Audio: Former Gov. Ed Schafer Says He Doesn’t Think “State Has Done a Good Job” Handling #NoDAPL

I had former Governor Ed Schafer on my radio show today and while most of our conversation focused on the upcoming legislative session – he had some interesting perspective on Doug Burgum coming in as a first-term governor – but his most interesting comments were about the State of North Dakota’s handling of the #NoDAPL protests.

“I don’t think the state has done a good job,” he told me.

“The state didn’t respond well to the legitimate concerns the tribe raised,” he continued.

Mostly Schafer felt the state, under the leadership of current Governor Jack Dalrymple (whose term ends in nine days), didn’t communicate well enough. They didn’t do a good enough job articulating the merits of the pipeline and the regulatory process which approved it, Schafer believes, though he didn’t name Dalrymple specifically.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”I don’t think the state has done a good job,” he told me. “The state didn’t respond well to the legitimate concerns the tribe raised,” he continued.[/mks_pullquote]

I think he’s right. He’s not saying that he agrees with the protesters. He says the state hasn’t done a good enough job of rebutting the arguments made by the protesters.

The editorial board at the Fargo Forum made some similar points recently which I thought were spot-on.

“The governor is not ignoring the situation. He attends briefings daily with law enforcement and others involved in trying to ensure public safety at protest locations near Cannon Ball, N.D., and regarding security as protests spread to Bismarck and Mandan,” the paper wrote. “But a daily meeting behind closed doors—and with no report to the public—is not enough. North Dakotans are beginning to believe the governor’s strategy has reduced the state to a minor player in a drama of national import in which North Dakota is being unfairly and dishonestly characterized as a villain.”

“The governor has the bully pulpit,” the paper continued. “He should use it.”

It has often seemed as though Dalrymple is willing to sit back and allow others – such as law enforcement or county-level leadership – take the lead. Which is inappropriate.

The #NoDAPL protests presented a crisis for the state, one that has made national and international headlines. The person out in front in that situation should have been the governor. It hasn’t been, for the most part.

Here’s the full audio:

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Rob Port is the editor of, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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