POLITICAL MATTERS: Native Issues in the Halls of Government – (dec 2016)


The looming Trumpocalypse

It should be abundantly clear by now that Donald Trump suffers from some kind of mental illness, and that it probably wasn’t a great idea to elect such an impaired person as president.

After waging a vicious and vulgar campaign for the presidency, Trump won a majority of votes in the electoral college; we now await the formation of his administration, which likely will be an agglomeration of Tea Party stalwarts, racists and bigots.

The Celebrity Apprentice politician doesn’t have much going on between his ears, as far as grasping the fine points of public policy. For example, he recently told a group of New York Times editors and reporters that he has an “open mind” about the need to confront climate change.

“We’re going to look very carefully,” replied Trump, in response to a question from Times columnist Tom Friedman. “It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things where there’s more division than climate change.”

As some have pointed out about this exchange, Trump is making a virtue of his ignorance on the topic of global warming, the paramount environmental threat of our time. But apart from his stupendous lack of knowledge in this area, Trump seems to be mulling over individuals to lead the Interior and Energy departments that are from Big Oil and the climate denial faction.

For starters, former Alaska governor Sarah “Drill, Baby, Drill” Palin is said to be on the short list of candidates to lead the Interior Department. She likely would favor shooting big game from aircraft in national parks.

Writing recently for Pacific Standard (psmag.com), Jimmy Tobias noted that Doug Domenech is leading Trump’s transition team for the Interior Department. Domenech is a former Virginia secretary of natural resources and a George W. Bush administration Interior Department staffer. Domenech also is director of the Fueling Freedom Project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. According to a press report, the project’s stated mission is to “explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels.”

It’s unclear if David Bernhardt, another former Bush Interior official, is still involved in Trump’s transition team for Interior. Bernhardt is a Washington, D.C. lobbyist who has represented oil and mining interests.

Regarding Bernhardt and Domenech, Tobias points out: “They’re the guys helping the president-elect staff a bureaucracy that manages 500 million acres of federal land, implements the Endangered Species Act, runs the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and controls key oil and gas leasing programs, among other duties. And their ascension is an ugly omen for this country’s public lands and wildlife.”

Some other names have been floated for Interior Secretary, including Bob Beauprez, a former Colorado congress-man and bison rancher.

“I think he’s far too extreme to be appointed as the steward of our national parks and our western cultural heritage,” Pete Maysmith, the director of Conservation Colorado, an environmental advocacy group in Denver, told the Denver Post, regarding Beauprez as Interior secretary. “Certainly the voters have said a couple times that he doesn’t represent their values because they haven’t elected him. Beyond that, there’s a record to look at and it’s not an inspiring record.”

Beauprez ran for Colorado governor twice and lost both times.

Also, Forrest Lucas, an Indiana native and the founder of Lucas Oil, has been reported as a person to head Interior. In 2006, he won the naming rights for Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL. Lucas and his wife reportedly have contributed $50,000 to the gubernatorial campaigns of Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

A story about Lucas in Politico noted that environmentalists have warned against putting someone with such a background in charge of Interior.

“Putting an oil executive in charge of our public lands and precious coasts in places like North Carolina, Virginia and Florida is a virtual guarantee that Trump’s promise to throw open season on drilling in our special places will come true if he’s elected,” said Khalid Pitts, the Sierra Club’s national political director.

And Trump likely will put some fox in charge of the hen house, so to speak, when it comes to picking a person to direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Leading the EPA transition team is another Washington lobbyist, Myron Ebell, who is a prominent opponent of climate change action.

When we look at energy development on and near tribal lands – the Dakota Access oil pipeline, for example – the incoming Trump administration likely will take the pillage and plunder approach. And we can expect conflicts over land rights to become human rights issues when push comes to shove across this country.