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

The Blind Date

Air Date: Week of

Commentator Michael Silverstein states a case for a Dole presidency being good, and in fact better, for United States environmental policy and activism than Clinton's tenure thus far.


CURWOOD: Commentator Michael Silverstein has been wondering about which of the 2 major party candidates for President would be best for the environment. His thoughts have not been cheery.

SILVERSTEIN: Remember that guy or girl your mother always wanted you to date, or even better, marry? Yeah, she was nice looking, smart, courteous and caring, and guaranteed to say just the right thing, always. Remember how awful it was when you actually dated this person and had the worst Friday night of your life? Voters of an environmental bent might keep this image in mind in November when they help elect a president. Bill Clinton is the mother's choice in this election. He articulates beautifully in Rose Garden environmental ceremonies, grieves convincingly about the horrors of pollution, and has introduced a record number of administrative gimmicks into the Beltway regulatory apparatus. Unfortunately, these well-meant efforts notwithstanding, he has been by any objective measure the worst environmental chief executive in decades. Until updated pesticide legislation was enacted this summer, not a single new or revised environmental measure became law during Mr. Clinton's first three and a half years in office. Worst of all, perhaps, this nation's environmental movement, so filled with energy and creative potential at the start of Mr. Clinton's first term, has slipped into a kind of shocked catatonia, retreated into a state where politically correct mumblings and fundraising hustles have replaced the vigorous new thinking and dynamic organizing so evident during the early 1990s.

Will things get better, environmentally speaking, if Bob Dole were elected president? Sure they would. No matter who wins the big prize this November, some environmental reforms are now assured because the American people themselves made their feelings clear on these matters last year in the face of an environmentally lackadaisical Clinton White House and a frothing anti-environmental Republican House of Representatives.

The main environmental challenge for the next administration is therefore not one of legislation but of animation, or rather, re-animation. It is to see that once again, Americans sense a meaningful, a visceral relationship, between environmental well-being and their own prosperity, health, and their children's futres. President Clinton had the opportunity to shape a vision in this realm and failed. His chance to lead is past. Mr. Dole still could lead here. Conservative presidents have been known to do stranger things. Indeed, especially in harness with a Democratic Congress, environmental innovation might make a perfect theme for a new Dole-Kemp administration in an era of fiscal restraint and visionary vacuums.

At the very least, a Dole Presidency would infuse, intentionally or otherwise, new life into an environmental movement now institutionally tethered to a Clinton White House that takes it for granted, manipulates it for its own ends, and gives little or nothing in return.

CURWOOD: Commentator Michael Silverstein is an environmental consultant based in Philadelphia.



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