AJOC EDITORIAL: Supporting Hagel a mistake, backing Jewell even worse

From the party that brought you former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who famously said we had to pass the Affordable Care Act “to find out what’s in it,” we now have been given Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel.

Hagel, a Republican by name who is popular with the media and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) for often taking positions against his party, performed to dismal reviews during his Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on Jan. 31.

After several questions about various military systems, procurement, etc., Hagel said the following: “I’ve said I don’t know enough about it. I don’t. There’s a lot of things I don’t know about. If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do. I will have to.”

In other words, You have to confirm me to find out if I can do the job.

What we’re finding out now is that the Affordable Care Act does nothing to actually make care affordable and is, in fact, doing quite the opposite.

Recent reports peg a family of four policy at $20,000 per year under the new law, IRS regulations will make subsidies unavailable for millions of children, and a disproportionate burden will be carried by the young who are footing the bill while standing to receive nothing from programs on track to be bankrupt by the time they can benefit from them.

This follows on story after story of employers around the country cutting back hours for employees and not hiring new employees to avoid the costs and mandates associated with Obamacare.

After all we’ve learned about what’s in the Affordable Care Act, just think of the excitement we can look forward to watching Hagel learn on the job as Defense Secretary.

It’s a good thing Hagel won’t have to deal with multiple conflagrations burning throughout the Middle East and North Africa, an aggressive Russia reverting to Cold War posture, and a confident China emboldened by a deeply indebted United States  and whose client states Iran and North Korea continue to pursue and expand their nuclear ambitions.

Based on Hagel’s past statements, he can just blame the Jews, cut our nuclear arsenal and call it good. And he’ll get 100 percent support from Democrats, including our own Sen. Mark Begich.

President Barack Obama, when he talks the talk about providing job training to the unemployed, is certainly walking the walk when it comes to even Cabinet-level appointments.

Speaking of unqualified Cabinet appointments, Obama also recently tapped REI Inc. CEO Sally Jewell for Secretary of the Interior.

Short of nominating Daryl Hannah, who has been repeatedly arrested for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, it’s hard to imagine a choice that would make the BANANA crowd happier. (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything)

Oh sure, Jewell has a history as a petroleum engineer for Mobil — about 30 years ago. Since then, she’s been a leader of and advocate for the outdoor recreation industry, a fine career and a worthy cause, there is no doubt about that. Alaskans love nothing more than the beautiful outdoors that are a unique American blessing.

But knowledge of outdoor recreation is hardly a top qualification for someone to administer a vast department that is also responsible for resource development on federal lands.

In press releases praising her nomination, organizations such as American Rivers and Trout Unlimited noted her background in outdoor recreation, a “$289 billion industry that supports 6.5 million jobs.”

It is a little ironic that such organizations get real big on dollar figures and jobs when their industry is involved. In that vein, consider that according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the oil and gas industry accounted for 9.6 million jobs and $1.1 trillion in economic activity in 2011.

That’s 7.5 percent of GDP, and accounts for 20 percent of all jobs created between 2003-2011.

It is easy to forsee the backlash Jewell and her company REI would face the first time she goes against her constituency/customers. After all, the boycott is the preferred tool of such groups and REI is a big, fat target. This is the person who would ultimately have to sign off on Shell OCS permits?

Sure, Jewell has given a few hundred bucks in 2008 and 2009 to Begich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski. But her largest individual donations have gone to Obama and her home state Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

Murray and Cantwell are reliable votes against opening up ANWR, and have cast those votes several times in the last decade.

Most of Jewell’s donations have gone to the Outdoor Industry Association, of which she was a founding donor to their OIA political action committee in 2010. Among the OIA’s top legislative priorities, according to its website, is fighting against any rollback of the 2001 “roadless rule” through legislation of the kind introduced by Begich, Murkowski and Rep. Don Young back in 2011 to help rebuild the Southeast timber industry.

We understand Murkowski, as one of the most collegial members of the Senate, will generally defer to Obama on nominations. We also understand Begich needs to stay in his party’s good graces even as he prepares for his 2014 re-election campaign here at home.

But when you consider the ridiculous and life-threatening decision made by outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s department to deny the road from King Cove to Cold Bay, it’s hard to see where all this congeniality and deference has gotten Alaska.

Murkowski may not want to sacrifice some of her moderate credentials by opposing Jewell, and Begich surely doesn’t want to risk a backlash from his party leadership. And yes, I’m sure Jewell will say all kinds of nice things about having an open mind about Alaska, blah, blah, blah.

Such considerations are moot at this point. We’ve heard all that claptrap before. It’s time to play hardball. Supporting Jewell or letting her nomination advance is bad for Alaska and our senators should be united in opposing her.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].

02/14/2013 - 9:18am