Our Teflon President

U.S. District Judge Martin L. C. FeldmanIt is well documented that President Obama does not handle criticism very well.  The removal of General Stanley McChrystal is just the most recent example of our ever-petulant President’s thin skin.

Well, on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman rebuked the President, and maybe – just this once – Obama should listen.

Judge Feldman issued an injunction, striking down the Obama administration’s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  In a sometimes-scathing 22-page opinion (PDF), Feldman asked,

“[i]f some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavyhanded, and rather overbearing.”

After the gulf spill – not wanting to waste a crisis – Obama had his Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, commission a sham study and issue an executive order banning all deepwater drilling in the gulf for six months.  Here is the problem with Salazar’s political spin on the facts scientific report according to Judge Feldman,

“Much to the government’s discomfort and this Court’s uneasiness, the Summary also states “the recommendations contained in this report have been peer reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.” As the plaintiffs, and the experts themselves, pointedly observe, this statement was misleading. The experts charge it was a “misrepresentation.” It was factually incorrect. Although the experts agreed with the safety recommendations contained in the body of the main Report, five of the National Academy experts and three of the other experts have publicly stated that they “do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium” on floating drilling. They envisioned a more limited kind of moratorium, but a blanket moratorium was added after their final review, they complain, and was never agreed to by them. A factor that might cause some apprehension about the probity of the process that led to the Report.”

This doesn’t sound like the scientific integrity that Obama promised when he derided the apparent political nature of his predecessor’s scientific agencies.  In an executive memorandum, Obama, champion of no-spin science, proclaimed that,

“[t]he public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions.”

I guess Salazar never got the memo.

Or, maybe, Obama meant only that conservatives should not be allowed to suppress and distort science.

Now word comes that the Obama administration will challenge Judge Feldman’s decision and impose a new moratorium.  But for the sake of all the jobs the moratorium will destroy, let’s hope Obama and Salazar change their minds and just accept that they are wrong.

I, for one, am not holding my breath.

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