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Opinion Column
For the week of May 23 through May 29, 2001

‘States know best’ vs. energy crisis

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Shame on Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne for seeming to be so naïve.

Along with his western peers, Kempthorne is upset that President Bush seems to have fibbed when he claimed "states know best," leaving the clear impression he would defer to states rather than use Washington power.

Now, Kempthorne discovers that Bush’s new energy blueprint would have the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stomp across states seizing private land for power transmission towers.

Plus, it’s possible the energy program will also eliminate the crazy quilt of chemical standards for gasoline enacted by individual states and be replaced by a national standard dictated by Washington.

Republicans can blame themselves for any backlash. Conservatives use doublespeak to promote the myth that the 50 states are fully capable of doing anything Washington can do. But they know, as a practical matter, that leaving national issues to provincial decisions of 50 states would be madness.

States are no longer scattered collections of frontier forts separated by long stretches of untamed wilderness and forced to be self-reliant. A checkerboard of state decisions would lead to chaos.

Imagine the condition of the U.S. airport and airways system if each state decided its own standards for communicating with airliners and designing airports.

Polluted air and water don’t stop at state boundaries; hence, a semblance of national standards. Ditto for vehicle safety features and aircraft design as well as health standards for food and pharmaceuticals.

Kempthorne knows this, as well as knowing that candidates for president routinely make statements they know are untrue or promises they can’t and won’t keep.

Bush, for example, was only in office a matter of weeks before `fessing up that he wouldn’t enforce tougher carbon dioxide standards on industrial air emissions despite a campaign promise.

Building interstate power transmissions lines across several states for the national grid would be a nightmare if each state took its sweet time to devise its own standards or decide which route the line should take.

The Bush presidency has more than three years remaining on its first term. Gov. Kempthorne should get accustomed to campaign pledges being ditched.


While on the subject of Republicans:

Twice in the last year, the Republican Party has flattered me with letters I didn’t deserve.

Last year, the Republican National Committee informed me I was one of only 10 Republicans in Idaho picked to join a committee to work for George Bush’s election. I was asked to send a check with my acceptance, of course.

Only someone who’d just fallen off the turnip truck would believe that they were one of only 10 persons in an entire state picked to join a blue ribbon Bush committee. And especially not me, not known as a Bush supporter.

In last week’s mail was a letter from Vice President Dick Cheney, who said "we have reserved a special place of honor for you. . .(I)n recognition of the crucial role you played in the 2000 election."

That "special place of honor" is at The President’s Dinner in Washington on June 27, Cheney writes ¾ at $2,500 per seat, of course.

Alas, I didn’t vote for Bush and still remain apprehensive about his presidency.

So much for words from politicians without meaning.



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