George P. Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush, is running for Texas land commissioner. He easily won the Texas GOP nomination and all signs point to him winning the general election in just over two months. It will be the 38-year-old energy consultant’s and military veteran’s first elective office.
That statewide office holds a widespread portfolio that touches on energy, veterans affairs in the state, land management, education funding, and storm response. Jerry Patterson is the current land commissioner. He ran for lieutenant governor in a crowded field, and ultimately lost to state Sen. Dan Patrick (R).
Over the Labor Day weekend, the New York Times published a story about the young Bush that raised some eyebrows among conservatives. Its thesis: George P. Bush “strays from party ideology” on climate change.
Neena Satija wrote that story. The former NPR contributor now works for the Texas Tribune. The story made its way to the New York Times because the Tribune and the Times have a content partnership.
Satija’s story caused a stir because in it, Bush apparently indicated that he believes that global warming has led to beach erosion along the Texas coast, and that “keeps him up at night.” Here is how Satija rendered Bush’s remarks in the story.
“I think people can agree that there has been warming in recent years,” Mr. Bush, a 38-year-old energy consultant, said.
That’s not what he said, according to Satija’s own transcript of the interview.
The only place in the transcript where you can find the phrase “keeps me up at night” is in a discussion of hurricanes, after Bush has expressed mild skepticism of man-made global warming/climate change.
Here is the exchange.
TT: So, because you talked about reducing carbon dioxide emissions, what’s your view on climate change?
Bush: Well, I think people can agree that there has been warming, you know, in recent years. The question is whether or not it’s 100 percent anthropogenic, which means man-made. So I’ll leave that to the experts to discuss on that. But as it relates to the coast, you’re absolutely right, the studies show in the last few years that we average about 4 feet of erosion per year. Some counties are experiencing as high as 20.
And the GLO is involved in examining that, and assessing ways in which we can leverage federal dollars, state dollars, county dollars, to mitigate some of these more problematic areas. Whether it’s jetty development, beach mitigation, working with A&M Corps of Engineers to relocate impounded sand. We’re trying to do that right now in South Padre Island, which is a tourist capital and hugely relies on its beaches … it’s going to be a challenge.
Beach erosion is a problem, and has been for a long time. Climate change may have something to do with it, or not, but Bush is not sold that climate change is man-made. He made that clear. He has not strayed from “party ideology” at this point.
(As for carbon dioxide emissions, Bush mentioned them earlier in the interview in the context of opposing EPA regulations that amount to eradicating the use of coal to produce energy — and Bush makes it clear that he favors using all of America’s natural energy resources. He also made it clear that he favors increasing the use of natural gas both because it is clean, and because it is abundant in Texas. He also noted that Texas is the nation’s leader in using renewable wind power energy, which is true. That has been a standard Texas GOP talking point for at least four or five years.)
From the brief discussion of erosion, Bush transitions to another topic, the one that “keeps [him] up at night.”
Also, dealing with recovery. I mean, how do we respond in an effective way to hurricanes, or the next category 3, 4 or 5 [hurricane] that hits the greater Houston metropolitan area? I mean, that’s something that honestly keeps me up at night. And you know, oil spills. We’re the first responder on those as well. So definitely a lot going on on the Gulf Coast that more Texans should know about. (emphasis added)
Again, that is the only place in the transcript where “keeps me up at night” appears. Satijia knowingly removed it from the context of hurricane response and tacked it to Bush’s earlier comments about beach erosion, which he preceded with mild skepticism of man-made global warming.
In what part of that has he “strayed from party ideology,” as the story and its headline insist?
Satija follows that remark with a very leading question about climate change and environmental regulation.
TT: The argument from a lot of scientists is that we could be taking a different approach in Texas [regarding climate change] — politically and policy wise. [According to scientists], we could get out there in front of the issue and say, ‘This is important. We could be a leader in the U.S. in reducing our CO2 emissions.’ I’m wondering, what do you think of that? Do you think Texas should get out front and center on that issue?
Bush doesn’t take the bait.
Bush: Well, you know it’s interesting, because Houston is recognized globally as the energy leader of the world. I just had the chance to visit with … an international energy company from the Middle East and they said, you know, ‘Go to Houston because it’s the New York of energy.’ But consistent with that, there also has to be a public policy impact.
I don’t know how … in what form that manifests itself. There’s good organizations like the Tribune that have led the effort in the discussions on these public policies. But … I think that Texas has been a leader. Maybe I think within Texas we sometimes lose sight that people really look closely to how we pronounce our beliefs and how we design our blueprint.
The interview follows in that manner for a couple more question, with Satija taking on the role of environmental regulations advocate, and Bush bringing the discussion back to what the Texas General Land Office does.
And then, it all comes to this:
TT: But these aren’t the first issues that you bring up. [You focus on] the conservative-friendly issues — you’ve got the private property rights, leveraging oil and gas, reducing the size of the government, having a smaller General Land Office. Maybe climate change isn’t the first thing you’re going to talk about in a speech, right?
Bush: Yeah that’s….yeah, that’s true. [Laughs] I will admit that.
For some reason, that clear remark indicating that climate change is not Bush’s top priority as land commissioner never made its way into Satija’s story. Funny, that. Writing “George P. Bush is a Mainstream Texas Conservative” wouldn’t have made for comfortable reading inside the New York Times cocoon.
Going environmental radical isn’t on George P. Bush’s agenda. He made that clear in the Tribune interview. He did not “stray from party ideology.” He expressed mild skepticism of the current media orthodoxy on climate change.
The Texas Tribune’s Neena Satija wishcast Bush into the role of a young Al Gore. Based on his full remarks and the way he has run his campaign, that is not a role that George P. Bush will play.
The Texas Tribune owes Mr. Bush an unequivocal apology, and it owes the New York Times and the people of Texas an explanation.