Friday, September 16, 2005


High Stakes: Trent Lott's Bad Bet
Browner said that Lott was not alone among politicians in his disregard for the environment. “For fifty years,” she pointed out, “there’s been significant inattention to the environmental consequences of developing the wetlands.” But Lott was particularly single-minded in his support of casino development. “I had barely taken office,” Browner said, “when I discovered there was a ‘hold’ on a department nominee.” (Placing a hold, which is a common maneuver in the Senate, can keep a nominee’s name from moving forward to a vote.) “I didn’t have a clue who put the hold on the nominee. Then Trent Lott called me up and said that he had done it. He told me, ‘I figured I’d have a problem with the E.P.A. I don’t have one yet. But this is a warning to you.’ Then he lifted the hold. But the message was clear.

“A few years later, in 1997, Clinton nominated someone else to a job in the E.P.A. that needed Senate confirmation,” she recalled. Browner learned that a hold had been placed on this person, too. “It was a person who was perfectly qualified,” she said. “So the hold seemed odd.

“We called around to see what was the matter,” she went on. “And I found out that Lott had put a hold on this person. I then spoke with him about it, and he said, ‘It’s not about the nominee.’ He said, ‘It’s because I want you to fire another employee, because he’s standing in the way of wetlands permits needed for casinos.’

“He wanted me to fire this guy who was handling the wetlands permits down in our regional office in Atlanta,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it if I’d wanted to. I told him I wasn’t going to. It’s the job of the E.P.A. to enforce Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which covers all wetlands permits, and this guy was doing his job.” Browner said that she did not tell the employee in Atlanta, because she didn’t want him to feel pressured. “Lott thought the guy was working with the Army Corps of Engineers to hold up the casino permits, and he was determined to get rid of him.”

(Emphases mine.)

The disaster of Hurricane Katrina isn't limited to the immediate aftermath, the days lost by FEMA's useless and needless dickering over inane questions of jurisdiction, or by Bush's inability to grasp just how bad things were. This was a disaster years in the making. If it didn't hit Louisiana and Mississippi, then it would have hit somewhere else. Pundits and politicians can scream all they want about the uselessness of the government, but when the people who work in it do their damndest to do their jobs and serve the people in both the short and the long term, only to be ignored by greedy thugs, I know whose feet I'll lay the blame at.

Lott had better goddamned well enjoy that glorious new house that the president has promised will rise from the rubble of his old one. If there was any justice, the voters of Mississippi would vote in such a way to allow him a lot more free time to spend there.

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