Flaying the Dog and Pony Show

By January 10, 2008General

“Boxer Excoriates No-Show EPA at California Waiver Briefing”

That’s the headline for Senator Barbara Boxer’s news release today marking the Senate Environment and Public Works “field briefing” on the Environmental Protection Agency’s rejection of California’s request to regulate vehicle emissions for greenhouse gases.

From Boxer’s opening statement:

I invited EPA Administrator Johnson to explain his decision to the people of the State of California today. As you can see from the empty chair in front of me, he declined to face the people of California. I would like to place in the record my letters to the EPA, and the EPA’s response.

I asked him to send another EPA representative to explain his decision. He refused.

Last month I asked Administrator Johnson to provide this Committee with the documents behind his decision and show what advice he received from his legal and technical staff in time for this briefing. I also asked for documents showing any intervention from the White House.

This empty box symbolizes his dereliction of duty – no EPA witness here today, and no EPA documents here today.

Not just an empty chair, but an empty box, too!

You know, that’s an old campaign trick. Invite your opponent to a debate, set demands that make it impossible to participate, and then put an empty chair on stage to highlight the absence. It’s hackneyed, a tired stunt.

The empty box? Eh, you see that less often.

In any case, the overheated rhetoric, the little props meant for the TV cameras, the one-sided witness list — this all tells you today’s “field briefing” was not meant to elicit information or prompt a useful policy debate. To restate the obvious: It was PR, part of a long-term strategy to demonize the EPA, Administrator Stephen Johnson and the Administration for making a responsible policy decision that best served the people of America — refusing to allow California to set de facto national emissions standards that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars for no discernible environmental benefit.

Did the media buy it? We’ll see.

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