Barack Obama’s Alaskan Adventure

Katrina Anniversary, Alaska Visit Show Climate Change on Obama’s Radar
President Barack Obama is planning to run wild through Alaska during his current trip to the Last Frontier. Sort of.

Actually, Obama is scheduled to tape an upcoming episode of “Running Wild With Bear Grylls,” according to a spokesman for the NBC show. Obama and Grylls, a survival specialist, will spend time this week in the Alaskan wilderness for a special edition of the adventure series to air later this year. Grylls is expected to teach Obama survival skills, and Obama is expected to use the occasion to illustrate the problem of climate change and call attention to his policies for limiting global warming.

Among the survival techniques that Grylls advocates are drinking one’s own urine and eating insects and mice. The Secret Service, which protects the president, is likely to veto such suggestions but the adventure could make for interesting television. Grylls has taken other celebrities on wilderness trips, including Kate Hudson, Channing Tatum and Kate Winslet, and his show has become popular.

It’s the latest example of Obama’s use of nontraditional media to communicate with key groups in the country. He has appeared on Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis, a web comedy show popular with young people, and urged viewers to sign up for his health-care program. He has taped an upcoming episode of Vice on HBO, in which he visited a federal prison, the first president to do so, and in which he endorsed criminal-justice reform. He gave an interview to comedian Marc Maron for Maron’s WTF podcast in June, and has chatted with YouTube personalities including GloZell, who is also a hit with young people.

Obama’s three-day itinerary in Alaska this week includes not only the “running wild” expedition but also visits to Anchorage, Dillingham, Kotzebue, Exit Glacier and Kenai Fjords National Park, White House officials said. He will try to use Alaska’s experience to underscore the problem of climate change.

Despite Obama’s support for policies that limit global warming, environmentalists are disappointed with him because the administration recently allowed Shell to begin drilling for oil off the coast of Alaska, which critics say will eventually add to carbon emissions through the use of fossil fuel.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC Monday night that there is no hypocrisy involved because the president is moving aggressively to limit climate change but at the same time wants to make sure the nation has enough energy to keep the economy growing. “The president is leading the world to make significant progress” in lessening climate change, Earnest said, referring in part to the administration’s plans to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants and to require new cars to be more efficient and less polluting.

Obama’s policies in Alaska are causing another fuss for an entirely different reason. The administration has announced that it will change the name of Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak at more than 20,000 feet, to Mount Denali. Obama says he is making the changes through the Interior Department, bypassing Congress, in order to honor the native Athabascan people of Alaska, where the mountain is located. Denali means “high one” or “great one” in the Athabascan language. Many Alaskans support the change, including Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

But the change has angered Ohio’s political leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner who consider the shift an act of disrespect toward Republican President William McKinley of Ohio, for whom the peak had been named. And these politicians consider it a thumb in the eye for their state.

Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, told reporters, “Mount McKinley…has held the name of our nation’s 25th president for over 100 years.” Gibbs called Obama’s action “constitutional overreach,” arguing that only Congress can rename the mountain because it was named for McKinley in a law passed in 1917. President McKinley was assassinated in 1901.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, whose district includes McKinley’s hometown of Niles, said, “We must retain this national landmark’s name in order to honor the legacy of this great American president and patriot.”


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