The high temperatures across the country seem to be frazzling many political brains. In other words, we’re hearing lots of crazy talk. But what seems crazy to some people is a heartfelt passion to others. Here are a few examples.
A current focus of fanatical obsession surrounds Gov. Gary Herbert's appointment of State Sen. John Valentine as chairman of the Utah Tax Commission. Why was it offered and why was it accepted?
Pignanelli & Webb: “Sincerity and competence is a strong combination. In politics, it is everything.” — Peggy Noonan
Valentine is one of the brightest individuals to have served in the Utah Legislature since statehood. He is well-liked across the political spectrum for his intelligent, insightful, bipartisan approach to solving problems. Valentine is a logical choice for statewide office or the Utah Supreme Court, so politicos are wondering why he settled for the Tax Commission — an important entity but with limited influence (apologies to Tax Commissioner D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli).
The answer may be that Herbert has been seeking greater "gubernatorial discretion" when making political appointments, especially to key policy positions like the Tax Commission. In response, several high-profile legislators expanded qualifications to serve on the commission, in order to keep in place the current commission chairman, Bruce Johnson. Herbert's sly move ensures he gets “his guy” because Valentine exceeds all qualifications and won’t be rejected by the Senate.
Another rumor is that Valentine, with his deep knowledge of tax law, will utilize the commission to modernize the tax code, making it conform with 21st-century economic realities.
There will be a lot of crazy buzz until Valentine's confirmation in mid-September.
Anger toward President Obama has fostered talk of impeaching and suing. Who is this hurting or helping?
Pignanelli: I frequently compare Washington, D.C., politics to the Ebola virus (which is unfair to this pestilence). Now that this disease is in the country, the reference is especially appropriate. By a margin of 20 percentage points, Americans have more concerns about the federal government than the horrible African plague.
Federal legislators are elected to fulfill several roles but none of them include suing the executive branch or scaring the public with nonexistent threats of presidential impeachment. Americans readily see through this political maneuvering and are frustrated. Therefore, both parties are suffering in credibility and respect.
Webb: Certainly, talk of impeaching the president is nutty — but Democrats are the ones exploiting the issue. A review by The Hill newspaper showed that congressional Democrats talk about impeachment 20 times more than Republicans on the House and Senate floors. Democrats have raised the issue 86 times, while Republicans have used the word “impeach” or “impeachment” only four times. Democrats are trying to raise money and excite their apathetic base. Republican leaders have made it absolutely clear no attempt will be made to impeach the president.
As for a lawsuit to clarify presidential authority, Republicans should absolutely proceed. Obama routinely ignores or “adjusts” laws passed by Congress, and Congress should challenge him on it.
Some out-of-state senators are asking President Obama to designate a massive national monument in the Greater Canyonlands area. Is this nutty or a serious proposal?
Pignanelli: As suggested in prior columns, President Obama may perform the designation as a bone to environmentalists if he approves the Keystone pipeline. The monument potential is serious and Utah's congressional delegation has launched an aggressive opposition, asking for consultation before designation. Conversely, local environmentalists and some officials want presidential action. Both sides view the other as crazy, diminishing the hope for compromise.
Webb: Democrats and environmentalists would be outraged if Republicans tried to change even a minor land designation without full public hearings and environmental assessments. They are hypocritical to support a unilateral, dictator-like decision with an enormous impact on Utah without so much as a phone call to the governor. It would be a travesty.
We need more designated wilderness in Utah and more national monuments. Congressman Rob Bishop is showing the right way to do it. If Obama wants to doom Democrats forever in Utah, and produce more Cliven Bundy-like insurrections, go ahead and make this sneak attack.
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding on the U.S. southern border with more than 60,000 children involved. No consensus exists on a solution, so extreme proposals are put forward on both sides. Can this be resolved?
Pignanelli: There is no easy answer, but there is a reality hiding behind the partisan bickering. Americans' insatiable appetite for illegal drugs is fostering and funding the narco-gangs whose violence is generating the immigration of children from Latin America. So the practical and compassionate resolution is to integrate the children and change the economic dynamics of their home countries. Such goals are not impossible and were achieved before, when our nation's capital was in better shape.
Webb: Immigration illustrates the depth of gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. Immigration is a uniquely federal issue and the federal government is in total disarray. Both political parties and both branches of government deserve outrage and condemnation for their inability to compromise and do something meaningful. We ought not to stand for such congressional and presidential incompetence.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D’Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: email@example.com