The Postmodern White House

THE POSTMODERN WHITE HOUSE….Remember a few months ago there was a minor storm because the EPA had deleted a section on climate change from its Report on the Environment (ROE) before releasing it? The section was eliminated because the White House had tried to force changes contrary to accepted science and the EPA eventually decided to quit fighting and just delete the whole thing.

David Appell has a copy of the internal “Issue Paper” in which the EPA outlined its options for responding to the White House, as well as some good background information, but since not everyone is going to click the link and read the PDF file, I’m going to reproduce the most important part here.

At the time the memo was written, the White House had made “major edits” to the climate change section and then indicated that “no further changes may be made.” Here are the options the EPA considered:

OPTION 1: Accept CEQ [Council on Environmental Quality] and OMB [Office of Management and Budget] edits.

Pro: This option is easiest in terms of EPA-White House relations. It ends a multi-month negotiating process that has regressed substantially with the last round of comments.

Con: EPA will take responsibility and severe criticism from the science and environmental communities for poorly representing the science. EPA will have to decide who will respond and how to questions. This will undermine the ROE and the EPA for an extended period. It also undercuts key science assessments, such as by the National Research Council and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This option also provides specific text to attack and the potential to extend the period of criticism. Early review drafts were circulated to other agencies, States and Regions, and can be expected to surface for comparison.

OPTION 2: Remove climate change section from the ROE.

Pro: This provides little “meat” for attacks on EPA’s science. It may be the only way to meet both White House and EPA needs. It does not expend more EPA resources on the product. EPA can explain the omission by pointing to the scientific disagreements and explaining that it is inappropriate for EPA to create its own version of the science.

OPTION 3: Do not accept “no further changes” and try to reach compromise.

Pro: This is the only approach that could produce a credible climate change section in the ROE. It may antagonize the White House more than the other two options.

Con: It is likely not feasible to negotiate agreeable text. It will expend more resources on the section and possibly delay the ROE further.

This, I think, displays the Bush White House at its most typical. Genuine problems simply don’t matter to them. The only thing that counts is advancing their political agenda, and anything that doesn’t fit that agenda is vigorously brushed under the carpet and ignored ? in the apparent belief that problems genuinely don’t exist if they are inconvenient to the administration’s goals.

As the memo says, the only approach that could produce a “credible” climate change section was also “not feasible.” That tells you everything you need to know about the Bush White House’s approach to the real world.