WASHINGTON -- President Bush got a barely passing grade and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton received mixed reviews yesterday as a political advocacy group rated the environmental records of the seven major presidential candidates.
President Bush was given a "D" for his first three years in office by the League of Conservation Voters. He was the only candidate given a letter grade; the Democrats received either a percentage score or a verbal rating.
"The president wants to have it both ways," said Jim Maddy, the league's executive director, at a news conference. "He wants to NTC be the environmental president but he can't say 'no' to Detroit, he can't say 'no' to timber interests and he can't say 'no' to big oil."
Mr. Maddy did praise the president for his role in getting the Clean Air Act passed.
Mr. Maddy said that Mr. Clinton, who is the leading Democrat in polls for the New Hampshire presidential primary, "didn't make environmental protection a priority as governor" of Arkansas. But he stressed that Mr. Clinton's responses to questions submitted by the league "were encouraging. There was a lot of knowledge there."
Mr. Maddy said he tried to distinguish between Mr. Clinton's record as governor and his record on the campaign trail. "It's difficult to find environmental protection in his 10 years as governor," he said. "But you can find it in the presidential candidate."
The league's criticisms of Mr. Clinton came mainly from his appointments to Arkansas commissions, his record in the state on issues such as timber cutting and water quality, and his "hesitancy to use the prestige of his office to bring about constructive change in Arkansas."
Generally, Mr. Maddy said, his group found the five Democratic candidates' statements on the environment "encouraging," adding that he hoped more attention would be put on the issue as the primary season gets into high gear.
The ratings were based on a combination of factors: voting and political records, interviews both with the candidates and environmentalists in their home states and responses to a questionnaire from the league. Mr. Bush and Republican challenger Patrick J. Buchanan did not complete the questionnaire.
"If public statements are any indication of where he stands on environmental issues," the league's report said of Mr. Buchanan, he "can be expected to promote an anti-environmental agenda."
Among the Democrats, Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska were rated as "good but not perfect" by Mr. Maddy, getting 76 percent and 73 percent respectively.
Former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas of Massachusetts was termed "good" overall, except for his views on nuclear power.
He received a score of 88 percent.
Former Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. of California was praised by the league as being "on or near the cutting edge of many issues important to the environmental movement."