I recently had the thorough enjoyment of speaking at the Idaho GOP 2010 State Convention.
For those who have never been to Idaho, go immediately. While it is deathly cold in the winter, it is beyond gorgeous in the Summer.
I went to Pocatello, Idaho, once a decade ago. It was time to go back. My second and third trips to Idaho came one week apart.
One week before the convention, Michael Steele spoke in Sun Valley, Idaho. I was the undercard on that event. A neutral column described the event simply and succinctly.
After the event, one wretched liberal media reporter (redundant, I know) ran a hit piece on the event that was a combination of lies, distortions, and fabrications wrapped in a falsehood cannoli.
Normally I do not link to garbage, but I will have plenty to say about the writer since he went after me personally. That will wait for another day since I do not want anything to detract from what was a pair of phenomenal experiences. Chairman Steele was magnificent in Sun Valley.
Speaking at this event was not easy. I went through a thorough vetting process. Idaho GOP organizer Anabel Manchester gave me the first once-over.
(Anabel is getting married in a few days. The groom is a Republican. Well done Anabel!)
Then the state party chairman Norm Semanko reviewed by credentials.
Before going any further, liberals on the coasts who have their vision of Idaho can put it back in the drawer and be quiet. It is so easy to be snobbish toward people one will never meet if one spends their life in a liberal bubble. The people of Idaho are good people. So for that reason I have to dispel a pair of myths because if I don’t, liberals will just bring them up because they are…well, themselves.
First of all, Idaho is not a “hate state.” It is a great state. Yes, I am aware that members of the Aryan Nation holed up in Northern Idaho, and that Randy Weaver and Ruby Ridge represent the entire state to the uninformed.
The people I met were as friendly as any people I have ever met, and they are the people who represent this state. Dayna Anderson took the pictures to prove it. Jacqui and David Shurtleff helped me find my way back to the highway, while Yvonne and Ralph Perez welcomed me into their circle of friends. Ralph is running for Idaho’s District 16.
Everybody knew I was Jewish, and it was a non-issue. Most of the attendees were either indifferent, or very supportive of Israel and the Jewish state. The joke about meeting the Jewish community by me looking in the mirror is not true. Eastern Idaho has a synagogue that is thriving, in addition to a Chabad House in Boise. I sadly did not get to meet these communities due to time constraints, but I will at some point. As a proud Jew I would feel totally comfortable being in Idaho (except in winter. I hate cold weather).
The second Idaho issue concerns ex-Senator Larry Craig. Liberals loved what he went through because liberals take delight in the suffering of conservatives. It is a blood sport for them. I would match Larry Craig up against Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Barney Frank, (and maybe even Al Gore) any day. Senator Craig is retired. He should be left alone. Enough already.
Senator Craig was not at these events, and I did not meet him. However, I know that the left sums up the entire state with snide remarks about him and Klansmen. The real Idaho is what I saw, and it is beautiful.
The Michael Steele event featured some very poignant moments. Bowe Bergdahl is a POW being held in Afghanistan. His father gave stirring remarks. The yellow bracelet of Bowe Bergdahl sits on my nightstand, where it will remain until he comes home safely to his family.
Dennis Prager appeared by satellite to promote his new movie satirizing the French and baseball.
I did offer some remarks, and I stand by every word I said.
“The Boise State Broncos look good on offense, but they need help on defense. I recommend the defense pick up Janet Napolitano.”
“Actually, let me apologize for that remark. I should never say Janet Napolitano in the same sentence as the word defense. She can’t defend anything.”
“I know why we lost the 2008 election. Republicans are the party of Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Michael Steele at the RNC. Democrats offered Christopher Dodd, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. It is obvious why we lost. Americans are bigoted against the follically challenged.”
Idaho Senator Jim Risch was in the audience, and his lack of follicles is matched only by his passionate oratory.
“Senator Risch and Chairman Steele are preparing to have me waterboarded for that last remark.”
“The next time a liberal comes up to you and asks you to be proud that America elected a black man to lead the free world, just look at them and say, ‘Yes I know. We all love Michael Steele.'”
I did recommend that General Petraeus “stop being so polite.” However, this was specifically directed at congress, not the president. Only a liberal writer could fail to distinguish Barack Obama from Barbara Boxer.
As for Senator Risch, I confess that until this event, I did not know who he was. I do not watch C-Span, and I could not one time remember seeing him or his Idaho Senate counterpart Mike Crapo on one Fox News or CNN television program. This told me that the reason I did not see them is because they are not camera hounds. They quietly do their jobs. The other 98 senators may wish to learn this skill.
Senator Risch is a calm, quiet, friendly individual. He is also passionate about advancing conservatism. His speaking manner is steady, stern, and delivered in a meaningful way.
As for Chairman Steele, his style went over flawlessly with the crowd. We were comfortable with him from beginning to end. He is a threat to liberal America (and phony black “leaders”) because he calls Barack Obama on the carpet for being all style and no substance.
One great line Steele said was “Barack Obama had everybody chanting ‘Yes, We Can.’
Barack Obama has style. Michael Steele offers substance.
Michael Steele was a fabulous beginning to my Idaho experience, but I was only half done. I had flown into Pocatello, driven West to Sun Valley, driven back East all the way to Etna, Wyoming, and then West back to Pocatello.
(The local football team is the Idaho State Bengal Tigers. Go Tigers!)
For those who have never been to the Pocatello airport, it is fantastic. They have one gate. The only flight out of Pocatello goes to Salt Lake City, Utah. That is it. Every day security clears anywhere from 50 to 100 people. It is a different and much better world than LAX. I did not even know the airport closed, but after the last flight the security guard and the janitor shut things down for the night. Thanks to a cool convenience shop, I now own a piece of Idaho potato merchandise, a Star Wars style t-shirt of “Darth Tater.”
After flying back home for less than a week, I had to fly back to Idaho for the convention itself. This time I flew into Idaho Falls. That airport is twice as complex as Pocatello. There are two gates.
The Idaho Convention may seem pointless to uninformed outside observers. After all, isn’t the entire state Republican?
No. One of the two congressmen is a Democrat. The Republicans are trying to take back the seat, and they have a strong candidate in Raul Labrador.
An amusing moment happened when I confused Mr. Labrador with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mr. Luna.
I was autographing a book for Mr. Luna when I accidentally autographed it to Mr. Labrador. As I tried to figure out how to change it without leaving a horrible scribble, Mr. Luna let me off the hook by buying a second book. He gave one of the books as a gift to Mr. Labrador, although throughout the weekend I was good-naturedly teased as the ugly Californian. No, they do not look alike. I am just blind. They are both nice guys, so hopefully that absolves me.
At the convention I got to meet Senator Mike Crapo, who got the crowd fired up.
I was wearing a Crapo campaign t-shirt I was given, and it was nice to meet him while wearing it. I let him know that I would do the very best from my home in the People’s Republic of California to fire Barbara Boxer.
A pair of ladies who took good care of me were Marty Orwig and Ruthie Johnson. Marty was kind enough to introduce me to plenty of Idaho politicos.
As for Ruthie Johnson, don’t tell my girlfriend, but she and I took a nice walk while holding hands. She is one of the feistiest octogenarians I have ever met. Like many older Republican women, Mrs. Johnson is made of steel. Yet she is also one of the most pleasant ladies I have ever met. The GOP is lucky to have her dedication.
Yet while there were plenty of debates over platforms, credentials, motions, amendments, and motions to amend original amendment motions as previously motioned and amended, there was a ton of fun as well. Government is not sexy. It is nuts and bolts and minutiae. It can be boring, but it is important. Yet so is having fun after a tough day of work.
The evening dinner event took place at a Riverbend Ranch, owned by Frank VanderSloot.
(For those expecting Natalee Holloway jokes, look somewhere else. Mr. VanderSloot did not work hard his whole life to face ridicule for something some teenager worlds away did. My surname faced ridicule when somebody unrelated to me with the same surname murdered somebody, hence my sympathy for Mr. Van Der Sloot.)
Mr. Vandersloot gave impassioned remarks about ethics in business and politics. He told a story about how he was the largest single donor to a politician during one election cycle. He called the politician to discuss a certain issue of importance to him. The call was not returned. Days went by, and still no returned call. There was not even a message left. At first Mr. Vandersloot felt betrayed. He was the largest single contributor to the politician, and did not even get is phone call returned. Then weeks later after the issue had become irrelevant, Mr. Vandersloot received a message on his machine.
The politician had finally called back. His message said that he was well aware that Mr. Vandersloot was the largest contributor, and that was the precise reason the call was not returned. Any call would have seemed improper. Mr. Vandersloot listened to the message, thought very deeply, and realized what he had to do. He let the politician know that he had Mr. Vandersloot’s support from now on. This politician had integrity, which was more valuable that any potential business dealings.
That was the message Mr. Vandersloot gave is that night. No matter how much money and power a person achieves, they must play by the same rules we all do. Mr. Vandersloot was a breath of fresh air.
Former GOPAC Chair Rich Galen gave a smart analysis of the 2010 elections. Since he followed me, he made it clear that he was in an unusual position. He is used to following Miss Idaho runner-ups. Yet despite his modesty, he provided a sobering assessment of what the GOP needs to do to reclaim the house and senate.
As for me, this was no ordinary speech. Governor CL. “Butch” Otter and his wife were in attendance.
So was congressional candidate Labrador. While this was less pressure than performing in front of Chairman Steele, it is important to do a good job in front of a governor. In the short time I interacted with him, I came to admire him and his state.
You see, the best part politically about Idaho…it works. Idaho works. Idaho is functional. The people I saw liked their elected officials. Idaho is not bankrupt like California is. It is a friendly place to do business. It has far fewer environmental regulations, yet the environment there is breathtakingly gorgeous and clean.
Some will say that California has so many more people, making it tougher to govern. Many more people should mean much more wealth. It was once that way. Yet the Golden State is now a lead weight dragging us all down.
Idaho has a part-time citizen legislature. They make $18,000 per year plus another $10,000 in expenses. They have full-time jobs the rest of the year, since the legislative session is only 90 days. This past year they got the job done in 78 days.
If California politicians want to fix the state (debatable), they need to learn from Idaho. They have fewer people, but those people believe in common sense, and a values system known as the “Code of the West.” Governor Otter believes in this code, and his state is thriving.
I went through some of my standard remarks before going way off script.
“The Idaho police are looking for me. I found out the hard way that just because your leadership has an Otter and a Labrador, it is not ok to pet them without permission.”
“The Otter and the Labrador are both noble creatures. They both take care of vermin. I wish we could bring the Otter and the Labrador to California to take care of our political vermin, that being Barbara Boxer.”
“We lost the 2008 election because Americans are bigoted against the follically challenged. Senator Risch is not happy with me right now.”
(Mr. Vandersloot is also bald, but I had not spoken a word to him and did not want to take liberties. So I creatively worked him in.)
“Mr. Vandersloot, I am leaving you out of this. Your ranch has a woodshed out back and I don’t want to be taken to it.”
“So given this bigotry against the follically challenged, we need a leader who is tall with perfect hair. Governor Otter, we need to send you to Iowa and New Hampshire right away.”
“Governor Otter, if you refuse to run for President, the next Republican president will appoint you the head of Homeland Security. You have the most important qualification. You are a Butch.”
After my remarks, I humbly accepted a vigorous handshake from the governor. My routine went over well, and I found a quiet place to breathe again.
The next morning the Idaho Federation of Republican Women held a breakfast. Idaho FRW President Donna Montgomery found a couple of great speakers, including Idaho First Lady Lori Otter.
The people of Idaho were yet my millionth reminder that politics is more than just legislation. It is about people, most of them good, decent, noble, and caring. Otherwise, they would show zero interest in a total stranger from California who could not vote for any of them.
I do know this much. When we give, we get back so much more I plan to put money into the Idaho economy from time to time.
A beautiful cabin in the woods with green trees and grass, blue sky, and beauty as far as eyes can see…if my girlfriend is up to it, I think I found the perfect vacation spot.