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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 December 19 - 25, 2001

  Opinion Columns

Out-of-touch Idaho lawmakers

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Justices of the Idaho Supreme Court had barely signed an order upholding term limits when some disgruntled elected officials began talking of how to overturn the law that twice was approved by voters.

What a slap at the public.

Some politicians don’t seem to have a clue of why voters want them to clear out after a few years ¾ a basic discontent, even distrust, of politicians who stick around too long.

If legislators try to repeal term limits, they’ll confirm what voters suspect — politicians not only disregard public opinion, but also believe public office is theirs to keep for as long as they choose.

The Legislature’s Republican majority revealed its contempt by attempting to sabotage the right of voters to mount ballot initiatives by creating impossible hurdles for collecting signatures on petitions.

But their devious dirty work happily was struck down as unconstitutional this month by U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill.

Now, desperate to convince the public of their indispensability, some politicians are whimpering that government can’t function properly without their special experience and perpetual presence.

Have they forgotten that when they entered office for the first time, they were unseasoned, unknowledgeable, inexperienced novices?

As for their vaunted experience, how come legislators have yet to comply with a court order to bring public schools up to snuff? And why did they squander Idaho’s sound financial condition with shortsighted tax cuts even as revenues were heading for the tank?

The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen governments composed of folks who’d give a few years of time in public service, then return home.

But government — from Washington, to the Statehouse, to the county courthouse, to city hall — has become a career roost for politicians who become intoxicated with public pensions, perks, influence, and the sight of lobbyists groveling for favors.

In Idaho, permanence in office has saddled the state with an incestuous reign by conservative Republicans, who’ve all but suffocated a strong two-party system.

One-party rule ultimately leads to stagnation and atrophy in thinking — a condition that’s in ample evidence more than ever.

If and when President Bush the Younger launches a costly new war to unseat Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, it’ll re-ignite a whole new debate on why President Bush the Elder didn’t finish off Hussein during the Gulf War in 1991.

Father Bush’s explanation (excuse?) was that he was limited by the United Nations to only expelling Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. And besides, Hussein’s successor might be as bad, Bush advisers cautioned.

If Son Bush attacks Baghdad, he apparently will do so without U.N. authority and purely on the strength of U.S. assumptions that Hussein is a terrorist and source of mass destruction weapons. And as for a successor, the same uncertainty remains.

And therein lies a rub for father and son presidents to explain: Hussein was a terrorist and source of fearsome weapons in 1991 as he is today, and Bush the Elder could’ve had used the same rationale as Bush the Younger presumably will use to unseat the tyrant Hussein.

If and when the full behind-the-scenes story is told, the suspicion is that Bush the Elder was talked out of toppling Hussein by spineless advisers.


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.