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Profile: Jim Risch
Jim Risch was a participant or observer in the following events:
Rex Rammell. [Source: Spokane Spokesman-Review]A Republican candidate for the Idaho gubernatorial nomination, Rex Rammell, says that he would like to hunt and kill President Obama. Rammell makes his remarks during a local Republican Party fundraiser. Criticizing Governor C. L. Otter for not buying a “wolf tag,” or a license to hunt gray wolves, Rammell responds to a shout from an audience member about “Obama tags” by saying: “The Obama tags? We’d buy some of those.” Rammell later says he was merely joking and, though he supports nothing Obama is doing as president, would never call for Obama’s assassination. [Magic Valley Times-News, 8/27/2009] While Rammell may have been joking, he also distributes his “humorous” remark to his press distribution list for statewide reporting. [Boise Weekly, 8/27/2009]
Extending the Joke; GOP Lawmakers Lambast Rammell - Within hours, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) demands that Rammell apologize for the remarks. Crapo is also challenging Otter for the governor’s post in 2010. He says Rammell’s jokes undercut healthy debate over important issues. “Rex Rammell’s comments are in very poor taste and should not have been said,” Crapo says. “Remarks like these should not even be made jokingly. He should apologize for those remarks and for the perception they may have created.” Rammell refuses to apologize, noting that any hunting tags he might buy in Idaho would not be valid in Washington. He says, “Anyone who understands the law knows I was just joking, because Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue hunting tags in Washington, DC.” [Associated Press, 8/27/2009] Other Idaho Republicans, including Otter, Senator Jim Risch, Representative Mike Simpson, and former Governor Phil Batt, later join in Crapo’s condemnation of Rammell’s remarks. “Reckless and inflammatory statements like these gravely damage confidence in the political process and the good citizens who serve the public,” says Otter. “As governor, as an Idaho Republican, and as a citizen of our state, I reject and condemn this kind of rhetoric. There is no place for it in Idaho.” Simpson says, “It is absolutely irresponsible to say such inflammatory things, especially for someone who seeks to be a leader in Idaho.” Risch says: “I disgree often with the president and his policies. But the comment was totally unacceptable and should not have been made.” Batt says of Rammell’s two comments: “I think those are absolutely irresponsible statements. Totally irresponsible, maybe criminal. You’re not allowed to threaten the president, with good reason. We’ve had some tragic assassinations in our history and we don’t want to encourage them, even in a joking way.”
Refusing to Apologize - Rammell again refuses to apologize, instead slamming Crapo for “giving away” two million acres of remote land “to the environmentalists,” and saying, “Phil Batt should go to jail for allowing the wolves to enter Idaho in the first place.” Rammell says they, not he, are the real criminals. Batt believes Rammell is trying to energize his long-shot campaign for governor. He also says he worries that Rammell’s remarks reinforce the national impression that Idaho is a haven for right-wing secessionists, militia members, and racists. “Even though Idaho has had a very minimal amount of overt racism and discrimination, it’s haunted us for years,” he says. “And each little indiscretion tends to magnify it. It’s really too bad.” [Idaho Statesman, 8/28/2009]
Not an Issue of Free Speech, but Incitement to Violence - Idaho columnist Jill Kuraitis notes: “What would Rammell’s mother say? Mine would have said: ‘Threatening the president is a felony, and you will never say anything like that again. Clear?’ What would Rammell’s father say? Mine would have said: ‘I expect you to take this matter seriously. And if you ever hear anyone make a statement threatening the president, you will loudly object and then call the police.’” She adds: “Tossing a serious matter like this off with a simple ‘Rammell, what part of ‘that’s not funny’ don’t you understand?’ isn’t good enough. Calling the remark ‘tasteless,’ ‘unfortunate,’ or ‘inappropriate’ isn’t good enough, either. This isn’t about silencing anybody’s voice. Standing up to threats, no matter the intention of the speaker, doesn’t mean the speaker’s opinions should be silenced. Rhetoric encouraging any sort of violence, especially toward the president—any president—is the issue.” [New West Boise, 8/27/2009]
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