Our view: GOP decision leaves us disappointed
OK, so we were wrong. President Trump apparently will not be the keynote speaker at the Republican Party Convention this weekend at the Alerus Center. To us, all signs pointed in that direction. We certainly weren't alone in that thinking.
With that acknowledgement, we also suggest that it possibly could have been in the works until the last minute. How else could it work out that the keynote speaker is Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke? And that his appearance was announced at a relatively late hour (Tuesday afternoon)?
Some background on Zinke: From 2015 to 2017, he was a member of the U.S. House, representing Montana. Prior to that he was a state senator in Montana. He is a former Navy SEAL.
He has generated controversy in his first year as the 52nd secretary of the interior. He was criticized last summer when he chartered an oil executive's private plane for a trip from Las Vegas to Montana. That the secretary of the interior would ride on an oil company's private plane is controversial enough; but the flight also cost taxpayers more than $12,000, although commercial airline flights between the states generally cost less than $500.
Also last year, The Washington Post reported that nearly all members of the National Park System Advisory Board quit in protest, saying Zinke reversed several key Park Service policies without soliciting their input. The Post also reported last month that Zinke was among the Trump cabinet members considered at risk for being fired for, among other things, spending $139,000 to renovate his office doors.
Last year, it was reported that Zinke had revived a ritual that few remember ever happening in federal government. When he arrives at his office, a flag flies to announce his presence; when he leaves, the flag comes down.
And Zinke has loosened protections for various public lands.
Meanwhile, he also has pushed for American energy independence, which we appreciate. He wears a cowboy hat and has a mounted bison head in his office in Washington, two factors we like. Also, former Gov. Ed Schafer told the Herald that Zinke "is in charge of a department that has a lot of impact on North Dakota."
Maybe these are the reasons he's been selected to speak at the GOP Convention out here in the Wild (Mid) West this weekend.
Alas, Zinke is not President Trump, and he's not Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke last month in Fargo. We're jealous that Fargo got that plum and Grand Forks did not.
Zinke's appearance in Grand Forks will be interesting, no doubt. It's just that considering the weight of the state's Senate race — between incumbent Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer — we were holding out hope for a Trump visit.
Evidently, that won't happen and, with respect to Secretary Zinke, we're a bit disappointed.