Diogenes He Ain’t

The following column appeared in The Boise Weekly Wednesday (11/1 17).

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Diogenes He Ain’t: And don’t count on Jimmy for a full day’s work

Citizens of Idaho, just over two weeks ago, Senator Jim Risch, a man who has been representing you and I in one capacity or another for 47 years now, said this before a national audience:  “Wolf [Blitzer], if I went around criticizing a statement that was made by the president or any one of my fellow senators or any one of the Congressmen up here or people in Idaho who hold public office and I stood up and talked every time they talked and said ‘I don’t like this … I don’t like that,’ I’d be busy all day long.” This was in answer to the question of what his responsibility is as a U.S. Senator, when he is aware the president has told a lie.

Certainly, given the nature of the current president, no one could argue that calling out his lies could turn into a monumental time eater-upper. I came across a figure recently that indicated this president lies on an average of five times a day—and that’s only the lies we know about. The ones the public hears. Who even wants to guess the magnitude of bullshit he’s telling people in private? Especially as there is no evidence—not from nine months in office, a year-and-a-half of campaigning, or any moment from any time in his previous life, either as a child, as an adult, or as the disgusting specimen into which he’s aged—that he has ever told the truth. Based on our experience of having 30 to 40 years of this bloated carbuncle being constantly in the public eye, the only assumption we can safely make is that his tongue is as unacquainted with truth as Harvey Weinstein is with personal boundaries.

(Pardon me for not using his name more. I have a powerful gag reflex and it is in my own interest that I say or write that particular word (gulp) “Trump” as seldom as possible. I try not to do it more than once—twice, at most—in any given column.)

So … yes. Calling out the carbuncle would be more time-consuming than Facebook, crocheting and binge-watching Mad Men, combined. But Risch didn’t limit his reticence to simply making a response to the president’s lies, nor did he limit it to just lies. This public servant (wink, wink) slickly conflated the issue of presidential perjury to include statements of any sort from colleagues in the Senate or House that he may find arguable. Then he threw in elected officials back home in Idaho for good measure. It was as though, in Jim Risch’s beady brain, a cage-rattling, pot-stirring whopper coming from the one man on Earth with the capacity to launch a nuclear strike, gut our nation’s health care, disrupt institutions trusted in by millions, and upset the lives of more millions of immigrants, gays, educators, military personnel, female employees … etc. … is equivalent to whatever might slip through the lips of some dork Congressman from Outer Arkansas, or some legislative clown back in Cornhole County, Idaho.

And Jim Risch just plain ain’t got the time for it. I’d be busy all day long! cried he.

True. Were he obliged to respond to everything objectionable that comes from his colleagues both in Washington and here in the place he must return to periodically if he wishes to keep his seat, he certainly would be “busy all day long”—particularly since Risch is a highly-placed official from the political party that has distinguished itself for the sheer volume of stupid statements, ignorant positions, Medieval attitudes and Dark Ages behavior among its members. Indeed, there are simply not enough hours in the Space-Time Continuum to comment on everything dumb that comes from Risch’s fellow Republicans.

But that wasn’t what he was asked about. Let us return to the CNN tape and review the original question. Blitzer: “But when he [the president] lies about something and you know it’s a lie, shouldn’t you speak out?”

Risch: “That’s your job.”

Blitzer: But … that’s your job. You are a United States Senator … [a member of] a co-equal branch of the U.S. government.”

At this point in the exchange that Senator Greasy detoured into the diversionary discussion, quoted above, of how he doesn’t have time to criticize everything every politician, everywhere, might say.

So then, as the White House and everyone in it slip ever nearer to the edge of that Constitutional abyss we’ve all seen coming, is there anything about this episode that tells us what we might expect from Risch in regards to the crisis to which (gulp) Trump has brought this nation?

Ah, but don’t we already know what to expect from Jim Risch? We’ve had almost 50 years of Jim Risch—time enough to understand the many degrees of weaselry to which he will resort to keep himself beyond the gravitational pull of morality. He is, if nothing else, an opportunist, having risen through the hierarchy of state and federal job titles almost as much by interim appointments (and the opportunity presented when a higher-up left a job open) as he has by being properly elected. And now, he stands to become Chairman of a vital watchdog, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, not by virtue of his own talents, but because Bob Corker is leaving the Senate, having decided conscience demands an honest man speaks out when dishonest men lie.

Poor Li’l Jimmy. He might end up “busy all day long” in spite of his best efforts to be part-time help.

In searching for an additional illustration I felt was compatible with this piece on Jim Risch, I could not make up my mind on which of the many images found I considered most appropriate. So I have decided to include them all. Thank you.—B. Cope

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