Bush Bashed for Use of Science

David is a Deputy News Editor specializing in coverage of science policy, energy and the environment.

Got a complaint about President George W. Bush's handling of hot science? A senior Democrat in Congress wants to hear it. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) yesterday released a report accusing the Bush Administration of distorting science to advance its policies--and established a Web site to collect more examples. But the White House says it is Waxman who is playing politics.

Since the Bush Administration began 30 months ago, some scientists have complained that it has ignored or suppressed research findings that run counter to its views on everything from public health and the environment to sex education and defense policy. Specific charges include stacking government advisory panels with scientists with ties to industry or strong religious views, trimming evidence for global warming from reports and Web pages, and gagging government scientists from discussing controversial results. Administration officials and some independent observers have dismissed the complaints as sour grapes from political opponents, saying the moves often reflect a new regime putting its stamp on government.

Not so, says the new 40-page report from the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Government Reform. "These actions go far beyond the typical shifts in policy that occur with a change in the political party occupying the White House," they conclude, citing nearly 2 dozen instances "where the Administration has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings." For instance, it charges Administration officials with changing social science criteria to make "abstinence-only" sex education programs appear more effective, selectively citing data to make missile defense systems seem closer to reality, and withholding comments from Fish and Wildlife Service biologists who were critical of proposed changes to wetlands protection rules. Such tinkering benefits "important supporters of the President, including social conservatives and powerful industry groups," conclude the authors, who have set up a Web site to collect public comments on "the state of scientific integrity in the Bush Administration."

The White House hasn't responded to the report's specifics. But aides note that Waxman is a liberal Democrat well-known for criticizing the Administration. "I'm hard-pressed to believe anyone would consider Congressman Waxman an objective arbiter of scientific fact," White House spokesperson Adam Levine told The Washington Post.

Related site
The Waxman report

Posted in Policy