There are lies, damned lies and statistics, so the saying goes. Add Rachel Maddow's lies of omission to the list.
Maddow is doing her best to shield MSNBC viewers from awkward facts about political support for offshore drilling. Here's how she began her show on Monday, with an announcement from July 2008 by then-President George W. Bush --
BUSH: For years my administration has been calling on Congress to expand domestic oil production. Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal. ... One of the most important steps we can take to expand American oil production is to increase access to offshore exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf, or what's called the OCS. ... Today I've issued a memorandum to lift the executive prohibition on oil exploration in the OCS.
MADDOW: That was President George W. Bush in July 2008 lifting the presidential ban on offshore oil drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf. It was a presidential ban that had been first put in place by President Bush's dad in 1990 after the big Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. Here was why Bush the second said he was lifting the drilling ban of Bush the first --
BUSH: New advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the OCS that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats, and protects against oil spills.
MADDOW: See, the technology is so safe now there's no need to worry about oil spills any more. Now as I mentioned, President George W. Bush here was rescinding the presidential drilling ban that his father had put in place after the Exxon Valdez disaster. He was sort of trying to box Congress in, into repealing Congress's drilling ban as well. Congress's ban was even older than the presidential ban. Congress's ban had been put in place starting in the early 1980s.
BUSH: With this action, the executive branch's restrictions on this exploration have been cleared away. This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the US Congress. ... But Congress has restricted access to key parts of the OCS since the early 1980s.
Maddow's misdirection begins here --
MADDOW: Well, why had Congress done that? Why had Congress restricted offshore drilling since the early 1980s? Ah, because of this. (Footage shown of Ixtoc oil spill) The Ixtoc oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. It blew up in 1979. They did not cap it until well into 1980. It released an estimated 140 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In trying to figure out what to do about that, Congress decided to put a moratorium on drilling in hundreds of thousands of acres of federal waters. Sorry, no more drilling. Did you see what just happened, people?!
After a huge spill like that, you can see how politicians at the time maybe might want to stop and reassess things for a while. After the big Ixtoc disaster, that's what Congress did. After the big Exxon Valdez disaster, that's what the first President Bush did. And after the most recent BP oil disaster in the Gulf, that's what President Obama has done, implementing a six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling.
Moratoriums on drilling are what we have done in the past to respond to big oil disasters. The idea, presumably, is that we're going to make drilling safer before we allow it to expand again. And even though President Bush touted that supposed improved safety back in 2008 when he was lifting the presidential moratorium, we no longer have to take anyone's sober assurances about things like that. That issue has now been factually, conclusively settled.
Notice what Maddow does -- Bush the younger is depicted as an irresponsible outlier, running against the grain in comparison to three other parties: Congress imposing its moratorium in the early 1980s, Bush senior issuing his presidential ban in 1990, and Obama ordering a six-month moratorium after the BP spill.
What Maddow couldn't bring herself to acknowledge in the excerpt quoted above, nor in the entirety of the opening segment on Monday (linked here), is that Congress -- and a Democrat-led Congress at that -- ended the offshore drilling moratorium in September 2008, two months after the younger Bush's announcement.
Nor could Maddow bear to divulge the equally awkward reality that Obama came around to Bush's enthusiasm for offshore drilling -- weeks before the deadly Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20.
This deceitful whitewashing, however, pales compared to the shabbiness from Maddow last night while reporting on five oil company CEOs testifying before a House Energy subcommittee (second part of embedded video) --
MADDOW: For oil industry executives, even the biggest accidental blowout ever, 140 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, even Ixtoc, even that is apparently not a big deal when they think about their own industry. It's not part of what they've learned about oil and oil companies and drilling. It's not something that they talk about, it's not a term they're familiar with, it's apparently, if you're the head of an oil company, if you're the CEO of an oil company, it's apparently something you've never even heard of before.
Footage is then shown from that day's subcommittee hearing attended by executives from BP America, Exxon, Chevron, Shell and ConocoPhillips, and this question from Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. --
WHITFIELD: I was reading an article about a well referred to as I-X-T-O-C 1, which I think was back in 1978 or '79. ... Are any of you familiar with the history of that particular well blowing in the Gulf? Any of you aware of the facts of that?
Whereupon audio from the footage is silenced, a BP America executive begins to answer but cannot be heard, and Maddow makes this bizarre claim --
MADDOW: Yeah, we didn't edit that to take away the sound. That's them, they just, blank stares all around.
Except for the man I just censored to keep you from hearing him speak. Except for that.
When Maddow does things like this, is her rule of thumb -- What Would Mao Do?
Where Maddow sees blank stares, I see noncommittal responses from four oil executives to an exercise in Kabuki theater guilt by association.
(For those interested in what BP America chairman Lamar McKay had to say, here is a link to C-SPAN'S coverage of the hearing; go to 1:30:52 in the clip. C-SPAN helpfully keeps the audio intact for the entire segment).