Friday, August 17, 2007

"No more colorful congressmen please!"

Times-News Editorial
Friday, August 17, 2007

No more colorful Idaho congressmen, please

Once upon a time, there was an Idaho politician named Glen Taylor who got himself elected to the United States Senate.

In July 1947, Taylor was asked by a United Press reporter what he thought about reports that remnants of a UFO had been found by the Air Force near Roswell, N.M.

Taylor replied that he almost hoped flying saucers would turn out to be spaceships from another planet. "They could end our petty arguments on earth."

The Democratic senator went on to say that no matter what the UFOs turned out to be, they "can't be laughed off."

"Even if it is only a psychological phenomenon, it is a sign of what the world is coming to," Taylor explained. "If we don't ease the tensions, the whole world will be full of psychological cases and eventually turn into a global nuthouse."

Idaho has a long and colorful history of sending embarrassing people to Washington, D.C. The latest, of course, is Idaho's irrepressible 1st District congressman, Bill Sali, who who offended when a Hindu prayer was offered on the floor of the U.S. Senate last month.

"The question is, is multiculturalism good or not?" he said in a subsequent interview with the Idaho Press-Tribune of Nampa. "I don't think the Founding Fathers were multicultural ... Christian principles work, and they show up in a lot of different areas ... Most of the hospitals in this country have Christian names. If you think Hindu prayer is great, where are the Hindu hospitals in this country? Go down the list. Where are the atheist hospitals in this country?"

This is the same Bill Sali who in January introduced the Obesity Reduction and Health Promotion Act that sought to repeal the law of gravity.

Angered by the passage of a bill to increase the federal minimum wage, Sali says he was trying to make a point that measures to dictate wages and reduce gravity both defy "natural laws."

Getting rid of the force that attracts objects to one another would lower obesity rates, the freshman Republican explained.

For that kind of special insight, we're paying him $165,000 a year.

Before Sali, of course, Republican Helen Chenoweth-Hage represented the 1st Congressional District in Washington for six years. She complained about federal government "black helicopters" shadowing Idahoans, and once said, "Don't let anything like trees in the Clearwater National Forest get in the way of providing jobs and fueling the economy, even if that means cutting down every last tree in the state."

And before Chenoweth-Hage there was Republican George Hansen, who represented the 2nd Congressional District for seven terms. Hansen took it upon himself to go to Tehran 1979 in the middle of the Iran hostage crisis to try to negotiate with militants through the fence of the U.S. Embassy, and once called the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination "the chickens coming home to roost."

Idaho voters get such interesting representation in Washington because we tend to elect conservatives - and sometimes ideologues. But being an ideologue is one thing; rendering yourself completely ineffective at getting things done for your state is quite another.

Sali, a first-term member of the minority party in the House of Representatives from a small Western state, arguably has become the least-effective congressman in Washington, D.C., today. And he talked himself into it.

That's too bad: We Idahoans have real issues that can't be solved by Capitol Hill sideshows.

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