Nick Begich III campaign materials sit on tables ahead of a May 16, 2022, GOP debate held in Juneau. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)

Nick Begich III campaign materials sit on tables ahead of a May 16, 2022, GOP debate held in Juneau. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)

Opinion: An endorsement that puts the Constitution last

Nick Begich III wants another shot at becoming Alaska’s congressman at large. This time he wants to get ahead of the pack by securing the endorsement of Donald Trump. So he publicly endorsed the former president first.

To his credit, Begich isn’t defending Trump’s favorite fantasy that the 2020 election was stolen. But he lacks the confidence and integrity of Sen. Lisa Murkowski. She told Alaskans the truth that Trump lost, followed her conscience by voting to convict him of an impeachable offense and was still reelected to the Senate.

In Begich’s view, “it’s the policies that truly matter.” And Trump gave us “the most pro-Alaska presidency in a generation, focusing on the development of our vital natural resources.” He highlights Trump’s approval to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. And his exemption of the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule.

For starters, it was Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and the late Rep. Don Young who were responsible for the ANWR provisions being included in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. That would have been signed by any Republican who occupied the White House at the time.

Indeed, Trump’s own words reveal that for him it was less about Alaska than adding a policy win to his legacy.

“I really didn’t care about it,” Trump said of ANWR at a party retreat in West Virginia two months after signing the bill. He admitted that changed after learning from a friend that every Republican president since Ronald Regan had tried but failed to get Congress to approve drilling in the refuge.

Finally, Begich seems to have forgotten how the whole affair was a bitter disappointment. The anticipated 10-year revenue from the 22 tracts up for bid was estimated to be worth $1.8 billion. But offers totaling $14.4 million were made on only 11 tracts. Nine of them were submitted by the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. Alaska’s three biggest oil producers didn’t even bother to bid.

Begich claims Trump’s Roadless Rule decision showed his “understanding of Alaska’s unique needs” and it “had the potential to reinvigorate the timber industry in Southeast Alaska.”

Well, if Trump knew so little about ANWR, it’s a good bet he was even more clueless about the long, on-again-off-again history of the Roadless Rule. And the economic analysis done under Trump’s watch indicated the annual amount of timber sales offered by the U.S. Forest Service wasn’t expected to increase. Equally revealing was the underwhelming conclusion that “communities influenced by the timber industry may experience minor beneficial effects resulting from flexibility for timber harvest.”

There’s a bigger flaw with Begich’s arguments. While we elect members of our delegation to represent the state’s interests in Congress, we should also be cognizant of their responsibility to weigh them against America’s vital interests at home and abroad. And those are the primary concerns of whoever is president, not fulfilling the wishes of any state, business, or public advocacy organization.

Leslie Moonves never understood that. He was TV-network chair for CBS who referred to the 2016 presidential campaign as a “circus” full of “bomb throwing.” In true unpatriotic form, he said “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” Why? Because so much more advertising money was “rolling in” than the network anticipated. He credited Trump for that. “Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

And in his own unpatriotic gambit, Trump tried to keep going even after voters terminated his presidency.

The calculation Begich is making looks a lot like Moonves’. It places his personal ambition ahead of America’s interests. Furthermore, it would replace the oath he’d take to defend the Constitution with a pledge of loyalty to Trump.

Murkowski knows that’s what’s wrong with her party. She’s one of the few Republicans who understands it doesn’t matter if a president is good for her state unless he’s good for America. And she firmly believes Trump isn’t.

It’s my hope she’ll work hard to convince independent Alaskan voters that she’s right. And they’ll help make him the second Republican presidential candidate in history to lose the state.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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