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"Rapture" Rapture

Republicans, the environment, and the Second Coming: The origins of a liberal myth.

8:45 AM, Feb 14, 2005 • By JOHN HINDERAKER
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Because of our concern for and commitment to stewardship, we have accelerated the efforts to bring about the recovery of . . . endangered plants and animals. By the end of this year, we will have approved or reviewed nearly three times as many recovery plans as were developed in the four-year period 1977 to 1980.

So Moyers didn't just misquote Watt--he mischaracterized Watt's entire approach to environmental issues.

THE REST of Moyers's evidence for the Republicans' "rapturous" approach to environmental protection was equally flimsy. He cited the popularity of the Left Behind novels, in which the Second Coming is a plot element, but offered no support for the idea--ludicrous on its face--that these works of popular fiction are somehow driving the Bush administration's environmental policies. He referred to a speech in which Zell Miller quoted the Book of Amos:

"The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to be relishing the thought.

But Moyers left out the rest of the quote: "Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord." And, while Moyers implied that Miller had been talking about the environment, in fact his speech was about Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction.

Moyers's own speech had been reproduced only on the Internet until January 30, 2005, when the Minneapolis Star Tribune printed it as an op-ed. After the Star Tribune article appeared, James Watt contacted Power Line, hoping that we could help him counteract Moyers's smear. We did. Our post critiquing Moyers's speech resulted in Moyers apologizing to Watt, and the Star Tribune running a half-hearted correction. The Washington Post, which had repeated the fake James Watt quote, ran a somewhat more gracious correction.

However, while Moyers has admitted propagating a fake quotation, he hasn't backed off his accusation that Republicans in the grip of "rapture" are working to destroy the environment. In his apology, he repeated the substance of the slur and accused Watt of being a bad Christian. Nor have other media outlets stopped perpetuating the slur. Jon Carroll, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, repeated Moyers's theme while acknowledging that the fictitious Watt quote was "not verifiable":

So read the Rapture Index. Consider its implications: One of George Bush's core constituencies is actively praying for environmental degradation. Its members are in fact praying for the end of the world, because the end of the world is the beginning of the fun part of salvation.

Let's look at the new budget through this lens, which is (I emphasize) neither fanciful nor satirical. Money for clean water: down.

And so on. The Moyers "rapture" speech has been picked up on countless websites, where it is fast becoming a standard liberal critique of the Bush administration.

All of this has happened without a single conservative, inside or outside of government, having ever drawn any connection, express or implied, between the supposed imminence of the Second Coming and any aspect of environmental policy. Which leaves one wondering which side of the political debate has substituted faith for reason.

John Hinderaker is a contributor to the blog Power Line and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.