WestViews: Four questions for Sen. Risch

August 12, 2013 

Post Register, Idaho Falls

On Aug. 23, Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, will take questions at an Idaho Falls City Club forum. Four-and-a-half years of moving steadily rightward, often in defiance of common sense and the good of his constituents, has left Idaho's junior senator with much to explain. And so, allow us to get the ball rolling with four questions for a man preparing to ask his fellow citizens for a second six-year term in the U.S. Senate:

1. Why are you tilting at windmills?

Risch has joined 11 Senate and 66 House Republicans in threatening to shut down the federal government to force a repeal of Obamacare.

That is, of course, a waste of time. With a Democratic Senate and president, the Affordable Care Act will remain law. Just how bad an idea is the shutdown? So bad that some of its harshest critics are Risch's fellow Republicans.

Budget hawk Tom Coburn of Oklahoma called the scheme "a denial of reality mixed in with a whole bunch of hype." North Carolina's Richard Burr said it was "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Another Oklahoma Republican, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, called it a "suicidal political tactic" and something that "will hurt the American people."

2. Just whom are you representing?

A federal government shutdown is much more punitive for some states, such as Idaho, with large tracts of federal land and installations. If Risch gets his way, many Idaho National Laboratory functions would halt and national parks would close, cutting into tourism dollars that eastern Idahoans depend upon. Also suffering would be Idaho's universities, farmers and the Mountain Home Air Force Base. Transportation projects could be halted.

3. Where's your respect for the process?

Love it or loathe it, Obamacare was passed by Congress, signed into law by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court and validated by last year's presidential election. Repeal efforts are fair game. But using a tactic Cole called "blackmail" shows little respect for the rules everyone agrees to play by.

Tellingly, the government shutdown/defund Obamacare scheme was endorsed by Idaho's congressional newbies, Risch and Congressman Raul Labrador, a man who has twice voted to kill INL and prioritizes preening on "Meet the Press" over problem-solving. Idaho's veterans, Congressman Mike Simpson and Sen. Mike Crapo, wanted nothing to do with it.

Which leads to one final question for Risch:

4. Is that really the company you wish to keep?

PARTNERSHIP MAY HELP TEEN DRIVING

Idaho State Journal, Pocatello

There was a time in America when some states required driver's education to graduate from high school. Idaho didn't tie high school diplomas to successful completion of a driver's education course, but most districts here offered driver's education classes during the regular school day.

Time on the road took place before and after school.

Teens can receive their driver's licenses at the age of 15 in the Gem State. Obviously, young drivers need instruction and practice to help overcome inexperience and the distractions that come from cellphones or friends in the car.

Any effort to boost that training is welcomed.

That's why news from Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna that the state has entered a partnership with Fort Motor Co. to enhance teen driver training is worthy of praise. The new Parent's Supervised Driving Program is designed to optimize the 50 hours - including 10 at night - of supervised driving all teens are required to complete with parents before receiving their license.

Any moves to reduce serious accidents involving young drivers by equipping them with the right tools are wise moves.

The program, set to start this fall, will be offered online and through social media with a free mobile app that will help parents and teens track their drive times.

We just hope teen drivers wait until they're not behind the wheel before they access the smartphone app.

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