The new movie “Zero Dark Thirty” suggests that waterboarding yielded key information that helped U.S. forces find Osama bin Laden’s hideout.
Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch gives the Hollywood account mixed reviews.
Waterboarding provided “a scintilla of evidence” in the bin Laden investigation, said Risch, a Senate Intelligence Committee member, in a Huffington Post article Thursday. That puts Risch at odds with some senators — such as John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — who disagree with the “Zero Dark Thirty” version of events.
More significant, and more impressive, is Risch’s strong opposition to the use of harsh interrogation techniques. Here’s what he told the Huffington Post.
“The issue isn’t does torture work or not. The issue is, is torture right, or is torture wrong? And the answer to that is torture is wrong. It shouldn’t even be a question as to whether it works or not. ... All the stuff I’ve looked at — and I’ve looked at lots and lots and lots of stuff — I don’t think any reasonable person could reach a conclusion based on that, that torture works or it doesn't work.”
Risch is in a unique position in the Idaho congressional delegation. As a member of both the Intelligence and the Foreign Relations committees, a lot of Risch’s time is spent working on issues that don’t directly affect Idaho. But these same committee assignments give Risch — and Idaho — a voice on the international stage. On this story, Risch did himself and Idaho proud.
RISCH II: ‘JUST BAD MANAGEMENT’
When he was managing the comically inept expansion-era New York Mets, Hall of Famer Casey Stengel was once heard to lament, “Can’t anyone here play this game?”
Casey, meet Risch.
As the “fiscal cliff” deadline approaches and as Congress faces the threat of meeting through the holidays, Idaho’s junior senator made his impatience known to reporters at the Beltway insider website Politico.com.
Said Risch: “It’s simply just bad management. These issues have been around all year, and I was head of our state Senate for decades, and we never got ourselves into this position. ... I’m just astounded this can happen.”
That’s not an idle boast, really. I’ve watched the Idaho Legislature since 1986, and I’ve never seen a floor leader who could wrap up a legislative session like Risch. There is a skill to cutting the deals and lining up the votes on “going-home” legislation. You might not have liked the end product, but you could never question Risch’s ability to close.
So I suspect Risch’s frustrations are the public’s frustrations — as, once again, another fiscal decision is bottled up in deadline dramatics. But I also suspect Senate veterans don’t take kindly to a public chiding from someone with only four years’ experience on Capitol Hill.
THE VALLEY’S ADDED STATEHOUSE CLOUT
New House Speaker Scott Bedke deservedly got the headlines from last week’s legislative leadership elections. But here’s an interesting sidelight: Ada and Canyon county lawmakers will hold eight of the 13 other legislative leadership posts.
That list includes Bedke’s three House GOP deputies: Majority Leader Mike Moyle, Star; Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, Nampa; and Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude, Nampa.
On the Senate GOP side, Chuck Winder of Boise stays on as majority leader and Russell Fulcher of Meridian was re-elected as caucus chairman.
Three Boise Democrats will also be in leadership: Elliot Werk, Senate assistant minority leader; Cherie Buckner-Webb, Senate minority caucus chair; and Grant Burgoyne, House assistant minority leader.
It’s a mixed group, much like the Valley’s sharply divided legislative delegation. So conspiracy theorists need not worry about this bunch steamrolling through an agenda favorable to (gasp!) the Great State of Ada. But these eight leadership posts — up from six in 2011 and 2012 — give the Valley a little more clout heading into 2013.
GONE CAROLING ...
If the Mayans are right, this is the last column you’ll see from me.
But even if not, this is the last column you’ll see from me this year.
As you read this, I will be in the midst of what I’ve come to call my 17 days of Christmas. I haven’t had a holiday break this long in my life, not even in college. But I’ll be back at work Dec. 31 — just in time for the runup to the 2013 Legislature. My column will reappear on Thursday, Jan. 3.
In the meantime, may your holiday season be festive, reflective and memorable.
Kevin Richert: 377-6437, Twitter: @KevinRichert