When George W. Bush prepared to move to the White House for his first term as US President, the place was a mess. The Government Accounting Office reported that Executive Office staff, some of whom had been there 30 years, used words such as “extremely filthy” or “trashed out” to describe the conditions they had observed, and that office space contained a “malodorous stench” or looked liked there had been a party.
The mess was described as “pranks” by the previous occupants, who left vulgar graffiti derogatory to the incoming administration, voice mail announcements that had been changed to answer with obscene messages and signs comparing President Bush to a chimpanzee.
Unlike the example above, President Obama was gracious when Donald Trump won the election in November, saying, “The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world.”
While that may be true, some of the current administration’s shenanigans seem as petty and vindictive as any we’ve seen, and these actions, in the form of last-minute legislation, implemented unilaterally and without Congressional cooperation, will affect not the Trump transition team but rather the already hard-hit American economy.
For example, late last month President Obama issued an executive order establishing a “Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area” allegedly to “enhance the resilience of the northern Bering Sea region by conserving the region’s ecosystem, including those natural resources that provide important cultural and subsistence value and services to the people of the region.”
The area affected by the order includes a large swath of Bering Sea king crab and pollock fishing grounds, as well as the sea-lanes for any Arctic-bound commercial traffic.
Alaska Congressman Don Young was quick to respond:
“I see it as a backdoor attempt to limit certain activities north of the Bering Strait,” he said, “like future resource development.” Young also noted that the action is counter to the President’s stated policy on consultation. “I’ve already heard from many in the Alaska Native community that this came as a complete surprise.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise to readers of this column. In October we noted that President Obama had locked up 442,000 square miles of rich fishing grounds surrounding the Hawaiian Islands in a dramatic expansion of a Marine Protected Area established by his predecessor.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski was also unhappy. “This is the first time we have ever seen the term ‘climate resilience area’ in Alaska or anywhere else,” she said. “We have no idea what that designation is supposed to mean, what legal authority it is supposed to rest on, what the limitations for it will be, or what it will mean for subsistence, shipping, fishing, and other activities in western and northern Alaska. To me, this sure sounds like a euphemism for a marine monument, because it locks up over 112,000 square miles of Alaska waters and seems destined to impact a wide range of communities, tribes, and industries in our state.” Senator Murkowski further noted that the action “could easily be misapplied to block even the most responsible arctic subsistence, activities, and development.”
A Task Force established to implement and enforce the imprecise regulations to be generated under this order notably does not include either the US Coast Guard or the Department of Homeland Security, but does have a seat for the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Thank God the Obama Administration only has 42 days left in office,” Congressman Young said. “We will be working to undo this action come January 20th.”
Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org