by Patrick B. McGuigan
Barack Obama is making his first visit to Oklahoma as president of the United States.
Although no appearances open to the general public have been announced, both fans and critics of the first-term Democratic chief executive are organizing to advance their conflicting views.
This evening (Wednesday, March 21) in Oklahoma City, anti-war activists have planned a demonstration advocating “Clean Energy and Peace.” They want the president to end the U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan and, a release sent to The City Sentinel, said, not heed “the calls from the far Right to engage militarily in Iran over its alleged nuclear capability.”
Organizers, including Nathaniel Batchelder of The Peace House and Rena Guay of the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research, “want the federal budget re-prioritized to focus on ending warmaking and instead serve human needs.”
Batchelder and Guay say they are working in a coalition called Americans Against the Next War.
The coalition plans to demonstrate on the northeast and southeast corners at the intersection of E.K. Gaylord Boulevard and Reno Avenue (at the dividing point between downtown and Bricktown) from 5-6 p.m.
In a press release, city officials have warned local residents to expect crowded conditions in the MidTown area this afternoon and well into tomorrow.
In Cushing, site of tomorrow’s formal speech, local residents are celebrating the visit, while fretting over the impact of all the anticipated traffic.
A leading local progressive voice and a former governor of the Sooner State, both Democrats, are applauding the anticipated visit.
Tom Guild, emeritus professor from the University of Central Oklahoma and a Democratic candidate in the Fifth Congressional District, told The City Sentinel he believes Obama has turned around an economy that was “on life support when he took office. By providing desperately needed assistance to the states during the depths of the Great Recession, he helped Oklahoma escape draconian and disabling cuts in the state budget.”
Guild applauded what he called “bold steps” to save two top automakers from collapse. He reflected, “Although the road ahead is fraught with difficult challenges, America is on the mend and the future is brighter than it was three years ago when he took office.”
Guild also praised the president for ordering the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Former Governor David Walters, calling himself “an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama,” told The City Sentinel he was “delighted that he has come to Oklahoma to speak clearly to his support of the energy industry despite the normal partisan misrepresentations of his energy policies.
“Although Oklahoma will sadly vote for the President’s opponent no matter who it is, it is a testament to his leadership that he reaches out to those who are for and against him to help fashion a policy so critical to our state and nations future.
“His leadership has supported an increase in energy production during his time in office, has identified the enormous role that natural gas will play in our future and has provided policies to accelerate the U.S. achieving energy independence, with an all of the above approach, in a responsible and environmentally sound manner.
“I hope as a result of this visit that more Oklahoma’s will begin to appreciate this President’s steady, thoughtful and dedicated leadership to our nation and his support for our state, no matter our politics.”
After decades as a stronghold for the Democratic Party, Oklahoma – now dubbed the “reddest of the red states” – is regarded as a conservative bastion. Conservative activists working through Americans for Prosperity (Oklahoma) plan to hold a rally at Cushing, site of major address the president is giving to tout his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
A facebook posting for what is deemed a “NOT In Our Back Yard Rally” said activists would gather tomorrow morning (Thursday, March 22) at 9:30 a.m.
Organizers said, “As we proud ‘Okies’ know, this happens to be the “pipeline crossroads of the world.” The Keystone Pipeline (Keystone XL) would’ve been a big deal for jobs and business in Oklahoma but it was stopped dead cold by POLITICS. The President promised to fight for the middle class, but he stood directly in the way of a project that would create thousands of American jobs.”
The group said it would meet at Cushing’s Memorial Park (the corner of E. 5th and S. Little St.) to advocate for pro-energy policies, touting Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industries.
In a blog posting yesterday, Vice President Brian Bush of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) ruminated on Obama’s visit and a popular song called “Flyover States” by Jason Aldean.
As Bush put it, “It tells the story of a conversation between two men on a cross-country flight when all they see out the window is farmland. Noting it all looks the same, the men cannot understand why anyone would want to live ‘down there in the middle of nowhere.’ The song’s chorus answers back, … suggesting that spending time in the heartland would help the men have a better understanding of Midwestern values – the very values that sustain this country.”
Bush said Obama’s visit to Oklahoma –“arguably the capitol of the heartland” – might influence the president to change more of his views on energy development. Bush contended a blanket drilling moratorium after the Gulf oil disaster hurt the domestic economy. He chided the president’s rejection of Keystone XL, and encouragement to Saudi Arabia to produce more oil.
Bush asserted, “The problem is not whether Americans have heard Obama’s energy message; Americans hear him loud and clear. They are simply rejecting the message.” He continued, “Pound for pound, no other state is leading in the energy sector like Oklahoma, and Washington could learn a lot from Oklahoma values. .. Oklahomans understand we must allow free-market principles to guide policy because when government chooses winners and losers, we all lose.”
He continued, “some of the world’s best leaders, best producers, and best entrepreneurs call Oklahoma home, and this is your chance to seek their help to build an energy policy that makes sense for all Americans. America needs America’s energy. America needs Oklahoma’s leadership.”
Concluding his reflection, Bush quoted from the Aldean tune: “On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes, like a water-color painted sky, you’ll think heaven’s doors have opened, and you’ll understand why God made those flyover states.”
Officially, the president’s stops in central Oklahoma are limited to arrival and departure appearances at Tinker Air Force Base (immediately adjacent to the capital city) and the Cushing pipeyard speech to reporters and a selected crowd.
While the trip apparently includes no formal fundraising events or campaign appearances, the president must have been cheered by some recent news concerning the 2012 presidential race.
In the aftermath of the “Super Tuesday” primary, it appeared that ardent pro-life advocate Randall Terry and perennial candidate Jim Rogers had secured enough support in two congressional districts to gain delegates to the national convention.
However, state party officials announced last week that both men had missed a deadline for naming someone to qualify for a delegate slot. Therefore, all of Oklahoma’s delegates will go to President Obama, after all.