Keeping up with the horrific comments made by some of our legislators is a full-time job. Who are these people? Hannah Arendt, Holocaust survivor, thinker, political philosopher and moralist, had the bravery to call out what she termed the "banality of evil"—the idea that those who do wrong often do so not out of diabolical or maniacal tendencies, but out of intellectual or moral laziness. Born in 1906, she would turn 110 years old this October. It would take about a century of sitting on a log, thinking hard, to discern why some of our elected officials seem hellbent on being so, so wrong, so, so often.
From Dalton Gardens Republican Rep. Vito "Vagina Pills" Barbieri to Cottonwood Republican Sen. Sheryl "False Gods" Nuxoll to Blanchard Republican Rep. Heather "I Cost Taxpayers Damn Near $40k Because I Vote Based on My Ideology Rather Than The Business of the State" Scott, it can make a sane person want to follow Kierkegaard off a bridge.
Enter Rep. Pete Nielsen (R-Mountain Home). He of the natty Western jacket, coiffed silver mane and jovial drawl, presents an image of stolid Idaho values. Yet, this man, who has daughters and granddaughters, revealed a depth of ignorance to which Idaho lawmakers have seldom sunk. In case you missed it, Nielsen dropped the following stunner under the rotunda during debate over on an anti-abortion bill: "Now, I'm of the understanding that in many cases of rape, it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident. That may be true with incest a little bit." Wow.
To be clear, that is wrong. After receiving (rightful) national scorn for his thoughtlessness, Rep. Nielsen apologized (sort of) for his miscreancy. He told KTVB he was "in error," but "at that time, that was my knowledge and information." I shudder to think about where he received this knowledge and information.
Nielsen is a mostly harmless farmer/insurance agent, but he makes decisions about Idahoans' health care, lives and livelihoods. His banal acceptance of truly bad ideas—like that of some of his colleagues—is a real danger, whether he recognizes his "error" or not.