On Sablan’s immigration bill that already has passed the committee, Hastings told the press that when he returned to Washington he would be pressing the House leadership to schedule a Floor vote before Congress adjourns. In contrast, a Senate Omnibus Territories Bill that Faleomavaega in a big showy press release commended the Senate for passing, is thought to have little chance of clearing the House, which has only a dozen legislative days remaining before adjournment for the midterm elections. That bill also might have drawn Hastings’ attention if Faleomavaega were on the trip to push for it, especially during a stop here. By now, our local media certainly must be aware of the contrast of the CODEL stops here and in Saipan. So, it is time for them to ask some questions on behalf of the public they are supposed to serve.
- Why wasn’t Eni on the delegation?What did the governor and other ASG officials discuss with the delegation while they were here?
- Did anyone make reference to Hastings’ statement on the issue and ask for the delegation’s intervention with the White House on the conservation expansion zone question?
- Why was press barred from talking to the CODEL in American Samoa but not in the Northern Mariana Islands?
- What was the security threat that concerned the delegation?
- Who made the decision to bar the media?
- Was this really just an accommodation to Faleomavaega?
- Why haven’t any of the congressional candidates spoken up?
- Why hasn’t anyone in the public spoken up?
Also contrast Faleomavaega’s weak statement on the conservation zone with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) courageous position on Iraq. When President Obama announced the zone expansion in June without consulting the delegate, Faleomavaega's office issued a statement quoting him as saying “I appreciate that the President will focus on combating threats of overfishing and carbon pollution in the Pacific and their long-term negative effects on the health of our marine ecosystems and the livelihood of our people . . . [h]owever, while I fully support [his] commitment to protecting our oceans, I am very concerned that the stakeholders, including Territorial Delegates . . . were not consulted in advance about the possible impact some of these initiatives may have . . .” How about if he had instead said: “I am deeply disappointed the President did not consult with me, the senior member of his party on the Subcommittee on Fish, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. I will be requesting the chairman hold hearings on this initiative.”
Gabbard, on the other hand, on one of the recent Sunday national talk shows forthrightly said the U.S. counterterrorism mission is adrift and needs to be refocused to target and dismantle the Islamic State. She criticized President Obama’s response to the threat posed by the Islamic State, recalling how a White House official said last week that U.S. air strikes in Iraq “are not an authorization of a broad-based counter-terrorism campaign” against the extremists. “So if our mission is not to take out the Islamic extremists who continue to threaten and wage war against us, then I think we've got a real problem here," she said.
Brave stuff for someone who is a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, which by its nature always backs the president down the line on policy issues and who also is on the House Armed Services Committee where, as a freshman legislator, she is expected to do the same. Perhaps while he was recuperating in that Honolulu hospital room last year, someone removed Faleomavaega’s cajones and passed them to Gabbard. Tough stuff for our macho, male-dominated Samoan society to swallow.
Falemoavaega’s impotence has not been lost on the groups--even his own local Democratic Party--that oppose Obama’s conservation zone expansion: they are abandoning him in droves. All of them have filed their arguments directly with the White House, not through Faleomavaega’s office. We have no doubts that his enforcer, Lisa Williams, has had or will have strong words with AS Democratic Party Chairman Ali’imau JR Scanlan—and probably the others--about that violation of protocol. Apparently she comes unglued when she loses control.
If the question were asked of his office, they could always claim that the White House asked for the responses but protocol in American Samoa in the past always has been to submit them through the congressional office so a cover transmittal letter of support could be added. They cannot claim that it had to be done this way because he is of a different party than the president or that he has a different position than the petitioners or because of the short fuse for reponses coming during a congressional recess since he is staying in Washington “because of the press of congressional business.”
We are only a couple of weeks away from the candidate filing deadline for Congress. Although he, himself, has made no formal announcement nor have we received any word on when he intends to return to the territory, we can assume the “press of congressional business” will keep him in Washington until adjournment. However, the way he has handled this conservation zone matter and the visit of the CODEL raises more questions about his fitness to continue, no matter how well he heals between now and election day.
To date, we have avoided calling for him to step down before the end of his term but since he still has not told anyone what ails him after almost 10 months, how will anyone know if he would be fit enough to serve another term. What happens if he suffers a relapse? Can we afford to be without a full time, fully functioning delegate? After all, on the eve of the 2012 election he publicly announced, as quoted atop this blog, all the surgeries he had had and conditions he had suffered in recent years and asked for everyone to vote for him again anyway, regardless of what his future health might be.
Then, nine months into his new term, he took ill again, this time with a condition he has declined to identify. Perhaps the time has come for him to reassess his situation and rather than file for reelection, announce his resignation and recommend the governor hold a special election concurrent with the general election to fill his vacancy, thus giving someone else a chance to start building seniority ahead of the enlarged Republican majority expected to be elected in November and take office in January.
To look after our affairs in Washington, can we afford two more years of a sick, old man in the minority who seemingly no one much listens to anyway?