Responding to a Right Wing Smear

The Corner started off the attack, accusing me of "blaming Bush" for the Sago Mine disaster. Then it was Michelle Malkin jumping in. From there, a whole variety of lesser, yet increasingly vicious right wing bloggers piled on, accusing me of wanting to blame every ill in the world on George W. Bush.

It was all a big lie. In the post that they were referencing, I never said that the disaster at the Sago Mine was Bush's fault. Plain and simple. I'd have to be a paranoid lunatic to write that it was. Fortunately, despite what many claimed, I never did. I would assume that's why Malkin and The Corner didn't actually quote anything I wrote. It would have undermined the attack.

The ironic thing about the whole dust up is that I called it all before it even happened, writing that "some will criticize me for placing blame on President Bush here," as I knew that's how they'd spin it. And spin they did. With varying degrees of anger, each one of them claiming exactly the same thing -- that I was an unhinged Bush-hater accusing him of causing the disaster.

One blogger wrote that I wanted "to hold W accountable for the unfolding mining tragedy in West Virginia..." In a certain light, I guess that's somewhat true. But not in the way that he would assume. I believe that, as President, Bush should be held accountable for every tragedy is related to his policies. The right wing bloggers, in a clear cut case of projection, seem to think that I meant Bush should be locked up on individual criminal charges or worse. That's obviously not what I was talking about.

Here's what I was talking about. I wrote the piece because, in my mind, the coal mining industry as a whole serves as a lesson about what can happen when workers' safety is compromised in the name of profit. Public policies have real world impact on real world people. It's easy to lose sight of that when you're focused on furthering "pro-business" policies that maximize profits for shareholders. A disaster like this is a grim reminder.

Amidst the coordinated right wing buzz that I'm some sort of rabid psycho, there were a few who got the point. I felt quite vindicated by this post from Alan Williams at Blogging Out Loud. Here's what he wrote in linking to my piece.

Before you go off the deep end and start accusing this guy of blaming Bush for this tragedy, just read it all the way through before jumping to conclusions.

And that's really the key. If you read the post and didn't jump to conclusions, you'd know I wasn't "blaming Bush" for the disaster. In fact, John J. Miller at The Corner almost admits this in a follow-up, writing that it was the title of my post and not the body that led him to assume I was "blaming Bush."

And later on Wednesday, other higher-profile bloggers started making the connection between the Sago disaster and Bush's policies. One was Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly. Here's part of what he had to say.

UNDER MINED.... What's the story behind the story of the tragedy at the Sago Mine? At least part of it is predictable: after George Bush took office in 2001 the Mine Safety and Health Administration was stocked with coal mining executives who were distinctly less interested in mine safety than they should have been.

Even the conservative/libertarian Andrew Sullivan made basically the same point, going so far as to tie the issue back to Jack Abramoff. (Something even I think is a bit of a stretch.)

ABRAMOFF AND SAGO: Maybe there's a budding connection. What happens when coal executives spend lots of money on Republican politicians? A looser regulatory and safety regime?

As President, Bush has quite a bit of power at his disposal to make coal mines as safe as possible. By not exercising that power, he failed all miners, and he did it long before this disaster struck. Bush is not to blame for the accident in the mine. But he is to blame for bad policy that habitually favors profit over people.

Tags: Blogosphere (all tags)



every right to connect the dots
to GWB.  He has proven numerous times through his policies that the government money / resources go to what he deems appropriate.

Did GWB have any interest in coal ?  Based on his track record, I doubt it.

by Schwede 2006-01-05 08:11AM | 0 recs
Bush Cancelled Clinton Era Safety Standards
One of the first things BushCo did was to cancel several safety regulations that Clinton had introduced. One of these was for escape shafts -- if those had been in place, would these miners have died?

It's a valid question, and worth considering . . .

by ck 2006-01-05 09:12AM | 0 recs
You don't think Bush has any interest in coal?
Think again.

The US has the biggest known coal reserves in the world and I've heard it's the cheapest resource to commercialize.

And there is strong evidence that Bush has very close ties with Wilbur Ross, the investment banker behind the Sago mines.

by qrswave 2006-01-06 07:47AM | 0 recs
Not all Right Wingers Think Scott is a Loon!
Hey Scott - not that you really need it ('cause I know you can take care of yourself) but I would have gladly defended your honor amongst my right wing cronies, but Malkin's blog doesn't support reader comments and they don't let just any old schmuck post at the Corner (I guess that's one big reason I like coming here!). Maybe I should find one of those lesser blogs and post there. Ah well, they probably wouldn't believe I was one of their own anyway.

I must admit, for a second or two I thought you had gone off the deep end with your initial post, but knowing you like I do, I figured I needed to read it all instead of jumping to a knee-jerk conclusion, and in doing so, quickly realized the point you were making. It is unfortunate that not all the responders took the time to do the same thing.

by RepTroll 2006-01-05 08:16AM | 0 recs
Loss Prevention
I used to work as an actuary for an insurance company that was well known for its workers compensation insurance.  The common phrase from that part of the building was "loss prevention".  Why?  Because a thousands of dollars spent preventing injuries can save thousands of dollars in medical claims.  

If an accident happened at a company that had been through the loss prevention process, it was necessarily not the fault of my former company.  But you can be sure that every company went through underwriting and loss prevention designed to minimize the possibilities.

President Bush does not believe in loss prevention.  He is not fully culpable for any of the catastrophes that have happened during his reign, Iraq aside.  

He did not fly planes into the World Trade Center; he simply failed to accept the dangers of terrorism.

He did not cause Hurricane Katrina; he simply failed to fund the levees.

He did not ignore the pleas of Katrina survivors; he simply failed to surround himself with people who would bother to tell him there was a problem.

He did not cause global warming; he has simply failed to acknowledge the growing dangers.

He did not cause the 12 miners to die; he simply failed to enforce mine safety standards.

The problem with Bush (again, aside from Iraq) is not that he actively sets out to cause harm.  It is that he is averse to preventing loss.  

by ZamboniGuy 2006-01-05 08:27AM | 0 recs
"blaming bush"
Let me just be a bit of a pain: you were indeed "blaming Bush."

You were blaming Bush for appointing industry insiders and lobbyists to the MSHA knowing that they were likely to reduce safety standards. Malkin and the National Review rhetorically tried to paint you into a corner by using the phrase "blame Bush" as if it somehow denoted wingnuttery.

Essentially, they were trying to suggest you were blaming Bush for the explosion or something. But by getting you to say that you were not blaming Bush, you lose twice: it is clear that you are placing some blame for the deaths on Bush (because you assert a causal, morally relevant connection between him and critical reduced safety standards), so you look foolish, and you also somehow assert that Bush was "not to blame."

It's like the end of War Games: "The only way to win is not to play." My guess is that you got a little played by Malkin et al. this time around. Indeed, I think the National Review guys were quite correct to point out that you were blaming Bush when you wrote: "The defense will be that Bush didn't cause the explosion that collapsed the mine. My response will be that he didn't do anything to prevent it. In fact, if anything, the actions of his administration made the situation worse."

"Blaming Bush" when it is reasonable is nothing to be ashamed of -- to me it seems like something to stand up for and not shy away from.

Again, well done on your post. The research was excellent, and there are a number of people (including the New York Times) picking up on your lead.

by sdedeo 2006-01-05 08:31AM | 0 recs
Is there anyway to post a response to Malkin, or is she another example of those who will handpick e-mails and repsond to them with little if any real chance of there being a real debate about ANY of the issues that were/are in question?  I poked around quickly on her sight, but was unable to find a place to do so.
by Mark J. Bowers 2006-01-05 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Malkin
None that I know of. If I recall correctly, she used to allow comments, but removed that feature, because she was receiving very nasty comments that were attacking her personally; she posted a few examples and they were basically a lot of childish, profane insults. So, it was easier to remove the ability to comment, as opposed to constantly removing the personal attacks.
by RepTroll 2006-01-05 08:47AM | 0 recs
Apportionment of Liability
I'm not a lawyer (I don't even play one on TV) but damage suits frequently allow for the division of blame among multiple parties.  In an auto accident, a court may find the driver(s) partly responsible as well as the maker of the car.  In that sense, Bush is partly liable for the results of the mine accident.

In this, as in so many other cases, Bush is more than a passive actor in the drama.  He suspends laws.  "reforms" FEMA to a for-profit appendage of politically connected, if inept, contractors. Ignores warnings.  Rewards incompetence.

Bush has not paid even a small price for this negligence.  He has notperformed his duty to preserve and protect the constitution of the United States or defended our people (he may have defended the subset of "his" people, the have mores, but even they did better under Clinton).

In short, the original judgement many people made about him is correct (based on his record with Texas executions): he cares too little about the little guy and human life and too much about the politics of how it looks.  A Bush administration is likely to have blood on its hands (even partially).

by David Kowalski 2006-01-05 09:11AM | 0 recs
Responding to a Right Wing Smear
The rightwing bloggers attacking you are playing an old rhetorical trick. I'm not smart enough to know it by name, but it's along the lines of "you are blaming Bush directly for the mine disaster!" Of course not, but once the meme is created, it gets passed around by the RWBs because their sole purpose in life is to defend Bush. They're like the digital DEW line in Northern Canada, scanning the skies for rhetorical bombers coming in to shell the White House. That's all.

Nevertheless, keep it up, Scott. Smart people can make their own decisions on whether this is a legitimate connection or not, and I think that it is.

by retrogrouch 2006-01-05 09:25AM | 0 recs
No "Miscommunication" in Tallmansville
There's growing suspicion that events compounding the Sago Mine tragedy were intentionally staged by the mine owners.  The mining company needed time to deploy West Virginia state troopers and SWAT teams, protecting themselves from the victims' friends and relatives.  

By the time the sad truth reached families in the little Baptist church, the mourners were surrounded and the mine operators were safe.

Disgusting news, but it comes as no surprise in West Virginia mining towns.

by anotherwob 2006-01-05 10:13AM | 0 recs
You're being defensive
You're being defensive.  Don't worry about what they say (they just lie), look at the bigger picture of what they do.

This s a pre-emptive attack strategy.  They know whose fault this tragedy is and they are trying "to get ahead of it."

This post about Republican strategy refers to this Republican strategy article, which advises, among other things,  

3. In political wars, the aggressor usually prevails. ... By striking first, you can define the issues and define your adversary. Definition is the decisive move in all political wars. Other things being equal, whoever winds up on the defensive will generally be on the losing side.
If you read the whole document it is a good idea to keep in mind that the author also advises (in previous documents) playing the victim as a strategy of persuasion.  So THIS document is written as if "the left" does all these bad things, therefore Republicans should to, which is just nonsense but which works to persuade Republicans they are justified in engaging in such tactics.
by davej 2006-01-05 11:29AM | 0 recs
If you've been slimed by Malkin
then you have arrived. 8-)

The lovely and looney Michelle Malkin slimed my organization, ACORN, during the 2004 election season, accusing of us registering a terrorist to vote in Ohio, among many other things.

If you've gotten her goat, then you must be doing something right.

by nathanhj 2006-01-05 03:48PM | 0 recs
Michelle Malkin is an Anti-Asian American sellout...any self respecting Asian American would tell you this. But, regarding GOP look at Pat Robertson. Instead of sending condolences to his kind...Christian conservatives in Virginia on the death of the miners..he is out there condemning Sharon. Kind of jokers they have in the GOP..and look at the company he keeps regarding his views....Iran's President and perhaps AQ too! as_deserved/

by Boilermaker 2006-01-06 03:28AM | 0 recs


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