Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch recently sent a letter urging the White House to give its support for a bipartisan effort to extend “critical” lifeline funding in future disaster aid.
For certain, it’s a noble effort by the senators to take care of a lot of folks in Idaho. The payments expired last year, leaving counties without certainty about how to fund fundamental services in rural areas. The senators stated in a news release that rural communities “need stable funding to keep schools, libraries and roads open and to protect communities from crime.”
There at least is a fighting chance that President Trump will be sympathetic to the request from Crapo and Risch. But that wouldn’t be the case if the two senators were part of the Trump-bashing parade, led by Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who challenged Trump’s fitness to be president.
Crapo and Risch are smart enough to realize that it would be political suicide for them to lash out against the president in that fashion. They know that the chances of getting White House support for their funding request would be somewhere between zero and, “go to hell.”
A few weeks ago, the Idaho Statesman’s Rocky Barker – a longtime friend and colleague of mine – wrote an insightful commentary that discussed the possible transition next year of the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Barker’s article carried this headline: “Taking on Trump, Bob Corker sets a loud tone. What would Jim Risch be like in his place?”
Hopefully, Risch would not be as reckless and self-serving as Corker – the current committee chairman. Corker, a one-time cheerleader for Trump, has been roundly praised for having the “courage” to stand up to the president. I go in the other direction. If Corker had an ounce of integrity, or respect for his position with the committee, he’d resign his chairmanship immediately and hand over the gavel to Risch. Then, Corker could rail against the president all he wants. Loose cannons do not belong in the chairman’s seat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Corker’s statements, basically labeling Trump as a lunatic who is putting the nation on the brink of World War III, are a far cry from what I observed in Indiana with former Sen. Richard Lugar, a voice of calm on most issues. Lugar, who spent much of his lengthy career as a chairman or ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, could have served as secretary of state with any administration of either party. Certainly, there were times when he was at odds with presidential strategy, but his criticisms were measured and in no way aimed at making the United States appear to be in disarray. I suspect Risch would operate in a similar fashion as Lugar if, or when, he gets the committee chairmanship.
Crapo also has much to gain by staying out of the fray with Trump. Crapo and others in Idaho’s congressional delegation were never shy about taking issue with former President Obama on almost everything, but it’s a different ball game with a Republican president in office. Crapo can get much more accomplished as chairman of the banking committee by working with Trump, as opposed to making personal attacks against him.
Congressman Mike Simpson boldly declared Trump as “unfit” for the presidency in the final weeks of the campaign – and he has not backed away from those comments. Nor has he repeated them during Trump’s nine months in office. Simpson, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, is focused on other things – such as passage of a sensible budget and a tax-reform plan. It’s the GOP’s last hope for accomplishing anything substantial in Trump’s first year in office.
Congressman Raul Labrador, the most avid Trump supporter in Idaho’s delegation, would be foolish to follow the Corker/Flake route. Labrador is running for governor, and the last thing he needs is for Trump to visit the Gem State and campaign for Lt. Brad Little or Tommy Ahlquist.
With federal indictments starting to come out of Washington, there’s no telling how it will affect Trump in the immediate future – or if he will even survive his term in office. But until further notice, he’s still in charge -- and Republicans should know they will never win in a war of words with this president.
Chuck Malloy, a long-time Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org