Friday, September 12, 2014
FALEOMAVAEGA OUT IN THE COLD AGAIN AS PATTERN CONTINUES
Although he issued a press release nearly a month ago (and nothing since) about President Obama’s proposed Pacific conservation zone, saying he “and Governor Lolo have made American Samoa a top priority in discussions regarding the Pacific Remote Island (PRI) Marine National Monument,” the first important discussion at the White House was held this week and, while Governor Lolo was represented by a member of his cabinet, Faleomavaega was nowhere to be found.
It is not a matter of him continuing to be ill. He has run full page color ads (using a pre-illness photo--see below) in Samoa News this week headlined “THANK YOU AMERICANS AMOA” [sic] announcing “I have recovered and am ready to serve the people of American Samoa again, God willing.” It is not a matter of him being here; he isn’t. Since Congress is in session, he is in Washington, as he suggested he will continue to be when he issued a statement last week through 93KHJ-FM’s Washington correspondent Matt Kaye saying “In the coming weeks, I will be working closely with [Kaye and the station] to make future announcements."
Even though he is the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific Affairs, a panel that also had jurisdiction over ‘the global environment” during the four years he chaired it until 2011 and is the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fish, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, because it is part of a pattern it comes as no surprise Faleomavaega was excluded from this important White House meeting with the very powerful Counselor to the President John Podesta and the acting chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.
Ironically, the more seniority he has acquired, the less influence he seems to have. Whether the White House called this meeting or it came at the initiative of Pacific fishing interests, he was bypassed, just has he was when a number of groups, organizations and governments filed written objections with the White House this summer over the proposed exclusion zone. Even in American Samoa, the governor, the Fono, the Chamber of Commerce and his own Democratic party sent their statements directly to the White House rather than to Faleomavaega for transmittal, which had been the usual protocol in the past.
Since his “I’m not sick any more” announcement came only this week, maybe people felt he was still recovering, but he was healthy when his own Democratic Party colleagues declined to make him Ranking Member of the full Committee on Foreign Affairs last year despite his top seniority and when the Asia Pacific caucus passed over him for chairman in favor of a freshman from California despite the fact he was vice chairman at the time and in line to advance because the post traditionally had alternated between the Mainland and the islands over the years.
Moreover, Faleomavaega was passed over by then-speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) when she took a 21-member House delegation to a UN environmental conference in Copenhagen at a time when he was chairman of the subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and the Global Environment! So, it hardly could be said this latest humiliation comes as a shock. Even though apparently no other Pacific congressional offices were represented either, if there were to have been one person there it should have been Faleomavaega, because he is the most senior Pacific Member of Congress since the passing of U.S. Senator Daniel K, Inouye (D-HI) and, because of American Samoa’s tuna canning industry, he represents the jurisdiction with the most at stake in the President’s plan.
There is one possible explanation, however. Perhaps knowing the White House plans to move forward despite island objections, maybe he wanted to distance himself from this meeting to give himself political cover for when he faces the voters in November. That is plausible since a post-meeting press release from the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council said that despite all the objections raised by Pacific participants in the hour long session, "[U.S.]government officials reaffirmed their support for the Monument’s expansion, however, they did not explain their rationale or expound upon any supporting facts,” and went on to say “Mr. Podesta expressed his opinion that large marine protected areas are valuable to the nation’s conservation objectives.”
If the governor’s representative, Port Director Taimalelagi Claire Poumele, even dropped by Faleomavaega’s office to brief him, just say hello or be part of one of his infamous staged “photos ops,” no mention of that was made in the September 12 Samoa News story, although the article noted that Faleomavaega sent Obama a letter of objection on July 18. The story of the White House meeting ran on the editorial page next to Editor-in-Chief Rhonda Annesley’s latest installment of her “Gong Show” editorials. While she has taken on Faleomavaega’s absence in earlier Gong Show editorials, in what may be the biggest irony of all she missed the opportunity to use the side-by-side placement of the meeting story and her column to make note of his absence at the White House meeting. We’ll give her a double gong for that.
Faleomavaega did put out a September 12 press release publicizing a meeting with the President of StarKist “to discuss federal issues affecting cannery operations in American Samoa including extension of 30A and minimum wage.” He said “With competition from Thailand, where workers are paid about 75 cents per hour, and with the prospect of other companies like Bumble Bee opening operations in Apia, we must continue to work together to ensure that our canneries can remain competitive.” Given the amount of money company executives have pumped into his reelection campaign, he could hardly have turned him down but despite the potential impact of the proposed conservation zone, this release incredibly said not one word about it or the White House meeting.
The Samoa News webmaster recently assured an on-line commenter they would not be running any of Eni’s “BS” propaganda, which this press release clearly is. So we shall be watching closely to see if Samoa News ignores this release, runs it as is or uses it as additional material for a story about how Eni missing the crucial White House meeting and has said nothing to the public about it. No doubt Faleomavaega’s press staff is hoping to use this StarKist meeting release to divert attention away from his absence at the White House meeting, just as they successfully diverted press attention from his absence on the August Congressional Delegation that came here.
With an election less than eight weeks away, this is information the public needs to have. Whatever the newspaper chooses to do, they should use the photo of Faleomavaega and the StarKist president because it clearly shows the current physical appearance of the delegate, which is not flattering. He barely resembles the smiling man in the campaign ad that appeals to voters: “And so it is with this renewed health and refreshing spirit that I humbly seek re-election as your representative in the United States Congress.”
As Rhonda Annesley might put it: GONGGG.
Truth in Advertising? The photo on the left is the one being used in Faleomavaega's Samoa News advertisements this week. It is several years old. The photo in the middle is an undated talanei.com
file photo that has been run with stories about him in the past several weeks. The photo on the right is a cropped head shot from a photo taken with the president of StarKist in a meeting in his office that accomplanied a September 12 press release from his office. In addition, the top photo on the right hand side of this blog is the one his office website uses as its "official website photo." It is at least 30 years old. The photo below it was captured from a video he released at Christmas, 2013.
Perhaps most startling is the contrast between the Christmas photo and the April 12 photo because it appears that his physical condition has deteriorated or at least that he has lost additional weight in the past eight months.