The four-time Governor of Idaho who was Secretary of the Interior for President Jimmy Carter is someone I knew, not well or close. I first met him in a confessional at a Catholic church in South Idaho.

He was in his second term as governor and was at the church to debate a popular, powerful state senator who knew more, at that time, on water law than did the governor. I sought out a quick interview with Gov. Cecil Andrus as the noisy crowd was arriving and there was still time to spare before the first round.

It was Andrus who suggested we duck into the confessional for privacy and noise reduction. I remember asking him not about his decision to debate the Republican state senate’s top water law expert —vigorous debate was not unusual then. We did it in high school and college on a competitive basis.

No, I wanted to know his tactics. Why was Gov. Andrus willing to travel so far from the state capitol to take on his debate opponent on his home turf before what looked to be a hostile crowd.

Responding, he said it never occurred to him that he could be walking into an ambush. Reading my face, he added, “And I don’t lie, especially when I am sitting in a confessional.”

We both enjoyed his witticism, and then the fireworks over Idaho water policy began.

Andrus won the debate with the senator that night as a visitor.

Technically speaking, the senator probably did know more, but the governor had a vision about water and public lands. After that debate,  Andrus was the state’s top water policy expert. He’d picked the hostile venue on purpose.

I spent the next five years writing about politics and breaking news for daily newspapers in Idaho. I ran across Andrus only a few more times after that as he was off being Secretary of the Interior. I remember first seeing the “Lock up Andrus, Not Alaska” bumper stickers when he was doing the land deal for the 49th state. I knew he’d be smiling every time he saw one of those.

Also ending this past week, Food Safety News hosted the second of competing opinion-editorials on the mandatory country-of-origin labeling or MCOOL. Thomas Gremillion from the Consumer Federation of America argued the pro side, posted on Aug. 15, and Craig Uden with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, followed with con arguments on Aug. 25.

Food Safety News is grateful to both gentlemen for their contributions. Both generated a good number of comments, and there’s not much doubt about our readers preferring more information to less when it comes to their food. Most of their comments involved making strong intellectual arguments in the respective tone that we’ve come to expect.

And then there were the others. I am not going to quote any of them. You can go back and look at them if you wish. I am hoping that it’s still only a tiny fraction of people who are so warped and so misguided that they cannot do any thing other than throwing a hissy fit when someone is making an argument they do not want to hear. The ones that hurl rocks at Food Safety News for presenting multiple sides to a genuine food safety issue just make me shake my head.

I was telling myself to ignore them as nothing more than a few birds on a wire. Charging Food Safety News with being a corporate tool of the food industry does not pass the laugh test on any of the seven continents. Saying someone’s arguments should not be heard just takes me back to Gov. Andrus.

Cecil Andrus, who died last week at age 85, embraced the value of debate and free speech and he never lived in fear of either. He knew that free and vigorous debate was not just a good thing. It is an American thing.

Food Safety News will continue in that tradition.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)