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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

What Might Have Been

Air Date: Week of

Commentator and adman John Carroll reviews missed opportunities on the campaign trail.


CURWOOD: With the benefit of what President Bush recently called "90-90 hindsight," commentator John Carroll says every candidate managed to miss the environmental boat during the campaign.

CARROLL: The environment wasn't exactly the strong suit of this year's crop of Presidential candidates, but then again, nothing was, really. Even so, if they had just put the proper spin on their records, they could have made organically-grown hay while the sun was shining through the ozone holes. As it was, they wound up missing more opportunities than Mike Dukakis in a tall man's shop. George Bush, for instance, should have jumped on a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in mid-October. The EPA announced that air quality in 41 cities across the country had improved enough to meet Federal smog standards. The agency attributed the improvement in part to the cool weather conditions in 1991, and reduced industrial activity. That was the cue for President Lip Service to come forward and say, "I did that. I'm the one who reduced industrial activity and I can do it again, if you'll just give me four more years. And the next time the Sierra Club accuses me of gutting the Clean Air Act, you just tell them to go jump in an empty factory." That's one way to get the spotted-owl crowd off your back. We're talking about a whole new kind of negative advertising here, and as a special bonus, it hasn't even been discredited by the vast army of clock-watching pundits yet.

Bill Clinton could have used this technique as well. Instead of defending his spotty performance on forest preservation or the pollution of Arkansas' water supply, he could have focused on the problem of global warming. "My state ranks 47th in the nation in average income," he could have said. "We don't have enough money to turn the heat on. How are we going to contribute to global warming?" You have to admit, it's pretty hard to attack that sort of logic.

Ross Perot, for his part, doesn't have much of an environmental record at all, except for some night maneuver development of wetlands in the Dallas area. But he could have scored some big points if he had revealed the countless death threats he'd received from the United Hairstylists of America. While they were busy scheming against the Bantam Billionaire and his family, significant numbers of non-recyclable hairspray cans have stayed on their shelves, and out of the nation's landfills. Chalk one up for the little guy.

By adopting this revolutionary approach, the next group of Presidential candidates could effectively make the most -- or least -- of their environmental records. Whichever comes first.

CURWOOD: John Carroll is head of Carroll Creative in Boston, and a commentator for Living on Earth.



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