"Not as bad as W" is hardly high praise- - but more and more that seems to be the best that can be said about the presidency of Barack Obama. When the Republicans held the Congress and the White House, they took that as a mandate to aggressively shove their conservative agenda down the country's throat. Democrats were drowned out and relegated to the sidelines. What W (and Dick Cheney) wanted, he pretty much got.
Are we really doing better now? Time and time again we see policies watered down and compromised into uselessness. It's the Overton Window at work, and a DC establishment that is impervious to change. The latest disappointment looks to be science-based policy.
Obama has had 2 years with nominal Democratic control of the House and the Senate. Did we see anything comparable to the GOP bulldozer? Not even close. Partly that's inherent with Democrats. Even cats will come running when they hear the can-opener. Congressional Democrats faced the prospect of actually being able to carry out an agenda....blinked time and time again. President Obama reached across the aisle time and time again while kicking his own base in the.... well you know where - and got nothing except a bloody stump to pull back.
Guantanamo. Wiretapping. The wars. Health Care Reform. Climate Change on the back burner. Tax cuts for the rich. Half steps and fall-backs. Bipartisan mush. Concession after concession. Values more notable for their absence than their implementation. Enabling of the worst behavior.
And now the latest disappointment is hope that the current administration will keep its promises to build policy on a foundation of solid science. An editorial by Peter Aldhous in New Scientist spells out the warning signs of yet another promise being eroded away.
A US government report on a pressing environmental issue is edited to falsely imply that scientists had peer-reviewed and supported the central policy recommendation. Almost 1 in 4 government scientists working on food safety say they have been asked by their bosses to exclude or alter technical information in scientific documents during the past year.Go read the whole thing. It hasn't gotten as much attention as some of the other disappointments we've suffered since the bright promise of January 2009 started to tarnish under the accumulation of actual performance, but it's part of the pattern where politics (and money) trump facts in DC. We have serious problems facing the country that can't be ignored, that can't be addressed without a solid foundation of the best science we can muster to buttress the policies we need. But not only is science getting shoved aside, those policies can't even get on the table for discussion.
These incidents sound as if they come from the dark days of George W. Bush's presidency, when complaints about political interference in government science reached a crescendo. But in fact, both refer to the behaviour of the current US administration, led by a president who famously promised to "restore science to its rightful place" in his inauguration speech of January 2009.
"Facts are stupid things" - but not as stupid as politicians who think they can be ignored forever. Bush Lite is NOT the change we can believe in - but that's what we're getting.