Congressman Mike Simpson, the embodiment of the Republican congressional establishment when John Boehner was riding high in the House speaker’s chair, is the new maverick in the Idaho congressional delegation. At least when it comes to Donald Trump’s presidency.
Meanwhile, Congressman Raul Labrador — the one-time bad boy of the delegation for wanting to shake up Washington and chase away the likes of Boehner from leadership — has emerged as a leader of the “new” establishment. Again, when it comes to President Trump. Labrador campaigned vigorously for the winning candidate during the stretch run of the campaign and was interviewed by Trump for the Interior secretary’s job. Labrador could be one of Trump’s key allies during the early stages of his administration.
“My agenda has much in common with our new president’s plans and I look forward to a very productive partnership,” Labrador wrote in a recent newsletter.
It’s much different with Simpson. Three weeks before the election, after the release of that infamous Access Hollywood recording, Simpson declared Trump unfit to serve as president. Apparently, he has not backed away from that view. His office did not respond to my request to interview him or provide an update on his position.
Idaho’s two senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, had harsh comments after the Access Hollywood episode. Crapo pulled his endorsement of Trump but came back to the fold before the election. Both senators, as with most other Republicans, are celebrating the beginning of Trump’s presidency and especially the end of Barack Obama’s.
“I want to give him every opportunity to succeed and will help him in any way that I can,” Risch told me. “This was a change that was engineered by the people of America. Politicians didn’t do it. The institutions didn’t do it. The people of America did it, against all odds and all predictions.”
Crapo sees the new administration as an opportunity to make government more efficient and the national defense stronger. “Action like this puts him in step with what I have heard from many Idahoans,” Crapo said.
Simpson’s view, no doubt, would be applauded by Democratic Congressman John Lewis, who questions the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency. It may not sit so well with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was one of the “establishment” Republicans eating crow after Trump won the election. But that’s what a lot of people like about Simpson. He says what’s on his mind and doesn’t buckle to political pressure.
Simpson can afford to be his own man. In Idaho’s 2nd District, Simpson is the man in the high castle — more powerful than the collective forces of Trump, Ryan, and the Republican Party’s rank-and-file. His seat on House Appropriations is a magnet for campaign contributions, and the mainstream media in his district love him. Detractors will complain about him, but they can’t beat him.
The only thing missing from his high castle is a moat.
Simpson hasn’t totally abandoned his party. Recently, he joined his fellow Republicans in taking the first step to repeal Obamacare — describing his action as creating a path for “real healthcare reform that puts decisions back into the hands of families, patients and doctors.”
But if Trump is unfit for the presidency, how can anyone expect him to come up with a viable alternative to Obamacare — or to do anything constructive, for that matter? In Simpson’s mind, apparently, the new era in American politics gives us a presidency that’s doomed for failure.
The three other members of Idaho’s congressional delegation, as with Simpson, have safe seats. But unlike Simpson, they are not poking their fingers in the eyes of their Republican base.
“We’re going to be much more secure with Donald Trump as president,” Risch says. “We have the most powerful military in the world, and we’re going to use it — but only if we have to and only after every alternative has failed.” Risch says that former President Obama did not inspire that level of confidence.
Crapo thinks the new administration, working with a GOP majority in Congress, can get a grip on spending, government regulations and a tax code that he describes as “unfair and anticompetitive.”
Labrador sees the Trump presidency and Republican majorities as “a mandate from the people to change business as usual in Washington.”
Simpson’s message is not so uplifting to Republicans in his district who overwhelmingly supported Trump in the last election. But, he remains true to himself.
Recently a young journalist bemoaned harsh words used by some baby boomers in describing millennials. As a boomer, I apologize for those who would slander others because of their youth. Although I scarcely recall having been young, I have read about it. The bigger issue, however, related to this “journalist’s” haughty headline concerning how she and other millennials were going to “change the world,” because lacking enough time on Earth to have observed enough causes and effects related to societal evolution, I doubt this young lady is qualified to do so in a rational way.
When this baby booming journalist was learning the craft, he was taught it was his responsibility to provide balanced, well-researched information to the public who would be the final arbiters of that information. Yet, it seems our last few graduating classes of journalists have been taught it is their responsibility to change the world for — their idea of — the better. But, when uninformed egotism meets unbridled apathy, who’s to say the uncensored use of the combination won’t leave us with changes that create an even greater need for change?
In 1492, Columbus set out to find the East by sailing west, thus proving the earth was “round,” although that had been proven 2,000 years earlier. But then, he did get Isabella’s jewels and had some great fishing along the way. Which is worse, though, ignoring the news or passing on an agented version? I think this millennial “journalist” would be well-served by 1) learning the difference between the news that bogs her down and the commentary, which undoubtedly makes her opportunistic heart soar, and 2) on finding herself leaning toward commentary, seeking a career with NPR, wherein a British accent can often lend credibility to the incredible.
The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:
Keystone XL is back — along with the usual misconceptions about its virtues and dangers. There should be no doubt, however, that President Donald Trump’s executive order advancing the project is a good thing.
The reason is simple: By carrying heavy crude from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast and beyond, Keystone XL would strengthen U.S. energy security.
Keystone would not, as Trump suggests, create a lot of work for Americans. It will take maybe 10,000 people to build the pipeline, and those jobs will be temporary. Only a few dozen will be needed once it is operational.
At the same time, many environmentalists’ warnings about Keystone are exaggerated. Pipelines are a safe, reliable and efficient way to carry oil. Given that Keystone would be built to the latest safety requirements, it would be less spill-prone than the tens of thousands of miles of older pipelines that crisscross the U.S. (This advantage also holds true for the Dakota Access pipeline, another project Trump advanced on Tuesday.)
Keystone opponents also make more universal objections. Crude extracted from oil sands generates more than its share of greenhouse gases, because more energy is needed to remove the sand and dilute it for transport. Technology is already limiting this problem, however. Moreover, oil-sands emissions can be offset with reductions in other parts of the economy — a likely scenario now that Canada has agreed to reduce carbon emissions as part of the Paris climate-change agreement, and Alberta has adopted a carbon tax.
Finally, many environmentalists argue that pipelines such as Keystone only encourage the further extraction and use of fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming. Regardless of whether this will prove to be true, the reality is that there aren’t enough sources of clean energy to meet the world’s needs. And to protect against price shocks, it is preferable for the U.S. to get its oil from domestic sources or from friendly neighbors like Canada.
With or without Keystone, in any case, crude will continue to be extracted from the Alberta oil sands. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently approved two new pipelines designed to carry that oil through Canada to world markets.
Trump’s executive order does not amount to approval for Keystone — the company behind the project will have to submit another application — and there is always a danger, Trump being Trump, that he will make unreasonable demands. On Tuesday he suggested that he wants to the pipeline to use only American steel, and in the past he has vowed to demand a share of the pipeline’s profits.
This would be unwise. Better not to jeopardize a decision that can be justified as a matter of both energy and economic policy and see to it that the pipeline, now almost a decade on the drawing board, is finally built.