When it comes to listing body blows inflicted on the environmental movement by the Bush administration in recent days, it’s hard to know where to start. Pick up the paper any day of the week and you’ll likely find a fresh slap in the face of U.S. EPA “Administrator” Christie Todd Whitman. A backtrack on arsenic standards here, a promise to drill in Alaska there. An Energy secretary quoting the industry-funded Greening Earth Society. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and then others in the White House sticking a fork in Kyoto because it’s “dead.” And who’s that in the number two slot at EPA? As we predicted in this space some weeks ago, it’s Monsanto veteran Linda J. Fisher.
So environmentalists in Washington have stuffed the green garb back in the closet. Everyone’s draped in black these days and there is no end to the pain in sight. As finely documented in the Washington Post, the sunny talk of compassionate conservatism and a kinder, gentler GOP has swirled down the drain. This administration has out-Reaganed Reagan. From top to bottom, in every appointment, in every place that matters, including an OMB with new regulations czar John D. Graham, Dubya has installed conservative ideologues and friends of industry who appear to relish nothing more than laying the righteous smackdown on anyone rumored to harbor liberal leanings.
To be sure, there are a galaxy of conservatives pressing for these appointments and regulation rejections, and the true power players in the White House — Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, political guru Karl Rove, and a cadre of true-blue right-wing lawyers — are all on board. Big-time. But among the many stars in the galaxy, there are major forces working from the outside as well, ferreting out the merest hint of an impending wishy-washy appointment and blasting it into oblivion, often filtering their distaste to the troops through the conservative press (Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal, syndicated columnist Robert Novak, et al.).
Green group leaders say one of the biggest outside players and mightiest squashers of squishy moderates is Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who has lobbied heavily against several appointments (John Turner at Interior, to name one). He most recently directed his fire at Anne Petsonk, floated as a possible adviser to Bush on climate change.
Petsonk, a lawyer with Environmental Defense, believes global warming is real. She supports Kyoto. And it appears that she will, over Ebell’s protests, actually land a White House job, half with the Council on Environmental Quality and half with the National Security Council. And probably more than half worthless.
Who out there believes Petsonk will get a lot of West Wing face time or be a regular table hopper in the White House mess? Even before Whitman read her script on Monday that the administration had “no interest in implementing [Kyoto],” it was clear that Bush and his brain trust care not about warming atmospheres or any of the rest of that strange nonsense. So why on earth would Petsonk subject herself to the daily torture her job would certainly entail?
We don’t know, because she didn’t call us back. Which was smart, because talking yourself up before getting the official nod from this administration is tantamount to setting the White House on fire.
But Ebell did call back, and he, too, was puzzled about what Petsonk would do all day. But, worry-wart that he is, Ebell fears that Petsonk could “create mischief” and get together with all the other “moles and burrowers” in the administration (including Communist sympathizers like Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill) and undermine all that is good and true and just.
“The proponents of Kyoto have not totally lost yet,” says Ebell. “They are on the defensive but they still have powerful connections. Several environmentalists still continue to meet with White House staffers.”
No! An outrage. A national emergency. Who are the Infidels?
“We are intent on finding out when, why, and where,” Ebell said of the meetings, identifying by name only Pew Center on Global Climate Change President Eileen Claussen as a known infiltrator.
As for the rest of you who still have White House staffers on your speed dial, beware. Myron is watching.
He is watching Turner, as well, who didn’t get the number two slot at Interior but may well resurface as assistant secretary of state for oceans and international agreements, which would land him smack back in the middle of treaty negotiations — right where Ebell would least like him to be.
Remember back when we wrote about University of Virginia professor (and global warming skeptic) Pat Michaels cruising for ladies in his eco-friendly Honda Insight? Well, turns out he’s not the only right-winger passing on the SUV in favor of a more green-friendly ride.
Seems frosh Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, a car-alarm magnate from the San Diego area, is zipping around D.C. in a sweet green Toyota Prius, a gas-electric hybrid capable of logging 52 miles to the gallon.
Issa recently gave our Post friend and colleague Lloyd Grove a spin in the mean machine and declared he could rip across country on just two tanks of gas.
Others on the Hill reportedly interested in the Prius are Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R) and Connie Morella (R) of Maryland, Rep. Brian Baird (D) of Washington state and California Senator Barbara Boxer (D).
As if Beltway environmental types don’t have it hard enough these days, now they are getting the beatdown from their European counterparts.
Buried deep in the current issue of Time magazine is this acid quote from Stephan Singer, a World Wildlife Fund official in Brussels: “Rather than hanging out in D.C., waiting for a dinner invitation from someone from the White House, they should go to into the country and work with people” to build support for Kyoto. He continued, “They should go explain to farmers who are opposed to Kyoto and to unions opposed to Kyoto that there cannot be coal mining forever.”
As Austin Powers would say, “Ouch, baby. Very ouch.”
The Singer slam is not going down smoothly here, particularly among environmentalists who do not get invitations to the White House. Most enviros, of course, will never get closer to 1600 Pennsylvania than the roller-blading plaza outside, and they are hardly twid
dling their thumbs waiting for the phone to ring …
Get Grist in your inbox