With the imminent return of Ken Salazar to Colorado, and talk of his future political aspirations bubbling up in the papers, we thought it a good time to recount a brief history of Secretary Salazar’s failures at the Interior Department.
While some Democrats scoff at the notion that Salazar would need to “re-brand” in order to have a shot at future office, with a list of flops like this, it’s hard to believe he could even beat a Colorado Republican.
What need does someone have to rebrand when their approval rating is in the high teens, anyway?
1. Deepwater Horizons: First and foremost amongst Salazar’s fiascos is the BP oil spill. The Deepwater Horizons disaster is firmly etched in the American conscience as an example of bumbling incompetence and haphazard, if not non-existent, leadership. Salazar mucked up his role so badly that unnamed White House sources spanked him publicly in The Washington Post as an “erratic spokesman” who was pulled from public view during the crisis.
While the country was watching the BP well belch millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf, Salazar’s Chief of Staff was whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon and his Interior Department had BP up for a…wait for it…drilling safety award. Then Salazar’s department tried to scrub that embarrassing fact from its website.
Heckuva’ job, Kenny.
2. Wild Lands: Only two days before Christmas 2011, Salazar announced an end-run around Congress, declaring himself emperor of American lands with a decree that the BLM, and not Congress, would decide which public land was “wild lands” and thus cut off from energy exploration or tourist use.
Congress returned the favor by cutting off funding for the program, forcing the Obama administration to backpedal and back off the initiative.
3. “I’ll punch you out”: This one doesn’t take a visit to the wayback machine to remember. Only a few months ago Salazar threatened to “punch out” a reporter from the Colorado Springs Gazette for daring to ask tough questions of him regarding his department’s selling wild horses to a man who allegedly sold them to slaughter houses in Mexico, a violation of federal law.
Here’s how CBS and 60 Minutes’ Andrew Cohen described Salazar’s wild horse history yesterday:
Part of a longtime Colorado ranching family, eschewing reasonable alternatives, largely unaccountable to public opinion, Salazar consistently sided with ranching and livestock interests as they moved to push the nation’s horses off public range lands. In so doing, he created additional burdens for American taxpayers– who now are paying for the costs of wild horses in round-up pens– while endorsing policies and practices which benefited these private industries. These are the same industries, incidentally, which already have long benefited from “welfare ranching”– far-below-market lease rates for public grazing land out West.
4. War On Oil & Gas: From red-tape-riddled oil shale rules to a rapid slowdown in the amount of permits and leases approved on federal land for energy development, Salazar has been in engaged in a war on oil and gas from the day he took office.
Former President Bill Clinton even took a veiled shot at Salazar, saying there are “ridiculous delays in permitting when our economy doesn’t need it.”
Despite amazing technological breakthroughs and incredible new finds in the domestic oil and gas industry in the last few years, gas prices have remained stubbornly high. Salazar can’t ignore his role in that. While oil and gas production is up domestically, the growth is virtually entirely on private lands, away from the influence of the federal government. Thanks for nothing, Kenny.