’s incapable of that. As the Lewiston Tribune’s William L. Spence observed last August, Giddings, a former fighter pilot, sees the world divided between “friendlies and bogies. You fight to the death to protect your friends, and blast the bogeys to hell.”
Giddings all but admitted it Monday.
Wearing her evasiveness as a virtue, she credited it to her “survival and evasion training, just in case you get shot down in combat and become a prisoner of war. There are some great memories there, being beat up, put in a box. Tactics. Procedures. Techniques on what to do to be evasive. So with that, I smile. I say, thank you for your taxpayer money on treating and training me to be evasive when questioned by an enemy.”
In Giddings’ world, anyone who disagrees with her — a county assessor challenges her double homeowner’s property tax break, an ethics committee member, a campaign opponent or the news media — is an enemy.
This is no middle ground. There is no difference in points of view. There is no opportunity to reason together.
Giddings is under no restraints.
She’s a friendly.
You’re a bogey.
If this country is going to stop treating politics like a bloodsport, it can’t continue promoting politicians like Giddings.
Find someone, anyone else, to serve as lieutenant governor. — M.T.