08/01/2007 03:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Doing a Gonzales

Miami, FL -- I have periodically referred to the logic of Lewis Carroll's Red Queen ("a word means what I say it means, no more, no less") when discussing the ability of the Bush administration to simply pretend that things are other than they are. I've also resorted to George Orwell's Ministry of Truth as an analogy. But I now think the Administration has begun doing this so often and so blatantly that they deserve a eponymous neologism of their own.

So from now on I am going to refer to "doing a Gonzalez" when I catch them in the act. The latest example is the mystery of why Everglades National Park, viewed by the entire scientific community as being in tremendous peril, was removed by the U.N. World Heritage Commission from the list of Heritage sites in danger.

When this story first broke, the Sierra Club's Florida Representative, Jonathan Ullman, requested the minutes of the meeting at which the Commission decided the Everglades were "no longer" in danger. Unfortunately, the Commission turned us down, writing, "Following our telephone conversation, I have to confirm that the minutes and transcriptions of the discussions are not public."

We did learn that the IUCN and all of the delegations that spoke except the US opposed the decision, so this was clearly a move driven by the Department of the Interior -- but why, and on what basis? This remained a mystery.

Now the St. Petersburg Times has uncovered the whole story.

According to the paper, the pressure get the Everglades off the list is long-standing. "There's always been a kind of pressure from the Washington level to say, 'Okay, we've got a plan, now take us off the list,'" said Robert Johnson, director of the South Florida Natural Resources Center at Everglades National Park since 1995. 'I think for the Bush administration, it was seen as a black eye to be on that list'."

The hatchet man was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Todd Willens. According to Willens, "even though the National Park Service's own report recommended keeping the Everglades on the danger list, 'I changed the last sentence of our report and said we wanted to be taken off.' " But just to ensure that he got credit for a full Gonzalez, which requires not only standing the meaning of a word on its head but also blaming someone else for the perversion -- as implausibly as possible -- Willens said this wasn't his idea. Instead he claimed that some of the other countries -- unspecified -- at the meeting had asked him to do it -- even though every country that spoke out in the public session opposed the change. And here we thought the Bush administration was cavalier about the multi-lateral aspects of the international system! Full Gonzales to Todd Willens.