Inhofe: Climate Change Advocates Do 'Disservice' to Tornado Victims

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 08:27 AM

By John Gizzi

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Those who tried to link last week's Oklahoma tornado to climate change "do a great disservice to those who have experienced this tragedy," Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe told Newsmax.

In an exclusive interview, the senior senator from the Sooner State took time from his family's Memorial Weekend picnic to voice anger with those who claim the tornado that devastated part of his state was somehow due to climate change.

As Inhofe put it, "The liberal media is trying to exploit a tragedy to advance and expand its own agenda. And, believe me, the victims all know this."

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Inhofe, a past chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, commented after a week in which there was considerable comment that global warming was a factor in the Oklahoma tornado.

Shortly after the tornado hit, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor saying climate change should be given part of the blame.

"Is Climate Change to Blame for the Oklahoma Tornado?" blared the headline in Mother Jones that was sympathetic to that opinion.

Inhofe pointed out that Oklahoma has had a long history of deadly tornadoes.

"We were being hit by tornadoes long before anyone talked about climate change, and even before it was called 'global cooling,' before it became 'global warming,' and then 'climate change,'" Inhofe said. "The same thing that happened last week happened 14 years ago, 25 years ago, and 30 years ago."

A licensed pilot for decades, Inhofe said "there are parts of Kansas and Oklahoma known as 'Tornado Alley' that pilots won't even fly."

The senator himself personally experienced a tornado in his own home area in Northeast Oklahoma, "which is more prone to tornadoes than Central Oklahoma [where the latest twister struck]." He recalled a tornado in 1964 "that left a tremendous level of devastation," and, at his home in Ketchum on Grand Lake, "it lifted up a giant oak tree from the ground and dropped it on my old red jeep."

Inhofe added: "My wife told me I should have taken out insurance on the jeep but I said, no, that nobody would do anything to an old jeep. I guess my wife was right."

In citing Oklahoma's long history of tornado tragedy, Inhofe pointed out that, whatever the size of the twister, the pattern has always been the same: a level of devastation and destruction that the nation saw last week in Central Oklahoma, which claimed 24 lives and cost an estimated $2 billion in damage.

"The small tornado that struck Picher, Okla. [in May 2008] covered one square mile, but the level of destruction was the same as that experienced in our state most recently," he said.

The F-4 tornado that struck Picher damaged 150 homes and, having long suffered from buildings subject to collapse, Picher shut down in September 2009 and is today a ghost town.

Newsmax spoke to Inhofe just two days after he delivered the Republican response to the president's weekly radio address. He said that when asked by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to make the response, "I told him, yes, and I intended to thank the school teachers, police officers, and other citizens of Oklahoma who helped the victims of the tragedy. But I made clear I was not going to use the name 'Barack Obama' in any way."

In explaining why he wouldn't mention the president, Inhofe recalled how, after New Jersey's Republican governor embraced Obama during Hurricane Sandy relief last year helped the Democrats in the presidential race, "I was not going to let the White House pull a 'Chris Christie' on me."

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John Gizzi is chief political correspondent and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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