Oklahoma Has Chance To Rid Itself Of National Joke Jim Inhofe, If It Has A Lick Of Sense
Oklahoma Republican James M. Inhofe has been in the US Senate since 1995, and has consistently been among the biggest roadblocks to any and all environmental regulation. He's famous for his epic rebuke to science in 2015, when he disproved the scientific consensus on climate change by tossing a snowball in the Senate, thereby proving winter still exists.
Inhofe Tosses a Snowballyoutu.be
"In case we have forgotten because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record," Inhofe said, as he slyly made science vanish into pure illogic. "I asked the chair, do you know what this is? It's a snowball just from outside here. So it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonable. So here, Mr. President, catch this," he said, tossing it to somebody, maybe an aide, maybe a lab-coat wearing scientist who resigned that very day and left to hunt polar bears.
There are probably stupider Republicans in Congress when it comes to climate, but Jim Inhofe is among the most powerful; he chaired the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee from 2003 to 2007, and again from 2015 to 2017, when the job went to fellow oil-friendly Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming. Inhofe prides himself on his loyalty to the fossil fuel industry, to which he'd probably be lovingly devoted even if it weren't his biggest donor. In 2015, he told the Washington Post,
"Anytime someone asks me how much money I get from the oil industry, I always tell them the same thing," he said, smiling. "Not enough."
And deep-red Oklahoma just loves, loves, loves him for it. Inhofe made trolling the libs long the central focus of his governing philosophy well in advance of the Trump years, and it should be no surprise that all the major political prediction outfits rate his seat as "solid" or "safe" Republican this year.
Even so, Democratic nominee Abby Broyles thinks she has a shot at changing that, and why not? It's 2020 and everything's cattywampus these days. Why not a long-shot Democratic Senator from red, red Oklahoma?
Inhofe's science denial isn't simply a matter of preference for polluting industry, it's also a matter of anti-regulatory ideology, and of religious faith, he says. God put that stuff in the ground for humans to use, otherwise why is it even there? Besides, God would never let us make the planet unlivable, that's just basic truth.
"The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous," he said in a 2012 radio interview.
In a Very Serious Science Brochure from 2004, whose cover you might mistake for a Bible tract, Inhofe put together a catalog of climate myths, advancing his evidence-free belief that Earth is merely in a warming phase of a natural cycle, because humans can't change the atmosphere. He even trotted out that long-debunked 1975 Newsweek article about worldwide cooling as "evidence" that scientists never can make up their minds about anything, so burn more oil, hippies.
In 2104, Inhofe explained there was no need to extend emergency unemployment benefits during a bitterly cold winter, because if we'd just eliminate environmental laws, the economy would perk right up. He's yelled at the Pope for talking about climate, which should be left up to the scientists in the oil bidniss. And so on.
But it would be unfair to reduce Inhofe to a caricature of a brainless climate denier, because in reality, he's a caricature of a brainless idiot on so many more things.
After the Supreme Court settled the issue of marriage equality in 2015, Inhofe explained that "a lot of people who are friends of mine in the gay community" thought it was just a terrible decision, although he didn't actually produce any of those alleged Gay Friends of Inhofe. In 2013, Inhofe, then 79, had emergency heart surgery and concluded that it sure is great America doesn't have socialized medicine, because otherwise he'd be dead. This may have come as a surprise to other 79-year-olds whose healthcare is covered by this "Medicare" scheme you may have heard about. He voted against disaster aid following superstorm Sandy, but insisted Oklahoma get generous federal help following deadly tornadoes.
And he's remained an asshole during the current pandemic. He and Oklahoma's junior senator, James Lankford, were both among the eight Republicans who voted against the CARES Act, and as for the very idea of a deadly virus, well heck, why would he take that seriously?
When a reporter in the Capitol asked Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, 85, what precautions he was taking to protec… https://t.co/jwWvcBxq2L— Josh Barone (@Josh Barone) 1583939244.0
Inhofe is also really big on pushing legislation that will help Jim Inhofe, only it's not selfish, because he's sort of a rightwing Everyman. He got into politics because he was mad about bureaucracy in Tulsa:
As a developer in the late 1970s, Inhofe purchased an abandoned building. The only eyesore, he said, was an ugly fire escape that he wanted to move to a less visible outside wall. A city official told him that it would take about two months to even find out whether that was possible.
"I told him that I was going to run for mayor and fire him," he wrote in his book. "So I ran for mayor and I fired him."
That sense of public-spirited grievance has also driven legislation at the national level. In 2010, Inhofe, a private pilot, insisted on landing his twin-engine Cessna 340 on a closed runway at an airport in Texas. He hadn't looked at FAA notices saying the runway was closed, and completely ignored the big yellow "X" painted on both ends of the runway. He also didn't see several construction trucks and workers on the runway, and only avoided hitting them by pouring on the throttle and hopping over them. The construction crew's supervisor later told an FAA investigator he was pretty sure the driver of a truck Inhofe nearly hit "actually wet his britches, he was scared to death." The supervisor said Inhofe
"was determined to land on that runway come hell or high water evidently." He added, "I'm still shaking…I was in the middle of the runway, I headed for high country."
Inhofe, according to that witness, was mostly annoyed he'd been inconvenienced, saying "What the hell is this? I was supposed to have unlimited airspace."
The senator, who's still flying, and has over 10,000 hours logged in the air, managed to get away with the mildest possible penalty from the FAA, a remedial course of training (not that the FAA did him a huge favor, that would be very cynical). Nonetheless, Inhofe felt he'd been treated very unfairly, and pushed through a bill he called the "Pilot's Bill of Rights," which gave pilots more ability to contest FAA enforcement and disciplinary actions when they're charged with violating safety rules. He's an advocate of the little guy against runaway bureaucrats, you see. Or runway bureaucrats, as the case may be.
One more: last year, the New York Timeslooked at Inhofe's role in making sure water levels stay high at a lake where he and other wealthy folks have vacation homes. The small town of Miami and Native American communities upstream are frequently flooded when the lake backs up following heavy rains. But tough luck for them: Inhofe now chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, so he added provisions to the annual defense bill to prevent regulators from lowering the lake's water level. Wealthy people need "recreation and commerce," so the upstream folks better learn to swim. All Miamis must flood.
That's the sort of Inhofe-first governing that Democrat Abby Broyles wants to put an end to. Until last fall, Broyles was a reporter and anchor at Oklahoma City's NBC affiliate, where she covered state government and won several awards for investigative reporting. She went to law school at night while still working as a reporter, and once she finished her law degree (early, she likes to point out), she was considering whether to do law stuff, or maybe keep TV journalisming in a larger market. A friend suggested she run for office, and she remembered an incident that pissed her off. Only unlike Inhofe's pique at regulations the got in the way of his real-estate plans, Broyles was angry at Inhofe's lack of concern for other people — military service members who were his own constituents:
"He went down to Midwest City and was touring the housing on base there where we had interviewed families that were dealing with mold and asbestos," she said. "Many of them had moved to RVs across the street from their homes because the living conditions were so terrible."
Inhofe hosted a press conference in which he said he has "never seen nicer housing" and that he probably would've stayed in the Army if they had had that kind of housing when he was serving.
"I just sat there watching the story, thinking, 'This man is so out of touch with Oklahomans,'" Broyles said. "To see him be disrespectful to those families, that kind of stirred something up in me that I thought, 'This is the time. He needs a serious challenger.'"
We like this Abby Broyles, a lot.
Even if she has little chance of matching Infhofe's oil-soaked $4.3 million in campaign fundraising, she's got moxie, and she's putting up a heck of a fight. She's focused on improving healthcare access through Medicaid expansion, and protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act. Inhofe, of course, wants to repeal Obamacare because "personal responsibility."
She's in favor of protecting Dreamers, expanding background checks for firearms sales, and expanding clean energy in Oklahoma. Broyles is also pretty sure Inhofe's snowball stunt was not good for Oklahoma, no matter how much he smirks about it:
When you have someone who does stuff like that in the U.S. Senate, how can you expect the respect of businesses who could move to Oklahoma and provide jobs for people? When you have a senator embarrassing the state of Oklahoma on the national stage, companies aren't going to be eager to come here and start tech jobs or clean energy jobs. [...] There's no reason we have to be behind Texas when it comes to wind energy, but I think it goes back to that reputation we have on the national stage.
Broyles has also stood up for the folks in Miami, saying that this race "is less about red vs. blue and more about right vs. wrong."
As Yr Editrix and her mom know full well, Oklahoma Democrats may be a political minority, but they're tough-minded and tenacious. Earlier this month, Broyles was T-boned in an intersection by a hit-and-run driver; thank Crom it was the rear portion of her car, and hooray for side-curtain airbags, another regulatory burden that saves lives.
Say a prayer for Abby tonight. A couple of hours ago, she was struck in a hit and run accident. She is at home rest… https://t.co/2T50ZoQA4s— Abby Broyles (@Abby Broyles) 1597034331.0
The driver later turned himself in, and Broyles took the opportunity to point out how lucky she is to have health insurance — which needs to be the case for all Oklahomans.
And now she's back on the campaign trail, wondering why Jim Inhofe is too chicken to debate her. Yesterday, she crashed the Tulsa location of an Inhofe commercial shoot to ask him what's up with that.
"He has dodged me at every possible moment," Broyles said. "I heard he was shooting a commercial up here in Tulsa, so I thought I would come to him and make myself available. I think that the people of Oklahoma deserve to hear from him why he wants another six years in Washington, D.C."
Inhofe wasn't on set, but Broyles supporters in the neighborhood where the ad was being recorded made a point of running their lawnmowers during the scheduled shoot. One said she liked causing a little "good trouble."
Goddamn, Oklahoma Democrats are great. Abby Broyles is an underdog, but she's definitely running an serious campaign, and we hope you can toss a few dollars her way.
[WaPo / "Facts and Science of Climate Change" / Scientific American / Smoking Gun / Atlantic / AP / NYT / Oklahoma Gazette / Stillwater News Press / Tulsa World / Abby Broyles for Senate / Images: Abby Broyles on Facebook; C-SPAN screenshot]
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