Saturday, February 27, 2010

Faleomavaega Snubs White House

Every year the National Governors Association holds its winter meeting in Washington in late February. To take advantage of all the territorial governors being in the capital for that gathering, Congress schedules budget hearings and a number of other groups hold meetings as well, including, in recent years, the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs (IGIA). Established by President Clinton, the group is in theory co-chaired by the President and the Secretary of the Interior, as the head of the lead department on territorial issues.

As a practical matter, the IGIA is co-chaired by a White House staffer on behalf of the president and the lead insular officer at Interior, an assistant secretary in the Obama administration. The congressional delegates and their staff also are invited and usually participate because this is the one time of the year that the federal government pays major attention to insular issues. About a dozen federal agencies send senior representatives so it a forum that cannot easily be matched.

Surely it is a crucial meeting for American Samoa, given its serious economic woes and pending legislation in Congress to forestall the departure of the territory’s remaining tuna cannery. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with his governor, this is the chance for Faleomavaega to make a real push to get Obama administration backing for his bill.

No question that Faleomavaega needs the exposure for he has been out of the country for most of this year so far. He started with a trip to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Japan (where the Pentagon may not have been too happy he said the wishes of the people must come first in the move of the U.S. Marines on Okinawa). Then he was in Washington long enough to wash his underwear before heading off to Morocco, Spain and Austria.

But in what must have been a stunning admission to all who heard him make it at the House Insular subcommittee’s hearing on Wednesday, Faleomavaega proudly if not arrogantly admitted he skipped the IGIA meeting so he could watch the final vote on the Hawaii Sovereignty Act on the House floor. Last we looked, Hawaii is not a part of his congressional constituency. And since he has no vote on the floor, there was no need for him to b e there. Even if he had a vote, the final result was already a foregone conclusion. Besides, this is only a first step. The bill still needs to be considered by the Senate where, if it passes, certainly will have been amended and will need reconsideration by the House before final passage. The bottom line is that this was not a valid reason to miss the IGIA meeting and snub the White House in the process—since he is hoping to have Obama stop in American Samoa on the way back from his Australia trip.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Critics of Faleomavaega Visit to Hmong Camp Persist

Faleomavaega’s travel blitz covering Asia, North Africa, Europe and the Western Pacific over the past six weeks has been so truly breathtaking in his scope it is difficult to remember that one of his first stops was Laos, where he pronounced returning Hmong refugees free from persecution in their repatriation camp outside the capital. Early on he was denounced for turning a blind eye to the real situation and even though he is long gone and on to other issues, the criticism persists.

However, that testimony has not pacified many observers concerned about the status of the recently repatriated Hmong. Writing for Worldnet Daily, Anthony C. LoBaido says Faleomavaega’s “testimony has not pacified many observers concerned about the status of the recently repatriated Hmong.”

LoBaido notes that Amnesty International contends Thailand's deportation of the Hmong "violated [Thailand's] obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which provides that state parties must not send people to countries where they risk torture. The government also claimed, after holding them [the Hmong] for three years in arbitrary detention in constant fear of forcible return, that the Hmong agreed to return to Laos voluntarily. In fact, the Thai authorities told them that they would be resettled to third countries only if they first agreed to go back to Laos."

The U.S. ambassador to Thailand wrote in the Bangkok Post that "All the refugees we interviewed in Nong Khai told us on December 28th, that they did not wish to return to Laos, clearly indicating that the return was involuntary. The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was available to consider referrals of individuals from this community. This was clearly articulated repeatedly by U.S. officials. Both the UNHCR and the Royal Thai Government had, indeed, determined that many among this population were in need of protection. And the United States, along with many other countries, stood ready to provide third-country resettlement as an option, but this course was not allowed."

Like the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam, two other governments Faleomavaega likes to champion, Laos is a Communist dictatorship. One has to wonder what it is about communist dictatorships that Faleomavaega finds so appealing, especially when so many other people see things that seem to escape his attention.

The complete Worldnet story can be found at

We are not holding our breath that Samoa News to cover this continuing story or anything else about his travel. At this point, we would settle for the paper to simplyh inform its readers that over the past six weeks, the delegate has visited Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Morocco, Spain, Austria and Palau in three separate junkets, with very little time in Washington, which, supposedly, is his duty station.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Faleomavaega in Travel Frenzy; Voters Unaware

Once again, we have to use the internet and other methods to find out what is or is not going on in Washington or other parts of the world as it involves American Samoa or our leaders because Samoa News, the primary source of information on this island, DOES NOT INFORM ITS READERS.

Oh yes, we are getting a blow-by-blow report on the trial and now jury deliberations of our lt. governor and one of our senators, but the Governor is in Washington for a whole bunch of important meetings, including the National Governors’ Conference, the Pacific Basin Development Council, the Coral Reef Task Force, congressional hearings and who knows what else. This week all the territorial governors are in DC because of the NGA meeting, which includes a meeting with the President and a dinner at the White House. So a lot of other organizations hold their meetings (and congressional hearings) to take advantage of everyone being there.

Therefore, this week over the years has become one of the busiest and most important for island officials. Has Samoa News ever told us that? No. Will they tell us what is going on this week? Doubtful. Most likely they will wait for the governor’s return and the issuance of a press release. Or, if the governor doesn’t hand one out, they will wait for his radio report to the people, take notes from that and write a story about the radio program. Seriously.

And with this week being as important as it is, all the island delegates in Congress can be expected to be in place, right? Most will be. How about American Samoa? After all, Faleomavaega has his “crucial” ASPIRE bill in the works. You would think he would want to take this opportunity to brief the governor and enlist his support to get the bill moving. You would think he also would want to accompany the governor to the PBDC and Coral Reef meetings so he can follow up with initiatives in Congress. You would think he would want to partipate in an oversight hearing by a subcommittee which he is the senior member of.

Then there is the matter of Faleomavaega’s quite public invitation to President Obama to visit American Samoa on his way back from Australia, which he will visit after Guam and Indonesia next month. Surely he will want to coordinate efforts with his governor, since the governor will be seeing the President twice, once at a White House dinner and again the next day at a White House meeting with governors only. Needless to say, this is the best opportunity to press the case for a stop, which is optional at best since Air Force 1 does not need to refuel between Australia and the U.S. Mainland.

Now, we don’t have any more access to information than anyone else, so we can only speculate. But we can do some fundamental calculations based on time, distance, airplane speeds and access to information on the internet, the same information everyone else has, including Samoa News. In a February 19 CSCE press release, Faleomavaega was quoted making a statement at an interparliamentary meeting in Vienna, Austria that day. The National Governors’ meeting starts Feb. 20 and ends Feb. 22.

Other meetings follow all this week, including two hearings conducted by the House insular subcommittee. One of those hearings, at which the governor surely will testify, is on Feb. 24. It is the Oversight Hearing on the President's Fiscal Year 2011 budget requests for the Office of Insular Affairs. That is the office that funds our ASG operating budget and that is also the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over Faleomavaega’s ASPIRE bill that has gone nowhere since the hearing on it last fall. This is also the chance to brief Congress on the tsunami last September and the urgent need for additional federal assistance. Under the circumstances, no hearing could be more crucial to us.

Yet, I have a PINA news story that says Faleomavaega has accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a Tuna Policy Summit in Palau on February 25. Given the distance to Palau from Washington and adding the international dateline as a factor, it is difficult to see how Faleomavaega can attend two House hearings on the 24th and give a speech in Koror on the 25th. We will be watching the hearings on the internet to see if he is there. It is also hard to imagine he got back to Washington from Vienna in time to have any serious meetings with the governor before the governor went off to be with the president on February 21 and 22.

If there is a verdict in the lt. governor’s trial, you can bet that the Samoa News special correspondent covering the trial will have that result flashed back to Samoa News immediately but while he is waiting, do not expect him to cover any of what I have recounted above. Even if he did file a story, you could bet that Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law, who is one of the editors, would be certain that its readers remained ignorant of their delegate’s outright dereliction of duty. All they know is that he has invited Obama to American Samoa. Never mind whether Obama actually shows up. The fact that Faleomaveaga invited him proves to them how influential he is. It’s not results that count and it’s not even effort that counts. It’s perception of effort is all that matters. Give us a break.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Tiring of public criticism over their frequent breaks during the year, Congress some years ago renamed their recesses “district work periods” to more accurately reflect what Members were doing during the times Congress was not in session. Right now they are in the midst of the Presidents’ Day district work period and, being an election year in which voter anger at incumbents is extraordinarily high, most Members indeed are back home pressing the flesh and tending to constituent needs.


But not all.

The American Samoa Fono (legislature), which is part time and only meets for 60 days in two sessions per year, just happens to have resumed its first session of the year. What marvelous timing, because it gives Faleomavaega an opportunity to report to the legislature the progress of his ASPIRE bill designed to dissuade the territory’s remaining tuna cannery from pulling out. There are a whole host of other issues as well and since the President has just submitted his FY2011 budget to Congress, it is timely to make sure the needs of the local government are reviewed so Faleomavaega can have fresh input on the appropriations process on their behalf.

Surely one would expect Faleomavaega to be on hand. After all he sacrificed being in his seat in Washington when his party took charge of Congress in January, 2007 so he could be on hand for the ceremonial opening of the Fono that year. Even though by so doing he was out of town when new Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a flick of the wrist ordered Rep. George Miller to add American Samoa to the minimum wage bill that was first order of business (H.R. 2). Besides, Faleomavaega is just back from an extensive trip to Asia.

Oh, wait. We forgot. Faleomavaega is not in Pago Pago but in Morocco on his way to Spain to visit a naval base and hold bilateral talks. Then it’s off to Austria to participate in a parliamentary meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Hmm. We checked the committee roster and, nope, he’s not on the subcommittee that deals with North Africa-Middle East issues. And, nope, he is not on the Europe subcommittee. And he’s not on the subcommittee that deals with international organizations. Maybe this is his consolation prize for being left out of the Speaker’s delegation to Copenhagan for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change last year—even though that is precisely an issue over which his subcommittee does have jurisdiction.

Even though he will miss the Fono, his Europe meetings should be over in time to get him back to Washington to confer with his governor, who arrives over the weekend for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association and several other groups that will be meeting while all the governors are in town.

Wait until the Fono reads about this in the territory’s only daily newspaper. They will be enraged and so will the voters. Oh, I forgot. They won’t know about this because Samoa News, which carefully protects the dear traveling congressman, won’t tell anyone. Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law, an editor at the paper, will see to that.

And so it goes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Faleomavaega Continues Assault on Clinton

Despite the backlash caused by his intemperate public attack on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Clinton ignoring the small Pacific Islands in her first visit to the region, which was truncated by the Haiti earthquake, Faleomavaega appears intent on continuing the assault, regardless of the consequences.

At a recent appearance before Pacific Island students at the University of Utah, according to a story in the Utah Daily Chronicle, he "expressed discontent with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Asia, during which she passed over a visit to the islands, which he referred to as “fly-by diplomacy.”

The Chronicle quoted the delegate as saying “We have developed a new policy for the Pacific,” referring to a lack of interaction between American Samoa and the United States. “This is sad, but true.”

The Chronicle did not report if he reminded students that as chairman of the House subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and the Global Environment, he shares in the responsibility for developing American policy to the region. In a recent story in Samoa News, the local Republican Party of American Samoa pointed out that American involvement in the Pacific Islands has declined in direction proportion to the rise of Faleomavaega's seniority and supposed influence in Congress.

Has anyone in the media asked the delegate when the last time Clinton has had a private meeting with him to discuss U.S. policy in the region and issues over which his subcommittee has jurisdiction. Not Samoa News, where his sister-in-law is one of the editors. But apparently not the Utah Chronicle either. They headlined their story "Delegate stresses ties to culture for Pacific Islanders." The issue of U.S. involvement in the Pacific was buried in the story's 10th paragraph, right at the end.

As yet, no one seems to have connected the dots. Lisa Williams and the rest of his press staff back in Washington can give themselves another High Five.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Faleomavaega's money

The Free Republic blog picked up on a Samoa News Story in which Faleomavaega claimed he sent $500,000 down to American Samoa for call centers under the headline "U.S. Congressional Delegate from American Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega Believes Taxpayer Dollars are HIS."

Here are a variety of reader reactions to the story:

Typical of the morons in Congress, the delegate from American Samoa believes that HE is the one sending funds to help his people when indeed it is the American TAXPAYERS. The man, who is Samoan, is also taking a shot at one of his targets in American Samoa simply because he wants to introduce the Samoan people to other opportunities besides packing tuna. It is time to send ALL of Congress home regardless of party affiliation!

Acute Obamaitis.

It's going around.

They can try to horn in on Barney Frank’s packing operations. If they can pack tuna, they can certainly pack fudge.

“Faleomavaega” (def- noun) - A disease of the crotch, a puss-oozing sore.

It is time to send ALL of Congress home regardless of party affiliation!

I wonder how much pork those “delegates” take home to their non-American places of origin.

As one of a few freepers living in American Samoa, I am friends with Eni. Of all the problems in today’s society, American Samoa suddenly found itself subject to the increase of the minimum wage, thanks to Nancy Pelosi. This led to the shutdown of Chicken of the Sea, and the reduction of jobs with Star-Kist. Add a tsunami last September and the only thing keeping this economy going is FEMA money and SBA loans.

Until the United States Government stops relegating this Territory as a backwater, the Territory of American Samoa will never prosper.

they ARE his dollars. They sure are not yours or mine.

Nancy Pelosi, Samoa, tuna, minimum wage exemption.... I remember this. Now, to make all Americans serfs eking out livings with Chinese wages, eating dogs and begging for crumbs.

And someone researched and posted his liberal positions on the site. The voters would be outraged but they will never know because the daily newspaper, Samoa News, will never let them know:

Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
Voted YES on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
Voted NO on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
Voted NO on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life. (Oct 2003)
Voted NO on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)
Voted NO on funding for health providers who don't provide abortion info. (Sep 2002)
Voted NO on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (May 2001)
Voted NO on federal crime to harm fetus while committing other crimes. (Apr 2001)
Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortions. (Apr 2000)
Voted NO on barring transporting minors to get an abortion. (Jun 1999)
Rated 100% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record. (Dec 2003)
Emergency contraception for rape victims at all hospitals. (Sep 2006)
Rated 0% by the NRLC, indicating a pro-choice stance. (Dec 2006)
Provide emergency contraception at military facilities. (Apr 2007)
Ensure access to and funding for contraception. (Feb 2007)
Focus on preventing pregnancy, plus emergency contraception. (Jan 2009)


On the website, Joshua Kucera wrote that at a recent hearing of the U.S. Helsinki Commission marking Kazahkstan’s assumption of the rotating presidency of OSCE, Faleomavaega said Kazakhstan’s recent human rights record should be seen in the context of the country’s decision to give up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union. "While human rights groups continue to point fingers at Kazakhstan, I submit that only Kazakhstan had the moral courage to renounce nuclear weapons altogether for the sake of all mankind." He said Faleomavaega also noted that Kazakhstan public opinion polls showed a high level of support for the United States. "This is a direct result of President Nazarbayev’s leadership and commitment in the service of his people." The website Kazakhstan Today reported in 2006 that at a Washington dinner honoring Nazarbayev, Faleomavaega said "I consider that the President of Kazakhstan deserves to receive the Nobel Prize for his contribution to cause of peace on the Earth."

Kucera quoted Erica Marat, a political analyst who was in attendance, as saying the hearing was a "missed opportunity [in which] Kazakhstan’s leadership was once again given soft treatment for failing to fulfill the promises the government made at the OSCE Madrid conference in 2007. Because there was little attention paid to the more substantive issues Kazakhstan is facing today, the entire hearing was of little value. It just served to help Kazakhstan’s campaign for a better international image."

Noted Kucera: one member of the Helsinki Commission, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), referred to Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record in his written comments: "Given the distinctive focus of the Helsinki Commission on democracy, human rights and the rule of law, I would be remiss not to note that Kazakhstan is the first country assessed as "not free" by Freedom House to assume the OSCE chairmanship."

Meanwhile, the Epoch Times wrote that “Fiji’s interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, announced that democratic elections are still planned for 2014, but any elected government will follow the military’s plan for Fiji’s future. The leader says his aim to establish a multicultural nation has some support, but his methods of achieving it have been raising concerns amid democratic nations. Bainimarama, who took over the country during a 2006 military coup, plans for the military to oversee any newly elected Fijian government, ensuring continued military authority over a wide range of institutions, such as the Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church. The former naval officer has exhibited few democratic principles so far, while exiling some of his critics and gagging local dissent, including the media.”

Nonetheless, the Times quoted Falomavaega as saying “Bainimarama has made it clear that he intends to draft a constitution that will reflect the country’s unique culture and history. He has also promised to enact electoral reforms that will establish equal suffrage and to hold free, fair, and democratic elections,” which the Times called “a surprising display of support last year. The Times also quoted Amnesty International’s Pacific researcher Apolosi Bose as saying “With Fiji cracking down even harder on its own people, this is not the time for New Zealand and other countries in the region to back down from their strong stance. They must intensify their calls for Fiji to immediately halt arbitrary arrests, intimidation, threats, assaults and detention of critics of the regime.”

In an opinion piece for Fairfax News, Faleomavaega says sanctions have not been helpful. “Canberra and Washington have employed heavy-handed tactics and misguided sanctions that have hurt average Fijians far more than the interim government at which they were targeted,” he wrote. “Foreign policy elites in Australia and New Zealand erroneously view the region with a Eurocentric mentality without having a better sense of appreciation of Fiji’s colonial history.”

It seems this must be Faleomavaega’s “balanced approach” to foreign policy: if you are going to be an apologist for the left wing dictator of Kazahkstan, you also should do the same for the right wing dictator in Fiji.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Remember that you read it here first. January 8, 2010 is the day Faleomavaega reached the peak of his influence in Washington. If you are startled because you have read so many of our previous essays in which we indicated that he is lightly regarded in Congress, there is no contradiction. He is not very influential to begin with, but whatever influence he has had, he began to lose once he issued a press release—widely printed throughout the region—publicly criticizing President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for ignoring the small island states during her aborted trip to the region. Once a copy of the release crossed the desk of Rahm “the Enforcer” Emanuel, who was brought in as White House Chief of Staff because of his ability to keep House Democrats in line behind Obama, we can easily imagine him reacting “What a f**king retard.”

Just 11 days after Faleomavaega’s injudicious attack on the leaders of his own party, Massachusetts Republicans captured the senate seat previously held by Edward M. Kennedy and set off a political earthquake in Washington. Coupled with victories last November in governorships in New Jersey and Virginia, Republicans gained enough momentum to derail Obama’s legislative agenda and leave open the question of what Congress will accomplish this year. As congressional Democrats’ fortunes fall, so, too, do Faleomavaega’s. After all he has a lot riding on his proposed legislation to bail out StarKist so they will keep their tuna cannery in American Samoa.

In his 21 years in Congress, Faleomavaega always has had an explanation for his ineffectiveness that the voters swallowed hook, line and sinker. After a very narrow first election in 1988, when he ran for re-election in 1990 and 1992, he explained how difficult it was for him to do much because the White House was controlled by a Republican who did not give much priority to the territories. After he was re-elected in 1992 along with a Democratic president to go along with continued Democratic control of Congress, he told the media that they had to produce now that his party controlled everything.

But in fact he produced nothing in the next two years but when facing the voters in 1994, he argues that he still was much too junior in the House to have any great achievements. Be patient, he counseled, be patient. Of course, on election night the voters sent him back to the House by a comfortable margin but the House and Senate would be quite different, because Republicans had taken control of both chambers.

For the next three terms he told voters he was doing the best he could under the circumstances (of being in the minority) and for three more terms he spoke of the additional burden of trying to accomplish things with a Congress and White House run by Republicans. But then in 2006, Democrats won back control of the Congress and Faleomavaega had acquired enough seniority to be awarded a subcommittee chairmanship.

House leaders no doubt were relieved that Faleomavaega’s interest was in foreign affairs because that is a subject over which the House has little power. Eni has proved himself a loose cannon over the years, so they hoped he would do little damage as chairman of the Asia Pacific subcommittee. He still argues he was somewhat handcuffed because George Bush still ruled the White House.

Then came 2008. Like 1992, Democrats won it all, only this time Eni now was very senior in his party, had a subcommittee chairmanship and had the advantage of having been an early supporter of Barack Obama while the nomination was still contested. Moreover, Obama grew up in Hawaii, as did Faleomavaega. So when Congress convened in January 2009, at last Faleomavaega had it all.

Now, just a year later, it all has come crashing down with his press release. As crazy as the move seems, perhaps there he is setting up a new excuse for failure. Let’s take a look at what has happened since Eni has “had it all” with Obama’s inauguration.

• He was not invited to accompany Hillary Clinton on her trip to Indonesia last year, even though Indonesia’s West Papua policy is his number one issue;
• The Speaker did not invite him to join her congressional delegation to Beijing to discuss climate change, even though both China and global environment are within the jurisdiction of his subcommittee;
• The Speaker did not invite him to join her massive delegation to international global warming talks in Copenhagen;
• Obama did not invite him to the State Dinner for the Prime Minister of India, even though he is a senior member of the congressional caucus on India;
• Hillary Clinton did not seek his input on the itinerary for her trip to the Pacific, ignored small island state issues in her East West Center address, did not invite Faleomavaega to be there for her speech and did not invite him on her trip;
• The administration and several Democratic colleagues testified against his proposed legislation to subsidize StarKist so they will stay in American Samoa.
• The Interior budget for FY11 contains no funds for a prospective StarKist bailout.

So, if this is the peak of his influence, what’s the point? Perhaps his attack on Obama and Clinton was meant to put him in a position to be “punished” so he has yet another excuse at election time as to why he did not deliver. Why not? After all, his condemnation of his leaders was embraced warmly by his electorate.

Meanwhile, his fortunes in Washington continue on a downward spiral. But as long as he has the checkbook to pay for his relentless travel schedule, why should he care? Especially since he has Samoa News in his pocket, willing to cover up any and all of his foibles and failures.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Faleomavaega Escapes Local Scrutiny Again

The hands of Lisa Williams must be raw from all the high fives she gets from other staff when the local media lets her boss Faleomavaega skate out of yet more difficulty in trying to explain how American Samoa will fare under national policies being considered. Williams, who is Faleomavaega’s chief press aide, also is his chief of staff, top legislative assistant and, with her six-figure salary partly paid by the Foreign Affairs Committee, his chief foreign policy adviser as well. Some say she performs other services for Faleomavaega as well but that’s a story for another day.

Since Faleomavaega gets mainly positive coverage in the local media in American Samoa, you would have to say Williams well earns her hefty salary. But you would have to consider that it isn’t a fair fight in the first place. American Samoa has two newspapers. One is more of a community newspaper that comes out three times a week and does not have the resources to do much more than run his press releases. The larger, daily, newspaper, Samoa News, is an Associated Press affiliate and does have the resources but it, too, contents itself largely with running Faleomavaega’s releases. He is also helped by the fact that his sister-in-law is one of the paper’s editors.

The single television station is government-owned and has an evening newscast that largely ignores the delegate. Only one of the local radio stations has a local news operation. It, too, pretty much runs his releases. Another station gives the delegate an hour each week for a show with content of his own choosing, so a sitting member of Congress could hardly have a sweeter deal than that. No wonder Williams has the time to do multiple jobs at once. She hardly has to break a sweat in dealing with the local press and, somewhat surprisingly, no one in the national press has paid much attention to Faleomavaega, even though fewer than 8,000 people every two years have made it possible for him to rise in Congress to the point at which he now is only two heartbeats away from chairing the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That would make him ostensibly a key shaper of American Foreign Policy, as frightening as that thought would be.

However, as Faleomavaega has demonstrated over an over again, he is no team player and has a foreign policy of his own, even if no one can figure out what it is. Consistency has never been his strongest suit. So, even though he is a protege of the late Rep. Phil Burton, the same San Francisco congressman who mentored Nancy Pelosi and George Miller, it is unlikely they will ever put the House’s foreign affairs machinery into his unstable hands. Evidence? Pelosi took a delegation to China last year to discuss climate change but did not include Eni, even though his subcommittee has jurisdiction over China and global environmental issues. She also did not put him on her massive delegation to Copenhagen for international global warming talks.

If anything, Faleomavaega’s foreign policy seems to be pro-dictator. He famously toasted Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi a couple of years ago on one of his multiple trip to Vietnam and in January this year he helped the local Cambodia Communists celebrate the annual observance of the Vietnam communists’ invasion of Cambodia to topple the Pol Pot government. That gesture was so controversial that the other members of his delegation diplomatically absented themselves from the occasion.

He is so loved in Kazakhstan that the dictator there (who also held the job as a Communist during Soviet times) even took out an advertisement in the Washington Post to praise one of his several visits to the central Asian country. He also has turned in recent years from being a friend of Taiwan to being an ardent backer of the regime in Beijing and--in a demonstration it is not just communists he adores--he has become the chief defender of Fiji’s military dictatorship, in the process condemning (and alienating) Australia and New Zealand. He has no fans in Jakarta because of his attempts to force Indonesia to give up its West Papua province, they are not wild about him in Ankara because of his stance on Armenian genocide and Tokyo is not pleased about his demands that Japan compensate World War II Korean sex slaves.

But how much of all this do the people know about in American Samoa? None. Unless he puts it in a press release, the local media will not touch it. And the voters cheer him on even if members of his own party in Washington wish he would just go away. There always are hopes because his health has been in general decline for years and at age 67 he can’t hope to go on much longer. He can hardly walk, has had major heart surgery and is seriously overweight. His travel schedule is so brutal, that he can be seen nodding off to sleep in congressional hearings on occasions when he is passing through Washington.

One occasion in Washington he never misses is the annual State of the Union address. Viewers always know he is there because he is one of those members who shows up in the House chamber hours early on the day of the speech so he can assure himself a seat on the aisle the president comes down as he makes his way to the podium. That way he can shake hands with the president and be seen on television. Except this year.

Adorned with his trademark bolo tie (the only member of the House who does not regularly wear a standard necktie--not even those members with Indian blood wear the bolo), he could be seen this year sitting next to his freshman colleague from the Northern Marianas on a separate aisle. Perhaps he wanted some distance after having blasted Obama last week for not ordering Secretary of State to hold a summit with island leaders while she was in the region.

So, how did he escape local scrutiny again? Well, at the State of Union, Obama asked Congress to impose a three-year spending freeze on all discretionary domestic programs. The story of the speech was carried in Samoa News but buried in the paper and no attempt was made to tie the request to the local situation. A freeze would be significant if not fatal to the local economy because Faleomavaega is asking for a $25 million subsidy to offset mandated wage hikes which threaten to force the remaining cannery to pull out. In fact, the canner has asked for only a three-month extension of its tax exemption rather than a year as they await word on what Congress is willing to provide.

Not a word out of anyone as to what effect the spending freeze would have on Eni’s $25 million request. And there is no evidence Samoa News took the simple and logical step of asking him, either by phone or by e-mail or through Lisa Williams, what the freeze would mean. Not a word in the paper. Not a single word.

So, today Obama has sent a budget request to Congress for the fiscal year that begins October 1 (fiscal year 2011). It is in the amount of 3.8 trillion dollars. Now that the budget has been made public, the various agencies can talk about their programs. If not to Faleomavaega (who may be traveling), Samoa News could make a simple call to the director of the Office of Insular Affairs at Interior, a Samoan, or to the desk officer, also a Samoan, or to the director of OIA’s budget office to ask “how much has been included to fund Faleomavaega’s tiny request of $25 million?” That’s $25,000,000 out of a budget of $3.8 trillion. Not billion, but trillion!

Don’t hold your breath. Most likely Samoa News and the radio station will wait for his press handout in which he will brag once again how he helped prevent the budget cutters from whacking away at the $23 million subsidy it provides the local government for its operations and $10 million for capital improvements, even though those amounts have stayed at the same level the whole time he has been in office while the population has doubled. Lisa Williams can pull last year’s release out of the file, update it, send it off to Pago Pago and high five the staff again as she lights up her victory cigar.

We are betting there is NO money in the Interior budget for Faleomavaega’s little scheme, which should once and for all convince all doubters that his bill is going nowhere at all. Perhaps his attack on Clinton and Obama last week was meant to give him an excuse for not delivering: retaliation by Obama for him “standing up for the little guy.”

Stay tuned.