Monday, April 22, 2002
Well, today is Earth Day, and much of it was spent following the Gore line of referring to Bush as the worst environmental despoiler since Saddam Hussein set oil wells afire upon leaving Kuwait. I caught a few minutes of ABC's "World News Tonight" and their Earth Day report. After a quick blurb from Bush, reporter Terry Moran had a blurb from Gore and then used some fancy-schmancy graphics to outline all of the horrible things that Bush has done since assuming office. Number one on the hit-list was the already-discredited Kyoto treaty. The report finished up with an environmental activist decrying the pollution that Bush is allowing to occur.
A good response to this hogwash can be found here. [Requires Adobe Acrobat -- ed.] The piece by Gregg Easterbrook is aptly entitled: "Everything You Know About the Bush Environmental Record is Wrong."
You can read it all, but it does show you that when Bush does something good for the environment there's barely a peep from the media. But when he does something that is perceived as bad for the environment (whether or not it actually is), it is plastered across the front page of newspapers 80-point headlines.
Here are some of my favorite excerpts. On Kyoto:
Even if Kyoto is “fatally flawed,” as Bush declared, his withdrawal was done in a high-handed manner that failed to show respect for multilateral diplomacy; and having declared Kyoto kaput, Bush made himself look feeble by failing to propose an alternative. But in no sense did the president “ kill” rules on carbon dioxide, because there aren’t any carbon dioxide rules to kill. No law currently governs this substance, either in the United States or the European Union. Neither Bill Clinton nor Al Gore, when in the White House, ever proposed any binding rules on carbon dioxide. True, Kyoto would have created greenhouse-gas rules. But even here, Bush cannot be accused of a “kill.” Clinton never submitted the protocol to the Senate, because he knew there was no chance it would be ratified; in a 1997 floor test, the Senate rejected key provisions of the Kyoto proposal by 95-0, meaning the idea failed to draw even one Democratic vote.
On arsenic, diesel fuel and the media:
Just a few weeks into his presidency, Bush and Whitman decided to uphold a strict, sweeping Clinton proposal that diesel fuel be chemically reformulated to reduce its inherent pollution content. (Reformulation of gasoline, which has occurred largely outside the public eye, is a reason smog is declining almost everywhere, even in Los Angeles and Houston.) Bush went ahead with the diesel fuel regulation, though it will cost billions of dollars and was vehemently opposed by the petroleum industry, to which Bush is supposedly sold out. The president upheld the rule because its scientific grounding is very strong: studies have shown that diesel pollutants cause respiratory disease and thousands of annual premature deaths.
Yet though the public-health significance of the diesel regulation is far greater than of the arsenic decision, most newspapers did not put the diesel decision on page one, while pundits denouncing the White House about the environment never mention this subject. It’s a sign of the media one-track mind that even after Bush announced had imposed the new diesel regulation and upheld the Clinton arsenic rule, the New York Times ran a prominent story headlined, BUSH TEAM IS REVERSING ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES.
On coverage of Bush environmental policy:
I had a conversion with a New York Times editor about why the paper was carpetbombing the Midwest powerplants angle while saying almost nothing about the far more significant national emission-reduction proposal. The conversation went approximately as follows.
Me. Why aren’t you praising the Bush emission reduction proposal?
Editor. Because he wants to replace current rules with a single standard. That means eliminating regulations. That makes it a rollback.
Me. But pollution would decline. What is the goal, more regulations or less pollution?
Editor. Anything that changes an existing regulation is rollback. We are opposed to rollbacks.
Well, it's certainly easier to handle a complicated world if you do your best not to think too hard. You'd think that the New York Times would be able to hire editors who possess critical thinking skills and can handle more than one thought at a time.
Easterbrook's whole piece is only 11 pages, double-spaced. Give it a read.