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Commentaries and editorials

Nobody in the Northwest Wants Breaching?

by Bill Hall, editorial page editor
Lewiston Tribune, September 20(?), 2000

There are a couple of odd, slightly demagogic notions in the campaign commercials of Washington Congressman George Nethercutt as he seeks that fourth term he once said would be an arrogant abuse of any congressman's welcome in office.

In the commercial, he promises to fight for "our dams" against attempts by "eastern environmental organizations" to disable them.

In other words, vote for me, the last hope of seaports, and I'll save your dams from the damn enviros.

That has a ring to it. But the concept of "our dams" and "eastern" environmentalists is fraudulent and manipulative.

That is the common dishonest characterization by too many western politicians who let their rhetoric degenerate into emotional shorthand. The fact of the matter is, many of those seeking the breaching of the lower Snake River dams were born in Idaho and Washington.

And many of the chamber types trying to protect the dams moved here from elsewhere -- including the wicked East.

Indeed, you would expect the shallow notion that everybody in the Northwest is on one side of any issue to be something circulated by someone who isn't from here and doesn't know any better than to generalize about the wonderfully diverse and argumentative people of this region.

Similarly, it is typical of too many western congressman to talk about the needs of America while soliciting federal funds to pay for western dams and to talk about "our dams" once they are built.

They're "our dams" all right, but "our" refers to Americans, not to Northwesterners because it was everybody's money that paid for those dams. And it is everybody's fish who may be threatened by those dams.

Oh, the dams are far more useful to the people of this region and they were kindly built by all the taxpayers for our benefit most of all. But they are no more our dams exclusively than Interstate 90 is owned solely by the states it bisects.

That doesn't make the fish huggers right either about the unarguable correctness of breaching dams. But it does make George Nethercutt just another cheesy politician demagogically pushing emotional buttons.

Bill Hall is the Tribune's editorial page editor
Really? Nobody in the Northwest Wants Breaching?
Lewiston Tribune - September 20(?), 2000

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