This year’s winner of the John Forbes Kerry Award for Achievement in Political Acrobatics goes to ...
Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.
McGeachin, who wants to be elected governor next year, is following in the footsteps of the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. Kerry set the gold standard for political flipflopping when he voted for the war in Iraq but then voted against a funding bill.
Friday, McGeachin abandoned all pretense at principle by undermining the right of private businesses to take steps they believe necessary to keep their doors open.
These enterprises just happen to be in the health-care sector.
The people running Primary Health Group, Saint Alphonsus Health Systems and St. Luke’s Health System see what’s coming.
Fewer than 37% of Idaho’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, just as a more infectious and possibly more virulent delta variant is becoming dominant. Children under 12 will remain unvaccinated as the school year opens. With fall and winter will come more infections and a new flu season.
So, the health care providers want their own people vaccinated, with exceptions for medical or religious reasons. The point here—as in requiring staff to get vaccinated against the flu, hepatitis and other contagious illnesses—is to protect patients and to avoid the kind of absenteeism that forced clinics to temporarily shut down during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
But in the current GOP, COVID-19 is a hoax. Face masks are abhorrent. A miracle vaccine that spared the lives of many—including Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch—is political kryptonite.
Being the publicity hound that she is, McGeachin called on legislative leaders to return to Boise and forbid the health care providers from telling their employees what to do.
“As you may know, numerous major health care providers in the state of Idaho have decided to mandate to their employees to take the emergency use authorized COVID-19 vaccine by a certain time, or employees will face termination,” McGeachin wrote. “This has left numerous employees with these major health care companies with little recourse for not wanting to take the emergency use vaccine.”
Whatever happened to Idaho’s laissez-faire state government, which kept its mitts off private enterprise?
Since when did Idaho cease to be an “at will” state, where the boss sets the terms of employment? If you don’t like it, you’re free to leave.
For that matter, why did McGeachin’s predecessors in the Idaho GOP fight so hard to undermine employees’ rights through the so-called “right to work” law if employees can dictate conditions to their employers?
And how does McGeachin’s current concern for the rights of customers and employees square with her grandstanding in Kendrick back in May 2020? With the pandemic raging, she stood up for the right of Hardware Brewing Co. owners to open their doors in spite of Gov. Brad Little’s lockdown order.
If employees didn’t like it, they were free to leave. And if customers didn’t want to take the risk, they could stay home.
Then, she declared, “The governor is using the Idaho State Police and the Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau to harass and intimidate private businesses in Idaho. Hardware Brewing Co. is offering goods and services only to those customers who voluntarily choose to visit a private business. Article 1, Section 1 of the Idaho State Constitution states unambiguously: ‘All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety.’”
So, the state constitution protects the rights of a brewery operator, but not the owners of a hospital?
Kerry paid the price for his notorious flip-flopping, losing the 2004 campaign to President George W. Bush.
Not so with McGeachin’s hypocrisy. If she wants to win, she needs to rile up the largest sliver of the closed GOP primary electorate. In this case, she even outmaneuvered her rival for that hard right base: professional anarchist Ammon Bundy. The best he could do was play it both ways: Health care employees should refuse the vaccines, but the government should butt out, he said.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19-vaccinated Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, is taking this seriously: “I want to make sure we don’t take away from the contract rights of health care providers. There are always two sides to every story.”
A half-dozen Republican lawmakers from Canyon County also are backing McGeachin’s play.
The way this is going for her, the lieutenant governor should take up one of Kerry’s favorite sports: windsurfing at Lucky Peak Reservoir outside Boise.
The Lewiston Tribune published this editorial on July 14.