Has Anyone in U.S. History Made More Americans Less Safe Than Dick Cheney?
Back in March, Darth Vader former Vice President Dick Cheney said Americans are "less safe" now thanks to President Barack Obama and his policies. He repeated and expanded on the charge yesterday on Face the Nation.
Let's set aside the fact that if a President's actions and policies in his first 100 days make him 100% responsible for any attack on this nation, than Bush and Cheney are 100% responsible for 9/11.
Terrorism is a real threat to Americans. But it pales in comparison to the scale and scope of the threat posed by unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases. In the words of IPCC head R.K. Pachauri -- who was essentially hand-picked by Cheney himself to replace the "alarmist" Bob Watson:
The cities, power plants and factories we build in the next seven years will shape our climate in mid-century. We have to act now to price carbon and create incentives to change the way we use energy and spread technology -- and thereby avert nothing less than an existential threat to civilization.
As the uber-centrist Brookings Institution put it in a pre-election op-ed:
Today's adults, even if they will not be around at mid-century, must think about the fate of their children and grandchildren. Obama can look to his two daughters, and McCain to his four grandchildren. They are among nearly 75 million Americans -- and 2.2 billion people worldwide -- younger than 18. That generation will be in its 40s or 50s when one of two things happens: Either the temperature of the planet warms more than 4.5 degrees and vast regions slide toward being uninhabitable, or the wisdom of the next president and his fellow leaders around the world pays off in the ultimate reward -- survival.
Global warming is the only true preventable existential threat to the health and well-being -- the security and safety -- of Americans.
So I repeat the headline question -- has anyone in U.S. history made more Americans less safe than Dick Cheney?
Remember, President Bush campaigned on regulating carbon dioxide emissions from electric utilities. Dick Cheney is the person who killed that. Indeed, it is doubtful that Bush had particularly strong opinions on any major energy or environmental issue. Cheney after all is the one who put together Bush's entire energy plan.
Cheney led the effort to block all EPA action on climate and censor U.S. scientists from even telling the American public about the dangers posed by global warming as the Center for American Progress Action Fund detailed in a report (see "Dick Cheney didn't get memo on shifting from denial to delay"):
Last October, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about the "Human Impacts of Global Warming." Gerberding told the committee that global warming "is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans," but she gave few specifics, instead focusing on the CDC's current preparation plans. Soon after Gerberding delivered her testimony, CDC officials revealed that the White House had "eviscerated" her testimony by editing it down from 14 pages to four…. In a letter responding to questions by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) yesterday, former EPA official Jason Burnett revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the Council on Environmental Quality pushed to "remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change."
CHENEY'S MALIGN ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCE: In his letter to Boxer, Burnett revealed that Cheney's office had also objected in January to congressional testimony by EPA administrator Stephen Johnson that "greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment." According to Burnett, an official in Cheney's office "called to tell me that his office wanted the language changed." Such actions are not unusual for Cheney. Since taking office, he has taken "a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business" while undermining any real action to combat climate change. In December, after Johnson "answered the pleas of industry executives" by announcing his decision to deny California the right to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles, it was revealed that executives from the auto industry had appealed directly to Cheney. EPA staffers told the Los Angeles Times that Johnson "made his decision" only after Cheney met with the executives. Since February 2007, Cheney has quietly maneuvered to exert increased control over environmental policy by federal agencies -- particularly the regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
One could write an entire book on Cheney's single-handed efforts to destroy a livable climate for your children, grandchildren, and the next 50 generations of Americans. I suspect someone will. The Washington Post has already written a long story about his role promoting pollution: "The vice president has intervened in many cases to undercut long-standing environmental rules for the benefit of business."
Cheney is too old to see the worst of what his policies will do. And CBS's Bob Schieffer never seriously challenged any of his assertions.
But history will not be kind to Cheney and Bush. Assuming that we don't avert catastrophic global warming, they will be seen as two of the worst leaders in U.S. history -- a judgment some are already issuing: "Bush will go down in history as possibly a person who has doomed the planet." Make that, "Bush and Cheney."