An as­sault that is doomed to fail

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This edi­to­rial ap­peared in the St. Louis Post-Dis­patch:

When the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment took power, one of its first steps was muz­zling the na­tion’s sci­en­tists. Overnight, they had to get per­mis­sion from po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees to do me­dia in­ter­views. Gov­ern­ment data ar­chives be­gan to dis­ap­pear. Cli­mate sci­en­tists were re­garded as par­tic­u­larly sus­pect; one gov­ern­ment ex­pert on the fate of po­lar bears was trailed around a con­ven­tion floor by han­dlers who in­ter­rupted re­porters’ ques­tions.

This was Canada un­der Tory Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper be­tween 2006 and 2015. In its early days, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is mov­ing to repli­cate Harper’s em­bar­rass­ing, and ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful, ex­per­i­ment. In Harper’s de­fence, he learned the trick from for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Muz­zling sci­en­tists does not work. They are too smart, and they find al­ter­nate paths to pub­lish and ar­chive their re­search. As Shake­speare said, truth will out.

Trump ap­pointed anti-science ac­tivists to run the EPA and han­dle the tran­si­tion at the Na­tional Oceano­graphic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion. The EPA tran­si­tion team ar­gued the agency “does not use science to guide reg­u­la­tory pol­icy as much as it uses reg­u­la­tory pol­icy to steer the science.”

And then there’s the re­doubtable Rep. La­mar Smith, R-Texas, the chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Com­mit­tee. To say he’s a Trump fan is an un­der­state­ment. “Bet­ter to get your news di­rectly from the pres­i­dent,” Smith said in a floor speech Jan. 24. “In fact, it might be the only way to get the un­var­nished truth.”

Smith’s past tar­gets have in­cluded the Na­tional Science Foun­da­tion, NOAA’s cli­mate re­search, the EPA’s Science Ad­vi­sory Board, and any­one who cast doubt on ExxonMo­bil’s ver­sion of cli­mate change.

This year, Smith has broader sub­poena pow­ers and a new weapon, the so-called Hol­man Rule. It al­lows Congress to sin­gle out in­di­vid­ual gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees in ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills and cut their salaries to $1.

The planet may be heat­ing up, but those are chill­ing facts.

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