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OPINION: Delegation turns timid on federal overreach

February 10th, 2017 | Dermot Cole, Alaska Dispatch News Print this article   Email this article  

The Alaska congressional delegation's outrage at presidential actions taken without consultation with Congress, which was off the charts under President Barack Obama, has all but disappeared in the last 12 days.

Why else would Lisa, Dan and Don have been the only Alaskans unwilling to utter an opinion over the weekend about the Trump administration's bungling on immigration?

Sen. Dan Sullivan had a Facebook post wishing snowmachine racer Cory Davis good luck in the X Games in Aspen, Colorado. And Sen. Lisa Murkowski thanked the "brave Alaskans" who dove into cold water in Seward to support the American Cancer Society.

But they and Rep. Don Young seemed to be in a meditative trance as the fallout spread from a Trump policy bred in isolation that appeared to have no vetting, let alone extreme vetting.

President Donald Trump acted in haste without consulting Congress — though White House aides secretly worked with congressional employees. He didn't bother with a coherent plan and created chaos around the world, but the Alaska delegation stayed serene.

On Monday afternoon, a post on Murkowski's Facebook page said she and her staff had been "monitoring implementation" of Trump's immigration order "all weekend long," but she was unable to voice an opinion.

I have to hand it to whoever wrote the 150-word Murkowski statement on Facebook, which contained nothing of substance, not even a suggestion that the cruel and incompetent actions of the Trump administration have done damage to the U.S. at home and abroad.

That is apart from the real policy questions about limiting the edict to seven countries and whether this was the result of an attempt, as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani claims, to ban Muslims legally.

The publicity offices of Sullivan and Young chimed in with extra mild statements saying they want to keep the country safe; all three said the implementation of the Trump order was flawed.

The timid comments of our delegation, in keeping with many Republicans in Congress, may be based on a fear of getting crossways with the commander in chief and becoming targets of presidential tweetstorms.

Murkowski and Sullivan shouldn't worry. When they said last October that Trump was not fit to be president based on his heart-to-heart talk with Billy Bush about grabbing women by the genitals, our senators established a baseline level of distrust that won't go away.

The two Republican senators with the most credible response to the weekend immigration fiasco — Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham — struck the right balance and drew a rebuke from Trump.

"Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism," McCain and Graham said.

This prompted the president with the itchy Twitter finger to claim they are "sadly weak" on immigration and they want to "start World War III," but Trump is wrong.

"This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security," the two GOP senators said.

That's what the Alaska delegation should have said.

Columnist Dermot Cole can be reached at The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Media, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email


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