ANALYSIS: Media Watch - Environmentalists find Bush policies aneasy target

A number of separate environmental moves by the Bush administration

have outraged various environmental groups, prompting widespread

criticism of virtually every initiative undertaken. Among the most

controversial moves of late was Bush's decision to suspend regulations

to reduce the amount of arsenic in drinking water. Others included the

reversal of a campaign pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, his

stated interest in opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil

drilling and the decision to drop out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. All

these policy changes came in the weeks before Earth Day on April 23. The

timing was not great.

Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council,

Friends of the Earth, Environmental Defense and a host of others have

all earned widespread media attention for their criticism of Bush's

environmental moves. The Wall Street Journal (April 11) wrote, 'Bush has

provided the nation's environmental groups with a defining moment. Up to

now there have been many shades of green, but recent White House moves

are making them blend together.'

Some of the coverage revealed three times as much criticism as support

for Bush's environmental programs. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (April

1) observed, 'Of all of his decisions, the most politically damaging may

be the one to reverse a Clinton administration rule reducing the amount

of arsenic in drinking water.' The Natural Resources Defense Council is

telling the media, 'Many will die from arsenic-related cancers and other

diseases, but George (W.) Bush apparently doesn't care' (The Hartford

Courant, April 13). Comments such as these prompted The Washington Post

(April 16) to note, 'The Bush administration has taken a brutal PR

beating' on the arsenic issue.

Bush supporters called accusations such as the above 'grossly

irresponsible, demagogic statements' (Rocky Mountain News, April 2).

Although they earned much less attention from the media, supporters

argued just as vehemently that Bush was doing the right thing. An

editorial in the Chicago Tribune (April 12) said Bush would not be

'stampeded into a bad decision out of fear the demagogues will call him


Supporters pointed out that Bush agreed the current level of arsenic was

too high, that it would be lowered, but that he wanted to put the

Clinton rule on hold until a scientific review could determine at what

point the costs of tighter arsenic restrictions outweigh the additional

benefits that will be derived.

Other reports argued that Bush was more interested in corporate

interests than human welfare, suggesting that he was paying back special

interest groups for their donations to his campaign. Even Martha Marks,

president of Republicans for Environmental Protection, told the Los

Angeles Times (March 30), '(President Bush) can't hide from this image

he has of someone who cares nothing about the environment and is willing

to open the remaining pristine places to industries that want it.'

Media coverage suggests that for someone who talked about being a uniter

rather than a divider, Bush is creating a lot of conflict with his

environmental policies. If Bush really is convinced that his policies

are in the best interests of America, he had better re-double his

efforts to educate the country on the wisdom of his plan, because his

critics have the upper hand at the moment.

- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be

found at

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