A little over a year ago, Pres. Barack Obama reversed George W. Bush’s restrictions on embryonic-stem-cell research.
Just for the record, Bush didn’t “ban” embryonic-stem-cell research, as so many critics claimed, and he didn’t restrict non-embryonic-stem-cell research at all. He merely ruled that scientists who receive federal funding shouldn’t create any new embryonic-stem-cell lines, because creating life to destroy it is unethical and immoral.
This view, according to Obama (and Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, the New York Times, et al.), was unscientific. Hence, his administration would “make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.” This language was a carryover from the presidential campaign, when all of the Democratic candidates bemoaned the Neanderthal “Republican war on science,” to borrow a phrase from a popular liberal book.
Hillary Clinton, for instance, promised that her administration would “restore scientific integrity by supporting the independent work of government scientists” and end the “open season on open inquiry.”
For good or for ill, Obama beat Hillary for the nomination, but he carried the “liberals love science” torch nonetheless. At his inauguration, he pledged, “We will restore science to its rightful place.”
Fast-forward to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The White House issued a blanket moratorium on deepwater oil drilling. Obama cited a report commissioned by the Interior Department that purported to recommend the ban.
“The recommendations contained in this report,” declared the document, “have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.”
Except that was untrue. In fact, it was such a glaring lie that the seven engineers who peer-reviewed an earlier version of the document felt obliged to come forward to clear the air.
“The Secretary should be free to recommend whatever he thinks is correct,” wrote the scientists, “but he should not be free to use our names to justify his political decisions.”
The draft these experts saw was substantively different from the document that bore their names. The draft called for a moratorium on issuing new permits, not stopping existing drilling (a move many experts believe would be unsafe).
One of the experts, Benton Baugh, president of Radoil, told the Wall Street Journal that if the draft had said to halt drilling, “we’d have said ‘that’s craziness.’”
Now, the experts are absolutely right that the White House is under no obligation to listen to them. Temporarily banning deepwater drilling might be the right call (I briefly thought it was myself). But it’s a political call.