BY Mary Katharine Ham
Several bloggers are calling Rush Limbaugh the equivalent of a 9/11 Truther for alleging on his radio show that the oil-rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico was an inside job perhaps perpetrated by the Obama administration. I didn't listen to the show, so I don't have the full context, but judging from the transcript of the segment, there's pretty clearly a different, more reasonable conclusion one can draw from it.
It's Occam's Razor time.
RUSH: "I want to get back to the timing of the blowing up, the explosion out there in the Gulf of Mexico of this oil rig. Since they're sending SWAT teams down there now this changes the whole perspective of this. Now, lest we forget, ladies and gentlemen, the carbon tax bill, cap and trade that was scheduled to be announced on Earth Day. I remember that. And then it was postponed for a couple of days later after Earth Day, and then of course immigration has now moved in front of it. But this bill, the cap-and-trade bill, was strongly criticized by hardcore environmentalist wackos because it supposedly allowed more offshore drilling and nuclear plants, nuclear plant investment. So, since they're sending SWAT teams down there, folks, since they're sending SWAT teams to inspect the other rigs, what better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I'm just noting the timing here. "
The last sentence does sound suspect—frankly, it's hard to tell what exactly he means in that paragraph alone—but the paragraph before it makes a lot more sense and colors the one above. The full segment transcript is here:
RUSH: "Wow. All right, so SWAT teams, we're sending big sis down there, Janet Napolitano, to look at all the valves and stuff, make sure they're properly greased. He-he-he-he. Ahem. And Lisa Jackson is doing the same thing. So obviously the regime is open to the idea that this is not an accident. The regime is open to the possibility that this could well have been on purpose. Don't forget, the original Earth Day, 40 years ago, was inspired by the river in Cleveland catching fire. Forty years later, the day before Earth Day this year, the Gulf is on fire. Coincidence? Jury's still out. The regime is on the case, soon to tell us what happened."
In this paragraph, Limbaugh is not saying SWAT teams are proof that the Obama administration is blowing things up, but proof that the Obama administration thinks there's a possibility that the explosion could have been eco-terrorism, and is guarding against it on other rigs. This is not a totally outlandish thought, as the FBI deemed eco-terrorism the nation's biggest domestic threat as recently as 2008.
Glenn Reynolds expressed the same fear of foul play, albeit much less colorfully. Another report linked by Glenn suggests "swat team" might just be the way the Interior Department is referring to its inspector squad, which would invalidate Limbaugh's theory, but that wasn't at all clear at the time he was on air.
When Limbaugh goes on to talk about timing, in the paragraph cited by Drum and Klein, my read is he's talking about the fact that an oil-rig explosion happened the day before the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and just weeks after the Obama administration announced it was open to more offshore drilling—a move that would have undoubtedly incensed the kind of people who perpetrate eco-terrorism.
He mentions in the segment that Al Gore encouraged civil disobedience, which he seems to posit eco-terrorists could have taken to heart. He also mentions strongly worded press releases from environmentalist groups like Sierra Club. (Maybe Rush is moving toward the "words matter" camp?)
I have a story here from Reuters, September 24th, 2008 (shuffling paper) right here in my formerly nicotine-stained fingers: "Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmental crusader Al Gore urged young people on Wednesday to engage in civil disobedience to stop the construction of coal plants without the ability to store carbon."
So you got the guru here urging civil disobedience, you got the regime sending SWAT teams down there to all the rigs in the Gulf. They're sending SWAT teams to all the rigs in the Gulf! Whoa ho-ho-ho. So obviously Obama thinks the tea partiers are expert scuba divers as well or maybe they have their own fleet of underwater submarines that can go deep enough to go undetected, set explosives, and hightail it back to the protests in Ohio, or wherever they (laughing) happen to be.
The second paragraph is a joke about how SWAT teams were seemingly called out at an Obama event to defend against a group of peaceful Tea Party protesters. (They were actually just police in riot gear, and were likely there just to protect against the worst-case scenario at an Obama event, but the video juxtaposition was funny.)
Here, Rush seems to be sarcastically analogizing what the left sometimes describes as tantamount to a domestic terrorism movement (Tea Party) and what he believes may be a more immediate domestic terrorism threat (ecoterrorism).
I'm not sure why Limbaugh didn't just say eco-terrorism, and that leaves it up to interpretation, but there is a much more innocuous reading of this passage than, "Obama blew up an oil rig on purpose."
If Limbaugh were saying Obama is using SWAT teams to blow up an oil rig to foil future off-shore drilling, why would he also say SWAT teams are proof that Obama's "open to the possibility that this could well have been on purpose?" Limbaugh either thinks Obama sent SWAT teams to defend/investigate or to destroy, but he doesn't believe both. The former is more likely.