Inhofe Politicizes Ebola Outbreak

Image of Jim Inhofe from TPM

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe won’t even let the deadly Ebola virus get in the way of one of his political stunts.

Last week, Inhofe single handedly but temporarily held up $750 million in federal funding for the Department of Defense to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. The House had earlier approved the funding but when it came to the Senate, Inhofe, a ranking Republican member of the Armed Services Committee that considered the legislation, held it up.

Inhofe cited concerns about what he later called a “lack of a coherent strategy” about how the funds would be used. Meanwhile, as Inhofe equivocated, Ebola cases have appeared in the United States, and the outbreak in the west African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone continues to kill a growing number of people.

On Friday, Inhofe finally relented and released a statement saying he had changed his mind. Trying to score political points, his statement, of course, was highly critical of the Obama administration, citing the “slow response by the President's State Department and international community . . . ” to the Ebola crisis. Here’s how the statement ended:

. . . because of the failure of the Obama Administration to responsibly and strategically plan in advance for how the U.S. will be involved in West Africa, it will be difficult for me to support any further last-minute funding requests using military resources. That is why I have insisted another more appropriate funding source be identified for operations beyond six months. Significant cuts to the defense budget have eroded the readiness and capabilities of our military, and I cannot support the indefinite commitment of our troops to this mission.

So try to follow Inhofe’s logic. The Obama administration was slow to respond and strategically plan so, in response, Inhofe decides to delay things even further. It doesn’t make sense because Inhofe’s real point is really to just criticize the president in an election year. Politicizing the Ebola virus may well be a new low for Inhofe, but I would have to do a thorough search through my memory bank to be entirely sure. People are dying after contracting the Ebola virus even as I write this, and Americans are increasingly worried about a major outbreak here, but that doesn’t seem to affect Inhofe.

Note the other contradiction in Inhofe’s statement. If defense cuts have actually “eroded the readiness and capabilities of our military,” which they haven’t, then wouldn’t it make more sense to actually be immediately in favor of more and not less funding for any type of military operation? Wouldn’t that help our “readiness”? Shouldn’t the military be “ready” for virus epidemics? The Defense Department, for example, had initially requested $1 billion. The money will come from an account used to fund military operations in Afghanistan.

Inhofe’s political stunts continue to attract little to no criticism from the corporate media in this state, which is a shame because Inhofe is not a good ambassador for Oklahoma in many parts of the country and world. Perhaps we have all become so used to Inhofe’s extremism and political stunts that we’ve become numb or immune. Inhofe is expected to win reelection in November so it appears we’ll have to endure his right-wing extremism for another six years. So it goes in Oklahoma these days.

Pursuing Publicity

Image of Jim Inhofe

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, one of the world’s best-known skeptics of global warming science, weighed in recently with his typical hyperbole over a report warning that climate change could threaten our country’s national security.

The report, prepared by the CAN Military Advisory Board, a group of retired military officers, argues, “The nature and pace of observed climate changes—and an emerging scientific consensus on their projected consequences—pose severe risks for our national security.” It goes on to point out:

The projected impacts of climate change—heat waves, intense rainfall, floods and droughts, rising sea levels, more acidic oceans, and melting glaciers and arctic sea ice—not only affect local communities but also, in the aggregate, challenge key elements of our National Power. Key elements of National Power include political, military, economic, social, infrastructure, and information systems.

Inhofe, of course, wasn’t buying any of it. In response to the report, according to The New York Times Inhofe said:

There is no one in more pursuit of publicity than a retired military officer. . . . I look back wistfully at the days of the Cold War. Now you have people who are mentally imbalanced, with the ability to deploy a nuclear weapon. For anyone to say that any type of global warming is anywhere close to the threat that we have with crazy people running around with nuclear weapons, it shows how desperate they are to get the public to buy this.”

Note the ad hominem attack against retired military officers. This is coming from the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Inhofe’s wistful Cold War memories have absolutely nothing to do with global warming or how we should respond to it. He can’t argue with evidence so Inhofe attacks and qualifies. So who is really seeking publicity and who is really “desperate”?

There’s a consensus among the world’s climate scientists that manmade carbon emissions, produced by the burning of fossil fuels, are causing the planet to warm at an alarming rate.

Inhofe, 79, is expected to easily win reelection this November. He represents a state in which the legislature just voted for permanent tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, and he has received $318,850 in campaign contributions from that same industry since 2009.

Another EPA Bashing

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U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe continues to berate the Environmental Protection Agency with sweeping generalizations and political sloganeering.

Inhofe’s contrarian demeanor as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee doesn’t really accomplish anything, but it does give all of us a preview of what could happen if Republicans take control of the Senate in the November midterm elections.

In a statement issued last week for an EPW Committee hearing, Inhofe criticizes President Barack Obama and “the EPA’s War on Fossil Fuels” for what he calls a “regulatory onslaught.” It’s sheer political hype.

Inhofe has been arguing against new EPA regulations, primarily the Utility MACT rule, for quite some time now. Maximum Achievable Control Technology Standards were authorized under the 1970 Clean Air Act and have been used to lower the amount of pollution going into the air. Older electric plants, generated by coal, in particular, have been affected by the standards.

Inhofe’s rhetoric on the issue shows he cares little to nothing about pollution and its impact on the environment and our health.

One of Inhofe’s claims is that the loss of electricity to the grid by plant closings or refitting could result in “rolling blackouts,” an argument used by the power industry to delay meeting new standards. Inhofe uses it as a fear mongering tactic. No one wants or is going to tolerate electric blackouts.

In the statement, Inhofe also claims “the Administration is making strides to regulate hydraulic fracturing and methane emissions from the natural gas production and transmission processes, which could further drive up the price of energy and electricity.” Again, note the lack of any regard for the environment. Inhofe is just piling on supposed grievances.

Here’s the bottom line: Manmade carbon and other toxic emissions are polluting the air. The EPA, which was formed under the former President Richard Nixon administration, is tasked with protecting the environment and the health of citizens. What it does isn’t sinister or anti-business. If anything, the EPA doesn’t do enough.

Inhofe, of course, is famous for claiming that global warming is a worldwide hoax committed by liberal scientists intent on bringing down the oil and gas industry. Inhofe has also received more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests since 1989. It doesn’t get more politically obvious than that.

Inhofe, 79, has claimed that he will end up as chair of the EPW Committee if Republicans take control of the Senate. If that’s the case, expect EPW Committee meetings to turn into EPA-bashing sessions. That won’t bode well for the planet.

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