Bush aims put land, air under eco-siege

April 12, 2001|By John Gartner

THE MAN who was elevated to the presidency by five Supreme Court Justices is on the threshold of becoming the most powerful president in modern history.

He has all three branches of government in his pocket and he's not afraid to use them. If President Bush is "reaching across the aisle" to his opponents, then we should characterize the D-Day invasion of Normandy as reaching across the sea. Mr. Bush has launched a full-scale assault to capture Washington for the conservative cause.

In no area is Mr. Bush's offensive more startling than in his attack on the environment. We knew he planned to establish a beachhead in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge. We didn't know this was the tip of the iceberg. When Gail Norton, a former disciple of James Watt, was nominated as interior secretary, we had to worry. But the reality has proven worse than we could have imagined. Mr. Bush has declared open season on our planet.

Recently, Mr. Bush broke his campaign promise to control the emission of carbon dioxide, a potent "greenhouse gas." And he eliminated former President Clinton's recent standards for reducing arsenic in the water supply. Scientific evidence was "unclear," according to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. (What is it about the relationship between the words "arsenic" and "water supply" that you don't understand? Arsenic isn't fluoride.)

American business has been tied up by "green tape," says Mr. Bush, and he is considering "easing clean air rules for coal-fired power plants; loosening federal standards on river flows to protect fish; giving refiners relief from diverse anti-pollution standards," according to the New York Times.

Mr. Bush has picked a general for his dirty war: a "regulations czar," John Graham, the director of the Center for Risk Analysis at Harvard University.

Mr. Graham has made ground-breaking discoveries. For example, in a study funded by a Philip Morris subsidiary, he found there were no health risks from second-hand smoke. In another, funded by AT&T Wireless Communication, he found no safety risks from talking on cell phones while driving.

The "center's reports have tended to reflect the view of industry," which also supplies most of the center's funding, according to the Times. (Memo to John McCain: when you're done with campaign finance reform, look into the influence of soft money on science.)

Mr. Bush's anti-environmental stance has enraged not only liberals and environmentalists, but also moderate Republicans and our European allies, who recently sent German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to protest Mr. Bush's sabotage of the Kyoto Treaty on global warming.

Though Mr. Bush seems unassailable, if he becomes known as the anti-environmental president, he could sink his career. But by then, half the planet could be under water after global warming has melted the polar ice caps.

John Gartner is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School.

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