Thursday, August 09, 2007

Breathing their own bullshit

-- by Dave

Back when Republicans were still obtaining and accruing power, they became masters of the non-apology apology, a way of making it look like they were saying "sorry" for bad policy, or for the ugly and bizarre things that came out of their mouths, without actually doing so. It made them seem less noxious even as they were ramrodding their agenda through full steam ahead. At best, they might admit "mistakes were made" and then hurry along to the "let's move forward" part.

But now that the fruits of years of misbegotten Republican rule are coming home to roost and the public wakes up to its manifestations, their grip on power is slipping. The prospect of even further losses loom large on their personal horizons, so they're just kind of curling up into fetal positions and refusing to admit that anything it wrong at all.

Out here in the Northwest, we saw this recently when Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon told reporters that he has no regrets over his role in allowing the largest recorded fish kill ever in the West:
Sen. Gordon Smith says he doesn't regret helping restore water to Klamath Basin farmers in 2002, despite the massive salmon die-off that followed on the Klamath River. In fact, Smith questions whether the diversion to farmers was the cause of the fish kills - a position severely at odds with environmentalists and one that is likely to keep the issue alive politically.

Smith said in an interview with the editorial board of The Eugene Register-Guard that he thought the die-off was more likely a result of disease and said: "I am not here to make any apologies.I am proud to fight for the farmers or any group of Americans whom the federal government says has no standing, no water. I just find that offensive."

Unsurprisingly, the denials also involve a good of flat-out lying.

There is little question, scientifically speaking, that the fish kill was caused by the shutoff of water into the Klamath River. Both federal and private scientists have studied the matter, and unanimously concluded that it was caused by the loss of oxygen due to the extremely low flows. Smith should know this, and one must suspect he is fully informed on the subject and just making shit up.

Moreover, Smith also claims in the R-G interview that the fish didn't die until 18 months later. In fact, the kill occurred in September 2002, and the shutoff was in March 2002.

But the most mendacious aspect of this is his characterization of the groups he was coming to the defense of. It wasn't the Klamath Basin farmers he was defending; rather, it was a group of bellicose right-wing extremists who were claiming the loss of water for farmers was part of a New World Order conspiracy. Smith and the federal officials -- reaching to the highest levels of the Bush administration -- who kowtowed to their claims and probably broke the law in the process were in fact enabling and empowering fanatics of the most conspiratorial militiaman stripe.

As I observed shortly afterward:
Of course, as one might expect, this fish kill did little to help the handful of farmers it was meant to protect. Many of them are now anxious to trade their land back to the government. But in the meantime, the real bread-and-butter jobs in the Klamath -- the salmon fishing industry, providing some 4,000 family-wage jobs and $80 million a year to the region -- were severely trashed. Many of those businesses went belly-up along with the fish.

Of course, the Patriots and their mainstream cohorts now strenuously deny that the water plan killed the fish -- claims that, as usual, have been thoroughly debunked.

The recent revelations of involvement in this policy decision from the very upper echelons of the Bush administration, and the clear evidence that the choice was based on politics, not "sound science," are of course the most significant short-term issues related to this case.

But in the long term, Americans need to ask what the White House is doing by capitulating wholly to right-wing extremists who clearly did not represent the larger interests of working people in the Klamath Basin. And by capitulating to them, giving them real power.

Now we know that the White House influence extended not merely to Rove, but to Vice President Dick Cheney himself, who it has been revealed was pulling many of the levers to get the water cut. Smith's denials that he knew anything about Cheney's machinations are about as credible as the rest of this steaming heap of senescent bullshit.

Why he would indulge in such transparent nonsense is puzzling. It must beat ever admitting a mistake, even when it's as painfully self-evident as the stink of rotting salmon.

Torridjoe at Loaded Orygun has more.

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