Wyden, Brown do the ‘Sidestep’ on monument

Published on August 4, 2016 9:37AM

We understand the plight of some Oregon politicians when it comes to the national monument proposed for 2.5 million acres in Malheur County.

We understand that Sen. Ron Wyden and Gov. Kate Brown identify most with Portland and Eugene.

We understand that in the political game there is no need to give a straight answer to any question that offers them no benefit.

But still....

There was a time when even politicians stood for something. That’s how they were elected. They would say what they thought about a variety of issues important to the electorate, which in turn would decide whether to hire them as their representatives.

Oregon politics, however, appears to have mutated into a muddle of ambiguity. This is a world where there are no direct answers, and a “yes” or “no” question is answered with a monologue that dodges the question.

In the case of the Owyhee Canyonlands national monument proposal in Malheur County, Wyden was recently asked whether he supports it. The senator assured those at an Eastern Oregon town hall meeting he had told the Obama administration that area residents oppose it.

This is interesting in itself, because Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told a U.S. House committee on March 1 that she was unaware of any active plan in the administration to designate the Owyhee Canyonlands national monument.

If there are no plans for the monument, why is the administration still talking about it?

Wyden was asked whether he supported the proposal.

Wyden said it’s his duty to respect how Oregon residents vote on issues. Malheur County residents voted 9-1 against the monument in a special election in March. He also said that while Malheur County residents have voted on the issue, the rest of Oregon has not.

“I didn’t hear an answer,” Malheur County Farm Bureau President Jeana Hall told the Capital Press. “I think I heard a ‘maybe’ somewhere in there.”

Similarly, Brown, who like Wyden is in the midst of an election campaign, has been equally mealy-mouthed.

“While this is ultimately a federal decision, I have heard from many Oregonians with strong views about the Owyhee,” she said. “There’s agreement as to the beauty and uniqueness of the Canyonlands and disagreement over whether a monument designation can best ensure those characteristics will be enjoyed for future generations. I have communicated those viewpoints to federal administration officials and will be closely following this issue in the months ahead.”

It appears to us that Oregon’s “leaders” have decided it’s too risky to lead.

The political documentary film “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” includes a song called “The Sidestep,” which is sung by the fictional governor of Texas. The chorus goes like this: “Ooh, I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t. I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step, cut a little swathe and lead the people on.”

It’s a song all too familiar to a lot of Oregonians.


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