Where had science been?

WHERE HAD SCIENCE BEEN?…. In his latest Weekly Standard piece, Fred Barnes assess President Obama’s first month in office, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s unimpressed. Barnes’ complaints vary from odd to predictable — apparently, the president travels too much and gets along too well with congressional Democrats — but one concern in particular stood out for me.

Obama may not be eloquent, but he is glib and clever and at times persuasive. One of his favorite rhetorical devices is setting up a straw man, then knocking it down. He invoked this classic ploy subtly in his inaugural address, crudely in his press conference. “We will restore science to its rightful place,” Obama said at his inauguration. Really? Where had science been?

Let’s put aside whether the president is, in fact, “eloquent.” I suspect most of the planet would disagree with Barnes’ assessment, but never mind.

As for where science disappeared to, if Barnes really wants to know:

More than 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, issued a statement yesterday asserting that the Bush administration had systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad.

The sweeping accusations were later discussed in a conference call organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent organization that focuses on technical issues and has often taken stands at odds with administration policy. On Wednesday, the organization also issued a 38-page report detailing its accusations.

The two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases.

”Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systemically nor on so wide a front,” the statement from the scientists said, adding that they believed the administration had ”misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies.”

Does Barnes not know this, or is he pretending not to know this?