The Magazine

Mr. Sali Goes to Washington

Another maverick from Idaho's First.

Feb 12, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 21 • By JAMIE WEINSTEIN
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As freshman president, Sali has adopted an agenda that shows his pragmatic side. Besides bringing in speakers to help the new Republican members learn their way around the Capitol, Sali wants to "arrange social events with the Democrat freshmen" because "these are people who we're going to have to work with in the majority to move legislation." Instead of burning bridges, Sali seems to want to build them.

But how long before he lights a torch? While Sali is reasonable and collected over the phone, his contentious past always looms in the background. Was the controversy he generated in Idaho the result of media bias and thin skins? Or is Sali exactly what he is portrayed to be, a dogmatic ideologue unable to get along with members of his own party, much less the opposition? Will he be the right's version of Cynthia McKinney, or the "compassionate, hard working, thinking kind of guy" he claims he is?

Jamie Weinstein is a reporter in Washington.