- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Welcome aboard

Rex W. Tillerson is the recipient of an unsettling, if not scathing letter from a pair of U.S. senators, welcoming him to his new post as chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp.

After congratulating Mr. Tillerson for reaching the helm of the oil giant, Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Democratic Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia cut straight to the chase, criticizing the so-called “climate change denial strategy carried out by and for Exxon Mobil” against global warming.

In the three-page letter obtained by Inside the Beltway, the senators say it’s their understanding that Exxon Mobil is “the primary funder of no fewer than 29 climate-change denial front groups in 2004 alone.”

In addition, they write, “Exxon Mobil has spent more than $19 million since the late 1990s on a strategy of ‘information laundering,’ or enabling a small number of professional skeptics working through scientific-sounding organizations to funnel their viewpoints” through various media.

“Exxon Mobil and its partners in denial have manufactured controversy, sown doubt and impeded progress with strategies all-too reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry for so many years,” the senators charge.

They go so far as to request that, for starters, Mr. Tillerson “publicly acknowledge both the reality of the climate change and the role of humans in causing or exacerbating it. Second, Exxon Mobil should repudiate its climate-change denial campaign and make public its funding history.

“Finally, we believe that there would be a benefit to the United States if one of the world’s largest carbon emitters headquartered here devoted at least some of the money it has invested in climate-change denial pseudo-science to global remediation efforts.”

The senators singled out the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington as one such purveyor of global climate-change skepticism that received Exxon Mobil funding, although they add that there are “dozens of other overlapping and interlocking front groups sharing the same obfuscation agenda.”

No return letter yet from Mr. Tillerson.

On second thought

Amy K. Mitchell, managing editor of the American Spectator, says “due to a scheduling conflict” Ben Stein is now unable to be master-of-ceremonies for the magazine’s Robert L. Bartley dinner next Wednesday, featuring a keynote address by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

“Unfortunately, the invitations had been printed when we learned of this,” she told Inside the Beltway yesterday.

Having just received our invitation announcing Mr. Stein’s appearance, we wrote yesterday that Mr. Stein might be a bit uncomfortable introducing Mr. Rumsfeld. Ten days ago, after all, during his “CBS Sunday Morning” commentary, the actor and former White House speechwriter said if he were still penning words for the president, he would call for Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation.

Envelopes, please

CBS News anchor Katie Couric, Virginia Sen. George Allen, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and entertainer Bill Cosby are among the year’s best — and worst — public speakers.

Each year, Aram Bakshian Jr., who was director of presidential speechwriting during President Reagan’s first term in the White House, having previously written addresses for Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, presents his Patrick Henry Awards as founder and editor of “American Speaker,” an award-winning guide to successful speaking.

Mr. Bakshian is allowing us first crack at announcing this year’s recipients, including:

• Most Courageous Speaker: Mr. Cosby, for having the moral courage to speak unpleasant truths to unwilling audiences, specifically addressing the social crisis facing black America.

• Most Contradictory News Anchor Debut: Miss Couric, for suffering from a severe case of stylistic contradictions by going from “perky,” “cute,” “bubbly,” “fluffy” and “liberal” to needing to build a new persona as a serious news heavyweight.

• Most Promising Political Debut: Mr. Romney, who overcame all the conventional odds as a Mormon and Republican in one of the most Catholic and Democratic states in the country, winning high marks as both a reformer and a practical problem solver.

• Biggest Political Blooper: Mr. Allen, who virtually overnight went from huge approval ratings and an increasing national presence as a possible presidential contender in 2008 into the woodshed after labeling one of his opponent’s campaign staffers a “macaca.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin @washingtontimes.com.

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