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From the Editor: When it comes to opinions, the more the merrier

I get this question a lot: We live in a conservative area, so why aren’t there more conservative viewpoints on the Opinion pages?

It’s a good question, but it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Times-News hopes to accomplish in the Opinion section.

We’re not here to reaffirm already-held viewpoints. If you want continual affirmation of conservative views, go check out Fox News. Same if you’re a Democrat: You can flip to MSNBC if you don’t want your liberal positions to be challenged.

Unlike most TV commentary, our goal is to share as many viewpoints as possible — to challenge what you might already think about an issue, or at the very least give you a glimpse into the minds of your political opposites. That means we strive to provide a motley mix of conservative, liberal, libertarian and progressive ideas. My goal is to get more viewpoints in the paper, not fewer.

As the manager of the Opinion pages, I regularly choose to feature writers I don’t necessarily agree with. I’m a firm believer that the best ideas hold up to scrutiny, and that the public is better informed and better served when our positions are challenged and shaped by all kinds of ideas. Just because you see a liberal writer in the newspaper (or conservative, for that matter) doesn’t mean the writer has the endorsement of this newspaper. It’s foolish to conclude that we’re a liberal paper because we sometimes feature a liberal columnist. Same goes for trying to label us conservative.

Lately, though, it’s been pretty difficult to strike the right balance. The reasons are twofold:

First, nearly all of the most prominent national conservative writers have abandoned the president. In some readers’ minds, they’re just as liberal as Democrats now. I’m talking about Charles Krauthammer (whose column runs every Sunday in the Times-News), George Will (who has forsaken the Republican Party), and pretty much everybody at William F. Buckley’s National Review (which last fall dedicated an entire issue of the magazine to conservative writers bashing Donald Trump.) Just for fun, do a quick Google search for “conservative writers who support Trump,” and you’ll see how messy things have gotten.

There’s a real struggle occurring now to define the ideals of the Republican Party. Are they represented by Donald Trump, or traditional conservatives like John McCain? What about Ted Cruz or Rand Paul or Idaho’s own Raul Labrador?

Same goes for Democrats. Is Hillary Clinton the torch-bearer for liberals, or is it Bernie Sanders? Heck, even the GOP-controlled Idaho Legislature seldom votes along straight party lines. This year, we saw our Republican governor veto a bill to repeal the grocery tax that was widely supported by his own party, which subsequently sued the governor over the veto. Which side represented the “real” Republicans?

You see what I’m getting at.

Second, only the local Democratic Party has taken up my offer to write a regular column for the newspaper. Two former party chairs — Bob Sojka and Linda Brugger — write regular columns for us. We do publish two Idaho Republican columnists, radio personalities Bill Colley and eastern Idaho’s Neal Larson, but their columns seldom yield truly local conservative perspectives. They’re Idaho guys writing mostly about national issues.

So it’s hard not to roll my eyes when conservative Magic Valley politicians criticize the Times-News for being a “liberal paper” when they’ve repeatedly ignored our invitation to write for the Opinion pages.

But that’s about to change.

Just last week local Republicans committed to having a voice in your paper. Soon, you’ll see regular columns from prominent Twin Falls Republicans like Rep. Lance Clow and Rep. Steve Hartgen. I’m thrilled; their viewpoints will certainly strengthen the Opinion pages and provide perspective that’s admittedly been missing from the paper.

The next big announcement is the addition of conservative national columnist Cal Thomas (still a Trump supporter) to the Times-News beginning this week. Thomas is a legend among conservatives, and his insights are widely respected.

Our Opinion pages, of course, aren’t restricted to elected office-holders or celebrity writers from Washington, D.C. It’s your voices and ideas I cherish most, and you’re always welcome to share them by shooting me a letter or offering a guest column on an important local issue. I promise to publish them, as long as they aren’t hateful or libelous. Like I said, I don’t have to agree with your opinion to feature it in the newspaper.

We’re working hard to contribute the best and most varied ideas on all the issues. I hope you’ll join me in our effort to make the Magic Valley the smartest, most informed corner of Idaho.

Other View: Is Mueller's grand jury a big deal?

Jennifer Rubin

Commentators who assert revelation of a grand jury in federal court in Washington to investigate possible criminal wrong-doing is no big deal have a point. Technically, this is just one more step in the prosecutorial process, allowing for testimony under oath and subpoenas for documents. We already knew this investigation was no “hoax” and was anything but “fake” when Robert S. Mueller III assembled an all-star cast of 16 lawyers. That’s indicative of a major, serious investigation.

It bears repeating that no one as yet has been indicted, let alone convicted, of anything, and everyone, including the president, enjoys a presumption of innocence. However, in some practical and political ways the grand jury is a key milestone.

For one thing, when the grand jury starts taking testimony under oath from witnesses, we’ll have a good sense of where this is going. If the witnesses are largely or entirely people involved in Trump team members’ representations about their meetings with Russians, the decision to fire James B. Comey and the actions taken thereafter, we’ll know the emphasis is on possible obstruction of justice, lying to the FBI, lying or giving incomplete information to Congress, witness intimidation, etc. (In this regard, using a grand jury in Washington might also be seen as a step a prosecutor would take to prepare for indictments in the jurisdiction in which the alleged crimes were committed.)

Second, while prosecutors and court personnel cannot discuss the grand jury testimony, witnesses are free to do so absent a gag order. Expect a flood of leaks from those “with knowledge of the testimony.” These will likely come from witnesses/potential defendants and/or their attorneys, who will immediately claim the leaks came from the prosecutor and hence are illegal. (This is Defense Lawyering 101.)

The press will need to decide if and when this arises how to avoid being used in such fashion while providing the public with as much information as readily available. (“Sources close to the witnesses” or some such designation would seem to be the fairest approach.) However the leaks are spun, we’ll almost certainly hear a lot about what went on inside the grand jury room.

Third, for most witnesses, testifying before the grand jury is terrifying. Under normal rules (more about that in a moment) you cannot bring in your lawyer. A misstatement under oath may have dire consequences. This makes testifying in front of Congress look like a coffee klatch at Starbucks.

Fourth, if Mueller is investigating the president’s role, if any, in obstruction or other similar crimes, in all likelihood he would need to obtain Trump’s testimony. We have precedent from the Monica Lewinsky matter for a president to testify to a grand jury. In the case of President Bill Clinton, he was allowed to testify via closed-circuit TV. Trump would be obliged to appear although he might be able to work out the same arrangement that Clinton did whereby he was allowed to have his attorney present and take breaks to consult. (“Normally, grand jury witnesses, while not allowed to have attorneys in the grand jury room with them, can stop and consult with their attorneys. Under our arrangement today, your attorneys are here and present for consultation and you can break to consult with them as necessary,” the prosecutor conducting the questioning told Clinton in 1998.)

Trump would have the right to take the Fifth, but that would be an extraordinary event without historical precedent. And of course Trump’s previous declarations that people do not take the Fifth unless they have something to hide would come back to haunt him. (“The mob takes the Fifth Amendment,” Trump said during the campaign. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”) That would have substantial political ramifications, to put it mildly.

Trump’s testimony, if he chose not to invoke the Fifth, would be his attorneys’ worst nightmare. Imagine trying to keep him from inadvertently giving prosecutors all the ammunition they would need. (Think about the Lester Holt interview when he freely admitted he had Russia on his mind when he fired Comey.)

If you are banking on Mueller indicting a sitting president you’re probably going to be disappointed regardless of where the facts lead. Mueller would be bound by the existing Justice Department opinion that a president cannot be indicted. (That leaves open options including naming him as an “unindicted co-conspirator”—to obstruct justice , for example—if there are other conspirators who could be prosecuted.)

All of that is down the road and will be determined by the evidence the special prosecutor’s team uncovers. However, with the grand jury plugging away, multiple witnesses including those who have an incentive to make deals with the prosecutor for testimony, the possibility of exceptionally serious consequences for the president have increased. Moreover, with clear warnings from Republicans against firing Mueller, Trump’s fate to a very large degree rests with Mueller. No wonder he is trying to smear and discredit him.

Reader Comment: We're scaring off customers by focusing on business closures

Twin Falls is my home. It has been since 1974. I grew up here. I graduated high school and college here. I work here. Recently it was announced that the Twin Falls Macy’s store will not renew its lease next spring in 2018 and thus will close its store.

I work retail and have for over 10-plus years at Sears. I have climbed the internal ladder and am proud and honored to be part of one of America’s most integrated retailers. Sears itself has and is undergoing massive changes to the way they operate. It is no secret. I can say that Idaho from Boise to Twin Falls to Idaho Falls has three of these stores that are currently operating within black standards and are serving our members with pride everyday.

Citizens are running scared and the new generation is stuck on dot-coms and the ability to buy from their computers. Yes, everyone, we have come full circle. I believe that the internet is here to stay. The problem is that many times a person may order from a dot-com and then find they don’t like their product and they want to return it to a brick and mortar store. Those days are gone. Why? Because the dot-coms are their own business. Local stores can’t always return an item purchased from a third party. The customer states, Why, isn’t a store a store? Whether it is online or full-line store? I gotta tell you those days are gone. If you buy online you return on line.

Next and even more concerning is local media. When the media states a business is closing, it hurts business for all of us. It brings down morale in the stores that are here to serve all of us. Why do we put the fear in our citizens every time a business announces a closure. Most often we don’t give that same attention to the many businesses coming to town or even a big box retailers that is still opening stores when they may be shuttering others?

I can say that Sears has opened two appliance showrooms in the last year to adapt to the newer generations buying pulses. But again the issue is fear in the customers. We as citizens should support local business. Just because it might be a big box doesn’t mean the people that are working there are not your friends and neighbors. Sears, J.C. Penny and Macy’s, for example, are so much a part of Americana from many past and current generations. Why does the media cheer and root for failure of America? I know some of you reading this may say that some of these stores just don’t cut today’s standards. But they do. Adaptation is still needed from all generations and supporting globally instead of buying locally hurts all home town business. Yes, locally many businesses operating need to step up too.

As for the media (KMVT) how about a story on how well businesses are doing in the Magic Valley? Yes, we have Chobani, Cliff Bar and many others and thank goodness. But retail is here to stay. Magic Valley loves to shop. They may wait until the weekend to do it, but they do shop. Local radio invite store managers that advertise with you the opportunity to be interviewed on your radio stations about why you should support them. That is a solution. Please don’t always buy in to the good old boy talk that may take place in your local coffee shop.

As for the naysayers that will think I just wasted my time, please think long and hard as you send that debit card info over the internet. I prefer my info to stay at my local retailer and not in a third-world country that barely speaks English. Go ahead and say local retail is dead and pass it on to your friends. I, for one, think you’re wrong and I’m quite sure I have the backing of many generations behind me. The millennial generation may have the world in their sights, but the older generations are still kicking for many more years.

Jennifer Rubin

Modern Life: Hard things

I have a daughter who likes to run road races. Recently she ran in her second half-marathon. This one came about six months after giving birth to her third child.

She and I have a pre-race tradition. Just before the race she gives me a call and we talk for a couple of minutes. I always tell her not to start off too fast. She always tells me she won’t. She always does. After the race she calls and confesses.

It won’t surprise you to learn that I don’t really care if she starts too fast or not. I’m just endlessly proud of my daughter. She decided to do a hard thing — not because she had to, but because she wanted to. She trained for it. She wants the sense of accomplishment achievement brings. She wants to set an example for her children. She wants to share something pretty glorious with her husband.

My hat is off to her. My hat is always off to the people who choose to do hard things.

The apparent goal of modern life is to never be required do anything hard. I know people who measure success by how many afternoons they can spend with the curtains drawn in front of their video screen of choice, surrounded by canned drinks, pizza and like-minded friends.

But many of you are made differently. You chase hard goals because you know that going with the flow will only float you downhill. We all wonder what we’re really made of, but not everyone wants the knowledge badly enough to find out. Too many of us mistake the edges of our comfort zone for the limits of our endurance.

So today I offer my admiration to those who do hard things. You know who I mean, all of you who:

Step up and say to your siblings, OK, I’ll be the one to care for Mom now that she can’t handle the job herself.

Who go back to school because you’re finally ready, and recognize education for the blessing it is.

Who get up and go running at 5 a.m.

Who tell your friends they’re dumb to mouth off in class.

Who go back to the doctor for a follow-up exam, even though the news might not be good.

Who accept, love and care for a developmentally disabled child for all the decades to come.

Who make friends with people who are vastly different.

Who accept an unpaid responsibility in the community or church which will require time away from home.

Who muster more cheerfulness than you’d expect from the day to day world of diapers and the drudgery of house work, as they quietly build the future.

Who can always be counted on for a plate of cookies, an extra hand to work the concession stand during half-time, and help backstage during the senior play.

Who persevere through pain.

Who freely choose to trust again in someone who was once untrustworthy.

Who must move money too often from the new car savings account to the back-to-school account.

Who reach out to help others once their own nest empties.

Who earn their living with their muscles, and end each day closer to exhaustion than they’re likely to admit.

Who work in a toxic office of negativity and backbiting, while somehow staying above the stench.

Who train online for a better future, but not until the children have been tucked into bed.

Who must recreate themselves with every move to a new city.

Fifty-five years ago President John F. Kennedy said “We choose to go to the moon in this decade … not because (it is) easy, but because (it is) hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are unwilling to postpone.”

When we do hard things we discover who we really are, not who we imagine ourselves to be in softer moments. Our acts won’t measure up to putting a man on the moon, except perhaps to those we serve. Or perhaps to ourselves, as we discover the outer limits of our strength, which are inevitably greater than we ever imagined.

Matt Christensen