Should President Obama Fire Secretary Salazar?

May 30th, 2010 · 20 Comments

Note: This blog post was meant to go online on Friday, but I couldn’t log on for the past few days.

With the BP oil spill dominating the news and the growing frustration with the Obama administration and its handle on this disaster, I felt compelled to comment about Secretary of Interior Salazar. Back in December of 2008, I had blogged about Secretary Salazar shortly after he accepted the cabinet position to head up the Department of Interior pretty much stating that I thought he was a mixed bag, a moderate Democrat from Colorado with decent, but not stellar environmental credentials. Many people in the environmental movement were hoping that Obama would have given this job to Congressman Grijalva, whose conservation record was stronger than Salazar’s.

When Salazar was tapped to head up the Department of Interior, Kieran Suckling, executive director of Center for Biological Diversity, offered this statement, “He is a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agriculture in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species. He is very unlikely to bring significant change to the scandal-plagued Department of Interior. It’s a very disappointing choice for a presidency which promised visionary change.”

Fast forward a year and a half, and we are already a month into the one of the worst environmental disasters in history, and Secretary Salazar has been on the hot seat. Environmental groups are already signing letters to the President asking for Salazar to be replaced.

Last week, the director of the Minerals Management Service Elizabeth Birnbaum resigned/was fired. Salazar is being compared to “Heckuva Job” Brown, who ended up resigning from FEMA after the horrendous Hurricane Katrina response in the previous administration. And since Salazar has been a proponent of off-shore oil drilling, questions are being raised about his ability to regulate it.

I don’t think that Salazar has a handle on this oil spill, but nobody seems to. BP is spinning new stories as the oil seeps out into the ocean. And Salazar doesn’t inspire much confidence, as he tap danced around the questions from Senator Sanders (I-VT) about whether the drilling for oil off shore is worth the risks to the environment, the coastal economies, etc:

In the end, I think that it is likely that Salazar will weather this storm for the reasons outlined by Alan Pendergrast of Westword Denver. If Obama fires Salazar, all kinds of questions and investigations will begin, and it could be more politically damaging to the president. Going into the midterm elections facing more scrutiny is probably something that the administration would like to avoid. But I hope that Salazar is being kept on a tight leash and that he seizes this opportunity to turn things around. Tragedies like this can produce heroes. If Salazar is allowed to stay on the job, he has this unique opportunity to turn things around. However, based upon his performance thus far, if I held the fate of Salazar’s job in my own hands, I would do ‘the Donald’ and say, ‘You’re fired.’

Come on Salazar, step up your game. With so few Latinos serving at the cabinet level, we cannot afford to have you hemming and hawing on camera. Channel your inner cowboy, and take charge!

Tags: Barack Obama · Government Accountability · Secretary of Interior Salazar

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Seneca // May 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Salazar will go sooner than later. This oil spill is Obama’s Katrina. To begin Obama’s style like President Carter has no lightening rods in his Cabinet: he takes all the hits unlike George W. Bush, who had Cheney and Rumsfeld in first term. Obama seems to be the only one in charge and filling the entire power spectrum. The time fast approaches for this brilliant yet unlucky leadership to recognize the staggering political cost that this oil mishap is causing. The Minerals Agency head has already fallen. The outgoing US Coast Guard Commander Thad Allen, the hero of Katrina had the exquisite timing of bailing out (retiring) last week. This leaves Salazar (Interior) and the EPA head in line for the boot. Salazar unfortunately will be served up no matter how brilliantly he performs now unless he personally descends to the ocean floor as a Deus Ex Machina and fixes the leak. Salazar plainly is unlucky, yet he never prepared with any sense of anticipation to survive by protecting his principal. Washington is made of personalities being lucky and clever enough to navigate the troubled political waters and avoid most especially the pratfalls of the not so clever appointed or elected Mandarins. Salazar was originally picked as a quiet soft spoken Western Mexican-American favored by Obama over the reportedly animated, loud snarly California Latinos (Hilda Solis being a big exception) or boisterous and raucously animated Nuyoricans or Miami Cubans. The word is that Obama finds loud and animated politicians unsettling. Some say one reason he minimizes or avoids similar African American leaders who tend to be distractingly animated. The insouciant and mild mannered Asian American demeanor is preferred by this White House. Salazar can be acceptable but he must or should have appreciated that as Cabinet member he must be prepared to take a hit for the President including getting the boot! The BP oil spill is proving to be radioactive. Washington is like a prison yard: when you are out in the open space you better have an 800 gorilla behind you to defend and protect you. Otherwise you quickly become toast! The average Latino appointee or elected official has scant notion of this reality.

  • 2 Michaelr // May 30, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Ken Salazar was a collusive choice as Interior Secretary back in January of 2009, and is now, based on his public performance obviously the oil lobby’s point man. Here is a public servant who owes his public life to ExxonMobil, Chevron, and BP America. Whether Ken Salazar even cares, personally about the eco disaster in the Gulf of Mexico isn’t clear based on this footage in this blog post. What is quite obvious is his obligation to the oil lobby, regardless of the human cost and whether the U.S. taxpayer will benefit at all from offshore oil drilling.

  • 3 theKaiser // May 30, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Ken Salazar’s manner resembles Alberto Gonzales, and that isn’t a positive reflection for any public servant. He conducts himself as a man in constant search for his character. And for a politician and his constituents that is poison.

  • 4 Anna // May 31, 2010 at 9:18 am

    The American people should fire Obama. What a mess…

  • 5 Pablo // May 31, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    God, if the White House wasn’t so message-centric, Grijalva would be awesome in the job. Instead, he is the most-dogged voice for Latinos in the House, which is where I prefer him. We need more dogged Latino voices on Capitol Hill.

  • 6 Pablo // May 31, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    re: Anna
    I’m not sure the American people should fire Obama yet. Focus, focus, focus on your Congress.

  • 7 webmaster // May 31, 2010 at 4:10 pm


    I agree w/ Pablo, focus on the Congress. Midterm elections come more quickly than the opportunity to ‘fire’ Obama. The American people did not fire Bush, and he was plagued by scandals, wars, etc. You have to realize that much of the policy making is done in Congress.

  • 8 Reyfeo // Jun 1, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Obama is out as a 1st termer anyway Anna…Webby and his crew can sugarcoat the mess all they want, but reality is this POTUS is inexperienced, out of touch way too early in his administration and quite frankly doesn’t have the “audacity of hope” to tell this congress what to do…and quite frankly, I think he’s leading this mess with this congress. Where was he with the Health Care debacle? And what about Iran, what’s his plan with that? And Immigration reform, bye, bye! Now this oil spill mess. He has ZERO clue how to at minimum lead a counter offense to try and put it out…nope, its not congress Webby, its all Obama and most folks know this…NObama in 2012!!

  • 9 jeff // Jun 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Salazar needs to be gone yesterday. He has accomplished almost nothing to date, he turns up the rhetoric on making changes within the department only after this disaster. He was a poor choice.
    The president needs to show the trait of independence and start letting go of some of his staff. Besides the obvious benefits it might buy him some credibility.

  • 10 jeff // Jun 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I have to say all of the sopes who think that firing the president solves any of this haven’t been paying attention to their American History.

  • 11 Jaango // Jun 2, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I rise in defense of Salazar.

    First, he exemplifies President Obama. Both are Center-Right in their politics.

    As to what can Salazar accomplish for and on behalf of the Government, I would like someone to explain to me in considerable detail. To date, the “lead person” in this Gulf Disaster has the Coast Guard Admiral. As such, all technology is owned by the private sector. Equally important, the Government has no Agency or Operational Imperative to addess deep water drilling.

    Perhaps, if this Disaster had ocurred in Artic waters, the tremendous damage that would be caused, could not be contained for the next 100 years.

    And from my perspective, those that advocate and focus their attention on Congress are correct in either their assessment or analysis.


  • 12 HeavyGabe // Jun 3, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Interesting post. I agree with all except the part where you label Obama as “center-right”. Since when is a Socialist agenda considered center-right?

  • 13 webmaster // Jun 3, 2010 at 11:07 am


    If there was ever an incident that shows that there isn’t a ‘socialist agenda’ in the WH, it is the handling of the BP oil spill. Perhaps you should read this:

    His economic advisers aren’t socialists. Last time I checked, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner weren’t socialists.

  • 14 El Cholo // Jun 3, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Looks like HeavyGabe likes to quote all things FOX. You have to be pretty ignorant to actually claim Obama is a socialist. That’s like saying FDR was a socialist and so was LBJ. Nevertheless, Ken Salazar needs to be terminated based on his inability alone to publicly admit the abuses of the oil industry. It was obvious he would never lift a finger to attempt to regulate their destruction of national parks and wilderness. Ken Salazar was one of those choices that was purely political.

  • 15 HeavyGabe // Jun 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I guess we could bounce back and forth all day with links that show Obama to be a Socialist vs those that point somewhere else. Our government is in our lives now more than ever. If I take a whiz in the back yard I have a government agency wanting to know what I ate for breakfast. We have been on this path a long time. Social democracy supports the following:
    * A mixed economy consisting of both private enterprise and publicly owned or subsidized programs of education, universal health care, child care and related social services for all citizens.
    * An extensive system of social security (although usually not to the extent advocated by socialists), with the stated goal of counteracting the effects of poverty and insuring the citizens against loss of income following illness, unemployment or retirement.
    * Government bodies that regulate private enterprise in the interests of workers and consumers by ensuring labor rights (i.e. supporting worker access to trade unions), consumer protections, and fair market competition.
    * Environmentalism and environmental protection laws; for example, funding for alternative energy resources and laws designed to combat global warming.
    * A value-added/progressive taxation system to fund government expenditures.
    * A secular and a socially progressive policy.
    * Immigration and multiculturalism.
    * Youth rights and lowering the voting age.
    * Fair trade over free trade.
    * A foreign policy supporting the promotion of democracy, the protection of human rights and where possible, effective multilateralism.
    * Advocacy of social justice, human rights, social rights, civil rights and civil liberties.

    This was ganked from Wikipedia;

  • 16 webmaster // Jun 3, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Well HeavyGabe,

    I see you work for the government, the City of Austin, to be exact. So maybe you are part of this “socialist” scheme. Way to use taxpayer funds commenting on blogs at work! So in your case, I guess the government really is in your life, literally.

  • 17 HeavyGabe // Jun 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Proudly interacting from a public wireless mesh network provided throughout the Austin area. Its one of the perks living within the city limits. That and a certain amount of freedom to voice my opinion online from just about anywhere in 78701. If you ever visit the area, just take a look at the coverage. You don’t need to be a city slacker to enjoy the internet. I fling pizzas. I full well know that ip addresses are logged, not sure why you felt the need to look up the location of the subnet. Greetings from Austin.

  • 18 Bearguez // Jun 5, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Why Ken Salazar was picked as Interior Secretary denotes how toxic the vast majority of Congress is. Obama should’ve appointed Raul Grijalva. He has no ties to the Oil lobby. Ken Salazar is coated with oil. And that is all reflected in his public behavior.

  • 19 Ken Salazar’s BP Fox, Sylvia Baca // Jun 7, 2010 at 5:35 am

    […] week, I pondered whether President Obama should fire Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. If you notice, this past week, Salazar has not been in front of […]

  • 20 kay sieverding // Jun 15, 2010 at 8:31 am

    In my experience, Salazar evaded insurance reporting regulations when he was CO Attorney General. Thus why should Salazar be trusted to run Interior? Look at “Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency”. The Division of Insurance lists CIRSA as a “Governmental Self Ins Pool” While Salazar was CO AG and since, the State of Colorado admitted that it does not keep as required by CRS 24-10-115.5 (5) “The commissioner of insurance, or any person authorized by him, shall conduct an insurance examination at least once a year to determine that proper underwriting techniques and sound funding, loss reserves, and claims procedures are being followed.” With Salazar’s knowledge the state decided to ignore that law while Salazar was CO AG. ?The attorney bills paid by CIRSA show ?2/19/03 “Telephone calls from and to Colorado Attorney General re case status”. (Salazar was CO AG) 6/26/03 “Confer with attorney general regarding case status” 8/07/03 “Telephone call from State Insurance staff regarding plaintiffs’ demands, case background etc.” That was related to my open records request for CIRSA’s claims handling policies. 8/28/03 “Conference with Attorney General regarding state response to plaintiffs”. 9/04/03 “Confer with Dawes regarding injunction and insurance commissioner issues”. 10/16/03 “Telephone calls insurance commissioner regarding case status” 10/17/03 “telephone calls from and to Gambrill with insurance commissioner”.?? My case was dismissed by former judge Naughty Nottingham without an opinion. See D of CO 02-cv-1950 on PACER document 455 after CIRSA paid for many private phone calls to and from the federal court.
    Nottingham was not prosecuted for his involvement with the Denver Players brothel. Interior’s MMS Interior Denver staff was not prosecuted for involvement with prostitutes paid by oil companies.

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