The writing was on the wall for all environmentalists the day Secretary of State Colin Powell called EPA director Christine Todd Whitman President Bush’s “wind dummy .” The term refers to the military practice of tossing a dummy out of an airplane to test which way the wind is blowing over a landing zone.
Powell used the reference in a derogatory way to describe Whitman’s position navigating between environmentalists and conservatives in an administration clearly anti-environmentalist in deed.
Can it be any surprise that after 28 months Whitman has decided to call it quits?
A tale of two Bushes
It was early in Whitman’s tenure that her fate was sealed, and so was that of many current concerns of environmentalists. Referring to a campaign speech that President Bush had made in 2000 concerning global warming, Whitman said that the administration was leaning toward the regulation of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. But the problem was that Bush had no intention of fully honoring his campaign text.
In fact, Bush saw this as an end run by Whitman on his new-found (or is it old-and-cloaked?) environmental policies. By now the facts bear out that Bush has no inclination towards seriously regulating greenhouse gases. The U.S.’s having pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in March of 2001, which calls for the limiting of greenhouse gases to pre-1990 levels, took care of that.
Whitman’s exit speaks volumes to the fact that, as far as environmental concerns go, President Bush will not tolerate even a moderate conservative at the post. And, as moderates go, Whitman was no green-lover.
Whitman’s ambivalent EPA
As Governor of New Jersey she was known for reducing fines and oversight regulations to the state’s industrial polluters. And early in her tenure at the EPA she challenged a study urging the reduction of allowable arsenic levels in drinking water. The Clinton-era study had advised reducing arsenic in drinking water in keeping with standards set by the World Health Organization .
But, clearly, Whitman was no “yes-man” either.
Along with the differences on the Kyoto Protocol, Whitman was at odds with the administration on its effort to loosen environmental regulations on military bases. She said she knew of no instances where soldier training had been impacted by environmental laws. She also clashed with the administration on the EPA’s “Clear Skies Initiative ” which conservatives opposed because they believe it contains unrealistic mercury emission targets.
The corruption of language
So what’s next for the top spot at the EPA? One of the replacement names being floated is Josephine Cooper, chief operating officer of the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers .
Does that not say it all?
And what can we expect between now and the 2004 elections on the political environmental front?
Expect the corruption of language.
With environmental issues among the biggest swing issues (especially among women), be prepared for Republicans who don’t believe in global warming to be re-branding themselves as “conservationists.” Orwell will surely spin in his grave.
It’s all an outgrowth of the work of Republican strategists like Frank Luntz, who was one of the drafters of the “Contract for America” manifesto under Newt Gingrich. In a memorandum which was reported on by the New York Times on March 2nd, Luntz advises that Republicans “stop emphasizing a choice between environmental protection and deregulation.”
That’s just the beginning.