It's politics as usual in Juneau. As Alaska burns, Alaska Republicans bloviate.
We're staring down the barrel of multibillion-dollar state budget deficits as far into the future as we can see. Are the Republicans majorities in the Legislature acknowledging that their misguided spending and tax policies got us into this fix? Are they prepared to set a new course?
Not bloody likely. Rather than rolling up their sleeves, trying to come up with constructive solutions, they're trotting out the usual gimmicks to divert public attention from their failures. So, by the lights of legislative leaders, what's the big problem in Alaska?
President Barack Obama and "federal overreach."
Why, you might ask, has "federal overreach" become such a crisis in just the last year? For the previous five years – since the inauguration of President Obama -- we've actually seen unprecedented progress in oil development in the Arctic. For the first time in our history, exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas actually got underway – until Shell Oil ran aground.
Also for the first time, we're seeing progress in developing the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
But something happened in November. Something like an election, where we tossed out Sen. Mark Begich – the guy who did more to advance oil development on Alaska's federal lands and waters than the combination of every Murkowski you can name. But Sen. Lisa Murkowski just had to have a partner who could match her ineffectiveness, so we obliged by putting Capt. Zero's first lieutenant, Dan Sullivan, into the U.S. Senate. Sullivan campaigned on a platform of "government is bad," and by golly, he's doing everything he can to prove he was right.
Back to the "overreach" crisis. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has never been open for development. It's unlikely that it ever will be open for development. Republicans say this is the fault of Democrats, apparently forgetting that when the U.S. House and Senate had solid Republican majorities, which included the late Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, and a Republican former oil man named George W. Bush in the White House, they didn't open ANWR.
I'm sure you recall that Sen. John McCain, Obama's opponent, opposed opening ANWR.
So was Obama's recent statement that ANWR should remain a refuge a big shock to Alaska? No. Apparently it just offers the perfect grandstanding opportunity for every Republican without a real idea.
And when they aren't rewriting Dr. Seuss or butchering "The Cremation of Sam McGee" on the state Senate floor, our legislative geniuses are demonstrating their vision for Alaska's future by calling for the state to illegally bulldoze a road through a federal wildlife refuge. Now there's an idea that will put a dent on our state's biggest challenges.
Need another example of Republican cluelessness in this Legislature? Sen. Charlie Huggins has been complaining about Gov. Bill Walker's appointment of Bob Doehl as deputy commissioner of the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs. Col. Doehl is a decorated National Guardsman who served for more than 30 years, rising to vice commander of the Air National Guard's 176th Wing -- until he was driven out of the guard for challenging the corruption under Gen. Tom Katkus and went on to work on veteran's issues for Sen. Begich.
Huggins has been publicly wringing his hands that Doehl is a "political operative" whose appointment involves "politics."
Let's take a moment to note that Huggins couldn't have been more silent if he'd been dead all during the time the guard was turning sexual assault into an intramural sport. Nor did Huggins express any concern about Doehl's predecessor, McHugh Pierre, a pure political hack (former spokesman for the Alaska Republican Party) with zero military experience.
Fellow, Alaskans, we're in deep doo-doo and we've put control of the Legislature in the hands of people who can't spell statesmanship, much less practice it. Godspeed, Gov. Walker, you're gonna need it.
Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.