THE BLOG
06/22/2007 11:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

James Connaughton: The Bush Era Personified

Tim Dickinson has a piece in Rolling Stone on the Bush administration's coordinated attempts to stifle action on global warming, and it's worth a read. (Also worth checking out: the accompanying multimedia slideshow.) Lots of it will be familiar to Grist readers, but it's nice to see it pulled together into a single (extraordinarily damning) narrative.

One guy who plays a big role in the story is James Connaughton, the ex-dirty-energy lobbyist Bush brought in to head up the Council on Environmental Quality.

Side note: speaking of the CEQ, savor this:

Prior to joining the Cabinet, [ex-EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman] sought personal assurance from Bush that the EPA would be able to call its own shots without deferring to the CEQ - the Council on Environmental Quality, a policy arm of the White House. As Whitman recalls it, Bush made no effort to mask his bureaucratic ignorance. "What's CEQ?" he asked blankly.

Oy.

Bush was clueless, but Cheney -- to whom virtually all Bush era malevolence ultimately traces -- was not. He took the CEQ under his wing and made it his personal policy/propaganda shop, much like he did with the Office of Special Plans in the run up to the Iraq War. He used it to funnel favorable intelligence (read: bogus skeptic studies) up to the highest levels of gov't and out to the media, to interfere with scientific gov't reports, and to stymie executive rule-making. And of course Connaughton played along willingly.

As it happens, Connaughton's in the news again. On Wed., the Senate EPW Committee held a hearing on the abysmal EPA reaction to 9/11 air quality dangers. The EPA Inspector General issued a report (PDF) in 2003 revealing that the CEQ forced the EPA to tone down warnings about the air and reassure everyone it was safe. Connaughton testified at the hearing. Josh Marshall -- who has some video highlights from the testimony -- says that ...

... the result was such a tour de force of testimonial BS that we wanted to show you some of it. We see a lot of congressional testimony and thus a lot of non-denial-denying, obfuscation and generally bamboozling crap. But this performance stood out.

This guy really personifies the Bush era, with its fetid mix of mendacity, ideology, and incompetence. No doubt he'll be back in a cushy lobbying job before Bush's boxes are even cleared out of the White House.

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