With impeachment looming for President Donald Trump in Washington and a fast-growing recall effort threatening Gov. Mike Dunleavy in Juneau, we may be looking at regime changes in both places in the next year.
The two efforts are unrelated but suggest that many opinion leaders here and there are unhappy with the way things are going.
President Trump’s travails have been widely reported and are indeed troublesome, but Governor Dunleavy’s continuing squeeze on the general public welfare is tightening and growing more painful. The latest and most worrisome problems in Alaska include the decisions to shut down ferry service on the Alaska Marine Highway for much of the winter and to suspend maintenance on the Seward Highway from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. each day, effectively closing the road between Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula when it snows.
Those decisions could isolate significant portions of the state’s population during critical periods and present a challenge to public safety. Especially at risk could be emergency responders who will be tempted to meet their challenges in all conditions and could face substantial risk in doing so.
The Alaska Department of Transportation recently announced plans to turn off the lights on a 34-mile section of the Glenn Highway from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. each morning, but good sense prevailed and that decision was rescinded.
Both Trump and Dunleavy have accomplished many things in their terms, but they have managed to raise the ire of lots of people in doing so.
Dunleavy’s efforts to reduce state spending have effectively reduced the size and cost of state operations, but they have sometimes gone beyond the pale in pain and discomfort to many state citizens. Decisions like shutting down ferry service and sporadically closing major highways are an unthinkable shrinkage of public services and put large segments of the population at personal risk.
President Trump’s three-year term in office has seen improvements in employment and the economy as a whole, but recent decisions like withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and abandoning the Kurds to their threatened fate are causing even many of his supporters to shake their heads.
Trump has added to his negative perceptions by what looked like a temper tantrum against Democratic congressional leaders during a meeting about the Kurds’ problem at the White House. In that blast of invective the president, among other things, called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “third-rate politician.” Though the argument may have some merit, mentioning it in a nasty way during a meeting with congressional leaders looks very bad and unpresidential, to say the least.
The Kurds have been a valuable ally in this nation’s struggles in the Middle East and having the United States withdraw its troops from Syria, thereby throwing the Kurds to their fate, seems especially heartless. Trump compounded the problem by bad-mouthing the Kurds, saying they were “no angels” and that their conflict with Turkey was “over land that has nothing to do with us.”
In midweek, the investigative journalism group Pro Publica reported that Trump’s hotel company was providing conflicting information about the financials of two major properties in New York. The Trump people were giving different figures on expenses, profits and occupancy to two different and critical audiences. They were showing one set of figures to lenders showing that profits were healthy and another set to those setting tax rates indicating they were less profitable.
Governor Dunleavy’s latest constriction of state services will give impetus to those gathering signatures to put his recall on next November’s election ballot. It seems unlikely that voters would actually decide to cut the governor’s term short, but the negative vibes generated by the effort could present a worrisome obstacle if he decides to run for re-election in 2002.
The possibility exists, of course, that the threats to both Trump and Dunleavy could recede, though that seems less likely in the president’s case than in our governor’s. Some congressional leaders are suggesting that the president could be impeached by the House and tried by Senate within the next few months. That may exaggerate the likely timing, but it does indicate that things are happening fast in Washington.
Politics is not always an interesting spectator sport, but it sure is these days.