White House threatens Alaska after GOP senator defies Trump on health care repeal


Donald Trump and his staff are behaving like nothing more than vindictive strongmen, threatening Alaska's relationship with the federal government after Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted against her party's health care repeal bill.

Donald Trump is no longer behaving like the "reality TV" president. His latest actions seem to be straight out of a mob drama.

After Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted against the health care repeal bill championed by Trump and many of her GOP colleagues, Trump petulantly lashed out at her on Twitter.

But his retaliation apparently did not stop with childish tweets.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports that, hours later, both Murkowski and her fellow Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, received phone calls from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, with what Sullivan referred to as a "troubling message."

And that message was, as reporter Erica Martinson noted, that Murkowski's vote "had put Alaska's future with the administration in jeopardy."

Sullivan told the paper that he feared for the future of the "strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies." He also noted that Zinke was clear about the motive: This was about Murkowski's vote.

And there is much on the line if Trump and Zinke hold to this bullying tactic:

Efforts and issues on the line include nominations of Alaskans to Interior posts, an effort to build a road out of King Cove through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, and future opportunities to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expand drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, among other regulatory issues that are a priority for Murkowski and Sullivan.

Many of these issues have been front and center for Murkowski, the chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — a role which includes overseeing the confirmation process for nominations to the Interior Department.

The Alaska Dispatch notes, "On Wednesday, a committee hearing on nominations to the Interior and Energy departments was postponed indefinitely. A reason was not posted."

A "reason" may not need to be posted.

Zinke, following his boss's example, minced no words in his phone call to Sullivan (Murkowski did not respond to requests for comment from the Alaska Dispatch, though Sullivan confirmed she had also been contacted by Zinke).

Threatening the livelihood of an entire state in order to get back at a senator for voting in a way that came as no surprise to anyone is beyond the pale. To call it inappropriate or unpresidential is to woefully understate the case.

And is all too predicable from Trump, whose fixation on loyalty — a lifelong obsession — and disdain for anyone who doesn't behave suitably sycophantic toward him has already become one of the macabre hallmarks of his presidency.

And his disturbing admiration for dictators lends an even more troubling sheen to this latest act.

Murkowski said she voted against the health care repeal bill because "I base my votes on what I believe is in Alaska's best interest." In other worse, because she has a conscience.

If only the White House could take a wise lesson from her, rather than attempting to teach her a despicable one.