Presidential Debate season begins on
What do you do with sixteen
candidates? It’s a thorny problem for Republicans. Why’s
that? Because right now one of those candidates, Donald Trump, is
loud enough to drown out all the other “major” candidates.
Wouldn’t it be fun if the nomination
contest was more like a basketball tournament? Then top-seeded Donald
Trump would battle 16th seed Ohio Gov. John Kasich a battle of ideas.
Or how about dropping the bunch in the jungle Naked and Afraid. We
could even start voting and eliminate a candidate every week, until
it’s just the Republican versus a Democrat.
Enough. Back to the chaos. And Donald
As The Washington Post put it on July
26: “For yet another week, Trump talk dominated the Sunday morning
political shows, with several devoting roundtable discussions to his
disruption of the GOP presidential primary and at least two of his
GOP rivals using their clashes with him in recent days as a means of
securing interviews on the shows — during which they continued
to clash with him.”
On Aug. 6 in Cleveland the first debate
is set, an opportunity to raise serious issues. As if. It’s more
likely that it will be Trump versus the other nine candidates tossing
one liners back and forth.
Of course American Indian and Alaska
Native issues don’t get attention this early anyway. Usually that
happens late in the campaigns, during the general election, when
a position paper is released that outlines the candidate’s official
policy. That’s too bad. It would be good to press candidates from
both parties about how they see treaties, the federal-Indian
relationship, and the management of federal programs that serve
Then again it’s pretty clear where
most stand. The Tea Party wing of the Republicans – Trump, Marco
Rubio, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul – would
dramatically cut federal spending. Paul has even called for the
elimination of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and drastic cuts at the
Indian Health Service. If any of this happened, the Sequester would
be the Good Old Days.
Even a self-described serious
candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, suggests its time to
reshape government. A few days ago in Tallahassee, he said that as
governor he used a hiring freeze to shrink state government. He
suggested the same approach would work in Washington where only
one employee could be hired for every three who retire or leave
government service. Bush also said it ought to be easier to fire
federal employees. “There are a lot of exemplary employees in the
federal government, but they’re treated no better than the bad
ones,” he said. “The bad ones are almost impossible to
effectively discipline or remove.”
Candidate Kasich was chairman of the
House Budget Committee when President Bill Clinton declared the “era
of big government is over.” That suited Kasich then. And now. One
proposal at the time was to “reinvent” the Bureau of Indian
Affairs with a block grant program. “The reinvented Bureau of
Indian Affairs would provide block grants, rather than engaging
in the direct provision of services or the direct supervision of
tribal activities,” the House proposal said. This “would reduce
the central office operations of the BIA by 50 percent and
eliminate funding for the Navajo and western Oklahoma area offices.
It would eliminate technical assistance of Indian enterprises,
through which technical assistance for economic enterprises is
provided by contracts with the private sector or with other Federal
agencies.” Congress would have ended direct loans and reduce loan
The Republicans running for president
all share contempt for the Affordable Care Act (and most don’t
know that would include the provisions of the Indian Health Care
Improvement Act.) All are also supportive of more development,
such as the Keystone XL pipeline, and generally dismissive of any
action to limit climate change.
I don’t know. I’m still partial to
a Naked and Afraid competition.
Mark Trahant is an independent
journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. For
up-to-the-minute posts, download the free Trahant Reports app for
your smart phone or tablet.