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You’ve got to know when to walk away, know when to run …

Stephen Hartgen 02

There’s two reasons House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave grudging assent to a $2-trilllion dollar relief plan for an American economy struggling with coronavirus:

One, her army of Democrats and liberals melted away in the crush of needed action, with even Senate Democrats feeling public pressure to “get ‘er done.”

Two, every day Pelosi held out for more goodies, Pres. Donald Trump’s approval ratings were rising. Gallup polling put the president’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis at 60 percent by end of March, up markedly since the failed Dems impeachment effort of January.  (Remember that?)

The result was a classic example of Kenny Rogers’ lines, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” Pelosi and the always-hands-out liberal groups were “outta aces,” with no way to sneak better cards under the table from one poker dog to the next.

And so, with the American people continuing to admire Trump’s realistic but focused optimism, Pelosi’s off-the-shelf bennies package collapsed.

That left a long list of liberal pet projects on the DOA list, including such Pelosi-advanced items as union enhancements for federal employees, same-day voter registration, a hold on immigrant visa reviews, forced minority placement on business boards, on and on. It would have been a Warren-Sanders-OAC feast of tax goodies and socialist planning.

Millions for the D.C. arts establishment remained in the Pelosi package, but at reduced levels. Seems there’s nothing to fight coronavirus like an evening at the opera. So did some union bennies tucked discretely into the bill.

But overall, Pelosi was faced with rising public demand for action, plus Trump’s rising approval. So she slunk away into the “well-yes,-we-can-look-at-that” retreat. 

Closer to home, did you notice that another liberal entity, Reclaim Idaho, quietly ended its attempt to get a huge pay increase for educators on the fall ballot? (KTVB, 3/18). The Democrat/California/union group had gotten barely half of the 55,000 petition names needed, but that took months and the April 30 deadline was looming. Better to blame it on the coronavirus and pull back to try again the future. Sometimes, the world really does end with a whimper.

Back to Pelosi. Instead of the fully-ornamented Christmas tree of goodies she’d hoped for, she wound up with barely a bucket of coal. Maybe that’s why she resorted to blaming Trump for the virus’ spread; yet, it was Pelosi herself who held up the relief package to cram it full with more and more liberal goodies. The audacity of Pelosi’s demand was something to behold.

The lesson here is, or should be, that grifting and patronage will always be part of American politics. It will never be completely set aside for the good of the nation. There will always be special interests put ahead of the country, even in times of medical crisis.

And you gotta sympathize with poor old, pushing-80 Joe Biden who’s been in D.C. for more than half a century, but didn’t do a darn thing there except pave the money sluice for his family members.

Now, worn-out, half dead Joe can’t string two sentences together in praise of the American people. Jeeze, he’s barely able to remember his own name (“Hi, I’m Barack’s puppet, the name’s Joe, I think.”) He’s sitting at home trying to figure who his female veep will be. Will it be “Miss Faux-a-hontas” or someone else? Let’s see. Who’s the best at incompetent “identity politics?”

Meanwhile, Trump is, well, leading, leading, leading the nation, from out front. Just like Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill, Washington at Trenton, Grant at Vicksburg, Patton in France, Eisenhower at D-Day, Churchill on the English shore, Reagan at the Berlin Wall.

Who’s the proven leader now? Joe and Bernie are mumbling into their porridge bowls. You can be assured people will remember in November who’s fit and who’s not.

With fast-moving events, there will be plenty of time going forward to “count the money” and to assess both the medical and economic crisis in review.

To some, Gov. Brad Little’s three-week “stay home” order is too little, too late for Idaho, but these whiners are mostly people who didn’t vote for him anyway in 2018. They’re either liberals who wasted their votes on Paulette Jordan, or hard-right conservatives who wanted to “drain the swamp” in Boise and wouldn’t recognize competence in governance if they fell over it while checking the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s phony ratings card.

No matter. Critics, bashers and malcontents can be found everywhere. In time, the coronavirus crisis will fade and we will have learned some important lessons.

One of these is that Idahoans and Americans much prefer to be led by those with high spirit and optimism rather than by doom-and-gloom purveyors in politics and media. Trump knows this intuitively. So does Little. Pelosi and Idaho’s malcontents will never learn it.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of the new book “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.”  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.