For Americans passionate about environmental issues, the last eight years often felt like a horror movie — all screams and monsters. So we could use a little laughter to change the mood.
Now that we’ve survived the reign of 43, Grist presents the Bush administration’s cast of enviro villains as characters of Fox’s hit cartoon comedy, The Simpsons:
The top Forest Service official made plundering public lands look as easy as ripping off a Kwik-E-Mart. Yoink! Oh, and he was also threatened with jail time for repeatedly dousing forest fires with a flame retardant that killed fish.
Bob Terwilliger obsesses over killing Bart Simpson, who foiled Bob’s plot to frame Krusty. Polar bears didn’t foil any of Interior Secretary Kempthorne’s plots, but he seemed to have his own borderline-sociopathic death wish for the arctic mammals and other threatened creatures.
Bush’s first EPA administrator tried to play the nagging voice of conscience, begging Bush not to abandon the Kyoto Protocol and his campaign promise to regulate carbon. Finally, fed up with the dysfunctional family, Whitman quit it like Lisa ditching Homer’s barbeque.
Skilled spine-benders, both. Skinner kowtows to Superintendent Chalmers at Springfield Elementary and to his mother at home. When Johnson became Bush’s second-term EPA chief, he sold out his past work as a scientist to do his boss’s dirty work, like denying California a waiver to pursue its greenhouse gas plan. Wonder if he’s learned to wince reflexively, a la Skinner, when Bush calls his name.
Holmstead turned his job as the nation’s top air pollution official into one big ol’ belch of harmful emissions. He helped the administration gut the Clean Air Act, first lying to Congress, then using administrative rule changes to get around Congress. Barney eventually comes clean about his belch-inducing booze addiction, confessing to Moe, “I broke barstools, befouled your broom closet, and made sweet love to your pool table, which I then befouled.” Holmstead hasn’t yet fessed up to befouling the atmosphere.
When the former lobbyist Wehrum took over as EPA assistant administrator for air policy, he brought as much qualification for the job as Dr. Nick, a graduate of Hollywood Upstairs Medical School. Wehrum enthusiastically defended quack science, including Bush’s Clear Skies legislation and slack mercury regulation, though he stopped short of digging up corpses in a graveyard for body parts.
Like the sugar-voiced country singer who temporarily seduced Homer, Interior Secretary Norton put a smiling face and a down-home spin on the worst of the administration’s un-protecting of public land. Like Lurleen checking into rehab, the fellow Westerner Norton eventually concluded she had bottomed-out on energy and mining company giveaways and resigned to “catch her breath.”
FEMA chief Michael “Heckuva job” Brownie brought executive incompetence to a new level with his agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina. He one-upped his peers in cluelessness, much like Police Chief Wiggum in the lackluster Springfield government. As a resume-padding flack with no prior emergency management experience, Brown was clearly in over his head, sorta like Wiggum trying to take down the thug Snake.
Like the best gangsters, former House Majority Leader Delay was willing to knock heads to show he meant business. And like other careless gangsters, the Texan found himself under prosecution for money laundering and conspiracy. DeLay never sold rat milk to school children (that we know of), but his defense that he’s a blameless victim is about as believable as Fat Tony’s Legitimate Businessman’s Social Club. If we were comparing the Bushies to another great Fox cartoon show, “King of the Hill,” DeLay would certainly be played by Dale Gribble, the exterminator next door full of conspiracy theories.
As energy prices rose to record-highs, the Energy Secretary whacked a long-running, successful home weatherization program for low-income families. That’s about as classy as a schoolyard bully preying on the weak.
George H.W. Bush
The first President Bush has been only slightly more tactful than Grandpa Simpson in voicing disappointment in his son.
Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz
Not really related to environmental policy, but we couldn’t resist. After all, Rummy and Wolfie were hell-bent on taking over the planet, drooling profusely the whole time.
Filthy rich, rotten to the bone, and willing to block out the sun for the benefit of the energy industry (Burns with a giant movable disk, Cheney with a blanket of unregulated soot, smog, and toxic emissions).
This one sparked considerable debate in the Grist office, with some arguing he’s as clueless as Chief Wiggum and others saying he’s been misunderestimated. One possibility is Waylon Smithers: With no power of his own, Bush takes the submissive role to Cheney’s Burns. Or maybe Bush really is the kingpin, much smarter than he lets on. Nah…
Bush as Quimby: The ultimate corrupt politician, the Kennedyesque Joe Quimby doesn’t hide his silver-spoon Northeastern accent as Bush has managed to.
Bush as Simpson: Both were handed cush jobs in the energy industry and both succeed despite their lack of curiousity, leaving observers mystified at how they got so far in life. Like the impressionable Homer, Bush hasn’t so much chosen his own destiny as he’s been driven by the agendas of those around him.
Here’s hoping that, in some not-too-distant future, we can laugh at Bush’s zany antics rather than suffering the economy he mismanaged or floating our lifeboats on the rising oceans he refused to deal with. When “Pull a Dubya” catches on as a catchphrase, we’ll know we’re in the clear.
Images courtesy Fox.