President Barack Obama is coming to Alaska.
So what? He's not coming to learn. He's made that perfectly clear in the video he circulated when he announced his trip. He's coming to use Alaska as a backdrop to further his argument on climate change.
He's coming to use us.
Of course, he is the president, and we are supposed to welcome him with open arms, and we will. However, this state has some strong disagreements with this president, and he never bothers to take a minute and listen to what we have to say.
According to a Jan. 26 Bloomberg Politics article, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said that the Obama administration "had effectively declared war on Alaska." The criticism came after the White House released a video that announced "a comprehensive plan to make sure that we're protecting the refuge," he continued, "and I'm going to be calling on Congress to make sure they take it one step further, designating it as a wilderness, so that we can make sure this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations."
The Bloomberg article also quotes Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan as saying "This is (a) classic President Obama tactic; release a plan with no plan of passing the Congress. Meantime, take legally dubious action through executive orders to do what you know Congress won't do."
There is no question that Alaskans are in favor of drilling in the 10-02 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which was set aside for oil drilling during the Carter administration. Many Alaskans will remember Alaska Democrat state Sen. Benjamin Nageak's emotional and moving speech during a House majority press availability in support of ANWR development. He also made a video in response to President Obama's ANWR announcement, which reiterates his stance as an Alaska Native born in ANWR and the only state legislator born in ANWR, representing his area.
So, now the president is coming to Alaska to save us from ourselves.
He's never been here, mind you, except for a refueling stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base in 2009, when he never left the comforts of his lectern and military troops. He's never seen ANWR for himself; he's never traveled across Alaska to understand the scope of its incredible size. He's never traveled across ANWR to grasp the enormity of the refuge and the tiny space that the 10-02 area takes up.
Most importantly, he's never sat and talked to average Alaskans -- we who are, as he says, "on the front lines of climate change," and who are affected most by his decisions. Sadly, even though he's coming to the state for a few days, he still won't.
Now, his press releases will tell you that he's going to get into the communities and "talk to normal folks," but don't be fooled. Advance teams have been prepping these areas and vetting people for months. The president awaits no surprises -- ever.
For obvious reasons we protect the president from the people he is supposed to serve. While most other elected officials we consider to be "public servants." The president has almost no exposure to the average American or their views. His world is completely sanitized of what Main Street America has to say. He lives in a world of hand-picked advisers, Secret Service agents and advance teams putting a shield between him and opposing opinions.
So the president is coming to Alaska.
He has an agenda, he's made that clear; he even posted a video to inform us of his agenda. Not only will he not hear what you or I have to say, he does not care. He is coming to use us to further his agenda. He is coming with a closed mind, to find areas to take photos and video as a backdrop to make a more convincing argument that development in Alaska should be further restricted.
He's doing this at a time when Alaska needs to look at other streams of revenue, more than ever, with oil dropping to about $40 a barrel and the governor and Legislature trying to figure out how to fill a nearly $4 billion fiscal gap.
Every Alaskan, regardless of political leaning, should be offended that the president is coming to our state and disrupting our lives for a few days just to use us for his own political purposes. If he doesn't care what the average Alaskan has to say, he should just stay away.
Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late '90s. Email him at michaeldingman(at)gmail.com.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.