This Way to the Egress

While the Bush administration is busy turning our country into a global pariah abroad and declaring war on low-income families at home, the White House has managed largely to evade any political fallout from its radical anti-environmental policies. Karl Rove knows that surveys consistently show Americans overwhelmingly support environmental protection. So how does the administration push an agenda that trashes our natural resources, increases pollution, and makes us all more susceptible to contamination? One way is through obscure rule changes to environmental regulations that are hard to discover and even more difficult to explain. But the Bushies are more ambitious than that. They have learned —as Phineas T. Barnum knew—that the louder and bolder the lie, the more believable it can be. Thus, nearly every day we are subjected to Orwellian sloganeering from the White House.

A prime example is the president’s recent State of the Union address. In a glaring admission of how great a liability the administration’s environmental record could become, Bush felt obligated to make green rhetoric one centerpiece of his speech. He highlighted two initiatives: Clear Skies and Healthy Forests. The first relaxes pollution standards, frees industry from monitoring contaminants and permits facilities to duck upgrading environmentally harmful equipment. Healthy Forests allows timber companies—in a taxpayer giveaway—unprecedented access to clear-cut our national wildlands. Stay tuned for more aggressive attacks on the Clean Water Act, which will probably be called something like the Immaculate Rivers Initiative.

When it comes to the environment, for Bush, style trumps substance every time. Time magazine recently reported on a confidential document distributed to GOP governors and congressmen before the mid-term election that urged: “The first (and most important) step to neutralizing the problem and eventually bringing people around to your point of view on environmental issues is to convince them of your ‘sincerity’ and ‘concern.’”

Clearly it falls to every one of us to expose the reality behind the president’s flimsy green façade. In communities across the nation, Bush’s environmental policies are already having a devastating effect on actual people, but citizens seem unaware. Throughout Texas and the nation we must spread the message with patriotic zeal how the administration’s excesses are trashing our communities. Everybody from the local chamber of commerce to the PTA is affected and a possible convert waiting to hear the truth.

In the Lone Star State, White House policies are tarnishing widely used recreation destinations like Padre Island National Seashore and the Big Thicket National Preserve through the reckless promotion of drilling, logging, and road building. In major cities like Houston and Dallas, parents—particularly those with asthmatic children—would be outraged if they knew that Bush policies permit companies to pollute the air their kids breathe. The administration’s inaction on global warming dooms coastal cities like Corpus Christi as well as West Texas’ parched landscape. The White House’s unwillingness to force polluting companies to fund Superfund clean-up threatens some East Texas neighborhoods with a slow, poisonous death. As Democratic Senator Ralph Yarborough wrote in these pages 40 years ago, “We must not let destructiveness and pollution wipe out a great heritage that is America’s.” —JB

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Published at 12:00 am CST