Friday, February 11, 2005

James Watt Replies to Bill Moyers

Secretary Watt provided me with a copy of his response to Moyers' insulting apology. The letter is a hum-dinger, and is copied in full after the jump.

Read more!


February 10, 2005

Mr. Bill Moyers
PBS/Public Broadcasting Service
450 W. 33rd Street
New York, NY 10001-2603

Dear Mr. Moyers:

Thank you for your apology of February 8th.

I, of course, never said what you wrongfully attributed to me; nor have I ever thought it or believed it: Your quote -
Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate. . .
Nor do I know any Christian who has ever taken such a position of intentionally ignoring or damaging the environment - as your letter of apology struggles to establish.

I understand how you could find other documents in the public domain critical of actions we took under the law. I often said if I believed the Washington Press Corps, I would dislike James Watt. I found that most often reporters just took what some special interest group said I said and reported it as fact. Then the next reporter just quoted the Washington Post or Time or etc., or as in the present case, they have and will quote Bill Moyers. And the lies just keep rolling on.

As a practical matter, neither you nor I will be able to turn off the lies of the Grist story and your expansion on that quote. Grist expanded (way over the top) on the false quote it got from an extremely unreliable book; and you then expanded on the Grist quote.

When I became the Secretary of the Interior, I knew that I was responsible for my character. “Character is who you are; reputation is what others say you are.” Others would control my reputation. My reputation has been impacted wonderfully by the marvelous supporters who cheered the great work our team did for the Nation. And negatively, by the arrogant Washington Press Corps that knows they can not be sued by a ‘public figure’ for libelous lies and misrepresentations; the selfish interest groups, like the handful of Washington based environmental groups that raised tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars by smearing my name and totally misrepresenting the Reagan record; and publications, like Grist, which to advance their agenda, exercise a reckless disregard for decency and truth.

In your letter to me, you said you found it ‘baffling,’ that I was “unaware of how some fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible influence political attitudes toward the environment.” And then you added that these Christians “have such a deep distrust of science that they ignore what is happening to our environment and contribute to advancing a political and corporate agenda that has no concern for the morrow. You (Watt) said you (Watt) had heard nothing of this phenomenon. . .”

You may be ‘baffled’ and you may think I am ill-informed, or worse, but the fact is, I am not aware of Christians who are determined to destroy the environment. Further, I am exposed only to Christians that do care for the environment. Somewhere in the world there may be Christians who are not concerned for the environment, I just do not know them or know about them.

In the communities of Christians I am associated with, we all know that we have a stewardship role to play. And that is our Biblical Worldview. That worldview does influence our agenda and that is why I had the integrity to talk about my faith and the government policies which put people in the environmental equation as we exercised our responsibilities of stewardship.

Now it is my turn to be ‘baffled.’ You stated that you found my policies to be “abysmally at odds with what I (Moyers) understand as a Christian to be our obligation to be stewards of the earth.” Such a statement suggests strongly that you have not read the record, which is easily available, or specifically my testimony of Feb. 5, 1981 before the House Interior Committee. I have been quick to profess my Christian commitment and on that particular day spoke openly and forcefully demonstrating that my Christian views compelled us to be good stewards of the resources of the land for the benefit of future generations. The testimony was well received by the committee members.

Some time after that, we saw the anti-Christian hatred pour out in the form of political cartoons and columnists’ statements and a few Washington based environmental groups distorting the truth beyond recognition. The anti-Christian ‘hate-mail’ followed. But, soon decent folks spoke up - Members of Congress, religious leaders and community thought leaders. The American community started to rally and the matter died down.

In your letter to me, you say, referring to the libelous lies of Grist, “those or similar quotes had also appeared through the years in many other publications – in the Washington Post and Time, for example --- I too easily assumed their legitimacy.” (my emphasis) Yes, you did. No doubt the politically active environmental groups did repeat the “old lies” over and over. That does not make them true. I have no reason to believe that in later years the legitimate press repeated them, as you suggest. Certainly no such statements came from me. If you can give me the quotes from the Washington Post and Time and the books you said you relied on as you were preparing your speech, I will address them also.

With a little, very little, research one will find that “there is no historical record” for many of the things the liberal environmental community has slipped into print.

I do not want to embarrass you about the primary research you have done on my well-documented public record, but have you read any of the three Annual Reports to the President and the Congress that the government printing office published on our marvelous accomplishments of stewardship? Which of the Congressional Hearings records did you read where I presented to the Congress our plans and programs for stewardship? And, by the way, the Congress approved and funded everything we did.

In the letter of Introduction to the Third Annual Report to the President and the Congress I say:

“All the lands (one-third of the Nation) managed by the Department of the Interior are in better condition today than they were three years ago when we took responsibility for them. Because we have cared and exercised stewardship, the parks, refuges, forests, coastal barriers, wetlands and deserts are being better managed. This is also true for the wildlife living on these lands.”

Our National Park System is the envy of the world. Unfortunately funds to restore and improve the parks were cut by 50 percent in the four years prior to our arrival. To reverse that trend, we implemented a $1 Billion Park Restoration and Improvement Program (PRIP). Our program was the largest commitment that had ever been made to the National Park System.

Am I to understand that you did not support the largest program ever created to restore and improve our National Parks – a $1 billion five year program commencing in 1981? What did Grist tell you about that program?

Your primary research, or Grist’s, would have pointed out that in 1983 alone, through trade, donations and purchase, we added more park and wildlife land to the federal estate than any previous Administration added in a single year since Alaska was purchased in 1867. In fact, in that single year, we added more park and wildlife land to the federal estate than was added from 1977 to 1980. Neither Teddy Roosevelt, nor Franklin Roosevelt, nor your Lyndon Johnson, nor Jimmy Carter came close to our 1983 record of adding to the Federal park and wildlife estate in a single year.

Knowing that fact causes you to call my policies ‘abysmal’?

What is it that you do not like about the fact that during my tenure, we acquired for the Federal Government more than 1.6 million acres of land to be managed as national parks and wildlife refuges? In addition, we recommended or supported additions totaling more than 1.8 million acres to our great wilderness system in the Lower 48 States. Are you opposed to that?

In 1981, we were concerned that surface-mined lands were not being properly reclaimed. I trust you were. The officials in all the mining states were greatly troubled with the requirements of the Department of the Interior as it related to surface-mined land reclamation. The previous Administration had adopted a ‘cookie cutter’ approach as to the requirements for reclaiming mined lands. The Wyoming authorities told me that they could not comply with such demands as planting Maple trees, as they do in Pennsylvania, on the sagebrush prairies of Wyoming.

Thus, we re-wrote the entire surface-mined land reclamation requirements with the involvement of the experts from Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and other mining states so that climatic conditions, geology, wildlife habitat requirements and other factors could be considered. As an example, the State of West Virginia did not want to be required to return all the mined land to its ‘original contour’ as the previous Administration demanded. They wanted some flat land for schools, hospitals, shopping centers, housing projects, etc. That sounded reasonable to me, but not to our critics. They called it a ‘sell out to the mining industry;’ every thing was contested in the courts. As in all other arenas of battle, we prevailed. I hope you support meeting the needs of people.

We did these things because we believed in stewardship and putting people in the environmental equation. In your primary research you would have found the Congressional testimony about these significant changes. Each state would be responsible for exercising stewardship in the reclaiming of the surface-mined land. It is interesting to note that these actions were not significantly changed when the Democrats took control of the Department for eight years during the Clinton years.

You or your friends at Grist can turn to page 7 of my Third Annual Report to the President and the Congress and read:

Endangered Species Recovery
One of our highest priorities over the past three years has been the development of recovery plans for our endangered and threatened wildlife and plant species. In our three years, we have approved or developed nearly three times as many endangered species recovery plans as were processed the entire four year period from 1977 to 1980.

The difference in focus (recover versus listing) in our program is a result of our stewardship philosophy and our ultimate goal of restoring species so that they no longer are endangered or threatened. Exceptional progress toward this goal is being realized.
It is tempting to go on and on, but my letter is already too long. I am attaching a copy of the letter I sent to President Reagan in October of 1983. In that letter you will find that ‘stewardship’ is the theme. I ended the letter by saying, “Mr. President, our excellent record for managing the natural resources of this land is unequaled – because we put people in the environmental equation.”

It is unequaled, Mr. Moyers. I do not believe you will find figures, statistics or facts showing that it has ever been done better. You will get feelings and opinions contrary to my presentation, but they will not be substantiated by facts.

In reviewing this record (and I have only presented a small portion of it) one can only conclude that you are ill informed of the facts. While there is always room for improvement, no informed person can review the facts and say our record is at odds with Christian stewardship of the natural resources and environment.

James G. Watt

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Which of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Glenn Reynolds reports as follows:
A LATE NIGHT AND AN EARLY MORNING: Taped a segment of Charlie Rose last night with Joe Trippi, Andrew Sullivan, and Ana Marie Cox.
This seems like an unbalanced lineup to me. After all, Glenn Reynolds is a well-known blogger, and the other three guests are not bloggers at all.

Well, I guess that's not completely fair - Joe Trippi has a blog now, which means that Rose apparently decided to split the panel between two bloggers and two has-beens former bloggers.

Ok, I'm still not being fair - even though he's supposedly "on hiatus," Sullivan is still posting more than most bloggers. But really, I just want to pick on Wonkette, and my point still holds for her, so here goes.

Why is Ana Marie Cox still on TV? She's a moderately funny, moderately pretty woman who was hired to write a blog. She has no opinions other than "Republicans suck" and "butt-sex!," and I'm not sure that second thing even qualfies as an opinion. She had some blog for a year or so, quit writing it, then got hired to write Wonkette, then quit writing Wonkette. (Worse yet, her current guest editor is unreadable. Seriously, I've gone from saying "that's not funny" to "this makes no f-ing sense whatever.")

So my advice is - Charlie, unless you really did do a show about survivors and has-beens in the blogosphere, you can do better than Cox. I know you wanted to get invited to Nick Denton's after party, but you're on frickin' PBS. You shouldn't have to sell out for whatever pathetic payola Denton hands out to get Cox on the air - you have standards.

Alternately, if you're going to cast cute hacks without apparent talent, give me a call.

Update:For a glimpse of how happy Sullivan and Cox look now that they're not writing their blogs, go here, and submit a caption while you're at it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Another Watt Update, and Another Goofy Moyers Quote

As Powerline reports today, Watt has written a blistering letter to the Strib, and Moyers has publicly apologized for not fact-checking his fake Watt quote. (See for example, my earlier posts here and here).

However, if Editor and Publisher's report of Moyer's letter to Watt is correct, it seems as if Moyers couldn't resist using the "I'm sorry you're such a jerk" apology form. Specifically, E&P writes, quoting Moyers:

"You and I differ strongly about your record as Secretary of Interior," the letter continued. "I found your policies abysmally at odds with what I understand as a Christian to be our obligation to be stewards of the earth. I found it baffling, when in our conversation of today, you were unaware of how some fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible influence political attitudes toward the environment."

Let's get this straight. Moyers, who doesn't even know the name of the Book of Revelation, finds it "baffling" that Watt, an actual evangelical Christian, has not heard of Moyer's pipe dream that evangelical Christians believe that they can hasten the Second Coming by DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT.

Umm, no. In his original article, Moyers offered a total of three pieces of evidence of this supposed evangelical belief that destroying the environment will hasten Christ's coming. The first was Watt's quote, which was fake. The second was a quote by Zell Miller, in which Zell Miller mentioned the word "famine," except that Moyers didn't disclose that Miller was talking about cultural values, not the environment. This leaves Moyers clutching one piece of evidence - a home school textbook that doesn't appear to endorse destroying the environment and has an at best unclear impact on Bush environmental policy.

Given that his two key pieces of evidence turned out to be bogus, I'm not sure why Moyers is baffled that Secretary Watt hasn't heard of his theory. I would have loved to have heard the Moyers-Watt phone conversation, though. Listening in on Moyers lecturing Watt about the true sinister agenda of evangelical Christianity would have made my week.

Three Comments on the Eason Jordan Affair

I have two things to say about Eason Jordan's irresponsible comments at Davos.

First, everyone should go, right now, and read Iowahawk's transcript of the closed meeting where Jordan made his comments. (1) It's amazing, but other than the Arsenio Hall comments, I'm betting Iowahawk got pretty close to what was actually said. (2) It's even funnier if you read the Barney Frank parts in your best imitation of Barney Frank's actual voice. (Of course, I use a Buddy Hackett imitation for Barney Frank, so it's especially appropriate when Frank asks Jordan "With all due respect, Mr. Jordan, what the f*ck? I mean... what the f*cking f*ck!?"

Second, I'd like to disagree with Easongate on forcing Davos to release the tape. I like seeing biased newsmen get their comeuppance as much as the next guy, but if you ask me, Davos should keep the tape sealed. (1) Jordan didn't commit a crime, at least not literally; and (2) as far as I'm concerned, organizations should have the right to keep their records confidential. Jordan was speaking under an expectation that he was operating under the Chatham House Rules, and the people who asked him questions had the same expectation.

Look, we all know that the media is biased, or we should, and it's very satisfing to prove it, but the people at that conference agreed to maintain confidentiality, and no crime was committed. IMHO, Davos should keep the video under wraps.

None of this is to say that we shouldn't beat up on Jordan and CNN as much as we can without the tape, of course, but organizations I don't like should have the same right to meet privately as organizations that I do like.

The True Villian Behind Special Ops Cody's Kidnapping

Apparently, some guy has claimed responsibility for the now-famous kidnapping of a US soldier doll. (HT: BestoftheWeb).

I'm disappointed that n oone else has figured out the true culprit. I mean, it's so painfully obvious that I'm ashamed of you all for not figuring it out.

Let's review the evidence, shall we? Bush's enemies (in this case, the Iraqi terrorists) have been humiliated by a transparently goofy hoax. As any leftist can tell you, every time Bush's enemies are humiliated by their own apparent stupidity, it is obviously the work of

. . .


Karl Rove!

That's right, by standard leftist reasoning, I have concluded that because Bush has once again benefitted from his enemies' apparent stupidity, the trail once again leads back to Mr. Rove. (Sorry for not offering more evidence than that, but as far as I can tell, that's all the evidence that is ever offered in favor of the various shadowy Rove plots.)

All I can say is, I'm glad we voted for someone whose staff can come up with plans like this. If we'd voted for Kerry, all we would get is Chris Lehane and Susan Estrich issuing petty sound bites about Al Quada, and what good would that be?

P.S.: Does anyone know where Rove was the day these signs were distributed? I didn't think so. Snopes says it was an honest mistake, but I can tell you that Evil Bert was the work of Rove too! Rooove, I tell you, Rooooooove!

Update: This post is a little more timely in light of recent barking moonbat ravings that Rove was responsible for the Rathergate documents. Still, as far as I know, only I realized the real depth of Rove's sneakiness . . . (See also: Ace, Powerline, Michelle Malkin, Confederate Yankee).

Update 2: Let me also say that life is very frustrating when the moonbats can come up with better Karl Rove conspiracy theories than professional (well, ok amateur) satirists such as myself.
I apologize to anyone whose comments I blew away when I enabled Haloscan commenting and trackback features. It had been so long since I blogged I hadn't realized how well Haloscan had worked out trackbacks and blogger.

The two commenters I remember are:

Captain Salty, who thinks Goldberg was wrong to offer a bet on Iraq's future (but doesn't link to me, and I ask you, what's the greater crime? ;P ) and

DSS Hubris, who would like to start a debate over whether Cole's assertion that the 97 Iranian elections were "much more democratic" than the 05 Iraqi elections is correct.

On the Morality of Goldberg's Iraq Bet

Captain Salty writes that he thinks Goldberg's offer to make a charity bet on the outcome of Iraq is immoral, much like Don Ameche offering to bet a dollar in Trading Places over whether he can make Eddie Murphy into a securities trader. I think Salty is missing two important distinctions.

First, Goldberg isn't just making the offer to increase his prestige, at least as far as I can tell. Goldberg and Cole are having a debate about, among other things (1) whether the war in Iraq was justified and (2) whether Goldberg is qualified to opine about Iraq.

Goldberg's offer of a bet serves to clarify Cole's position, which would be welcome, since I still have no idea whether Cole thinks the people of Iraq will be better off as a result of the war or not. It also serves to test Goldberg and Cole's relative qualifications to opine on the outcome of Iraq. Cole's position is that Goldberg should go read some more books, and should shut up until he does so. Goldberg's is that even though Cole knows more facts about the Middle East than Goldberg, Goldberg's conclusions about the issues relevant to US foriegn policy decisions in the region are more sound. The bet provides a clean objective test. (A series of bets would be better - maybe 10 bets at $100 per).

Second, the bet in Trading Places is offensive because it's a bet for entertainment, because it dehumanizes Eddie Murphy (the brothers' position is that anyone, even Eddie Murphy can be a successful trader), and because it is secret. Imagine for a moment that immediately before Eddie Murphy started work, Don Ameche had called him into his office and said:

Billy Ray, I want to tell you something. I believe you've got a great future here, and I want you to succeed. My brother Juan Cole doesn't believe you've got it in you, but I do. In fact, I believe in you so much that I've bet him a that you'll be a star, with the loser to donate $1000 dollars to charity. Now get out there and prove me right.
Eddie might well think that Don was a freak (or he might not), but I have a hard time believing that Don would have ended up the villian.

A Definitive History of the Goldberg-Cole Feud, and Some Comments

In case you missed it, National Review writer Jonah Goldberg and U-M poly sci professor and MESA president-elect Juan Cole recently got into a bare-knuckled brawl over Iraq, Iran, and each other.

A Brief History:

1. Goldberg wrote a paragraph mocking Cole for saying that the 1997 elections in Iran were "much more democratic" than the January 2005 election in Iraq.

2. Cole responded, arguing (i) Goldberg is an uneducated idiot who is unqualified to have an opinion about the relative democraticness of the 97 Iranian and 05 Iraqi elections; (ii) Goldberg was a vicious warmonger who promoted the war in Iraq when everyone should have known Saddam was no threat to us; (iii) the 97 Iranian elections were actually more democratic than the 05 Iraqi elections because, although the Mullahs rejected almost all candidates, and although they didn't let the winner of the election actually carry out any liberal policies, they did allow a liberal candidate to run, and people could campaign and vote safely; (iv) Goldberg's real agenda in picking on Cole is to distract the world from Goldberg's desire to kill thousands of Iranians; (v) if Goldberg likes war so much, why doesn't he enlist, and (vi) if Goldberg agrees to debate "Middle East issues," Cole will be glad to show him for the idiot he is.

3. Goldberg answered by (i) mocking Cole a little more; (ii) conceding that Cole made "a pretty good point" about the democratic nature of the 97 Iranian elections; and (iii) raising the criticism that Cole isn't just talking about how democratic the Iranians were, he's mainly criticizing the Iraqi elections, and doing a sloppy job of it. Cole responded in his original piece, calling Goldberg's response "smarmy" and generally picking on Goldberg some more as an uninformed warmongering buffoon.

4. Goldberg wrote an article in which he argued that: (i) his pre-war position that Iraq was a threat was widely held and reasonable; (ii) Cole himself has expressed some support for the Iraq war at various times; (iii) the Iranian elections weren't all that democratic because the Mullahs rejected more than 300 candidates and because the Mullahs prevented the winner from actually implementing any reforms; (iv) contrary to Cole's characterization, Goldberg didn't want an Iranian bloodbath; (v) the chicken-hawk argument was stupid; and (vi) Goldberg would be happy to debate various specific issues (Bush's foriegn policy, whether the war in Iraq was justified, etc.), but wasn't prepared to debate "Middle East issues"

5. Cole responded that: (i) Goldberg should try reading a book sometime; (ii) contrary to Goldberg, Cole speaks Arabic very well, but speaks so many dialects of Arabic that he knew better than to use his vast Arabic knowledge in an Al Jazeera interview; (iii) Cole never supported the war, and never thought Iraq was a threat to US interests, but was ambivalent because he knew how bad Saddam was; (iv) Cole would debate "Middle East issues," but not the war in Iraq or US policy with regard to Middle East issues, and Goldberg was a coward for narrowing the subject of the debate; (v) Goldberg was too a chicken-hawk for not fighting; (vi) we should have known Iraq was no threat, but many people were fooled by liars like Goldberg; and (vii) more generally, as shown by Jon Stewart (!) "empty headed" and "dime a dozen" pundits like Goldberg are a threat to the polity because they decieve rather than educate.

6. Goldberg wrote another article, arguing that: (i) Cole's ad-hominem attacks don't show anything; (ii) Goldberg has too read a book; (iii) Cole's arguments regarding expertise and judgment are hollow; (iv) James Wolcott is an idiot (an idea Goldberg wrote more about here); and (v) if Cole was so proud of his judgment, Goldberg would be happy to make a bet, with proceeds to go to charity, with Goldberg to win if in two years, Iraq had a constitution, did not have a civil war, and the majority of Iraqis and Americans believed that the war was a good idea. (Goldberg also offered to bet on other conditions of Cole's choosing).

7. Cole announced that he was "nearly immobilized with disgust and grief" by Goldberg's offered wager. In Cole's opinion, Goldberg was proposing to bet "on the backs of human beings." Cole wants nothing to do with the wager, or with Goldberg. (Goldberg, predictably, ruthlessly mocked Cole's sensitivity to whatever it is Cole is sensitive to).

8. In between the above posts, both Cole and Goldberg posted too many comments from readers and links to other sites to summarize. If you want to, you can read them by skimming the early February posts from Informed Consent and The Corner.

Comment 1 - Civility

My first thought is that Cole's attacks do his actual arguments a severe disservice. Cole's core positions - which seem to be that the 97 Iranian elections were more democratic than people give them credit for; that the 05 Iraqi elections are much less democratic than commonly thought; and that the Iraq war was unjustified - are serious arguments that we on the right should at least consider. If Cole had responded to Goldberg clearly and succinctly, I think it would have helped him in preparing responses to counterarguments and in expressing his ideas clearly, and he may even have convinced some people.

The problem is that Cole's arguments are buried under a mountain of anti-Goldberg invective. To find out why Cole thinks Iran is more democratic than most people think, you have to sort through all kinds of stuff about whether Goldberg has ever read a book, what an evil chicken-hawk he is, etc. I never would have found Cole's real arguments if I hadn't re-read everything to write this piece.

So my advice for the Doctor is: "chill." I understand that you think Goldberg is a prime example of a group of know-nothings who are deceiving the populace and driving us into evil, needless wars. Still, if you would put all the anti-Goldberg stuff at the end of each of your responses, then your readers could separate the two arguments, and consider each on their merits. When you mix them up, all you do is cause everyone who doesn't already agree with you to tune out.

Comment 2 - Cole's Disgust and Grief

I am amazed by Cole's response to Goldberg's bet. Goldberg is offering to wager that in two years, most Iraqis and most Americans will think that the Iraq war was worth it, with the winnings to go to charity. I can't see that Goldberg is harming anyone (to the contrary, whoever wins, some charity will get some money), and he's testing his ability to predict events in Iraq versus Cole's.

In response, Cole is so horrified that he's "nearly immobilized." How can Goldberg make a bet? Doesn't Goldberg understand that people are suffering, right now, in Iraq?

I think that's part of the problem with the anti-war left. Confronted with suffering, they are too often "immobilized." For example, two years ago, we all knew that we had basically one of three choices: (1) oust Saddam, (2) eventually let Saddam out of the sanction and no fly zone regime; or (3) keep up inspections and the no fly zones indefinitely. There was going suffering no matter which option we and the world chose - #1 would result in war deaths, collateral damage, and instability; #2 would leave Saddam free to continue sponsoring terror, restart his WMD programs, and begin a massacre of the Kurds; and #3 meant prolonging the sanctions' suffering on the Iraqi people indefinitely, plus continuing the deaths from the constant no-fly-zone-related engagements.

Faced with three choices involving human suffering, Cole was justifiably saddened, but unjustifiably immobilized. As Cole has written on his site, he was unable to decide on the war - he knew very well what a monster Saddam was, but couldn't quite bring himself to justify war.

A rightous inaction in the face of horror is not what this world needs, whether or not that inaction is backed by a bunch of degrees and a working knowledge of three Arabic dialects. Cole should take Goldberg up on his offers to: (1) have a public debate whether the Iraq war was justified; and (2) make a concrete prediction about whether the majority of Iraqis will agree that the war was a good thing. (If Cole is horrified by betting, he can just make a clear public prediction, and we can come back to it in two years to see who was right). If not, Cole's contributions as a public intellectual are useless or worse on the things that really matter.

Update: Wow, a Cornerlanche! Now I wish I had taken the time to fix up my template and links. (Not unlike when a date asks to see your house, and you start inventorying just how much clothing you have on the floor, and how quickly you can kick it away . . .)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Secretary Watt Speaks

I wrote Secretary Watt to ask about Mile's allegation that Watt made the "last tree" statement on the PTL Club. Secretary Watt wrote as follows:

I have appeared on the PTL Club with Jim Bakker. Never in my entire life have I thought, believed, said, read or heard anything similar to what Miles is attributing to me.

AS you have researched and written, it is not something believed in any Christian circle that I am familiar, nor could one in or one who has been in public service even accidentally say such a thing.
I suppose it's Secretary Watt's word versus Reverend Miles' at this point, but I'm strongly inclined to believe Secretary Watt - the Miles quote just isn't consistent with the publicly verifiable statements and beliefs of Secretary Watt.

Absent historical evidence, that's probably where the debate has to end. At a minimum, though, I ask again that people who peddle the Miles quote remember to include Secretary Watt's side.

Washington Post - The Bill Moyers Myth Hits the Big Time

Ugh. Yesterday, the Washington Post repeated Bill Moyers' myth about James Watt. In a piece about the supposedly new trend of Christian stewardship of the land, Washington Post author Blaine Hardenstates:

James G. Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first interior secretary, famously made this argument before Congress in 1981, saying: "God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."
As I've discussed (endlessly) below, it is definitely false that Secretary Watt said the "last tree" quote in Congressional testimony, and almost certainly false that he ever said it at all. There's no way Harden or his editor could have done any factchecking, short of reading Moyers' article and assuming it to be true.

It's all a little disappointing. I have to wonder if Mr. Harden or his editor know any evangelical Christians personally. I'm not evangelical myself, but I at least know some, and the idea that US public policy is based on an assumption that we might as well use up the environment before Jesus comes struck me as absurd the first time I read it. It's especially disappointing here, because Secretary Watt's actual 1981 Congressional testimony shows his understanding of the same Christian environmentalism that Harden is exploring.

Other Appearences of the "Last Tree" Myth: Martin Caver (writing from . . . France), informs The Economist of the alleged "last tree" quote, and uses it as evidence that evangelicals are "try[ing] to fulfil their own apocalyptic prophecies in the hope of speeding up Christ's return" and "selling out our future in the hope that God will one day sort things out."

Update: U-M journalism fellow Frank Lockwood interviewed Secretary Watt and Reverend Miles, and wrote about the "last tree" kerfuffle here. (I'm not sure how long the link will be good, but I can't find the article published anywhere with a permanent link).

One More Question on the Bill Moyers Article

J. Mann, quote detective, rides again.

In his now thoroughly fisked piece, Bill Moyers writes the following about Zell Miller.

The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to be relishing the thought.

As David Kopel points out, Miller wasn't talking about a literal famine, he was talking about a decline in moral values. (The actual speech is classic Zell Miller and pretty entertaining.)

However, Kopel also states that Miller was quoting Martin Luther King Jr. when he said the famine line. Is that right? As Miller states in his speech, Dr. King certainly did quote Amos when he said "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream", but I can't find any reference to Dr. King using the "famine" quotation, and it does not appear that Senator Miller was quoting Dr. King during that portion of his speech.

Moyers and Watt, Part 3

Powerline has written something pretty close to the definitive wrap-up of Moyers' sloppy work. In particular, Powerline contributor John Hindraker spoke to Secretary Watt, and Watt confirmed that he has never, at any time, spoken anything like the quote Moyers attributes to him. I can only think of one thing to add to Powerline's analysis.

Specifically, with regard to the alleged Watt quote ("when the last tree is felled, Christ will come back"), the latest word on sourcing is Loren's conversation with Austin Miles. As I wrote last week, Rev. Miles has told Loren that he recalls Secretary Watt making the quote on a PTL broadcast. Although I'm sceptical that the quote was ever made, it's pretty hard to prove or disprove something like that without some kind of records from the PTL. I'll leave that to a real journalist, or a more enterprising blogger than me. At a minimum, however, it seems to me that anyone peddling the "last tree" quote should at least disclose that Secretary Watt has categorically denied making any such quote.