Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Facts Smacts. I'm Going for An Effect Here

We always figured the president wasn't much of a science guy. We know he went to Yale to study business (well, sort of) so we were a little surprised by his excitement about the missile defense system. Turns out he is into blinking lights and men with deep voices counting backwards. When we read about White House polices on the energy (slogan :Let's drill some more holes) we were even more convinced that old time science was good enough for him.

So we thought he might have some folks on his staff that actually knew a little about science stuff. Seemed like a reasonable enough assumption. Until we read this.

A White House official with no scientific training edited government climate reports to play down the links between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Responding to requests for an explanation, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, "Well, it's not like he has no scientific training. He took two chemistry classes at Community College." Later McClellan admitted that one of the classes was a correspondence class.

Philip Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, often would subtly alter documents -- for example adding "significant and fundamental" before the word "uncertainties" -- to create an air of doubt about findings few scientists dispute. Asked to explain the reasoning behind his edits, Cooney responded, "Hey. I like adjectives. So sue me.

Cooney, who before working at the White House in 2001 was a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute and led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases. Asked if his relationship with the oil industry may have influenced his editing of scientific reports Cooney said it was "unlikely" due to the fact that he had been trained as a lawyer. "Besides," Cooney explained, "Showing favoritism wouldn't be...ummm...scientific. Ha! That's funny. Get it. Science is supposed to be objective and unbiased. Like me."

Asked to respond to Rick Piltz, who resigned in March as a senior associate in the office that coordinates government climate research and who wrote in his resignation letter that "Politicization by the White House has fed back directly into the science program in such a way as to undermine the credibility and integrity of the program," Press Secretary McClellan said he was certain that politics had not played a part in the editing of the report because he had been at the meeting where the president and vice president discussed what they wanted the report to say.

"There isn't anyone in Washington that's less knowledgeable about science than those two guys," McClellan said. "Wait. That didn't come out right. Well, no matter. These are oil guys. They know what they're doing."

Asked about the edited report at a press conference, President Bush said, "Science is pretty cool. Last night after supper Cheney made one of those model volcanoes. You know the ones that fume and have lave flowing and stuff? I tried to show Laura, but I must have done something wrong because it just spurted and messed up the carpet."

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