From the "I don't think anybody could have predicted it" Department, the fourth installment of the Washington Post's four-part series on Dick Cheney tells the tale of the vice president's intervention in a dispute between government officials trying to protect endangered species and thousands of Republican farmers and ranchers.
The short version: In the midst of a drought in 2001, federal biologists concluded that the government needed to turn off the water flowing through a series of government-operated dams in Oregon to ensure that enough water made it to two types of endangered suckerfish in Upper Klamath Lake and the coho salmon in the Klamath River. Farmers and ranchers protested.
As the Post says, Cheney and his boss "couldn't afford to anger" these "solidly Republican" voters "during the midterm elections and beyond." So Cheney picked up the phone, made his views known to the 19th-ranking official at the Interior Department, and cooked up the idea for an alternative study that might -- and, what a surprise, did -- conflict with the federal biologists' conclusions. The result: The government turned back on the water to the farmers and the ranchers, and, as the Post explains, "What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River."