It was a more gullible time. Political activists had no trouble at all spreading the belief that it was a "ban", something that would be impossible today, because we learned how to read and use Google since then.
10 years later, White House acceptance of science has not only not improved, it is worse than ever, and no one outside the kookiest fringes is blaming Republicans for it.
The administration has shown no qualms about editing science reports that draw different conclusions than what some Democrats want (Deepwater Horizon), ignoring the science when conclusions are not going to sit with activists in their voting base (Keystone XL), and stalling when all else fails, like with the Aquadvantage salmon and Yucca Mountain.
Because of these actions, and media unwillingness to connect the pretty obvious dots, there is a belief among the Republican fringes that there is some vast liberal conspiracy among government scientists and that they are willfully producing whatever their (unelected) bosses want. That isn't the case at all. When some appointed bureaucrat walks in and declares they have to redo existing work, it insults government scientists in two ways: they know they have to duplicate a bunch of work for political grandstanding and; it implies they didn't know what they were doing last time.
And that bugs them, just like it would bug you.
So government scientists, who did a comprehensive environmental impact analysis when Keystone XL was proposed, have now found all of their work pushed aside again. They aren't happy about it, even though 86 percent of them voted for the guy.
They know what everyone knows, including disgruntled Democrats in Congress: It's the same old thing. The president has developed a habit of approving Project Y while cutting off the funding for the previous Project X. We have seen it in his handling of nuclear science. He bragged the government was supporting a new nuclear plant while not mentioning he was cutting off funding for one he had already approved. It has worked. He is on record as consistently supporting nuclear science, while making sure nothing ever gets done. Last week, some scientists cheered when he claimed he supported biotech, while forgetting his five years of stalling GMOs.
On Keystone XL, he delayed a decision until after the 2012 election while promising to fast-track an extension from it. Not only did he promise to build an "Extension From Nowhere", he promised to do it on Native American burial grounds, which absolutely no government scientist had signed off on. Now he is using a legal challenge in Nebraska to postpone being presidential until after yet another election.
Which are the pipes that will ruin the environment again? The 400 miles of Keystone pipeline is really hard to spot in the other 20,000 miles of pipeline already there, even if we zoom in to just one spot. Credit: PennWell MAPSearch
Democrats running for re-election are irritated about this recurring trend. Senators Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana immediately condemned it as scientific waffling - the other Senator from Alaska, Republican Lisa Murkowski, said what Begich could not, that it was was “a stunning act of political cowardice”. Democrats need to be hoping environmentalists will donate big because they know that unions are not happy about this - these are tens of thousands of high-paying jobs for union labor that are now off the table again. And scientists are not happy because he made them duplicate all of their work, they found it was not harmful to the environment again in February, and he overruled them yet again.
Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer was no less pleased with the president last time around, saying, “Ninety per cent of these jackasses that are complaining about the Keystone pipeline in Washington, D.C., one year ago wouldn't have even known where the Keystone was."
Which is true. Environmentalists knew the science was against them so they created an "investment cloud" over it and turned science into political theater, just like was done with stem cells.
We can continue to call him Scientist-In-Chief, no one wants to admit that Bush was better for science than Obama has been, but it's frustrating to have to dream about what could have been if science had been restored to its rightful place, rather than being sent to a partisan ghetto.