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Jewish World Review April 5, 2001 / 12 Nissan, 5761

Clarence Page

Clarence Page
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Consumer Reports

Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools! -- I have a few smug words to deliver to all of those well-meaning Green Party folks who were swept up in that charismatic Ralph Nader mania last year: I hope you're happy now.

Throughout the campaign season, Nader boldly declared that it would not matter whether his third party bid took votes from Democratic nominee Al Gore or not, since there was no significant difference between the "Republicrats" and the "Democans" anyway.

They were both two branches of the same "corporate globalist" party, he would say. Borrowing a phrase from Texas populist Jim Hightower, Nader and his faithful relentlessly ridiculed the two major parties' candidates as "Tweedledum and Tweedledumber."

As one of many cheeky e-mails I received from Naderites said, "If Gush and Bore make you want to Ralph, do it."

Ha, ha. That was cute. But, who's laughing now?

No, those of you who voted for Ralph didn't get him. You didn't even get Gore. You might have gotten Gore, who always lends a sympathetic ear to environmental causes, had you given those Nader votes to him in Florida or some other close swing state.

Instead, you got W, who has proceeded to let everyone know how much of a difference there really is between him and Gore, especially on issues like the environment, which the Greens in particular care a lot about.

Bush has slapped not only the Greens but a lot of other political colors in the face by scrapping new regulations to reduce cancer-causing arsenic in drinking water. I don't care how many charts and graphs you want to show me, you're going to have a hard time selling the notion that more arsenic in drinking water is good for you.

That's just one of his more dramatic slaps. He also has dumped regulations to prevent toxic byproducts of surface mining from polluting waterways.

He has withdrawn America's support from the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that are thought to cause global warming.

He surprised his own environment chief, Christie Todd Whitman, by reversing his campaign pledge to enact limits on the carbon-dioxide emissions that also are believed to contribute to global warming.

He has continued to press for drilling in Alaska's unspoiled Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

All of this has come with the heartfelt gratitude of his friends and campaign contributors in the coal and oil industries.

Sure, there's reasonable disagreement among some people as to whether these environmental protection measures really are worth the cost. But you certainly won't find much of that disagreement among Greens.

And when it comes to protecting the planet from pollution, the Greens hardly stand alone. If any issue plays better for Democrats than it has for Republicans, it is environmental protection.

For example, Wirthlin Worldwide, a polling firm used heavily by Republicans, reports that two out of three Americans say "we need to protect the environment no matter what it costs." Even among Republicans, only a third told Wirthlin in 1997 that there was "too much" government regulation and involvement in the area of environmental protection. The rest said there was "too little" or the "right amount."

Even Bush has acknowledged that he may not be able to get the Republican Congress to approve his proposal to drill in the Alaska wildlife refuge.

With that in mind, many Republicans of a more moderate or simply pragmatic stripe find it puzzling that Bush seems so cavalier in his rollbacks of environmental protections without making a case for some sort of reasonable alternative.

Democratic leaders and campaign consultants cackle with glee that Bush's trashing of environmental regulations might scar his presidency the way Bill Clinton's clumsy handling of the gays-in-the-military issue did eight years earlier.

Already we see in various media commentaries a sense of shock-Shock!- that Bush, who ran as a jovial moderate, is governing much like the corporate, Bible Belt conservative governor he was in Texas.

Well, there's an old African-American folk tale (other versions have emerged in other cultures) about the kind and gentle woman who took pity on a half frozen snake, only to have him reward her with a deadly bite after he thawed. Hey, he said as she lay dying, you knew I was a snake when you took me in, didn't you?

Similarly, no one should be surprised that Bush, like many clever presidential candidates before him, campaigned as a moderate, only to swing back to his base once he gained office. One should only be surprised if anyone believes Nader the next time he says there's no important difference between "Tweedledum and Tweedledumber," the two major parties.

Comment on JWR contributor Clarence Page's column by clicking here.


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03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

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