Grist looks back at the WTF moments of the George W. Bush years
The Bush administration was hostile to government regulation and protective of business interests. That was their stated ideology on the campaign trail, and when elected, the president saw to it that his government acted on it. Fine. We get it.
But the Bush environmental record is not entirely explicable through ideology. Some of the stuff Rove & Co. did was simply perverse, with little policy or philosophical rationale beyond, “hey, let’s f*ck with the dirty hippies!” They did worse things, sure, but these are the ones that seemed to call for psychological diagnosis rather than political explanation. We call these episodes of sheer dickishness “WTF? moments.” Here are a few:
Snowmobiles in Yellowstone
Purely on political grounds, getting more gas-burning, exhaust-spewing snowmobiles inside Yellowstone National Park is not an obvious priority. More than 80 percent of public commenters preferred to keep them out, and it’s not like the snowmobile lobby wields the power to make or break a presidency. (Is there even a snowmobile lobby, outside Alaska “First Dude” Todd Palin?) But the Bushies really, reeeally wanted more machines in that patch of nature, so they tried again and again. And again. And again. And then one more time. WTF?
Mocking auto efficiency
It’s something of a marvel that Bush’s EPA once released a TV public service announcement encouraging home energy conservation. (Only you can reduce energy demand — because we won’t!) Perhaps to atone for this vaguely hippie gesture, the PSA poked fun at some dope trying to improve his car’s fuel efficiency. We say again: mocked someone trying to improve fuel efficiency. Where was YouTube when we needed it? Also: WTF?
Testing pesticides on human subjects
The chemical industry has developed sophisticated methods of testing potentially toxic chemicals on animals, which, you know, isn’t that cool, but it’s not as uncool as testing them on human beings. But hey, sometimes you want to act like a villain in a dystopian sci-fi movie. Clinton banned the creepy and unnecessary practice of using data from pesticide health studies on human subjects. That act of sanity couldn’t be tolerated, and sure enough, Bush promised the pesticide industry he would overturn the ban. We wouldn’t make that up. (The plan ended when Senate Democrats raised a stink.)
Cocaine-Fueled Sex Romp
No administration is entirely free of corruption, and generally the public won’t get too exercised about it if it’s done in moderation. To pick an example out of a hat, it would be nice if federal regulators didn’t offer favors to oil companies in exchange for cocaine and sex. Too much to ask? Apparently so, at least for the Interior Department’s Minerals and Management Service, which issues offshore drilling leases and collects royalties from energy companies. An Inspector General’s report on MMS cited a “culture of promiscuity” at the agency, where regulators regularly accepted blow, pot, illegal gifts, and sex from representatives of Big Oil. We knew the oil companies were screwing us. We just didn’t know they were, you know, screwing us.
Formaldehyde trailers for Katrina victims
So there was that whole Katrina thing. Major U.S. city underwater, epic failure of federal response, international shame, so forth. Was that enough? Not for the Bushies. The clusterf*ck hat trick wasn’t complete until the very people victimized by the hurricane got cloistered in tiny, toxic trailers! Nine months after FEMA’s original bungle, reports surfaced that its evacuee trailers contained formaldehyde levels high enough to cause coughs, nosebleeds, burning eyes and sinus infections. In response to the reports, the agency prohibited its employees from entering trailers in storage — before it got around to testing the trailers evacuees were actually living in.
According to a congressional investigation, FEMA “ignored, hid and manipulated government research” on the dangers of formaldehyde to skirt the issue. The agency promised never again to use the contaminated trailers … er, unless they come in handy. Three years later, an in-depth medical study found that children who moved into the trailers have alarming rates of mental health problems and sickness, including respiratory ailments linked to formaldehyde. WTF, Brownie?
Withholding benefits from nuclear workers sickened by radiation
The Bushistas are obsessed with nukes — using nuclear weapons, letting more countries get nuclear weapons, building more nuclear power plants, opening up massive nuclear waste dumps … pretty much anything radioactive gets the thumbs up. You’d think as part of that obsession they’d have done whatever they could to clean up the messes left behind by previous nuclear adventures — messes like, say, a group of workers sickened by radiation from working around nukes during the Cold War. Indeed, congressional Republicans urged them to do just that, even appropriated money. But … no. That would be too, oh, decent. Instead, Bush’s Energy Department has paid out only $700,000 of the $95 million it has received since the program was created, to only 31 of the roughly 25,000 claims filed. Denying already-appropriated money to radiation-sickened workers. Really?
Submit your own favorite WTF moments in the comments section below.