As Rome burned there were politicians who cared more about enforcing etiquette laws. Putting the fire out was secondary. I cite this as we enter a full week of the trials of state Rep. Heather Scott. The Representative from Northern Idaho is being censured (not in a literal government sense) for speaking what could well be the truth about how women advance legislatively. The colleague filing the complaint is alleged to have had an affair with a man with a powerful legislative position. In one of my earliest columns for this newspaper I went to bat for the alleged adulterers because I don’t believe our Founding Fathers wanted government in our bedrooms. I should, though, point out I don’t condone sin and I especially don’t condone hypocrisy.
Complainant Christie Perry told a columnist at the Spokesman-Review her counterpart is also dangerous because Heather Scott carries a gun. Goodness! This is Idaho. Who doesn’t carry a gun? The columnist from Washington State pointed out Perry also packs heat and owns a gun shop. This is the GOP’s best effort? Perry also whined Scott gives colleagues dirty looks when passing them at the Capitol. Wow! Dirty looks are right there alongside sedition, right? One of our local legislators from Twin Falls also was quoted about the need for decorum and Kumbaya sessions. Do you really believe a country that sent Donald Trump to the White House is looking for people in government to debate over tea and crumpets? This is a country where people are filled with rage. It may not be pretty, but it’s an accurate response to the current way government is conducted. Last week a national columnist (a writer who opposed Trump from the right) described the President-Elect as a “disruptor.” The writer acknowledged it’s what a vast swath of Americans want. Heather Scott is a reflection of the public mood at the state level.
Some Republican leaders are trying to tell me people like Scott and Rep. Ron Nate from Eastern Idaho aren’t real Republicans. How do you define a Republican? In Reagan’s time (and most Republicans speak Reagan like Democrats talk JFK) a Republican was for smaller government, traditional values (embodied in constitutional ideas) and stable families. How does Scott violate these legs of the stool?
From what I can see she isn’t for sale. There were Republican leaders who supported her liberal opponent last November. Her constituents had a different approach and overwhelmingly ratified Scott’s re-election. Are they going to be disenfranchised because she has pulled back the curtain and allowed the public to see a darker side of Idaho politics? We’re certainly seeing it now after she has had all of her committee assignments revoked. This is a warning for other grass roots legislators being sent in ever larger numbers to Boise by voters willing to shake up the business of government. Does it come from people who fear the loss of power or perhaps they’ve got handlers in the donor class who want the revolution thwarted? George Will once said we’ve got too many politicians who believe their public office is their private property. These are the politicians who mouth all the right words, but the needs of the donor class come first. The donors don’t give you satchels of cash because you’re pretty. They want something in return. Leadership tells the newcomers to take a seat in the corner and if you keep mum you too can get some toys from the treasure chest. Is this what the GOP elites mean when they tell me how to spot a real Republican?
I was flattered when I was asked to participate in last summer’s state GOP convention. A lot of great work was conducted and the pep rally aspects can’t be undersold. However, when it came time to fill many seats in party roles most of the delegates had no background on the various candidates. A fellow on the floor told me delegates had been emailed details earlier in the morning. We were meeting in a big old barn in Nampa and internet service was woeful. A great many delegates simply asked party elders who we were supposed to vote for and this allowed the mandarins to drive the choices. I’ve since found many of my fellow delegates are willing to share their disappointment with me privately about how business is often conducted. I say privately because most fear speaking publicly. At local party meetings the committeemen and women have seats facing forward. In a room behind them the local mandarins have a wide view if anyone goes off the farm. I’m reminded of the story of Soviet troops attempting to retreat from battle with the Germans. Stalin had his own men shot by a line stationed in the rear. It didn’t matter a retreat sometimes was the best strategic decision. The party leader didn’t approve.
There are things worse than Republican leaders. We call them Democrats. The liberals are salivating over a possible Scott denouement in their favor. They fear her even more than Republicans. Judging by the online comments I’m reading, the leftists care about injustice only when it happens to someone on their protected list of victims. Scott should qualify as a woman but conservatives aren’t viewed as human beings by the left. In the Marxist worldview she’s getting her comeuppance and the circumstances are irrelevant. This has been the culture of the Democrat Party since the Clinton era of the 1990s. The ends justify the means. No matter how sordid the motives of Scott’s enemies, her departure from the political scene strengthens Lefty’s hand. It should also tell us there really is just a one party scene in Boise (and in most state capitals and Washington, D.C.) and it’s the Establishment Party.
Scott is faced with the same malady afflicting Donald Trump. She threatens the elected who profit from their offices and she threatens the bureaucrats who’ve long been feeding from the public trough. The government workers back the growth of government and even Republicans have recognized the benefits of expansion. You get to go home and brag about how you got into a scrum on the floor and “secured” money for a new community center/dairy research facility/ballfield and if you send them back for another term they’ll bring back more of the tax dollars they confiscated from you in the first place. Although, they had to cycle it through the bureaucracy and you may get a dime back for every dollar you lost. But, hey, the bureaucrats wrote checks to campaigns with your money. They’ve become just as important to perpetuating a permanent political class as have the big businesses greasing the slides. As I listened to the governor’s State of the State address it became apparent downsizing government isn’t much of a goal anymore. This is what Heather Scott and her growing army of allies are looking to stop. This is why the powerful have decided it was time to strike. The tanks have rolled into Prague, to make a historical analogy. As the story unfolds we’ll learn if Idaho’s “Prague Spring” is finished or if the heavy-handed power mongers have miscalculated.
Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mark R. Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, made an extraordinary announcement late Friday:
“In the course of its regular work, the Committee conducts oversight of the Intelligence Community’s collection and analysis related to Russia; however, the October 7, 2016, joint statement on election security from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), combined with the declassified Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of ‘Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’ raise profound concerns.”
They promised an inquest that would include:
A review of the intelligence that informed the Intelligence Community Assessment “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections;”
Counterintelligence concerns related to Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns;
Russian cyber activity and other “active measures” directed against the U.S., both as it regards the 2016 election and more broadly.
Exploration of the ties between the presidential campaigns — meaning President-elect Donald Trump — could reveal the most damning aspects of Russian interference with our election. (You recall Trump, at his press conference, declined to answer a question about any communications conducted during the campaign.) The committee promises to hold hearings, interview senior officials of the Obama and Trump administrations (would this include the president-elect?) and provide “both classified and unclassified reports on its findings.”
The danger here remains twofold. First, Republicans might drag their feet, hoping the public will lose interest. Second, the committee might be insufficiently aggressive. It should, for example, determine if the Russians were attempting to use financial leverage over Trump or any advisers, including his appointed national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who reportedly had FIVE calls with the Russian ambassador on the day the president was expelling Russian diplomats. (“The calls raised fresh questions among some U.S. officials about contacts between Trump’s advisers and Russian officials at a time when U.S. intelligence agencies contend that Moscow waged a multifaceted campaign of hacking and other actions to boost Republican Trump’s election chances against Democrat Hillary Clinton,” Reuters reports.)
Flynn was a frequent commentator on the Russian propaganda outlet RT. The president-elect should be expected to produce for on-camera inspection his tax and bank records to dispel any concerns about whether Russia has financial leverage over him.
Critics of the president-elect’s Russia policy who remain deeply suspicious of connections between Trump and the Russians seem to be of two minds. On one hand, the committee has a strong relationship with the intelligence community and has serious Republican members (e.g., Marco Rubio of Florida, Susan Collins of Maine, James Lankford of Oklahoma) who likely will push for a vigorous and fair investigation. On the other hand, expecting Republicans to root out possibly incriminating information on a president of their own party may be expecting too much.
The president-elect should pledge to cooperate fully and demand his staff and advisers do so as well. Otherwise, he will convey to voters that he is unserious about Russian espionage and/or has something to hide. No one in the administration should be allowed to remain in office if he or she takes the Fifth. Either Trump intends to cooperate fully or he intends to stonewall.
The committee will need to prove its independence and issue a conclusive report that provides a thorough and credible accounting of what occurred. If it fails to do so promptly, the cloud hanging over the president-elect will linger and his foreign policy decisions will be open to question.
Quite simply, the American people need to know if Trump has benefited from — or worse, cooperated with — a hostile foreign power to win the White House. Yes, it is that serious.