Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke gave one heck of a speech to the National Petroleum Council yesterday, telling the industry group that he planned to move the Bureau of Land Management out of Washington and into an unspecified western state. He also said that one third of the employees in the Department of the Interior were not loyal to him or President Trump. That made headlines, but my favorite part of the story is the secretary’s nautical metaphor. Zinke told the assembled oil company reps that he knew when he took over Interior, “I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag.”
That’s the old Zinke charm, right there: by analogizing everything to the Navy, he makes his career as a SEAL the prerequisite for whatever job he has been called on to do. Of course, one side effect of this metaphor is that it conflates loyalty to the United States with loyalty to Trump. If Zinke is correct, and a third of his department is resisting his agenda from within, maybe it’s because they are more loyal to the Department of the Interior than to this particular administration. The new secretary’s plan is to radically restructure the department, after all. Perhaps they’re not on board with his changes because they have a bunch of experience, whereas Zinke has seen fit to re-envision a whole department in the executive branch despite never having done anything like this before. That’s the Trump administration’s promise, though: they’re going to completely change Washing by drawing on the wisdom they have gained by never working in it.
Anyway, best of luck to Commander Zinke in rooting out the traitors in his midst. I also wish him luck in his ongoing plan to protect public lands, a commitment that defined his politics right up until he stopped needing to win elections. On a completely unrelated note, here’s the other fun quote from the AP’s report:
Zinke also offered a quirky defense of hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique also known as fracking that has led to a years-long energy boom in the U.S., with sharply increased production of oil and natural gas.
“Fracking is proof that God’s got a good sense of humor and he loves us,” Zinke said without explanation.
Ryan Zinke accidentally wanders in front of a flag while wearing a cowboy hat.
Montana sends only one delegate to the United States House of Representatives, and for the last two years it was Republican and former Navy SEAL Commander Ryan Zinke. Zinke won re-election in November, but he vacated his seat last week after the Senate confirmed him as President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior. Until we pick a new one via special election in May, Montana will go without representation in the House. This situation turns out to be not so different from the one we enjoyed already.
Zinke ends his career as a congressman having sponsored no bills that actually became law. That’s not so unusual for a freshman representative. What set him apart was his flair for the dramatic—his ability to present a wild caricature of Montana values while, again, not actually expressing those values in the form of legislation. But who cares about influencing the US government when your representative used to be a Navy SEAL? Sure, he missed 80 of 99 House votes after he was nominated for Interior. But he also gave us this photograph:
God, I’m going to miss that. Remember when he said President Obama shouldn’t have attended the Paris Climate Summit because it did nothing to stop ISIS? And then a few weeks later opposed background checks at gun shows, also because it wouldn’t stop ISIS? Communications from his office consistently referred to him as Commander Zinke instead of Representative Zinke—part of a relentless branding strategy that even extended to his duties as a rep. He co-sponsored the Draft American Daughters Act, a satirical bill to register women for the draft that expressed his opposition to letting them take combat specializations. This bill also did not pass. Again, nothing Commander Zinke proposed to the House ever passed. But what fun we had!
Now he runs the Department of the Interior, a position that will make his gung-ho performance art more difficult. It’s hard to connect the Interior to foreign terrorism. I believe Commander Zinke can keep making politics more like pro wrestling, though. It was a heartening sign when he rode a horse to his first day of work last week. Seriously—you can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Montana has not lost much of a legislator, but we must bid farewell to one hell of a showman. I can’t say I agreed with his politics too often. But I love a character, and Commander Zinke has certainly been that. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!