The political pundits haven’t noticed, probably because they habitually put the health of the planet at the bottom of their list of concerns, but this week on national television, David Letterman pointed out that the Current Occupant of the White House is trying to present himself as an Environmental President.

It’s a struggle, as you can see:

Probably this is just a public relations effort, but to be fair, it has produced tangible fruit: Last summer, the administration announced the creation of the world’s largest marine reserve.

Ocean conservationists gave three cheers, although some political observers pointed out that this attempt by Bush at an environmental legacy will be overwhelmed by his inaction on global warming, which the president told an adoring biographer was nothing more than a “theory.”

Perhaps for that reason, or perhaps because polls show that in fact three-quarters of Americans think global warming is a real problem, this fall a White House adviser told Time that Bush’s views on global warming had “evolved” and even hinted that the President might make the sort of dramatic turnabout on the issue that Al Gore predicted in an interview earlier this year.

But such proved not to be the case. When the White House press corps — in a virtually unprecedented display of deep concern — roused itself to ask a single question about the issue, the spokesperson stumbled over a Cheney-esque admission that the administration intends to do nothing about this threat to the planet.

Q Dana, on global warming, there’s mounting scientific evidence that climate change is occurring much faster than earlier predicted, as well as the human factor being a much greater contributing factor to climate change. Is the White House thinking, or rethinking its current climate change policy, as well as its definition of what constitutes sound science?

MS. PERINO: The definition of sound science is "sound." And that doesn’t change. What the President said in 2001 is that he established a goal for the United States to reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent — I’m sorry, by 18 percent by 2012. And we are on track to meet that goal. And what he said is that while the research is ongoing, that we will take stock of it and that if we aren’t making that goal, if research indicates otherwise, that we might have to take additional aggressive action. That has been his policy since 2001.

But you don’t need a degree in statistics to understand Bush’s complacency. As he promises to "improve our natural parks," he speaks with the same arrogant attitude towards the natural world that despoilers and developers have had for decades. John Muir was probably the first to notice the implications of that little word "improve," and often wrote about it. Most caustically he noted in his classic essay “Wild Wool” that although wild sheep were far superior to the domestic variety in terms of coat, intelligence, and countless other attributes, nonetheless:

We take wild sheep home and subject them to the many extended processes of husbandry, and finish by cooking them in a cooking pot — a process which completes all sheep improvements as far as man is concerned.