Rammell: It’s GOP Leaders’ Fault That I Refuse to Apologize

A Column by Jill Kuraitis, 9-01-09

Rammell claims a call from the CIA; the agency says it never happened.

“I will not apologize for making an innocent comment,” said Rex Rammell, Republican candidate for governor of Idaho.

Eastern Idaho veterinarian Rammell held a press conference in Boise this morning at which he defiantly refused to apologize for his remark about “Obama tags.” I think. Rammell began by reading a press release out loud in which he denounced the Republican leaders who admonished him. He thinks they are overreacting, a theme which stayed with him to the end of the event. “Instead of tearing at my flesh like the political wolves that you are, over something as insignificant as a response to a jest taken out of context, why aren’t you doing something to make Idaho a better place to live?”

Rammell insisted that because his remark was “taken out of context” that he shouldn’t be condemned.

Local TV reporter: “So you’re not going to apologize?”
Rammell: “No.”
The reporter responded that Rammell apologized to him a few days ago and quotes Rammell’s remark.
Rammell: “Yes and I’ll stand by that.”
Reporter: “So you’re sorry, or you’re not sorry?”
Other reporters tried to get clarification about the apology-or-not confusion, but Rammell didn’t clear it up.
Rammell: “If people think I want to assassinate President Obama, I’ll apologize for that all day long. That is not my intention,” Rammell said. “But I will not apologize for making an innocent comment.”

NewWest: “What would you say to schoolchildren in Idaho who heard that you said this kind of thing?”
Rammell: “Well, um, school children should have their parents to explain to them that sometimes jokes are taken out of context and become bigger than they should. Mountains are made out of molehills and that’s exactly what happened in this case.”
NewWest: “You don’t think a parent should say we don’t talk like that, ever, about any president?”
Rammell: “Oh, it’d be okay, looking in hindsight, to say you know, we really shouldn’t joke about these things, because see what it can do?” (He meant the fuss over his comment.)
NewWest: “Are you sorry? Would you apologize to the children of Idaho?”
Rammell: “I didn’t do anything wrong, Jill. I was being polite to the lady that said it. You’d have to have been there to understand the context of the whole thing. That’s what’s wrong with this. The only people condemning me were the people who weren’t there.”
NewWest: “Is there a context that’s appropriate for saying that kind of thing?”
Rammell: (defiantly) “Yeah, the one I was in. But you wouldn’t know, because you weren’t there.”

Reporter Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review brought up the schoolchildren in Rexburg who chanted “assassinate Obama.”

Rammell: “Apples and oranges – kids don’t joke. I mean, they were mislead – I’m assuming probably by their parents. You take an adult like me that’s running for office, mine was purely purely meant in jest. No harm intended. I think the kids were probably pretty serious.” He said if he responded today he’d tell the children not to do that.

Russell: “Couldn’t incidents like the chanting have led to the remark by the lady?” [at the barbeque who make the remark to which Rammell responded]

Rammell answered by talking about animosity toward President Obama and his policies: “Yes there is underlying animosity and I think that’s what came out in those comments. To openly suggest we want to harm the President of the United States, only the people that weren’t at the barbeque could read that into those comments.”

NewWest: “Do you think that the casual way in which the exchange happened could influence someone else down the road to think it’s okay to speak casually that way about the President?”
Rammell: “I think there’s been such a big deal made out of it I think people are going to be pretty careful. I had no idea it would be blown out of proportion to this extent. It really was an insignificant comment in my opinion…and the people that were there. This country is so sensitive…they just don’t know how to respond to a little humor.”

TV reporter: “We might be sensitive because we’ve had a lot of political assassinations…”
Rammell: “…not recently…when was the last assassination attempt?”
Reporter: “Well, there was Ford, there was Ronald Reagan…”
Rammell: “That’s a long time ago.”

NewWest: “….why won’t you step up to the plate and say I never should have said that?”
Rammell: “I’ll tell you the main reasons why I won’t apologize, it’s because of the over the top comments by the GOP leaders. That infuriates me. They’re the ones….because of their condemnation of a simple comment taken out of context I refuse to apologize. If you want to blame someone for me not apologizing, you blame Otter, Simpson, Crapo, Risch and Batt.”

TV reporter: “So you haven’t apologized. I’m not sure where you’re at on this, you did say you were sorry…”

Rammell: “I am not sorry for saying the comment; I am sorry that everybody took it incorrectly.”

Asked about Idaho getting a “black eye” from his remarks, Rammell was scornful: “Give me a break, I don’t buy into that at all.”

NW: “There are thousands of people who would disagree with you….”
RR: “Yeah, most of them from the hard left. I’ve been getting their emails, they are hard left, people, that are so defensive…you can’t even mention his name without them crying hate.”
Rammell said that the CIA contacted him and wanted to interview the woman from the barbeque, and that an agent talked to him about his remark. Rammell said the agent was ordered to check it out. The Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey questioned whether it was really the CIA, which “doesn’t have authority over domestic matters. You sure it was the CIA? Did he call you? Phoned you? Could it have been a hoax?”
RR: “Oh, no, this guy was legit.”

Popkey: “What was his name? What was the CIA agent’s name?”
RR: “You know I probably shouldn’t say, out of respect for him.”

The CIA’s press office says that nobody from their agency has spoken to Rammell.
Rammell told a story about his lawyer getting a phone call threatening Rammell if he didn’t drop his bid for governor: “The morning I announced he said Rex, I promised to keep this confidential, but I received a phone call that said if you run to be the governor of Idaho, these people are going to destroy you. Maybe you oughta reconsider.”

Rammell said he told his lawyer he wouldn’t reconsider because somebody ought to do something about cronyism and corruption.

He said he “assumed” the call came from the office of one of the leaders who condemned his statement.

Popkey asked why Rammell’s attorney wouldn’t tell him who the call came from.

Again, Rammell told of his assumptions (which won’t be repeated here because Rammell offered no proof.) “I’m telling you, these guys are worried about me!”

Even though this report isn’t the entire transcript of the press conference, it’s enough to illustrate the general direction it took.

“Wolves tearing at my flesh?” The CIA called me? Threats from other unnamable telephone callers? GOP leaders want to destroy me because they fear me?



Source: The online news site, NewWest.Net/Boise

Article Link: http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/rammell_its_gop_leaders_fault_that_i_refuse_to_apologize/C108/L108/#comments
Reprinted with permission.

Minnick in the Lion’s Den: A Tea Party Town Hall

They didn’t agree with him much, but Minnick earned a grudging respect with his straightforwardness.

By Jill Kuraitis, 8-23-09

A crowd of about two hundred frustrated, anti-health care reform, anti-President Obama Idaho citizens heated up a hotel ballroom in Boise Saturday night.

They were there to give Rep. Walt Minnick, D-CD1, a piece of their minds.

Unlike town halls held in other states, this crowd stayed reasonably in order, although there were waves of audience-wide booing and remonstration. But they listened to a calm Minnick even when they disagreed with him, which was often. When he didn’t give an answer they wanted to hear, Minnick forged ahead and seemed unruffled by negative reactions.

“With everything that is going on around us, the tyranny that is going on around us, my question is what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about our constitutional rights?” asked T.J Lacey, who leads a group called the 9-12 Project.

Minnick answered that he promised to protect those rights when he was sworn in. Not satisfied, the crowd broke in with questions challenging him on the constitutionality of the health care bill.

Minnick said, “This is not a bill I’m going to vote for, by the way…this particular bill, no I will not vote for it because it’s not paid for and it includes a government option, and that violates two of the principles I was talking about. I will say though that I think health care reform is an important enough topic that I hope we can find a bill that does help us control costs, that does help us expand access, and that at some point in the process we can come up with a bill, hopefully on a bipartisan basis, that I can vote for. I’m looking for that opportunity.” That netted polite, but not enthusiastic, applause.

Challenges About Democrats
When asked for whom he voted for President, Minnick didn’t hesitate to say he voted for Obama. Over another wave of boos, Minnick said, “I vote for the presidential candidate I think will best serve the needs of the country.”

“We want to make sure the President succeeds, because when the President succeeds the nation succeeds,” he added.

A loud and negative reaction to that question was silenced by the evening’s host, Nate Shelman from Boise radio station KBOI. Shelman skillfully quieted incivility throughout the evening. So did many audience members who regularly shushed people who booed or talked out of turn.

The subject of congressional earmarks was part of several questions. Minnick, who campaigned on a no-earmarks platform and has angered several interest groups in Idaho which were counting on them, reiterated his stance. “In fact, President Obama requested of Congress that we make a rule that prevents any senator or congressman from requesting an earmark. I support the President on that.”

Silence followed. This crowd wasn’t going to applaud any answer that included Obama, even when they agreed with one of the president’s views. Then a voice from the audience broke in with, “Aren’t you ashamed of Barack Obama? Aren’t you ashamed of the Democratic Party?”

“Am I ashamed of President Obama? No, he’s our president,” answered Minnick. “But I do not agree with how Congress so far has dealt with the [health care] issue.”

“And I am not ashamed of the Democratic Party. Like most people, my party does things that some I agree with, some I don’t. I don’t take orders from the Democratic caucus or from all the emails and phone calls to my office – at the end of the day my staff and I sit down and sort it all out.”

Minnick said he admired Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo for using bipartisan collaborative techniques to pass legislation such as the Owyhee Canyonlands bill, but “I’m very comfortable being in the majority party, and I think I can get more done being the camel inside the tent instead of the one outside.”

Health Care Questions
About half the questions were about health care. Fear about so-called “death panels” (here’s the actual section of the bill regarding end-of-life issues and here is a very good Q. and A.) was a frequent theme. Bill Ripple of Boise said he was a veteran and wanted to know what Minnick was going to do about “all this euthanasia of the greatest generation that ever lived.”

After paying tribute to Ripple and all veterans – and adding that he was an Army veteran – Minnick was cut off by a telephone call from Crapo. After Crapo’s part of the town hall was over, Minnick addressed Ripple’s question when a similar one came up. Minnick said that nine years ago he had been in a serious car crash, and spent 24 hours on a respirator, fully conscious. “And let me tell you the quality of life was not that great. I’d like to be able to provide some directions to my caregivers about my wishes.”

A murmur of doubt and some suspicious words said that the audience was wary of the statement.

“It’s an individual decision, an individual freedom,” Minnick said. He added that he’ll fight for living-will provisions to be included in a health care bill. He advocated electronic health care records as a way of cutting costs and providing better care, which the crowd didn’t care for, either.

“Failure to live within our means is the number one problem facing this country,” said Minnick, which got a loud round of applause. So did his support for allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines for clients. “If we want competition to work, we want more than two competitors in each market.”

A Matter of Style
Sen. Crapo’s phone call was put on a loudspeaker. The evening’s only just-this-side-of-exploding questioner took the microphone to say he was from California, and “I had to run from the damn place” because of illegal immigrants. He was upset about “people who don’t belong here,” and got the crowd agreeing loudly. His speech ended with talking about the murder of Robert Manwill and how “people like that” [the killers] should get the death penalty. “Kill ‘em!” he said, abruptly leaving the room. He was pouring sweat and used an aggressive walk and gestures, saying, “I can’t stand this anymore” and mumbling similar ideas.

Without condemning the questioner’s choice of words, Crapo’s answer was in agreement.

Crapo’s rhetoric differed from Minnick’s. One-on-one, Crapo is exceptionally calm and understated. He cast that aside for the town hall, using the same fired-up tone of the audience and the language they wanted to hear, which had them clapping and hooting. His county-fair style contradicted his face-to-face demeanor.

Minnick looked and sounded exactly like he always does, on and off the podium – not nervous, but a little awkward, wonkish, and well-spoken, with a temperament that prevents him from emotional arguments or outbursts. He paid too much homage to his Republican colleagues to please some Democrats, but not enough to please the crowd. Liberals won’t like it that he thought it was a “useful suggestion” when someone shouted “close the borders!” Republicans who crossed the party line to vote for him hated hearing of his support for President Obama.

After Words
When the meeting broke up, audience member Fred Birnbaum, a financial analyst for a timber company, said he respected Minnick, but still had concerns.“People expect some sort of a solution and I don’t think that’s possible,” he said. “Things are much worse than people perceive because they don’t really understand the fiscal balloon that’s happening – the federal government – not only are we talking about the 1.8 trillion dollar deficit and the 12 -13 trillion debt – it has about 50 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities for federal pensions, military pensions, social security and medicare – and that’s before all this new spending.”

Michelle and Louise, who didn’t want their last names used, said they resented Congress for deciding how to spend their money. I asked if they thought voting for a congressperson meant giving that authority to her or him on their behalf. “Absolutely not,” said Louise. “That is only for us to decide.” But they liked Minnick. “He came here and was honest.”

Laszlo Bayer, a retired former CEO of an international conglomerate who spent much of his life in his native Hungary, had questioned the concept of “czars” appointed by the President, and the audience had reacted with hear-hears. Afterward, he said he knew that the word was probably coined by the press and not the government, but he strongly objected to “appointees being able to make spending decisions” and said “we have to look at government encroachment.”

“I disliked General Motors management for thirty years,” said Bayer. “Incredible that those people had that long a run. I blame them for not going to the stockholders and being honest.” But, Bayer said, there should have been no bailout.

Last Words
Blogger Joel Kennedy, who calls himself a “moderate realist” and says “In Idaho, that makes me a Democrat” wrote this about the town hall: “There was lots of cheering for the concept of putting people in jail who tried to use the emergency room and not pay, but they also complained about the high cost of incarcerating people and wanted frequent use of the death penalty. Combining the two, it seemed the only logical solution to their conundrum was to execute poor people who couldn’t afford to pay their hospital bills.” He liked Minnick for attending the meeting: “I applaud Walt for going into the lions’s den, and hope others will do the same.”

Idaho Democrats have been struggling with their feelings about Minnick’s conservative positions, and some feel betrayed by his attendance at the town hall. Were they hoping he’d lecture and condemn the crowd for their political views? I can’t imagine that would have any positive results.

Minnick’s noncombative approach won the respect of many audience members who talked to me. By clearing up some of the misinformation questioners were using, he may have changed a mind or two. Certainly by just listening to them, he opened the door for future exchanges which may be more thoughtful.

Though I don’t agree with this group of citizens, and I condemn the organizations they follow for their extreme disrespect, fear of change, and unwillingness to participate in a collective society – not to mention their unacceptable public tactics – nobody wins when a congressman picks a fight. Everyone deserves to be heard by their representatives, even people who get their facts wrong. Minnick handled them straightforwardly, and it was the right thing to do.

Full disclosure: the writer is a friend of Minnick’s wife, A.K. Lienhart-Minnick.

Source: The online news site, NewWest.Net/Boise

Article Link:

Reprinted with permission.