James Watt, the former secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan who no doubt resented coming up second on Google to the inventor of the steam engine,. Watt was notorious for his devotion to the principle that the best way to protect the natural environment was to make use of it so it wouldn’t be wasted on owls and caribou and other shiftless creatures that didn’t do a damn thing for the economy.
Watt was a rightwing fundamentalist who got his start in the environmental destruction game, as Wonkette’s own labor historianas “head of the loathsome Mountain States Legal Foundation,” the lobbying outfit funded by “fascist and beer capitalist” Joe Coors, who hated Big Government Overreach especially if it kept him and other Western rich guys from exploiting resources on federal land. There, Watt helped promote
the most astroturf movement of all time—the Sagebrush Rebellion, in which rich landowners and their employees started raising havoc in the West over government control of resources, which they were always fine with so long as the government served their interests. But with environmentalism a thing now, they had no use for competing interests and demanded the return of these lands to the states. In other words, Cliven Bundy and his followers are followers of James Watt. This is the kind of person Watt empowered.
Forget the great big New York Timesor at least supplement it with , where you get a fuller sense of how Watt became the spiritual forbear of the “drill baby drill” crowd a couple decades later.
To be sure, the Times obit is hardly a love song, either, going straight to this story in the third and fourth paragraphs:
After taking office in 1981, Mr. Watt was asked at a hearing of the House Interior Committee if he favored preserving wilderness areas for future generations. […]
Mr. Watt’s response startled some committee members, but seemed to explain his intention to. “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns,” he said.
Watt later explained that he’d only been joking, in the way that Republicans like to “joke” about using Second Amendment solutions, with votes and all that.
He believed the Interior Department had gone too far in indulging “environmental extremists,” and griped that environmental regulation “is centralized planning and control of society” like in communist Roosha. Watt considered it his mission to reorient the agency to its true purpose, helping extractive businesses get at all the neat stuff that God put in the Earth so humans could burn it and make stuff out of it. This old Newsweek cover sums it up nicely:
Way better illustration than some damn AI art program, that’s for sure.
Watt was an ideological precursor to Donald Trump’s first Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, albeit minus the open corruption, the 24/7 security detail, or the personal Secure Phone Booth in his office.
Unfortunately, Watt’s 33-month tenure at Interior was also a hell of a lot like what we see in politics now: His anti-environmental policies were full on garbage, and he should have been shitcanned for them, but instead his departure came after a series of idiotic things that had little to do with the substance of his maladministration. For instance there wasto let the Beach Boys (and the Grass Roots — “la la la la la “) perform for the Fourth of July on the National Mall. The bands had done the concerts without incident from 1980 through 1982, but Watt fretted that Rock and/or Roll would attract the “wrong element” and lead to crime. So instead, he booked Wayne Newton, who at the time was unironically kitschy, not nostalgically cool-kitschy like he is today. (Danke schoen,Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. [Hat tip to alert Wonkette operative Granny Sprinkle])
Watttoo, saying in an interview, “If you want an example of the failure of socialism, don’t go to Russia, come to America and go to the Indian reservations.” Not a great look for a guy whose agency oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but Watt wanted to eliminate that, too, and make Native Americans get off the government gravy train for their own good.
Ultimately Watt was pressured to leave office not primarily because he sought to pave paradise, but for a stupid “look at me mock diversity” joke where he said, of an Interior Department panel on coal leasing, “We have every mixture you can have. I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.” Three weeks later, he was out, not because anyone in the Reagan White House was really bothered, but because Watt had become too embarrassing to keep around. And with the loud embarrassing guy gone, Reagan’s administration went right on weakening environmental protections, but with less public attention.
Finally, we’ll close with tDr. Loomis found in the papers of the Hoedad Reforestation Cooperative, archived at the University of Oregon. He’s been saving it for this very occasion. (The Hoedads were a bunch of Crom bless them, and far more worthy of everyone’s time than James goddamn Watt.) Says Loomis, “They did not like James Watt.” Guess not!
And now Watt is no doubt sharing stories with Pat Robertson in Hell about how mean the liberals are. Haha, we joke, there is no afterlife. But we would suggest that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recognize Watt by naming a parking lot in his memory. Or possibly a tree museum, where they charge the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em.
Speaking of matters environmental, don’t forget to join us
this afternoon tomorrow — Saturday, June 10 — for the fourth meeting of our Wonkette Book Club! We’re reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate novel . More on the book club and this week’s reading (Chapters 51 through 69, nice) here! As ever, please drop by even if you haven’t finished (or even started) the reading, because we’re all living in the world James Watt and Ronald Reagan and their cronies built, and we’ve been having some excellent discussions of the book and the climate crisis.
Update: Because of IndictmentPalooza, we’re rescheduling the Book Club for Saturday, so hooray, more time to read, unless there’s a nuclear war and your glasses break.
[/ / / ]
Yr Wonkette is supported entirely by reader donations. If you can, please help us keep this thing going, because you certainly wouldn’t want to say of Wonkette, Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
#Reagan #Interior #Secretary #James #Watt #Dies #Pallbearers #Black #Woman #Jews #Cripple