Thursday, March 23, 2006

What is a "Westerner"?

There has been a lot of discussion regarding Kempthorne’s qualifications (or lack of) for the job of Interior Secretary under Bush. Those who support this nomination claim that Kempthorne’s classification as a “Westerner” meets the criteria for the job.

This shows me that Kempthorne’s supporters are able to read a compass but have no other understanding of being a “Westerner”. When one thinks of a “Westerner”, the image is more complex than just living on the west side of the continent.

A true “Westerner” should be able to relate to the needs of our rural region. “Westerners” rely on our natural resources (air, water, land) for our quality of life. “Westerners” understand the specific needs of rural communities and the challenges unique to those communities. The recreational activities experienced by true “Westerners” are quite different from urban residents. (Going for a ride a mountain bike through Tamarack and watching satellite TV in your RV isn’t a true “Westerner’s” typical recreational experience.) Rural agribusiness, economy, and survival depends on sensible urban development, responsible resource management, and awareness of the impact of large corporations on small businesses (Walmart vs. mom and pop shops, corporate agribusiness vs. family farms, megadairies/CAFOs impact on our air and water, etc.), and a balance between the needs of a growing population and its effect on our rural citizens.

Do the residents of San Diego (Kempthorne’s place of birth) understand the needs of residents in Brentwood, California? Can the people living in Spokane (where Kempthorne grew up) relate to the economic challenges faced by the citizens of Palouse, Washington? Can residents of Boise with their own urban needs and challenges truly comprehend the struggles faced by their fellow Idahoans in Magic Valley?

Perhaps supporters of this nomination consider Kempthorne’s work experience as proper training for the Interior Secretary. Kempthorne has spent twenty years in politics, three years as “executive vice-president” for Idaho Home Builders Association, and three more years as “state public affairs manager” for FMC Corp. (which is rarely identified in Kempthorne’s bios as a chemical manufacturing company headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Kempthorne worked as the “executive assistant to the director” for the Idaho Department of Lands for only TWO years.

Does it not raise questions that Kempthorne has spent most of his life in politics, property development, or chemical manufacturing? Does anybody wonder what his qualifications were for executive vice-president/assistant to the director or public affairs manager except for more political maneuvering and promotion rather than actual knowledge of the industry? What do we know about his education other than he graduated from the University of Idaho in 1976? Even his activities as a politician promote serious examination as to Kempthorne’s understanding to our rural way of life and commitment to natural resources.

Before accepting the description of “Westerner” as a qualification for the job of Secretary of Interior, Americans need to identify the difference between a true “Westerner” and an “urban cowboy”.

Just as going to church doesn’t make one a Christian anymore than going to a garage makes one an automobile, living on the west side of the Mississippi does not make one a “Westerner”.

1 comment:

Ziggist said...

Kempthorne the mayor was ok, I'm pretty sure I voted for him.

Kempthorne the Senator wasn't too bad, I wasn't too upset with what I considered a compromise on the Endangered species act. Probably voted for him.

For Govenor he only got my first vote. Pithy poor job he's done in my opinion. He's eviserated the education department, he threw tantrums to get his highway to nowhere, he wanted to give $50 back to Simplot as a tax refund.

And now this new job. One thing for sure, he aint no Andrus. :(