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 www.carma.com.