I’m with Kevin Williamson on this stunning Washington Post op-ed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. It’s dispiriting to read the very wealthy senator from Rhode Island crossing well into the range of McCarthyism, if not fascism. I mean, look at this:
To be clear: I don’t know whether the fossil fuel industry and its allies engaged in the same kind of racketeering activity as the tobacco industry. We don’t have enough information to make that conclusion. Perhaps it’s all smoke and no fire. But there’s an awful lot of smoke.
The suggestion is clear. Laying the background for the tobacco industry part of the comparison, Whitehouse writes, “Thankfully, the government had a playbook, too.” And “finally, through the discovery process, government lawyers were able to peel back the layers of deceit and denial and see what the tobacco companies really knew all along about cigarettes.” That’s what the senator wants to attempt to do to organizations that express skepticism about climate change alarmism.
To what couldn’t this principle apply? Maybe same-sex marriage advocates have studies showing that children do just as well without their own moms and dads. Start a Congressional investigation! Or maybe the gun industry is conspiring to hide evidence that eliminating the Second Amendment would make Americans safer. Or maybe Grover Norquist has buried a report proving that high taxes are good for the economy and freedom. Or (and here’s the goldmine) internal memos among Republican groups might prove a big-dollar conspiracy to fool the American people into believing that the Democrats have become a party of ultra-wealthy radicals who have no interest in helping average Americans prosper and who lack the competence to achieve that goal, even if they believed in it.
Maybe, maybe, maybe. We’ll never know if we don’t start investigating every conservative organization.
This is not a difficult one. Even people (including journalists) who agree with all of the senator’s political positions should be able to see that. Whitehouse is way off the deep end, here, and he ought to be called on it. (But he won’t be.)