Idaho and Obama Asia missions raise question of the proper role of government

Gov. Butch Otter’s landslide victory Tuesday took me back to a hotel room in Guangzhou when I accompanied him on his trade mission through China in June.

I was interviewing Dubois farmer-businessman Richard Larsen, a conservative Republican about the hay deal the Otter had helped him close with a Shanghai Dairy. I had already written several stories from China and many of the people who had commented questioned why Otter was spending state money on a trade mission.

Here I was 4,000 miles away from Idaho, in the middle of a country ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, which has none of the philosophical concerns libertarian-leaning Otter does. Whatever the Chinese Communist Party leaders do, including tap the powers of the free market, they do with only a nod to the utilitarian value of liberty and freedom.

Larsen and I talked about our readers’ comments questioning the trip, and the proper role of government, now a central debate in this country at the state and national level after this election. Larsen, who had spent a bundle of his own money not only for his trip, but to cover much of the state’s costs, was unequivocal.

"To me that's what the government is there for," Larsen said, "to help us create jobs and be friends to business."

That conversation came back to me when a friend asked Wednesday about President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Asia. They had heard on Fox News that the President was spending $200 million on the India stop of the trip alone.

No wonder the federal budget is so out of whack, they said. Another suggested that perhaps the President should just meet over a teleconference with Asian leaders.
I went on the Internet to find that the story about the cost of the President’s trip came from a source in the Indian government, not the U.S.

There was no confirmation but commentators like Michelle Malkin had repeated the report without confirmation or question.

The $200 million a day figure especially stopped me. That appeared like an amazingly tone-deaf extravagance even in the best of economic times. No repectable politician is going to spend that much money on a trip so I really doubted the number. I’ve covered several presidential visits including President George Bush’s August 2005 visit. It does take a few jets, helicopters and security people to safely cart our presidents around but $200 million a day?

I did a little more research and found that ABC News had reported in 2000 on a trip by then President Bill Clinton costing $50 million, which it said was a record. A 2009 GAO report found that three trips Clinton took in 1998 to Chile, China, and Africa cost $72 million, according to the Senate Republican Policy Committee then headed by Sen. Larry Craig.

Craig, a world traveler himself, was of course, suggesting that Clinton’s foreign travel was excessive. Later, I found that we spend less than $200 million a day on the war in Afghanistan. So what were these people thinking?

So I called the White House for a confirmation, since I’m a member of the mainstream press.

“The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality,” said White House spokesman, Adam Abrams. “Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it’s safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated.”

Instead of having a debate about how we should engage with Asia in the future, the United States is arguing over the costs of the trip.

So how much is our relationships and trade to the fastest growing region in the world worth? Robert Oxnam, former president of the Asia Society said in Boise last week that our relationship with China was “the most important bilateral relationship in the 21st Century.”

Others at the Frank Church Institute conference suggested that the rise of Asia will shift the economic center of power in the United States west where the bulk of future trade will take place.

That means the future of Idaho and its economy will increasingly be tied to the Far East instead of back east.


To say Otter got a "landslide victory" ignores the overall picture.

Otter got 59% of the vote.

Fellow Republicans:
Little got 68% of the vote.
Donna Jones got 71% of the vote.
Ysura got 74% of the vote
Tom Luna got 60% of the vote.

Of all the statewide elections Otter got:
The lowest percentage of votes.
The lowest actual number of votes.


IF Otter looks at this carefully he may realize, what he really got was A MESSAGE.

As someone who 'should be' the leader of Idaho Republicans, he is starting toward 2012 with a black eye, IMO.

That's Reaching

And Wasden and Crane got 100% of the vote, oh my gosh! Wait, what, they were running unopposed?

Idahoans did send a message. And that message was that our Republican Constitutional Officers did their job during the last four years. Little, Jones and Ysursa didn't have viable opponents, but I guess you choose to ignore that fact in your twist of the election outcome. You also failed to mention that Otter received more votes in 2010 than he did in 2006.

simple math

I'll try to simplify this a bit:

Brad Little received 299,290 votes.
Gov Otter received 266,992 vote.

Unless your field of vision is through a Dixie straw, there's a message there.

Yawn, try this math instead

Otter won the governorship by 27 percentage points. Since 1896, only Cecil Andrus in 1974 and 1990, and Dirk Kempthorne in 1998 have been elected by a wider margin. That's 3 out of 40 elections. Comparing election results in this context is valid. Your comparisons are invalid because of the differing roles of the various offices. Seriously, does anyone other than Rex Rammell care much about Lt. Gov.?

Why do sore losers such as yourself insist on trying to spin the election results, including Otter over Allred, as anything other than a severe butt-kicking?

laughter abounds

What makes you think this is a perspective of a sore loser?

There is no spin on the results:
Otter did not do as well as he should have done.
That's a fact.


In football terms:

The Otter Team won. Yeah.
But like Coach Pete always says, "there are things that can be improved on. The turnovers are unacceptable."

That's because he wants to be a better team. IF Otter wants to be a better team, they ought to recognize the fact that a big chunk of Republicans did not vote for him in an election that was one-sidely Republican.

Brad Little didn't run for governor though.


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Very good thinking ...

... if this was a two person race. Oh, there were five, and three credible. Maybe that 59% isn't the message that you are trying to make it out to be.

59% of FIVE still kicks butt oh pimpous one.

It didn't take two days to finish the count, even if the Kitzhaber and Murray elections were more dramatic and urgent.

Any time you get a crowd, whether threatening or not, you find your 'punch' decreased by some factor. Sometimes it just refocuses the electorate on the candidate they know the best, which appears to be the case here.

I am extremely happy that people remembered why Dino Rossi wasn't a good bet, after two losses to Governor Gregoire. Most people remember Kitzhaber as an adequite governor and more so than Dudley was a great basketball player. Okay, so jumpshots aren't all that much of a factor in politics but the voters still picked the one they knew.

If you ask a bookie, they'd tell you that percentage was very good and really doesn't compare to the other races you mentioned.


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Can't help but wonder at this date whether or not you still think King Otter was a good choice?

Otter's Numbers

Otter's race had also had 5 people running in it. Otter got more votes than all the other four combined. You can play with numbers all night- the man still won, big time. Four years ago, in a good economy, etc. he won by 9% in a four way race. This year he won by about 27%. He's certainly made mistakes, but apparently none were fatal.
I agree he needs to mend some fences.

Larsen said,

"To me that's what the government is there for, to help us create jobs and be friends to business."
If I remember right, Otters help to secure a deal for Larsons hay contract was going to create one(1) additional job at Larsons operation.
Vandersloots brokered deal by Otter, might have added a few more jobs. Hardly a major breakthrough or accomplishment by Otter in his dealings with a communist country.

The Asian Trip

Barry Obama and his spouse seem to think of themselves as Royalty, above the citizens. He needs to stop campaigning, stop vacationing and take his bad self into the Oval Office and earn his pay. So far he's done nothing to represent himself honorably as a President. He acts as if he's got an open checkbook with constant infusion of the citizens left with jobs paying his way. Get off of Governor Otter's back. He's a good man and a good leader.

I prefer the President and his wife offshore, perhaps in exile.

It's when he is in the oval office he hurts us the most.

You got Marcos and his old lady "Shoes" in flashback!

But that's Aquino Power, not Idaho.


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But will that one job be required to do 1200 fields? ;-p


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Weird blog and even weirder comments

Barker begins by raising a serious question about the purpose and need for trade missions but then wanders off into a conversation with himself about the true cost of Obama's trip to India, a figure he is unable to report because our government won't release the numbers. Whatever the cost, it is pretty obvious that not all of the 3000 people accompanying the President are Secret Service agents, and there's a very good chance the American taxpayer is footing the bill for all of them. What most of us want to know is whether the mission will create as many jobs for us as it does for India. Will some diligent journalist inform us or will we just get a fashion report on the First Lady's wardrobe?

Meanwhile, most of the comments are about whether Otter had a landslide victory or just a run-of-the-mill victory. What has that to do with the price of tea in China or in India?

BTW, I approve of Otter's trade mission and would approve of President Obama's trip if it was primarily a trade mission and not a planned diversion from the bad election news he saw coming six months ago.

You of COURSE mean the price of Britney Spears...


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The Business executives

pay their own way on both Otter and Obama trips. So does the news media so your premise is wrong. What I am trying to say is we get diverted away from good discussions about policy by absurd numbers.

But you mainly type LETTERS, Rocky! Are they absurd as well?


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The news cycle is very funny

Our president and first lady take the necessary government rquired trips and are lambasted by the hateful right. This was never done to GW and Laura. Could it be this president isa different shade of white?

Otter takes his junkets with Vander Sloot and the rest of the right wingers and it's good for the economy? Stuck on Stupid and destroying the working class.

At least nobody's fired any shots about all that. Be happy.


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Zekenaja.. I think you hit the nail on the head with that one... it still amazes me that the hateful right never said a word about all the $$ spent by W. when he was flying around the world on our dime, and he spent way more time on air force one than Obama has. Plus the fact that they think Obama can repair all the damage done for eight years, in his two years in office. I also think his tan has a lot to do with their attitude.. sadly!

You're becoming quite the pig and for a meaningless thread too!


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Leave the Noble Peace Maker

alone...He needs to travel to scope other areas to bomb...