Posts Tagged ‘Obama Cabinet’

Newly Proposed Interior Secretary Salazar: Already Obama’s Most Controversial Cabinet Choice?

December 17, 2008

https://i2.wp.com/images.publicradio.org/content/2008/08/27/20080827_ken_salazar_33.jpg

Just hours after Barack Obama’s announcement of Ken Salazar as his choice for Interior Secretary, denunciation of and opposition to Salazar have already turned the Colorado Senator in to the most controversial of President-elect Obama’s many cabinet designees. This story in NPR ,”Environmentalists Fuming Over Salazar’s New Post”, describes the growing disillusion in the environmental community about the Interior Secretary designate Salazar, who Kieran Suckling, head of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said, “is very closely tied to ranching and mining and very traditional, old-time, Western, extraction industries. We were promised that an Obama presidency would bring change.” A scathing press statement (see below) released by CBD includes a litany of pro-polluter anti-environmental positions taken by Salazar, including his vote not to repeal tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil and his vote for oil drilling of the Florida coast.

Questions about Salazar’s past may bring more unwanted negative attention to Obama, who already finds himself fending off questions about his scandal-ridden ally, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. One reliable source in the DC environmental community just told me that the Interior Secretary position “may not be closed” because Salazar “has some issues from his past that may come out.”

Whether or not these rumors do, in fact, materialize and become newsworthy, it will be interesting to see whether Latino groups come out in support of Salazar as they did during the Senate hearings around the appointment of Salazar friend and ally, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Salazar, National Council of La Raza leader, Janet Murguia, and the leaders of other Washington-based Latino organizations came out forcefully in support of Gonzales even after revelations of the former White House Counsel’s role in providing legal facilitation for the acts of torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib garnered international attention. Salazar and other Latinos in Washington rescinded their support for Gonzales in the final months leading to Gonzales’ resignation.

(Statement on Salazar Appointment by the Center for Biological Diversity)

December 16, 2008

Contact Kieran Suckling , executive director, (520) 275-5960

Ken Salazar a Disappointing Choice for Secretary of the Interior

Stronger, More Scientifically-Based Leadership Needed to Fix
Crisis-Plagued Agency

Strong rumors are circulating that President-elect Barack Obama has
selected Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) as the new Secretary of the Interior.
As the overseer of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land
Management, the Mineral Management Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, and the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of the Interior
is most important position in the protection of America’s lands, waters,
and endangered species.

The Department of the Interior has been rocked by scandals during the
Bush Administration, most revolving around corrupt bureaucrats
overturning and squelching agency scientists as they attempted to
protect endangered species and natural resources from exploitation by
developers, loggers, and oil and gas development. Just yesterday, the
Interior Department Inspector General issued another in a string of
reports http://wyden.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=305942&

finding that top Department officials systematically violated laws and
regulations in order to avoid or eliminate environmental protections.

“The Department of the Interior desperately needs a strong, forward
looking, reform-minded Secretary,” said Kieran Suckling, executive
director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity,
“unfortunately, Ken Salazar is not that man. He endorsed George Bush’s
selection of Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior, the very woman who
initiated and encouraged the scandals that have rocked the Department of
Interior. Virtually all of the misdeeds described in yesterday’s
Inspector General expose occurred during the tenure of the person Ken
Salazar advocated for the position he is now seeking.”

While Salazar has promoted some good environmental actions and fought
against off-road vehicle abuse, his overall record is decidedly mixed,
and is especially weak in the arenas most important to the next
Secretary of the Interior: protecting scientific integrity, combating
global warming, reforming energy development and protecting endangered
species. Salazar

– voted against increased fuel efficiency standards for the U.S.
automobile fleet

– voted to allow offshore oil drilling along Florida’s coast

– voted to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to ignore global warming
impacts in their water development projects

– voted against the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil

– voted to support subsidies to ranchers and other users of public
forest and range lands

– Threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when its
scientists determined the black-tailed prairie dog may be endangered

“Obama’s choices for Secretary of Energy and his Climate Change Czar
indicate a determined willingness to take on global warming,” said
Suckling. “That team will be weakened by the addition of Ken Salazar
who has fought against federal action on global warming, against higher
fuel efficiency standards, and for increased oil drilling and oil
subsidies.”

In addition to his misstep on Norton, Salazar endorsed the elevation of
William Myers III to the federal bench. Myers was a former Interior
Department Solicitor and lobbyist for the ranching industry. Senator
Leahy called him ”the most anti-environmental candidate for the bench I
have seen in 37 years in the Senate.” Bizarrely, Salazar praised Myers’
“outstanding legal reasoning” regarding endangered species, Indian
affairs, federal lands and water, timber, and fish and wildlife issues.
The American Bar Association rated Meyers as “not qualified.” Salazar
later supported Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General, introducing him
at his Senate confirmation hearing.

“One of the most important jobs of the Secretary of the Interior is to
help pick dozens of critically important political appointees to oversee
America’s conservation system. His past misjudgments of Norton, Meyers
and Gonzales give us little confidence he will choose wisely in the
future.

Denver Post: Obama Chooses Right-Leaning Latino Democrat to Lead Interior

December 16, 2008

This article in the Denver Post states that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen centrist Senate Democrat Ken Salazar (D-Col.) as the next Secretary of the Interior. As noted in this previous post, Salazar comes from the pro-corporate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) wing of the Democratic party and was, until may of this year, one of the staunchest supporters of disgraced and scandal-ridden former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

If confirmed to be true, the Salazar appointment will further prove growing suspicions among progressives, who fear that Obama’s true colors are the reddish blue hues of DLC Democrats like Rahm Emanuel, Bill and Hillary Clinton and the other right-leaning Democrats like Janet Napolitano who will make up the Obama cabinet when approved.

Native American Nations Divided Over Possible Obama Interior Department Candidates

December 10, 2008

Discussion and debate around who the Obama Administration should appoint to lead the Department of the Interior (DOI) reveals divisions among the tribal nations sharing land with the United States. Tribal nations and tribal leaders are divided among 3 candidates rumored to be under discussion by the Obama transition team to lead the DOI, which manages relationships with and programs targeting the country’s Native American nations: Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Congressman Mike Thomspson (D-CA) and the most recent entry, museum director and former Clinton Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Kevin Gover, who is also a member of the Pawnee Nation.

While recent rumors of a possible Gover DOI appointment have created a buzz in certain sectors of the Native American community, these rumors have also exposed deep rooted divisions among and conflict between tribal nations-and between the tribal nations and the U.S. government. The Karuk Tribe of northern California has come out strongly in support of Thompson and Grijalva has the support of more than 7 tribes, including Tohono O’odham nation, the Hopis and the Navajo nation, the country’s largest tribe with over 300,000 members. A possible Gover candidacy will likely bring him considerable Native American support – and at least some Native American opposition.

A judge in a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of Native Americans against the DOI filed during the Clinton Administration, found Gover in civil contempt of court for failing to produce documents and for deceiving the court about the DOI and Bureau of Indian Affairs management of Indian trusts (the judge was later removed from the case.) The lawsuit alleged that the Bureau of Indian Affairs lost millions of dollars owed to hundreds of thousands of American Indians as part of treaty obligations assumed by the United States . The 1996 case involving Gover, Cobell v Kempthorne, has never been settled, but Elouise Cobell, a member of Montana’s Blackfeet tribe and the lead plaintiff in the suit, still opposed Gover’s appointment as head of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian for his role in what she considers the mismanagement of the trusts.

During a video speech delivered in October to a national gathering of tribal nations and their leaders, President-elect Obama promised to “end nearly a century of mismanagement of Indian Trusts” and “to settle unresolved cases” between the U.S. government and Indian nations. To watch the full video, just click below:

Grijalva Appointment to Interior Department Would Bring Ecological-and Political- Balance to Obama Cabinet

December 6, 2008

AlterNet

Anyone who has visited a national park or traversed the country’s diverse wilderness comes home with gorgeous, yet distressing images of it; those returning from a visit to one of the more than 562 tribes the federal government recognizes and is supposed to assist also bring back sad stories about it; and those of us who enjoy camping or fishing or hunting inevitably return home talking about it. “It” is the scenery and life found on the millions of acres of federal land left blemished and vulnerable by Bush Administration’s Department of the Interior (DOI).

As urbanization, economic restructuring and the insatiable lust for land and natural resources continue to threaten the still-astonishingly beautiful and rich land of this country, we should all care about whom President-elect Obama chooses to lead the DOI. The urgency of these issues came home twice this week as the Bush Administration delivered two parting gifts to big mining interests by rescinding two important regulations — one requiring the DOI to prevent mining companies from dumping waste near public streams and another protecting federal land near the Grand Canyon from mining and oil and gas development.

In order to deal with such challenges to the land and people under the purview of the Department, which is charged with managing most federally-owned land as well as with managing relationships with Native American peoples, the Obama Administration must appoint someone with the experience, expertise and political sophistication to lead nothing less than a New Deal for the land and people our government deals with.

Of all the candidates being vetted by the Obama transition team for this complex and challenging responsibility, none can match the unique qualifications of Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). Grijalva, who was the leading voice denouncing this week’s most recent giveaway to mining companies by the Bush Administration, will bring urgently needed balance and poise to a federal land management bureaucracy that has pushed we the people into dangerous disequilibrium with the land we live on- and love. Appointing Grijalva, who was elected Co-Chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will also bring more and much-needed political balance to the Obama cabinet than some of the Republican-lite Democrats also being considered for the DOI post like California Blue Dog Democrat, Mike Thompson.

Like almost all of the previous Secretaries of the Interior, Grijalva hails from the West, more specifically Arizona, where his 7th Congressional district seat has provided him with the kind of experience and leadership we will need in a DOI Secretary.

Grijalva’s willingness to reverse the values and practices instituted by the Bush Administration’s Department of the Interior are well-illustrated by his leadership of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee of the 110th Congress. Most recently, he spearheaded efforts to stop the planned re-mining of the Black Mesa, located in northern Arizona. In a recent letter to current DOI Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Grijalva called on the Bush Administration to restore some semblance of the natural balance between the diverse interests DOI must manage: “Mining at Black Mesa has caused springs on Hopi lands to dry up and jeopardized the sole source of drinking water for many Hopis and Navajos.”

This same will to balance informs the National Landscape Conservation System, and the Environment Congressional Task Force Co-Chair Grijalva’s efforts to craft urgently needed legislation to reform the very outdated General Mining Law of 1872. Environmentalists, scientists and other advocates believe this law must be changed if the wilderness of the west and of our national parks, forests and public lands systems are to return to sustainability. Such actions have secured very strong support for Grijalva’s DOI bid from environmental, scientific and other groups, including the National Conservation Association, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and the U.S. Humane Society, to name a few. A letter to President-elect Obama in support of Grijalva was signed by more than 50 prominent scholars specializing in biology, conservation and other disciplines. In the letter, the scholars called him a “broad thinker” and praised the Congressman’s “Report on the Bush Administration Assault on Our National Parks, Forests and Public Lands” as the work of “someone who understands and values science.”

No less effusive are the statements of support Grijalva is receiving from Native American leaders like Ned Norris, who as tribal Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation-one of 7 tribes in Grijalva’s district- says he has “enjoyed an extensive and extremely positive relationship with the Congressman for many years.” Asked what appeals most to tribes like his about a possibility of a Grijalva-led DOI, Norris answered “He has a deep understanding of and respect for relationship between tribes and U.S. government.” Norris also pointed to the Congressman’s sophistication and success in settling a 30 year-old water and resource dispute between the Tahono O’odham tribe and the federal government.

In his efforts to foster change and hope with regard to both the stewardship of federal land and the management of relations with Indian nations, President-elect Obama will bring urgency and much-needed balance to these important government functions by appointing Congressman Raul Grijalva Secretary of the Interior.


This piece was first published on Alternet.org