Friday, June 2, 2006

Idaho needs thinkers in Washington loftier than Bill Sali

While there've been ample grounds to argue issues with Idaho's Washington delegation over the past six years, the two U.S. senators and two House members have not been embarrassments.

That was not so in the preceding six years when then Rep. Helen Chenoweth (now remarried Helen Chenoweth-Hage) had political tongues wagging and thoughtful Idahoans wincing over her off-kilter views.

She famously insisted, for example, salmon were not threatened -- she could see store shelves stacked with cans of salmon. That spawned the popular and ubiquitous bumper sticker, "Can Helen, Not Salmon."

The three-term Republican District No. 1 congressman (she preferred congress-man) also made Idaho a laugh line with her suspicion that black, unmarked United Nations helicopters were up to sinister things in the Gem State.

Now Republicans in congressional District 1 that provided Helen Chenoweth have tapped another congressional candidate to send to Washington, who could make Chenoweth look like a highbrow of statecraft.

State Rep. Bill Sali, who barely edged out five other Republicans in the May 23 primary, will face Democrat nominee Larry Grant, a steady, well-rounded former vice president of Micron, the state's largest non-government employer, in November to succeed Rep. Butch Otter, now the GOP nominee for governor.

To make a point quickly: Sali is a shallow, limited thinker that Idaho can't afford in Washington. Indications are that even-keeled state Republican leaders agree. It would be a blessing for all Idahoans if Republicans with a wiser view rallied the political valor to refuse support for Sali.

As retiring state House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, a Republican, has said of Sali: "That idiot is just an absolute idiot."

Sali's reputation is as a zealous anti-abortion crusader with a craving for sowing chaos. Speaker Newcomb was moved to yank Sali from the chairmanship of a key House committee because of tumult he created. Judges have twice struck down parental consent laws that are Sali's pet causes, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal settlement fees.

The needs of Idaho and the nation require a far broader grasp of issues than Sali could bring to the job. His notorious lack of people skills would tear apart the Idaho congressional delegation.

Furthermore, unlike Sali, Democrat Grant is not a fiery-eyed ideologue with a rigid doctrinaire agenda. Instead, Grant's years as a major international corporation executive would provide an exceptional skill in tackling economic elements of the U.S. trade crisis, benefit Idaho's need for expanded economic development, plus help craft U.S. foreign policies with his knowledge of foreign governments.

Congress needs no more hot-blooded far-out conservatives who howl loud and think small.

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