For the week of April 21, 1999  thru April 27, 1999  

Never say never

The American landscape is littered with the muddied reputations of politicians who proclaimed "Never!" and lived to regret their famous, foolish last words.

Just this week, the Alabama Legislature is acting to abolish the nation’s only ban on interracial marriages, a mournful final chapter to the late Gov. George Wallace’s declaration that Alabama would "never" submit to integration of the races.

Which brings us to Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and the state’s two upper chamber lawmakers in Washington, Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo, who brashly declare in "over-our-dead-bodies" finality that dams will never be breached to reverse the slow destruction of salmon.

Crapo, supposedly paid big bucks for making tough decisions, has decided that breaching dams is "politically unfeasible," his way of saying that as a captive of industrial interests opposing dam breaching he hasn’t the stomach to do otherwise.

So much for Sen. Crapo’s independence.

A s for Sen. Craig, he’s fingered the inevitable villain in this whole controversy-- "the media." A wonder he couldn’t find pinko Commie influence somewhere.

But Craig and Crapo aren’t alone in pandering to the anti-breaching lobby. Gov. Kempthorne is out mollifying his special interest patrons, reassuring them that even as scientific evidence mounts with astonishing unanimity to support dam breaching, he, by gum, won’t be dragged into any sensible solutions without their approval.

Kempthorne will; search and search for other solutions, as the salmon struggle to survive intolerable manmade demands of battling dams.

History, happily, works against Idaho’s stubborn politicians.

Remember automakers who battled to avoid better fuel mileage and emissions control systems to help clean up the nation’s foul air? They, too, were dragged into sensible solutions for which they now agree cut air pollution.

Remember industries that sneered at the idea of workplace safety and health rules?

And remember electric utilities who were dragged screaming into cleaning up their fossil-fuel generating plants and thus sparing more foul air?

And, of course, there were political throwbacks to the Civil War mentality who refused to acknowledge that black Americans had any rights.

As sure as those others who refused to accept a vision of the future were proven wrong, Kempthorne, Craig and Crapo will inevitably live to regret ignoring common sense solutions to the plight of the salmon.

Worse, they’ll regret how history remembers them - the last of an Idaho political class that accepted the disappearance of salmon and an important Idaho heritage as the price of keeping special interests happy.


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