Blood on the saddle
By Chris Carlson
There’s an old western ballad in which a cowboy mournfully sings “there’s blood on the saddle; yes there’s blood on the trail.” I thought of those lines when I heard the media was having a hard time getting a comment from Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter regarding the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the individual mandate requirement within the Affordable Health Care and Access Act.
Gov. Otter was off on a “trail ride” in the vast and barren back country of southwestern Idaho’s Owyhee County.
At about the same time Idaho First District congressman Raul Labrador released a letter he and 50 other of the brightest lights (or dimmest bulbs; take your pick) of the Republican Party issued calling on all governors NOT to implement the insurance exchange portion of the now constitutionally sound “ObamaCare” law.
It is hard to follow the reasoning the R’s put forth for opposing the exchanges, which reflect the R belief in marketplace competition after all. One hopes Gov. Otter will exercise his common sense and rely on his innate sense of compassion and reject this insensitive, politically posturing request from a person who should know better.
Delaying starting up an exchange coupled with the court apparently also giving the states the ability to curtail significantly their expenditures on behalf of Medicaid could cause real bleeding and real debilitating impacts on the over 100,000 Idahoans who do not carry health insurance. The metaphor may seem over the top but it’s not. For those 100,000 plus citizens whose needed health care will be delayed or denied it’s not. And the blood on their saddles and on their trails will be on the hands of people like Labrador who let ideology trump common sense and compassion.
As to the trail ride itself, more power to the governor for taking another idea from one of his predecessors, Cecil Andrus, but in Butch’s case transforming it into a town meeting on horseback. The purpose of this trip by Gov. Otter was to draw attention to the possible listing of a species of sage grouse believed to be endangered. Educating all the interest groups by taking a trail ride through their prime habitat is a fine use of what we used to call “resource inspection trips.”
Cece did it a bit differently. He went each summer with the U.S. Forest Service to a different part of Idaho’s vast backcountry. Most often it was an already designated wilderness or national recreation area, but sometimes it was a possible proposed wilderness.
Cece never took staff or friends (much to my dismay) but instead preferred to discuss resource issues over the campfire at night with the assemblage of Idaho national forest supervisors and some brass either from Ogden or Missoula that came along for the ride.
It’s downright amazing how a problem can start to see a solution when one is sitting around the campfire sipping some fortified hot tea enjoying the incredible beauty of the Idaho backcountry before retiring.
Both these issues reflect and are good examples of what can be called a person’s search for security, stability and predictability in a world that is anything but. We seek security in health care needing to know that if struck by a catastrophic illness we won’t be headed to the poor house..
We need to know that protecting an endangered species can be accomplished without a major disruption in the life of a rancher who has done a pretty good job of exercising common sense conservation. We yearn for the good old days that are never coming back.
The brutal truth is the world is becoming increasingly insecure with the probabilities rising that we all will see or experience or know someone impacted by a terrorist attack on the soil of the United States. Recently I had lunch with a retired Marine Colonel who specializes in strategic planning, intelligence gathering and analysis. He briefly explained how much easier it is becoming for a terrorist to obtain virtually undetectable items and pull off attacks.
His bottom line is we’re just going to have to adjust and adapt to this increasingly insecure world. Unfortunately, there’s dismal prospect of lots of blood being on lots of saddles for lots of reasons over the next few years. Say your prayers.
A native of Kellogg, journalist Chris Carlson pens his column from his retirement home near Medimont in Northern Idaho. He is a former teacher and was press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andrus.