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David Callaghan: Has the Democratic Party been hijacked?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Throughout history, self-serving politicians have grossly distorted the truth to create straw men, as "enemies of the people," to promote themselves. Examples are Sen. Joe McCarthy who proclaimed that the government was infiltrated with communist agents and Gov. George Wallace and his war against "pointy headed bureaucrats" in Washington.

European dictators of the 20th century used the same techniques to promote fear of communists, Jews and even capitalists. Most had motives centered on self-promotion, to the detriment of truth and the public interest. And in far too many cases they have been effective, for a period of time.

Sadly, we in West Virginia are being subjected to the same propaganda techniques used in this sorry part of political history. Our junior U.S. Senator and his friends in the coal industry, with their massive advertising campaigns, have created their own straw men, their own "enemies of the people." And those enemies are none other than the president of the United States and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These are the two villains that must be conquered! And the savior is the junior senator: "I'll slay the dragons boys, just keep the ammunition coming (checks only)."

West Virginians should examine the truth. The EPA was created by Congress at the behest of Republican President Richard Nixon in 1972. The goal of the act, the "Clean Water Act," was to restore the integrity of the "waters of the United States." The effort was later expanded to include the "Clean Air Act," to restore air quality and combat air pollution.

The results have been truly amazing. Today, West Virginia enjoys high-quality water resources suitable for industrial development and a broad range of recreation. During the 1970's and 80's, the EPA invested hundreds of millions of dollars in sewage-treatment facilities in West Virginia in the interest of public health and the environment. With a few local exceptions, our air and water resources meet most national standards.

Which brings us to the election in November. In my considerable years observing presidential elections, I cannot recall a candidate or an elected president enduring the vicious diatribe that this president has endured: "a Muslim," "not an American," "socialist" and a profusion of racially descriptive terms and outright lies. Having inherited two wars, the Bush depression and a Republican party dedicated only to his defeat, he has persevered with a happy heart and has accomplished much.

Our junior senator, whose party affiliation is called into question, has repeatedly joined the opposition to thwart the president and the goals of the Democratic Party. The junior senator says that he is a Democrat and will always be. A close look at his political history proves otherwise. The people of West Virginia should seriously reflect on the result of a Republican victory in November and attainment of the Republican Party's goals:

1. Destruction of Social Security (a goal that the Bush administration failed to accomplish).

2. End of Medicare, placing seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies.

3. Rollback of regulations for the environment and public health and safety.

4. A financial system dominated by the greed of Wall Street manipulators.

5. Enhancement of the most unfair tax system in the past 100 years.

6. Avoidance of mining regulations for the environment and miners' health and safety.

7. Eradication of labor unions.

The only thing that stands in the way of this disaster for West Virginia is the re-election of President Obama. Anyone who believes that this Republican agenda is in the best interest of West Virginia is living on another planet!

And what, one might ask, is the junior senator's motive for his prevailing political posture? It's about money! As long as the EPA and Obama are depicted as the "enemies of the people," the captains of the extractive industries (who are mostly Republicans) will flood his campaign coffers as they have done for a very long time.

In return, his regulatory agencies, the DEP and the Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training, have presided over the greatest destruction of renewable resources and the two most deadly mine disasters in decades.

This "anti-Obama" disease is obviously contagious and has infected the top echelons of our party. Even the Democratic Party Executive Committee does not have a kind word for our president.

To stand silent in this election is to help rightwing extremists prevail -- and the results will be devastating for our state. If 640,000 registered Democrats buy into this fallacy, then it can only be concluded that the Democratic Party has been hijacked by one junior senator and the Republican coal operators whom he supports and represents.

Callaghan was twice West Virginia's top environmental regulator, director of the state Division of Environmental Protection from 1991 to 1995 under Gov. Gaston Caperton and director of the Division of Natural Resources under Gov. Jay Rockefeller.


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