Liberal New York Times reporter turned liberal nytimes.com blogger Timothy Egan made one of his occasional forays into the print edition with a Wednesday column on his favorite topic, conservative extremism -- "Hunting Wolves, And Men." Egan insisted: "For years, Idaho officials have been trying to convince businesses that their state is not a hotbed of hate-filled rubes, gun-toting racists and assorted nut jobs getting their information from Glenn Beck."
Egan addressed the tempest in a teapot of Rex Rammell, a minor Republican candidate for Idaho governor who made a crude remark about hunting for Obama. The left-wing Huffington Post blog jumped on Rammell a few days ago, and today it jumped to the Times via Egan:
They started hunting gray wolves in the high reaches of the Rocky Mountains on Tuesday, the first time in years that people have been allowed to shoot for sport this genetic cousin of man's best friend.
For those who hate wolves and long for the era when they were wiped off the map, and for those who welcomed back this call of the wild, the last few days have revealed some dark feelings in the changing West -- and some strength of character as well.
A Republican candidate for governor of Idaho, Rex Rammell, was at a political barbecue last week when somebody brought up the tags used by wolf hunters, and then made a reference to killing the president of the United States.
"Obama tags?" Rammell replied, to laughter, according to an account in The Times-News of Twin Falls. "We'd buy some of those."
This episode was not unlike a town hall meeting last month in the northern California district of Wally Herger, a Republican congressman. When people show up at an event that is supposed to be about health care, and get their applause by proclaiming themselves to be "a proud, right-wing terrorist," as one man did in front of an approving Herger, you know they could care less about defined insurance benefits.
Egan evidently has no sense of humor, just like MSNBC host Chris Matthews. My NewsBusters colleague Geoffrey Dickens documented the passionately pro-Obama Matthews missing the obvious slam on the media and Democrats on the part of the self-proclaimed "right-wing terrorist." As Dickens explained in his August 25 post:
Chris Matthews, on Monday's "Hardball," ridiculed Republican Congressman Wally Herger, for calling a townhaller a "Great American," because the questioner described himself as a "right wing terrorist." Since satire seems to be above Chris Matthews' head he failed to realize the townhaller was probably mocking those in the liberal media, like the Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein, who actually called Republicans "terrorists."
The GOP condemned Rammell's inappropriate remarks, to Egan's approval:
But what followed in Idaho was rare in a year of endangered civility. The Idaho Republican establishment came down hard on Rammell, condemning the comments of a fringe candidate who channels voices that have found a wide airing in the YouTube age.
Egan didn't exactly forward the cause of civility when he called Idaho Republicans "hate-filled rubes" and "gun-toting racists." But there are signs of hope -- after all, Barack Obama did relatively well in the state's most populated county!
Of course, the reaction could be driven by self-interest. For years, Idaho officials have been trying to convince businesses that their state is not a hotbed of hate-filled rubes, gun-toting racists and assorted nut jobs getting their information from Glenn Beck. Tech companies that thrive in the New West metro area of Boise and the outdoor paradise of the north say the state's reputation has severely hurt efforts to recruit ethnic minorities.
But this is a changed state in a quick-stirring part of the country -- not necessarily less Republican, but certainly less tolerant of the kind of hate speech that used to flow with warm beer on late nights at the wacko corral. Obama, the candidate, drew about 14,000 people in his appearance in Boise last year -- putting it among the largest political gatherings in state history. He got just under 47 percent of the vote in Ada County, the state's most populous.