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!