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Carl Pope

Carl's new weblog:
Taking the Initiative.

Field Notes Archive

Which is worst?
Vote for the Bush administration's
biggest folly!

Carl Pope's Field Notes

The Debate We Didn't See
13, 2004


As an environmentalist, it pained me to watch George Bush lie repeatedly about the environment in the last debate and then see John Kerry and the media bobble the chance to expose him.

Bush was shameless as he tried to convince the American people he was -- in his own words - "a good steward of the environment:"

"I've got a plan to increase the wetlands by 3 million. We've got an aggressive brown-field program to refurbish inner-city sore spots to useful pieces of property.

"I proposed to the United States Congress a Clear Skies Initiative to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury by 70 percent.

"I have -- was fought for a very strong title in the farm bill for the conservation reserve program to set aside millions of acres of land to help improve wildlife and the habitat.

"We proposed and passed a healthy forest bill which was essential to working with -- particularly in Western states -- to make sure that our forests were protected. What happens in those forests, because of lousy federal policy, is they grow to be -- they are not -- they're not harvested. They're not taken care of. And as a result, they're like tinderboxes.

"And over the last summers I've flown over there. And so, this is a reasonable policy to protect old stands of trees and at the same time make sure our forests aren't vulnerable to the forest fires that have destroyed acres after acres in the West.

"We've got a good, common-sense policy. I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land.

"The quality of the air's cleaner since I've been the president. Fewer water complaints since I've been the president. More land being restored since I've been the president."

But despite Bush's claim that there were fewer water complaints on his watch, in fact the EPA has reported for the first time in 30 years that the water is getting dirtier, and both beach closings and fish advisories are up dramatically. Kerry got distracted by Bush's double-talk -- healthy forests and clear skies -- and started talking about misleading labels. Then he had to rush his answer, and missed the chance to draw the distinction between his vision and the president's dereliction.

More land hasn't been protected -- in fact an area the size of Texas and Oklahoma has been stripped of protection. The air is not cleaner -- toxic emissions are up for the first time in 20 years. And the brown-fields initiative, while decent, doesn't begin to make up for allowing the Superfund to go bankrupt and abandoning the polluter-pays principle.

Frustrating as it was, fortunately this was not Casey at the Bat. One missed swing is not going to change the outcome.