Friend and occasional commenter A.I. chides me with these words: "You like to call the President a liar KB." I don't in fact do that a lot. I won't say that I don't like doing it when I think it is called for.
Here is an instance where it is called for. From the Politico:
The White House rewrote crucial sections of an Interior Department report to suggest an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling, the Interior inspector general says in a new report…
"The White House edit of the original DOI draft executive summary led to the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer-reviewed by the experts," the IG report states, without judgment on whether the change was an intentional attempt to mislead the public.
The story goes like this. While the Deepwater oil spill was in full plume, the Administration decided to issue a six month moratorium on off shore oil drilling. The decision was backed up by an Interior Department report. At the eleventh hour, a crucial passage in the report was rewritten. Here is the edited passage:
The recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.
That one sentence contains two large, obese, inexactitudes, otherwise known as big fat lies. One is that the seven experts endorsed the moratorium. They didn't and have said so. The other is that the Interior Department recommendations were peer-reviewed. They weren't.
This is important enough to revisit for several reasons. One is that the Administration was clearly and intentionally trying to deceive the public. That is not unusual, but in a Republic it ought to be pointed out.
Another is that the Administration was clearly distorting science to back its policy agenda. The Bush Administration was frequently accused of this. If it was serious when a Republican was in the White House, it's serious now.
The Interior Department could have easily gotten a peer-review of their moratorium recommendation, if not from the seven experts, then from some other group of qualified scientists. In fact they never sought such a review.
Finally, the moratorium was very costly, something that put some burden on an already burdened economy and put a severe burden on a lot of people living and working along our Southern coast. If, as indicated above, the moratorium reflected political strategy rather than a reasonable concern for public safety and the environment, it looks like a very bad piece of work.
The Administration's handling of the BP oil spill was appallingly incompetent. The President, aided by the media, exaggerated the severity of the situation. This may have had two motives: one was to provide support for the Administration's energy policy proposals. The other was to provide the Administration an opportunity to act forcefully for the public good. The moratorium was intended as an example of forceful action. Since the example was important, and not any actual outcomes, who needs a stinking peer-review?
Unfortunately, there wasn't anything the Administration could really do to help. They ended up looking impotent while the real experts tinkered with the well. The Administration's inept attempt to exploit the disaster dealt a serious blow to the President's credibility at a time when his party could ill-afford it. It helped to destroy the illusion that Obama brought anything new to Washington.