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Fenton Firm Tries (and Fails) to Sandbag Sen. John McCain and Discovery Institute

Cross-posted at Discovery Blog.

Senator John McCain signing autographs after his speech on foreign policy at the Seattle Westin Hotel.

"Defcon," the Campaign to Defend the Constitution (such a high sounding name!), put out a press release and blog post this week that attempted to sandbag Sen. John McCain, criticizing him for speaking to a Seattle policy luncheon today where Discovery Institute was one of the "co-presenters". Defcon scolded McCain for attending an event in which Discovery was involved and for thereby "lending credence (sic) to this organization". Defcon called on McCain to cancel the speech. At the definitely un-cancelled event today I asked Sen. McCain if he had heard of Defcon. He hadn't.

Defcon is a creature of Fenton Communications, the left and far-left operation that backs the likes of Cindy Sheehan, Moveon.org, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the ACLU, Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange (the anti-WTO demonstrators). Fenton is also famous for attacking U.S. corporations with bogus environmental and consumerist claims. "To Change an Industry, Target One Company," is a favorite Fenton motto. Among the fake scandals Fenton has shopped was the Alar scare that unfairly damaged the U.S. apple industry. Fenton recently helped create Defcon, to combat, among other things, us.

The press contact for Defcon's broadside against Sen. McCain this week is Timi Gerson, who is a Fenton veteran of Moveon.org. So you begin to get the picture. It is fair to say that we would not be Fenton's favorite think tank on almost any topic.

The silliness began with a contradictory attempt to a) suggest that we had finagled a speech by an unsuspecting Sen. McCain to talk about intelligent design; and b) that we really were not involved in the luncheon event, after all, or had misrepresented our role. In fact, the major sponsors were Seattle's World Affairs Council and City Club. They asked us to join them as a "co-presenter", as we often do, and we agreed. This is SOP for non-profit groups in this area who want to build a crowd for a nationally prominent speaker. We do the same when we are the main sponsor of an event. (A World Affairs Council leader called after the event to express dismay that one of his staffers had made an "inappropriate" comment to a reporter that Discovery had merely "hopped on" the event.)

As for why we would be participating in a speech on foreign policy by Sen. McCain, it apparently is unknown to many observers that Discovery holds a number of foreign policy events; most recently ones on Somalia, the dissident groups in Iran and on current difficulties in U.S.-Russian relations. Our involvement in foreign policy issues is even older than our interest in science and culture.

Anyhow, for better or worse, intelligent design didn't even come up at the McCain event today, though a reporter may have asked about it afterwards.

On the margins of the event I did have a chance to discuss Iran with the Senator (and with Iranian-American leader, Shayan Arya, shown below).


And Tom Till of our Cascadia Center on Transportation had a chance to talk with Sen. McCain about two issues we care about: energy conservation and passenger rail reform. Tom is seen below explaining our proposal for Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs). It's a proposal backed by several in Congress, including Senators Lieberman and Brownback, and Washington Congressmen Jay Inslee and Dave Reichert. Discovery and the Senator share a strong interest in passenger rail reform. Senator McCain showed interest. It's all that we could ask.


One final thought about Defcon. Reporters should be wary of the ways Defcon represents us and our positions. We speak for ourselves and our positions are often very different from what Defcon tells the press.