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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 21 - 27, 2001

  Opinion Columns

Guv’s efforts at bravado mostly theatrics

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Concrete barriers. Closed thoroughfares. Armed soldiers. State police.

The seat of power was prepared ’round-the-clock for the worst. The White House? The Pentagon?

Nope, just Idaho’s state capitol, turned into a makeshift fortress against imagined terrorism on orders of Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

Missing from this melodramatic tableau of contrived bravado was the governor himself — a Patton-like figure in combat helmet and boots, bulletproof vest and pearl-handle pistols, standing defiantly on the top step of the Capitol entrance with hands on hips daring Osama bin Laden to mess with Idaho. (Lights, camera, action!)

Alas, snickers and head-shaking among more mature, serious-minded public officials, prompted by Kempthorne’s overreaction, has convinced the Guv to tone down security measures.

But the unanswered question remains: what’s at and in the Capitol that Gov. Kempthorne believes demands such excessive protection against what and against whom?

Serious, suicidal terrorists surely would make better use of their derring-do than throwing their lives away on the state Capitol, even in the unlikely event that Idaho qualified as an international target. Mountain Home Air Force Base, Boise’s airport, computer factories or unprotected mountaintop communications antenna farms scattered around the state, for example, are more vital to Idaho’s and the nation’s interests.

Not even Boise’s premiere hospitals — St. Luke’s and St. Alphonsus — rated such protection from the governor, although they’re far more necessary than the Capitol in wartime.

And then there’s the matter of Kempthorne’s other "wartime" measure ¾ a request for executive power to seal public documents. Jeepers! Does Idaho house super-duper sensitive information we don’t know about?

(Perhaps Kempthorne feels it’s fashionable to emulate President George W. Bush’s Executive Order No. 13223 that keeps presidential papers sealed until the sitting president and former president whose papers are sought open them: historians suspect Bush the Junior hopes to prevent researchers from discovering chicanery in Bush the Elder’s White House or revealing his own submissiveness to a small group of Rasputin-like advisers who control his thinking.)

A new phrase has surfaced since Sept. 11 — "Guiliani envy," a metaphor for politicians trying to assume the heroic stature of New York City Mayor Rudy Guiuliani.

Maybe Gov. Kempthorne feels a need for the same aura of bravado, but theatrics is as close as he can come to the real thing.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.