Saturday, July 07, 2007

Cracks of Light In The O (From Others) on Smith

We're not beating our heads against the wall yet, given that it's very early and we've only just started discussing it--but the mainstream notice of Smith's role in the Klamath fiasco has been minimal to negligent, at best. I have yet to see a single piece (link in the comments if you have) that mentions Smith's role in any way other than as passive beneficiary. That may change; we've got something to show you Monday that makes a strong visual case for portraying his direct involvement in getting the scientific conclusions overturned in favor of farm interests. And we're negotiating a chance to bring the story to a national audience outside the blogosphere, and of course if that happens we'll let you know.

OK, when I said there hasn't been a single piece that mentions Smith's active involvement, I meant a news piece instigated by reporters and/or editors. But there has in fact been a little indirect penetration on the issue, as The O allowed a regular citizen to make the case in their pages on Thursday:
Your editorial "Cheney and the Klamath salmon kill" (June 30) rightly took Vice President Dick Cheney to task for his illegal meddling in the 2002 Klamath Basin water issue. In chastising Cheney, however, you failed to even mention the direct involvement of either Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., or former Oregon politician-turned-lobbyist Bob Smith.

Were it not for the aggressive involvement of these two Oregon men, Cheney and Karl Rove would not have broken the law to supply scarce Klamath waters at the expense of endangered salmon and coastal fishery jobs.

The Oregonian too often gives Smith a pass, pointing to his occasional breaks with his Republican Party and painting him as some sort of genuine political moderate. He should not be let off the hook on the Klamath episode.

The Oregonian ought to dig a little deeper and shine the light on Oregon officials when they are playing a direct or complicit role in the Bush administration's unethical and illegal affairs.

CHRIS BECK Lake Oswego
Chris Beck, I've never met you but I think I love you. I couldn't have written it better myself. That's the rational view; also appearing in Thursday's edition was the scientific view from Steve Pederey, conservation director of Oregon Wild and an active observer during the period under scrutiny. Steve doesn't call Smith out specifically (and in fact kind of avoids it in the same way as the regular media) but he's certainly pointing at the methods Smith seems culpable for:
A Washington Post investigation uncovered Cheney's role in this tragedy, finding that he personally called natural resources managers to demand that they cut water for salmon during a drought year to favor agribusiness interests. According to the Post, Cheney wanted to reward political allies and help Republican Sen. Gordon Smith win re-election in Oregon.

That wasn't the first time politicians have sacrificed the Klamath's fish and wildlife to achieve political goals. In 2003, The Wall Street Journal found that the political motives of White House adviser Karl Rove, not science, had driven federal decisions in the Klamath. And in 2002, Oregon Rep. Greg Walden killed a $175 million restoration bill for the Klamath that would have benefited both salmon and farmers.

Today the Klamath Basin stands at a crossroads. This most recent scandal and the coming investigations into Cheney's actions are yet another example of why Congress needs to act to resolve the environmental crisis facing the Klamath. Continuing to leave the region's fish and wildlife at the mercy of politics is a recipe for disaster. It's appalling that the vice president used his influence to overturn science-based decisions that resulted in the largest fish kill in Northwest history. But it's even more appalling that five years after that fish kill little has been done to prevent a repeat.

If there's one example of Smith being a part of the effort to flip science on its head, here's a quote from the Klamath Herald News in April 2001 that we ran in our original story on the fish kill fiasco. It both sums up Smith's knowledge and support of Cheney's machinations, and actually explains how Cheney plans to use politics to trump science:
"Dick Cheney stopped that order from coming down," Smith said. "He ordered the biologists back to Washington" to see if there were some way to get around the conclusion that all available water must go to protect endangered suckers in Upper Klamath Lake and threatened coho salmon in the lower Klamath River.
And when Cheney and Rove got the water turned back on, they let Gale Norton and Smith take the credit...and Smith even bragged about the accomplishment later.

Will anyone ask him about this example of his ideological marriage to the Bush administration? Will you?

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