IS TONY DEBRUM COMING UNDONE?

We all know Tony deBrum is real smart, so we expected him to learn from his mistakes last time he was in power.   Frankly, we expected him to have more ability to control events since he is the master mind of the Tomeing administration.   Right?  

 

But then early on after the UDP forfeited its election victory and Tony was back in power there was the threat by Imata Kabua and Tomeing himself to dump Taiwan and U.S. and become a client state of one of the most totalitarian governments on earth, the PRC.   Some say U.S. is in decline, China is the next superpower, and RMI should do just that, maybe that was Tony’s goal, but deBrum pulled the RMI back from that risky business when Tomeing and Kabua revealed too much too soon.   Tony made Tomeing and Kabua look weak and confused in the eyes of the world, especially when he told the press Imata was a sick old man and didn’t know what he was saying.

 

At least Tony didn’t follow them over the cliff on the China issue.   But now he seems to be on the edge himself.   The August 8 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal has Tony ranting and raving about U.S. decision to pass over Ben Graham as the RMI Ambassador.   If that is a final decision, too bad, everyone believes Ben is a great guy, but you move on.  You don’t leave the RMI without representation in what may be the most sensitive and critical time ever for RMI-U.S. relations.   It arguably is incompetent political and diplomatic mismanagement to put the personal feelings of Tony or the personal situation of Ben before the RMI national interest.      

 

But Tony is acting like a petulant child, insisting the U.S. makes exceptions, but not giving any clear examples.   We know Americans serve in foreign governments without losing their U.S. citizenship, but we also understand there are rules about what they can do diplomatically when they are in Washington.   If Tony says there are examples of U.S. citizens serving as foreign ambassadors and heads of foreign diplomatic missions, he needs to spell it out.  And ironically this might be an unusual case, because Americans in other countries may be in a slightly different position than an American representing the RMI in the USA.   That is because the U.S. exercises powers and authority equivalent in some ways to sovereignty in the RMI, powers the U.S. does not exercise in England or Israel or Ireland, for example, where there are many dual citizens.   So an American representing the RMI in Washington would be representing a foreign country to the American government, which has governmental powers in the country he represents, and there could be some unusual conflicts of interest perhaps not present in other bilateral contexts.

 

But perhaps more remarkable is that Tony is talking himself into a corner, quoted in the MIJ saying he does not want it to appear he and his foreign ministry failed to “do our homework” before sending Ben’s nomination to the parliament for confirmation.   He insists the U.S. did not indicate a problem, but he does not seem to have any evidence that the U.S. actually flip flopped or made a commitment then backed out.   So it really does look like deBrum did not do his homework, and now he is seem in Washington as belly-aching about it like a cry-baby.   In the diplomatic big leagues you don’t assume you have agreement until you have it in writing.

 

More seriously, some people in Majuro and Washington believe Tony rushed the Ben Graham nomination through parliament because he was so eager to fire respected and successful RMI Ambassador Banny deBrum.   Some say Tony wanted to consolidate his power by bringing in as many new people as fast as he could so their families and friends would have a reason to support the new administration, with Tomeing as the figure-head and Tony deBrum as the power behind the throne.   It worked with the UDP and independents who joined the AKA government, and rushing high level appointments through was also part of that tactic.

 

We are surprised by Tony’s blunders, but even more surprised by his statement in MIJ that suddenly he and the AKA are doing all they can to get a new LUA.   Last time we checked Tony was a lobbyist for the landowners who are the ones who refuse to sign the LUA.   And now he tries to play more little games with the U.S. suggesting that the landowners are not influenced by the $20 million in the escrow account that they will get if they sign the LUA.   Does he really think that anyone believes that?

 

Well, he must think the U.S. is stupid, because he went so far as to say “landowners are not attracted by the $20 million, they are insulted by it.”   Did he give the interview to Giff at the Kava Club?  

 

Then he decided to make matters worse and get personal with a highly respected member of the U.S. Senate professional staff who, as far as we can tell, does his best to get Congress to pay attention to the RMI, especially when the U.S. has a few bigger problems, and would like to be able to count on its allies like the RMI, instead of baby-sitting their Foreign Minister, who seems to have taken his diplomatic etiquette lesson form Hugo Chavez.

 

So last week Tony was blaming U.S. Chief Negotiator Al Short for everything Tony does not like about the Compact of Free Association, accusing Short of being personally responsible for the Kwajalein provisions of the free association treaty.   Short set Tony straight in a rebuttal, so now Tony has decided to blame someone else, and so as the MIJ reports it Tony told the MIJ the December 18 deadline for a land use agreement is a trick by Al Stayman, and according to Tony “Al Stayman put that in the original law and he can remove it more simply than we can change the MOURA…We’ve been very forthcoming with the US about working to get agreement with the landowners.”

 

Where do we begin?   First, Al Stayman is a member of the professional staff, influential, but last time we checked he did not have a vote.   Tony is paying $1 million dollars a year to former Senator Bennett Johnston, who did have a vote when the 1986 Kwajalein deal was done, which Tony now says was a rip off and insult too, and he says the 1986 deal Bennett Johnston voted as a Senaet leader to approve is the source of the problem with the new MOURA and LUA, but he doesn’t blame his favorite lobbyist.  No, he blames Stayman, because Tony is addicted to the politics of personal destruction, and he likes to make it personal.

 

Well, Jack Abramoff, who also practiced the politics of personal destruction, also tried to attack Stayman personally, and it backfired big time.  Tony was partners with Abramoff in a character assassination plot against the former U.S. Ambassador last time he was in power, and apparently he did not get enough, because now he is after Stayman this time.

 

Tony, do we need to send you back to high school to study civics 101?   The RMI national parliament approved the Compact, and so did the U.S. Congress.  Do you really think Stayman approved the Compact, do you really think that laws and treaties passed by the U.S. Congress are the personal work product of the staff, rather than exercises of the constitutional sovereignty of the nation?   We all know staff are important, but Tony is hardly being diplomatic by telling Congress it works for Al Stayman, instead of the other way around.   Do you really think Stayman can change U.S. law and personally “remove” a provision of a ratified treaty that has the force and effect of law? 

 

We thought you were an experienced pro, but you are acting like an amateur.

 

But the real low point of Tony’s MIJ interview was when he said “How can landowners be expected to accept an agreement that provides less than what they were getting in 1986 dollars 20 years later with no visible solution for dealing with the Ebeye-Kwajalein dichotomy?  …It escapes me how any thinking people can see that as a workable solution.”

 

Then Tony starts playing games about how OTEC for Kwajalein is really a “win-win” solution for the RMI and U.S. that will make the LUA possible.  What?    When will Tony get it, the OTEC will either happen if it is truly win-win or it won’t if it isn’t.   But holding the LUA hostage and threatening to breach a treaty unless Kwajalein gets OTEC is the best way to create a lose-lose situation.    The U.S. does not like to be blackmailed.   OTEC will happen on its own if it is a good deal, and maybe the U.S. has already decided for or against OTEC, and if it has decided in favor of at least studying OTEC for Kwajalein deBrum will claim credit for it, just like he claimed credit this week for U.S. Army generators provided to help at Ebeye.

 

And what is the Kwajalein-Ebeye dichotomy?   How is it different from the Anderson AFB-Guam dichotomy, or the U.S. federal government-Southeast Washington D.C. dichotomy?   There are people who are poor and can’t afford energy when it snows living in the shadows of the U.S. capitol.    Tony has been defining the RMI and the U.S. only by the problems we have, not to solve the problems, but to exploit problems for his own aggrandizement.  

 

If deBrum and his clients, now that he is also their senator, really want to address the Ebeye dichotomy, and they are insulted by the $20 million in the escrow account, as he claims, why don’t they just agree to give 100% of that $20 million to the people of Ebeye and the rest of the landowners of Kwajalein Atoll?  Distribute it per capita to all the people equally, not 2/3’s to the chiefs and their lobbyists.  Or, give it to the elected government to allocate under a democratic process?

 

Then deBrum tries to go back to the landowners’ eight point declaration of demands from several years ago, and says of the landowners, “if they see movement on both the US and RMI side, they will give us instructions to go talk to the US government.”   So as Foreign Minister of all the Marshallese people, Tony takes his instructions on one of the most important bilateral issue for the whole nation from a handful of landowners who put their personal interests before the RMI national interest.   THAT is pathetic.

 

 

 

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