Virginia Attorney General Goes on Climategate Witch Hunt at UVA

Virginians should ask themselves whether they want to pay the price for their attorney general's antics.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

"Malfeasance" is one of the various causes cited in the Virginia constitution for proceeding with impeachment proceedings against a high state government official. By his own warped logic of what constitutes cause for an official interrogation, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II should be investigated for malfeasance, and possible impeachment.

In an interview in today's Washington Post, Cuccinelli said his newly-launched probe into the background of former University of Virginia professor Michael Mann is justified because, as the attorney general put it, "there does seem to be at least an argument to be made" that scientists "including potentially" Michael Mann, have been "steering a course to reach a conclusion" on global warming. Alright. There seems to be "at least an argument to be made" that dishonest politicians, "including potentially" Ken Cuccinelli II, are abusing their power to promote their political careers at the expense of the citizenry. If Mann can be investigated for fraud, Cuccinelli should be investigated too.

When he is not acting like the class clown (this is the same King Kook II who wants to cover up the bare breast of the goddess on the state seal), Cuccinelli has used his post as Virginia's top legal official not to keep folks safe, but to harass those whose political or social views he disagrees. Like most puny demagogues, one of his prime targets is higher education, and he has begun his term in office by assaulting the commonwealth's excellent (and pretty conservative, as higher education goes) colleges and universities.

In the latest episode, Cuccinelli has demanded that UVA turn over "a broad range of documents" on Mann (who left the university five years ago) including his research grant applications and correspondence with fellow scientists. Cuccinelli's reason for this chilling stunt? Mann wrote a controversial email, in which he referred to a statistical "trick" that he employed in his work on global warming. Mann is now employed by Penn State University, where his peers reviewed the professor's actions, and concluded that there is no evidence he was engaged in fraud.

The United States has a huge scientific establishment, with researchers adding daily to our knowledge in biology, chemistry, physics and other disciplines. We pay billions of dollars for these experts, and are justly proud of their results. They add to the sum of human knowledge, fight disease and open new commercial possibilities. The U.S. military and American industry rely on their findings to maintain our place in a competitive and often dangerous world. And the best minds in American science have studied and reviewed the evidence of climate change, and warned us that we need to do something to stop it, fast.

There has always been a disconnect between politics and science in America, and in our current political system, with the advent of the Internet, the divide is particularly wide. Our president was born in Africa, don't you know? Ancient humans raised pet dinosaurs! When you want to believe something bad enough (and have the deep pockets of the carbon-based energy industry working to persuade you) even the stupidest theory seems plausible, and idiotic anecdotes take the place of proof.

I don't really think Cuccinelli should be impeached. Why should the House of Delegates stoop to his standards? It would only allow him to pose as a victim, and in our whiny society, victimhood is precious turf. Besides, as I noted yesterday, clowns like King Kook can be very entertaining. But Virginians should weigh the educational and economic value of their excellent colleges and universities; the jobs and high tech development they have lured to the state, and the investment the taxpayers have made in the system--and decide whether it's really worth the giggles to have this particular fool run rampant. To the immense frustration of neighboring Maryland, Virginia just won the big regional competition, and lured a major aerospace firm to the commonwealth. How long will that continue, if Virginia acquires a reputation for academic intolerance, and politically-tainted science?

The country could survive with a dumbed-down UVA and William & Mary and JMU and Virginia Tech and others. The universities of North Carolina and Maryland and other states will happily pick up the slack--and snatch the jobs and dollars that Cuccinelli costs the commonwealth. But is that really what Virginians want?

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