Obama’s Science Policy Disappoints Supporters

Thursday, 15 Dec 2011 02:59 PM

By Dan Weil

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You can add science to the list of areas where President Barack Obama has fallen short in the eyes of his liberal base, Politico reports.

Left-wing scientists like to remind the president that as a candidate in 2008, he promised to end then-President George W. Bush’s “war on science,” as he called it. They are less than impressed with Obama’s peace. They think he’s pandering for moderates’ votes in 2012 and trying to avoid conflicts with Republicans rather than following strict science.

In particular, liberals are upset that Obama stopped implementation of strong air pollution standards until the election is completed, overruling the Environmental Protection Agency. And then Obama alienated his base by approving the unprecedented decision of health secretary Kathleen Sebelius to overrule scientists at the Food and Drug Administration, forbidding over-the-counter sales of emergency birth control medicine to minors.

That move sparked a letter to Obama from 14 outraged Democratic senators demanding to know the “specific rationale and the scientific data” behind the decision.

“I feel like I am in a time warp,” Francesca Grifo, senior scientist and director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the liberal Union of Concerned Scientists, told Politico.

“These were both issues that the previous administration wrestled with and came down largely where this one has. So what is all this stuff about scientific integrity about? When the rubber meets the road on two crucial issues, science isn’t driving these decisions.”

And Obama probably hasn’t finished upsetting the left. Following his personal review, the administration will soon decide whether to expand an exemption for religious institutions from new rules that require health plans to offer free birth-control coverage.

In addition, the EPA may go easy in a long-awaited decision concerning controls on coal ash from power plants.

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that politics is driving a lot of this. “The White House, as they approach general elections, [tries] to reduce the number of problems and distractions they are facing,” William Galston, a policy adviser in the Clinton White House and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Politico.

“I see this as a very systematic effort to reduce the number of problems and distractions.”

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