My story Sunday about the tiff between Idahos two Republican congressmen has prompted questions about why Rep. Mike Simpson went nuclear on his junior colleague, Rep. Raul Labrador.
In short, Simpson is ticked for two reasons: Labrador attacked Simpsons good friend, Speaker John Boehner, by conspiring to remove him, and is undermining an institution that he loves, for all its flaws.
I think it could be a little of both, agreed Jim Weatherby, Boise State political scientist emeritus, noting Simpson is a former Idaho House speaker. He respects the office of the speaker, having been one himself.
Simpson said Labrador forever compromised his credibility by helping lead a failed attempt to unseat Boehner and fundamentally misunderstands the governing responsibilities of the majority party.
Labrador and Simpson havent spoken since the unsuccessful Jan. 3 coup against Boehner. Labrador left the country the next day, as one of six members of an all-Republican House delegation visiting Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco and Spain to investigate security at U.S. embassies.
When Labrador phoned me Friday from Morocco, he had reviewed a transcript of my interview with Simpson.
Labradors first comments captured his insurgent ethic: The question is what kind of credibility do congressmen need today. Is it the credibility that youre a Washington insider who has been there for a long period of time and has actually contributed to the deficit, the debt and the problems that we have in America?
Or is it the credibility that you have with your constituents when you make certain promises to them that you were going to fight for them, you were going to fight for less spending, less government and you were not going to become part of the Establishment and you kept those promises? And I believe thats the credibility that I have.
Labrador, beginning a second term, then called the eight-term Simpson an old-school legislator that went to Washington, D.C., to compromise.
As for effectiveness, Labrador countered, I have been in the middle of every negotiation, I have been in the middle of every fight that we have had in Washington, D.C., and my opinion and my voice has mattered in every single one of them.
Labrador said doesnt fear punishment from Boehner; the two are set to meet Tuesday. Im not, because I didnt come here to get a title. I didnt go to Washington, D.C., to get a committee. I went to Washington, D.C., to change the way things are being done.
Asked about the interests of Idahoans who count on their delegation to get along, Labrador said, It is important, but Mike is used to being the bull in the china shop. He has a tendency to be a bully with people who disagree with him. It has worked with other people, like with (former GOP Rep. Bill) Sali. It doesnt work with me.
The circumstances of my interview with Simpson bolster my view of Simpsons motives. He and I spoke before Wednesdays City Club of Boise annual legislative pundits forum.
I began by asking Simpson about speculation he might be a compromise candidate for speaker should Boehner, R-Ohio, falter.
What? Shoot myself? Simpson replied. Somebody was speculating, but I like what Im doing.
Asked if Boehner will survive, Simpson then took on the plotters. Simpson said theyd lost substantial credibility within the conference.
I asked if Labrador was among that group and Simpson repeated himself, without naming Labrador. Seated with Simpson was another former Idaho speaker, Bruce Newcomb, who tried to deflect my questions by summoning Simpsons press secretary.
Despite his friends warning, Simpson plunged ahead when I asked him to describe Labradors ignoring the clerk as the roll was called.
Simpsons anger sharpened. He just didnt vote. Which, as anyone whos ever been in a legislative body will tell you, you got one thing going for you and thats your credibility. And once you lose that credibility its gone and its gone forever. You dont get it back.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics