President Obama has nominated Rebecca Wodder–pronounced basically like a New-Englander says “Water”—to be the new Assistant Secretary of the Interior of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. While I disagree with her on a number of important issues, I think it’s vital that the Senate confirm her and that genuine small-government conservatives stand up for this nomination. The real opposition to Wodder’s nomination comes from people who don’t like the agenda of the group she headed for over a decade: American Rivers. And, for the most part, that’s an agenda that conservatives should share.
As a basically left-of-center environmental group, American Rivers had a number of agenda items (including support for the Waxman-Markey climate change bill) that I think are awful policy. But nearly every position she or American Rivers holds that I disagree with is simply the position of the Obama administration as well. Sen. James Inhofe, for example, has publically emphasized Wodder’s apparent support for favor federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing. I don’t have a position on this—in fact, because natural gas deposits don’t necessarily fall within state lines, federal regulation could well be sensible—but her position is the same (according to Inhofe’s own op-ed) as that of the Obama administration’s other officials. Should we expect the President to nominate people who don’t share his own issue positions?
The real opposition to the nomination is not over the fact that she agrees with the administration but, rather, the good and important work that American Rivers has done under Wodder’s leadership to stop government projects and subsidies from destroying the nation’s water resources. Aside from Inhofe’s op-ed, indeed, everything I’ve found opposing her nomination relates to American Rivers’ support for the removal of poorly maintained, dangerous dams, “economic development” infrastructure, and subsidies for agriculture. American Rivers has also strongly supported efforts to move the unsustainable national flood insurance program towards the private sector and reduce the enormous burden that federally-backed crop insurance places on taxpayers.
Wodder is not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination and I’m sure she will make any number of decisions I disagree with after she is confirmed. But, from a small-government, pro-environment perspective, she’s as good a nominee as one can expected from the Obama administration.
Texas Gov. and GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry last week signed a bill that will make changes—although not every change that I hoped for—that moves the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association broadly in the right direction. Also this week, Perry announced he would appoint Eleanor Kitzman, a former South Carolina Insurance Director, to head the Texas Department of Insurance. Two quick thoughts:
First, Perry has a decent—although not spectacular—record as governor of Texas. (Which I’ve written about here.) But is only mildly popular in his home state and, in one poll, would lose even his home state to Obama.
Second, the more I know about Rick Perry’s record in a certain area, the less I personally tend to like it. I’m very enthusiastic about his highway building efforts but, honestly, have only a surface understanding of how they have worked and the extent to which Perry can take any credit for them. (The law allowing the creation of independent highway authorities, which have built most of the new roads, was largely a product of the George W. Bush administration in Texas.) His record on insurance, on the other hand, is mixed to poor: until he kept the legislature in session this term to pass it, he did little to advance a freer insurance market.
My advice to free-marketers when it comes to Rick Perry: buyer beware.
Getting together addresses for of Heartland material to send to presidential candidates this week, it occurred to me to find out if anyone else was contending the Democratic nomination.
According to the website Politics1.com, there are indeed, 22 candidates other than the President who have declared for the primary. None have a chance, most don’t have websites and several that do seem decidedly kooky. The one person with some fundraising ability and a modicum of national name recognition seems to be strident (and slightly off balance) anti-abortion activist Randall Terry. Terry, who founded Operation Rescue and brought Civil Rights Movement-style tactics to the abortion controversy, ran for Congress as a Republican at least once while I was a student and journalist in Ithaca, New York near where he lived. I met him once and, as (then) a right-leaning pro-life Democrat, I was moderately sympathetic to his views. Frankly, I found him a huge turnoff, extreme, and someone who could give the pro-life movement a bad name.
Given that he has some fundraising potential—he’s already running a few Iowa radio ads—it seems likely that he could be the only Democratic candidate on the ballot besides Obama in many states. In some places, with very low turnout it seems possible that he could get a delegate or two to the national convention if ardent pro-lifers decide to vote for him. (This isn’t impossible: Cultist Lyndon LaRouche has managed to win a few delegates in the past.) They probably won’t be seated but, if they are, it could make for a few interesting blow-ups in what’s sure to be an otherwise stage-managed, coronation-like convention.
Until next week,
Eli Lehrer, vice president for Washington operations