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On Wednesday, The Crimson bemoaned Bush's pitiful performance on the environment. This performance sharply contrasts with the promise offered on the issue by the Democratic ticket.
Predictably, Bush and Quayle have missed no opportunity to attack Clinton and Gore as "environmental extremists" who would sacrifice American jobs for owls, eagles and garter snakes. Bush has even taken to calling Gore "Mr. Ozone" in recent campaign appearances. But Republican attacks on the Democratic candidates are in general misleading and typically stretch the truth.
For example, in the vice presidential debate, Quayle accused Gore of writing on page 304 of his book that the government should raise $100 billion in taxes to fund environmental initiatives abroad and in the U.S. That's just plain false. In fact, Gore, in an attempt to show how far the U.S. has gone to address other issues of global concern in the past, says on page 304 of his book that, in today's terms, spending for the Marshall Plan between 1948 and 1951 "would be almost $100 billion a year." That's all. No mention of taxes or spending on the environment. Just another example of Republican manipulation of the truth to exaggerate the Democratic stance on the environment.
Bush and Quayle continue to use intimidation tactics to present voters with what they claim is a stark choice between jobs and the environment. Bush has said that a Clinton presidency would mean "no timber workers, only a bunch of owls" and "no farmers, only a great, big, wet hole out there somewhere if you listen to him."
But Clinton and Gore argue not only that a balance can be struck between the economy and the environment, but also that greater environmental initiatives would result in a healthier economy. The Democratic candidates point to Germany and Japan as examples of economies that have realized the link between high environmental standards and a competitive economy. America, they say, must lead the world on environmental matters or face the prospect of lagging behind in the international economic community.
While Clinton's environmental record over the past 12 years has been far from stellar in Arkansas, his running mate Al Gore '69 is one of the most respected and knowledgeable elected officials on environmental issues.
Well before it was politically popular, Gore identified the environment as one of the most important issues facing this country and the world.
His book, Earth in the Balance, contains some of the most innovative and interesting environmental proposals to date. While he fails to outline plans to finance the provisions of his "Global Marshall Plan," his policy suggestions could forward the much-needed debate over the most productive relationship between people and their planet.
While Clinton has garnered endorsements from several national environmental groups--such as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters--he has not earned environmental accolades equal to his running mate. Reports on Clinton's environmental record--such as those outlined in a recent series of articles in The Boston Herald--reveal that Arkansas is no environmental Garden of Eden.
As governor, Clinton frequently ignored calls by environmentalists to challenge EPA decisions in cases of toxic-waste management, water quality and wilderness protection. Jacksonville, located 12 miles north of Little Rock, is home to three Superfund sites that contain high levels of dioxin and other toxic industrial chemicals that have been seeping into groundwater and soil and environmental groups challenge Clinton's conclusions that these sites do not pose a significant health problem.
Other parts of the state harbor underground injection wells for toxic-waste disposal. While many experts contest the safety of such wells, the Clinton-appointed Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Department has defended their use. Extensive well-monitoring and seismic testing are not required prior to drilling of such wells in Arkansas, although they are mandated in states such as Ohio.
Certainly Clinton cannot be blamed for all of his state's environmental shortcomings. Bush's shoddy leadership on the national level has produced problems in all 50 states. But we must acknowledge that "The Natural State," as Arkansas is described by its motto, could use some cleaning up.
Four more years of Bush-Quayle control over the environment would not be a pretty sight for this country. Bush realizes that his leadership in this area has been weak and has promised to release a new environment plan this week. But it is too little too late, and if anything, the plan would likely outline less federally-mandated environmental action for the future, as Bush wishes to assure conservatives that more regulation along the lines of the Clean Air Act is not in the works.
George Bush has not been "the environmental president." Clinton and Gore clearly offer the better vision in this area.
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