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Column: Where’s the news about Lizer and Trump?

The silence was deafening.

Especially after seeing photos posted on Facebook every time the president and vice president cough or hiccup.

We are treated to up to 10 photos a day showing President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer appearing at events or sitting at tables or signing documents.

To cover the photo-op prez and his partner we would need an extra section of the newspaper to include it all.

This PR machine in the president’s office can be trusted to produce images and a few words about anything and everything the two leaders are doing every day.

Duane Beyal portrait

Duane A. Beyal

So we were surprised when Vice President Myron Lizer shook hands with U.S. President Donald Trump on Sept. 16 at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. We expected hot photos posted on Facebook immediately after the brief handshake between Lizer and Trump.

We expected words such as, “Lizer meets Trump to continue the Nez-Lizer administration’s agenda,” or some such hype.

Even though, I thought as I watched a video of Lizer greeting Trump, he barely had enough time to say “sovereignty.”

We waited the following day for an expected barrage of photos of Lizer meeting Trump, with a message blaring “Navajo joins effort to Make America Great Again!”

Or at least an acknowledgement that the event, where a senior Navajo Nation leader meets the president of the United States, had happened.

But, again, the silence was deafening.

Finally on Sept. 18 I sent a question to the president’s office, asking, “Are you going to post anything about Lizer’s attendance at Trump’s rally?”

A anonymous response was sent two hours later, saying, “Feel free to give me a call.”

This was also a small surprise since questions to the president’s office often fall on deaf ears – especially controversial or issue-oriented questions – and are filed away never to see the light of day again. And a response is never guaranteed.

In any event, our reporter, Rima Krisst, had a brief interview with Lizer on Saturday at the Northern Navajo Agency Council meeting at Tsé Alnoazt’tí (posted on Facebook by the president’s office: eight photos!).

Asked about the Trump visit, Lizer, a hard-core Republican and businessman, said he was the only tribal leader on the welcoming delegation. He said Nez is more Democratic leaning, and this may explain the absence of any coverage of his handshake with Trump.

He also suggested he has a right to his own views and has been negotiating his role as vice president as a part of the Nez-Lizer team.

For example, he said he didn’t sign off on a news release last week where the president’s office reported on its talk with the Resources and Development Committee, in which the office pushed its energy development initiative.

It’s no secret that Republicans generally do not view climate change as an issue and believe fossil fuels still play a role – both counter to the renewable energy mantra Nez is pushing.

But most revealing about Trumpgate is that the president’s office controls and manipulates the news it sends out. By ignoring a big event like Lizer shaking hands with Trump, it showed that the viewers and readers only receive what the president’s office wants them to receive.

No substance, no real news, no hard decisions, just photo-ops showing them everywhere and anywhere – except at Trump’s rally.

This column is not criticizing the exposure communities and their events receive from the photo-op machine, which may be the only good thing about it.

But Trumpgate also reveals the struggle inside the president’s office where we have seen splits between the prez and vice prez in the past, such as between Nez and Russell Begaye.
Only time will reveal the true intent and purposes for Nez’s – and Lizer’s – time in office.

But even a polished PR machine may not prevent a split from developing between Nez and Lizer.

About The Author

Duane A. Beyal

Beyal is editor of The Navajo Times.


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