Headzaplodin' Quote Of The Day

>> Friday, August 27, 2010

See, this is why bloggers have to sing the happy penguin song:

"The Reagan administration was for everything," [Reagan's first Secretary Of The Interior James G.] Watt says. "We wanted nuclear, we wanted solar, we wanted conservation, we wanted wind, we wanted coal. We were just doing everything we could to re-arm America, dig us out of a huge financial mess. That required energy at every level."

-quoted in Juliet Eilperin and Scott Higham,
"How the Minerals Management Service's
partnership with industry led to failure,"

Washington Post, August 24the, 2010

Hang on. I need to get a broom or ladder or something so I can get a piece of my scalp off the ceiling. One moment.

Okay, I'm back.

I guess this is another example of where I shouldn't be the least bit surprised. I mean, this is a guy who was indicted for perjury and subsequently convicted of a related misdemeanor count. Also, he thought the Beach Boys would unleash an epidemic of drugs-and-alcohol-fueled muggings on Washington if they were allowed to play the National Mall. So the guy has, shall we say, honesty issues and maybe a tenuous grasp on reality. Still, there's something breathtaking in the brazenness of historical revisionism. Andrew Leonard at Salon accuses Watt of lying; I'll give Watt the benefit of the doubt and say he might merely be suffering from some kind of dementia that has severed him from whatever loose grasp he might have had on reality at some earlier point in his life.

But whether Watt's a liar or is batshit crazy, I can't escape the sick feeling that this is one of those quotes that will take on a life of its own. I mean, look, we're already having to save reality from the ridiculous claim that Reagan destroyed the Soviet Union with a speech and (possibly) by embarking on a military spending spree that involved making misrepresentations to Congress and the American people and threatening an arms race (something that historically has been a triggering factor in wars), not to mention what it did to domestic spending on social programs (not that conservatives care about that to start with). Next thing you know, we're also going to have Grover Norquist or some other cranio-rectal jacktard claiming Reagan was the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt.

Part of what's so absurd about Watt's statement, of course, is that one of Reagan's most infamous acts in office was using a re-roofing of the White House as an opportunity, while the guys were up on top of the building anyway, to remove the solar panels that Jimmy Carter had installed up there to provide the White House with hot water. To quote David Biello in a Scientific American article that appeared online just three weeks ago:

By 1986, the Reagan administration had gutted the research and development budgets for renewable energy at the then-fledgling U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and eliminated tax breaks for the deployment of wind turbines and solar technologies—recommitting the nation to reliance on cheap but polluting fossil fuels, often from foreign suppliers. "The Department of Energy has a multibillion-dollar budget, in excess of $10 billion," Reagan said during an election debate with Carter, justifying his opposition to the latter's energy policies. "It hasn't produced a quart of oil or a lump of coal or anything else in the line of energy."

And in 1986 the Reagan administration quietly dismantled the White House solar panel installation while resurfacing the roof. "Hey! That system is working. Why don't you keep it?" recalls mechanical engineer Fred Morse, now of Abengoa Solar, who helped install the original solar panels as director of the solar energy program during the Carter years and then watched as they were dismantled during his tenure in the same job under Reagan. "Hey! This whole [renewable] R&D program is working, why don't you keep it?"

That's Ronald Reagan being "for everything." The rest of the article is worth visiting at the link: the White House solar cells weren't even repurposed or at least sold off, they ended up in storage in a Federal warehouse "like the fictional one... in the first Indiana Jones movie, 'just bigger'" for five years, until a college, concerned the panels were just piled up somewhere, tracked them down and took possession for a $500 admin fee.

Again, nothing real surprising here: as Arthur Allen reminded us in a 2000 Mother Jones piece, we are talking about a President who pretty much launched his political career as a shill for General Electric, a company that virtually ignored non-nuclear alternative fuels until the collapse of Enron.

I'll admit that Reagan is one of my least favorite Presidents--his foreign policy frankly played a role in my conviction we were all going to die in a nuclear war before the end of the '80s, a conviction I'm happy to have been wrong about. I also frankly associate the man with families living out of their cars, a concerted effort to destroy organized labor (epitomized by firing the air traffic controllers when they went on strike), the support of criminal right-wing militias in the Third World, and presiding over an administration that reached nadirs of political corruption that looked untouchable until the Clinton Presidency. Speaking of which, it's somehow both amusing and terrifying that Reagan's claim he didn't remember anything about Iran-Contra was plausible; nobody believed Nixon didn't know what was going on in the White House because Nixon was smart and paranoid, but everybody kind of had Reagan pegged as being on the onset of senility well before his doctors publicly announced an Alzheimer's diagnosis. But, y'know, I'm also level-headed enough to give credit where it's due; I think I've said before, for instance, that Reagan deserves to be praised for his staunch advocacy for America's ratification of the Convention Against Torture. I'll also credit Reagan with having the courage of his convictions, however asinine most of them were. I profoundly dislike Reagan, have hated him at times, even, but it's not that so-called "derangement syndrome" that's become the popular dismissal of political disagreements about presidents these days; I'll do my best to objectively evaluate the bastard.

But the American right's effort to canonize him is just offensive, you know? Even if you want to argue that Reagan was a good president--and I just don't see a way I could get on board with that--you have to actively construct myths and lie outrageously to make him a saint. Saying, f'r'instance, the man was an environmentalist, that he was big on alternative power: I'm sorry, you can't have that. You're not stealing my fucking memory, if I have kids you're not teaching them that horseshit. I know damn well Oceania hasn't always been at war with Eastasia, so kiss my ass....

(Blogging, blogging. I'm a happy penguin, living my dream of blogging.)

Have a great Friday, kids.


Steve Buchheit Friday, August 27, 2010 at 8:55:00 AM EDT  

It's like, because they don't have a long memory, the think the rest of us don't.

Eric Friday, August 27, 2010 at 11:06:00 AM EDT  

Amen. And what the hell is up with that? Maybe they ate too many leaded paint chips as kids? That one occurs to me just because it harmonizes with their usual attitude towards the EPA and government regulation....

David Friday, August 27, 2010 at 11:26:00 AM EDT  

Nicely put.

The only thing I give Reagan credit for is having the courage to stand up to his base and follow Gorbachev's lead on ratcheting down the Cold War - he caught a lot of heat for that from conservatives. Gorbachev did the heavy lifting and deserves the credit, but Reagan was smart enough not to do too much to interfere, which he easily could have done.

Otherwise, by any moral, social or financial standard, a complete failure. It is a measure of the bankruptcy of the modern conservative movement that he has become their patron saint, even though I doubt he would be nominated by them today.

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