What Westerners would love to ask the candidates

They say the West is going to be in play for once and and maybe decide the 2008 presidential race. However, the candidates are not really talking about Western issues. Yes, Obama came out against the Cline coal pit mine that would pollute the Flathead River as its runs into the United States. He also seemed to take a regressive stance on the 1872 general mining act when he was contenting with Clinton in the Nevada presidential caucus.

For me, most important are questions about the management of the federal public lands.

Aside from that, I can’t think of much they have said directly about real Western issues. Ed Quillen says much the same in this Writers on the Range piece. What Westerners would love to ask the candidates





  1. jimbob Avatar

    I get the feeling Obama is either beholden to or afraid of BIG OIL. I think McCain is already under their thumb as a Republican. That would mean any environmental issue they look good on would be just for show, and not very meaningful. Heard Obama say anything strong against gas prices?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Unfortunately everyone has to be afraid of Big Oil . . . they’ll try to kill you (speaking metaphorically, of course, at least inside the United States).

    The political campaign contributions of Big Oil have swung enormously into the McCain campaign.

    The Republicans have at least made an unfortunately large number of Democrats running for Congress believe they are making converts on their “drill everywhere solution” to gasoline prices, and they are indeed likely to get some more offshore area opened up.

    Speaker Pelosi has now scheduled a vote on that, but she is going to put some energy bad medicine for the Republicans into it. They will have a hard time swallowing things such as conservation, oil company profits into alternative technology, opening the strategic petroleum reserve (the latter a solution as dumb as the Republicans’).

    Democrats control the House agenda by means of the Rules Committee. That committee is under the thumb of the Speaker. It determines the manner in which a bill can be amended.

    So its up to the Democrats to hang tough using their procedural advantage and try to split the Republicans. They should not watch the polls so closely. After all the price of oil is falling rapidly.

    The Democrats have the congressional election in the bag so to speak, and the energy controversy won’t change that. The Democrats should not let it.

    Neither McCain or Obama are likely to do much more than pander on energy until after the election. The average voter knows nothing about energy demand, energy supply, energy economics, the location of energy deposits, or the history of energy use in the United States or worldwide.

  3. jimbob Avatar

    I agree, Ralph. Your point about the “drill everywhere” converts is well-taken. Americans need to see that more access for oil companies will not only soil our lands, but will do nothing to lower prices here in America—-that oil will go on the world market and just make MORE PROFITS for the oil companies…..that is a scary proposition to me. They already have more money than God and are pretty much controlling our government. It sounds like a ridiculous doomsday theory or conspiracy, but I can’t believe more people don’t see how Big Oil is owns us….and you would think we “Westerners” would resent this type of thing, but most people have their heads in the sand. I am afraid for the country my children are going to grow up in. I pretty much know Obama isn’t the answer from the things he’s said. I fear the Democrats blew a sure-thing with the coming election.

  4. Maska Avatar

    This Westerner would like to ask Senator Obama what marching orders he expects to give the department heads he appoints. Will he expect them to obey the law? Will he weasel out of the consequences of laws duly passed by Congress by issuing “signing statements,” like the Current Occupant?

    What about his judicial appointees? Will they, too, be individuals with intellectual integrity, who will interpret and apply the law without regard for whose ox is gored? Or will they be results oriented types like too many recent appointees to the federal bench?

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Obama will nominate a person from the West to head Interior. This has always been done.

    No matter who, he or she will be better than Kempthorne, but that doesn’t mean good in an absolute sense. McCain will do likewise, but can anticipate someone as bad as Kempthorne, or even Kempthorne staying on. McCain has never been much interested in the outdoors except to the degree he had to be to serve as a Senator from Arizona.

    Equally important are the assistant secretaries of Interior, etc. My guess is President Obama will not have a strong opinion on these because he is from Illinois, so it is critical some token Democrat like Governor Freudenthal of Wyoming does not become Secretary of Interior or hold another high position regarding western lands.

    I think Obama will be much more certain and clearly better regarding the courts. He made a point of saying he would not nominate someone like Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia at his Saddleback Church interview.

    Democrats of all types have understood for years the precarious status of our laws before an increasingly “conservative” federal court system.

    I put “conservative” in quotes because when you have Justices who don’t even believe in the principle of precedent, you don’t have conservatism. You merely have lawlessness.

    I hope he cuts the office down to size like Thomas Jefferson did after John Adams tried to outlaw criticism of the President (Alien and Sedition laws). The office has become more like an emperor.

    My personal view is that we need a constitutional convention and abolish the office. It almost inevitably leads to abuse of power and wars.

  6. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    Today, Aug 26th, the European press makes strong headlines with an uncovered plot to assassinate Obama in Denver! Strange, I cannot find anything on the online services of CNN, New York Times or Washington Post. Is it a hoax?

  7. vicki Avatar

    I live in Colorado..and no news here about it. I wouldn’t be suprised though.
    All things like that do is make heroes out of politicians. Historically, politicians who get assasinated in the USA gather huge followings and get elevated to an untouchable status. Anyone wanting Obama gone would be better off letting him fail (though I doubt he would do any worse than GWB). Killing him will wipe away any mistake he ever made in the eyes of the world.

  8. vicki Avatar

    Peter, (allegedly….)
    They have arrested four people possesing guns and drugs. The four have white supremecey tattoos. One of the four may have threatened Obama before. They have not determined if these men would have the ability to carry threats out.
    They were arrested as a result of the man driving ( while under a suspended license,) weaving badly enough to be pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence.

  9. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    It has been deemed a non-credible threat:



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan