By VERNON ROBISON
Last weekend the regional news media reported that Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D), the freshman Congressman supposed to be representing rural residents of Lincoln County and northeastern Clark County, was all worked up about the Trump administration horning into his territory. Kihuen held a press conference on Friday to decry the administration’s review of two National Monuments located in his congressional district.
You see, in the spring, President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke to scrutinize a long list of 22 national monuments which had been designated by various presidents since January 1, 1996. The goal was to determine if these monuments should be scaled back, altogether eliminated, or left as is. Included in the list were the Gold Butte National Monument, here in our neighborhood, and the Basin and Range National Monument up in Lincoln County. Both of these lie within Kihuen’s district.
At the press conference, Kihuen expressed outrage about the mandated review. He was particularly opposed to the way it is being carried out – without him. He complained that the administration was cutting him out of the process. He called it “highly disrespectful” for Zinke to not inform him, well in advance, of any plans to visit the two monuments. And he was offended at the lack of a speedy enough response to a letter he had sent to Zinke the week before about the ongoing review.
From the perspective of a rural resident, I had to smile and shake my head. So let me get this straight: Mr. Kihuen, who is truly nothing more than a Harry Reid proxy on this issue, is feeling left out of the process? Well, that must be truly heartbreaking for him! After all, where can he go for help? Who will represent him? Who can he trust to listen to him, advocate for him, and get him a space back at the bargaining table? After all, his mentor Senator Reid is retired now. And the Obama years are over. What a difficult position for him to be in now!
Of course, we rural folks have never been in that position, right? Way out here in the far reaches of Kihuen’s district, we can’t begin to comprehend; in our simple, small town ways; just how a sophisticated guy like Congressman Kihuen must be feeling.
After all, it certainly can’t be anything like the rural residents in Lincoln and northeastern Clark counties have felt over the years as we have seen miles of important roads, leading to treasured and beloved destinations, suddenly closed to us without any public process or input of any kind.
It can’t be anything like how we have felt as we have seen historic mining and ranching sites, vital to our local heritage, dismantled and suddenly swept off the landscape by federal authorities, with no public notice or input, and for no good reason.
It can’t be anything like how we have felt in having to fight against nearly two decades of attempted end-runs in the Congress by a powerful senior senator who should have been representing us. With every new congressional session, rural residents have been forced to go to battle, taking an ever-vigilant defensive against this barrage of bills; one after another; each one proposing the exact same added restrictions on the land. The failure of each one never prevented the gumption of having it presented again in the next session and repeating the whole appalling battle almost verbatim and ad nauseum.
It can’t be feeling anything like how we have felt, after successfully fighting off all of those dastardly legislative attempts for years, and then suddenly watching our senator just side-step around Congress altogether and go straight to the President, asking for a special personal favor to invoke the Antiquities Act where it really didn’t apply and make the very same designations anyway.
It can’t feel anything like how rural folks feel when their current Congressman takes a position on those same monuments based more on paying back favors from his mentor and political encumbrances from national environmental groups rather than on a listening conversation he might have with his own constituents who are closest to the areas.
Finally, it can’t be anything like how we feel when reading a news story, the day after, about how our Congressman held a high-and-mighty press conference of which we were not adequately notified, nor were we invited. And need we also mention that the press conference was held far away from us in the urban center of Las Vegas, at least 90 miles as the crow flies from either of the two monuments in question? That pretty much sums up the problem right there.
No! He can’t be feeling anything like that. We simple rural folks; who are going to have to live daily with whatever decision is made in this matter; can’t possibly understand what poor Mr. Kihuen must be feeling in being left out in the cold by the administration on this matter.
Or can we?
Actually, we are clearly quite familiar with just how he feels. The rural residents of northeastern Clark County, as well as those in Lincoln County, have felt left out of this process for years due to the shenanigans of the likes of Harry Reid, Dina Titus, Shelly Berkley, Rep. Kihuen, and all of their environmental ilk. During that time, they have schemed behind our backs, tried to manipulate us, and postured in every conceivable way – all in attempts to promote an agenda that has everything to do with politics and nothing to do with real, on-the-ground preservation. And all this on land that really means little to them, but everything to us.
During the Obama administration, their crowd was able to run rampant. And despite repeated failures of their bills in Congress, they finally even got their way by cashing in favors with the former President. This was done while ignoring the will of rural residents and skillfully cutting us out of the process.
But suddenly the tables have turned – at least for the moment. Though substantial changes to these monuments may still be something of a longshot, we do find ourselves in a strange circumstance indeed.
The administration (the unelected bureaucracy, of all things!) is actually seeking input on this matter from the most directly affected, neighboring, rural residents. They have expressed a great interest in hearing from us, and listening to our input; more so than our own Congressional representative! What an upside down Twilight Zone that is!
Unfortunately that now puts Mr. Kihuen in the spot of being the one on the outside knocking to get in. And he is just shocked and appalled at the idea of being thus left out in the cold. Ironically, he is demanding the very respect and consideration which he and his colleagues have never been willing to give to the rural folks on this issue.
So the best rural response, that I can think of, to his little display of tantrum last week is to simply say: “Cry us a river, Mr. Kihuen, cry us a river!”