Idaho’s most powerful leaders have pushed politically nervous regional health district officials to the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19, but left them without the bully-pulpit backup that they need.
Instead, Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch speak little while cases climb, deaths mount and citizens do what they please, even if it threatens others’ lives.
Instead of breaking ranks with the mentally unhinged President Trump like many other Republicans, they seem cowed by anarchists and anti-government sentiment. They said nothing last week after health district officials in Nampa shut down a virtual meeting when a well-known malcontent tried to shove his way into a room where a streaming hearing on a proposed mask mandate was underway.
They are tethered to a president who is not only ignoring but working to hide hospitalization data and to silence pandemic experts during the greatest crisis most living Americans have ever seen.
They have not championed the use of federal power that could have arrested the shortage of equipment for medical workers. They have not called for a federal mask mandate to slow the spread of the virus. They have not staunchly supported health officials and health measures.
Instead of wielding senatorial clout and battling to protect Idahoans, they fiddle in the background.
Crapo shuffles spreadsheets and claims the high ground for setting aside his balance-the-budget quest and voting for economic rescue programs.
Risch avoids the topic while defending the president against accusations that he ignored reports that Russians had placed bounties on the heads of American soldiers in Afghanistan. He has brought no such passion to the defense of the health of Idahoans.
The senators have left anxious public employees in regional health districts on their own to fend off browbeating by anarchists and opponents who trust beliefs more than science.
They nod “after you” to local officials while they avoid the fray. The silence at their vacant bully pulpits is deafening, disheartening and a dereliction of duty.