Good for George Bush.
It is good to see the president act in a firm, tough, sound manner in explaining the United States' position on pollution and the environment and to make it clear no nation or government has done more than the U.S. in recent years to protect our environment.
Bush critics have enjoyed an open season for the past six months or so as plans progressed for the Rio Earth Summit meeting on the environment. Bush has been accused of most every possible crime in helping to destroy the earth's economy, aiding in the elimination of rare animal species, destroying the ozone layer, pumping pollutants into the air, destroying forests and every other situation that endangers or damages the environment.
The Rio conference has provided a site for Bush critics to gather and place the blame for the world's environmental problems at the feet of Bush.
Bush, however, did not buckle under the attacks.
He told delegates to the conference that he did not travel to the conference to apologize for his record or the efforts of the U.S. to clean up the environment. In fact, he said, the U.S. is second to none in what it has done to improve and/or protect the environment.
SINCE THE end of World War II, Uncle Sam far too often has operated with an open check book, thinking massive appropriations of dollars could and would solve most all problems and turn critics into friends. Chances are, a good number of those planning the Rio conference thought they could bring enough pressure to bear on Bush that in an election year he would agree to whatever spending requests might be demanded in order to win the votes of many of his critics back in the U.S. They were going to use the conference to try to blackmail the president.
The facts are, however, that a good percentage of the highly partisan, vocal and strident critics of Bush concerning environmental issues would not have voted for him next November even if he had done back flips and acceded to each and every request for dollars or government action. They probably voted against Reagan in his two presidential elections and they are likely to have voted against Bush four years ago. And they will vote against him next November, regardless of what he would have said or done in Rio.
It is interesting to note, however, that as the Rio conference was about to end, and Bush was about to arrive, there was a visible softening in criticism of the president.
VARIOUS American spokespeople were suggesting the conference had been a success even though they wished Bush would have taken a more cooperative position and signed on in support of the biodiversity treaty.
Perhaps some of the Americans who had traveled to Rio and who were so loose and reckless in their criticism of the president and the U.S. started to realize their country indeed had a good record in the environmental field. Maybe they heard the president point out, before he left for Rio, that the U.S. had done more in trying to protect the environment than any other country. Perhaps they started to get the message that there must be a sound, practical balance used in measuring the costs of a more vigorous cleanup of the environment and the possible "cost" of lost jobs.
Sen. Albert Gore, a Democrat presidential hopeful in the '88 race, a politician who opposes Bush and who is eager to do what he can to get Bush out of the White House, often was interviewed by the media as a balanced and objective spokesman and observer at the Rio gathering. Friday, he told a U.S. television interviewer he had wanted the U.S. "to shine" at the conference and for Bush to do well. He may have wanted the U.S. to shine, but who's going to believe he or other Democrats wanted Bush to do well? They probably enjoyed every moment of all the Bush criticism and they hoped the media back home would report every word of this criticism.
Gore tried to moderate his criticism of Bush by saying it was good for the president to speak out and tell those at the conference what the U.S. has done to protect the environment, but he quickly added Bush had abandoned any position of leadership on the environment issue and that the president was just hanging on to old polluting ways.
IT WILL BE interesting to see if the various polls register as much dissatisfaction with Bush relative to the environment questions after he gets back from Rio as there was a week or so before he left for the conference. Maybe he made many Americans realize just how much Uncle Sam has done, how many millions of dollars have been spent by U.S. taxpayers to try to protect the environment and what it might cost in terms of added dollars and the loss of jobs if he were to agree to everything demanded by the fanatic environmental advocates.
Chances are many Americans were pleased Bush stood strong in his defense of the U.S. rather than roll over and play dead for his and his country's critics. And many Americans, for the first time, learned some specifics about why Bush was opposed to giving a complete endorsement to the wishes of many at the Rio meeting.
THIS IS another example of the consequences of his handlers doing a miserable job of explaining the president's position on so many issues and, Bush not speaking out in a positive, forceful manner. The reasons for Bush's opposition to signing all the Rio agreements should have been made clear to the American public weeks ago, not just at the end of the conference.
Flying down to Rio probably wasn't a trip the president was eager to make, but perhaps by taking a strong, positive stance in defending and praising Uncle Sam's position vis-a-vis the environment, the trip back to Washington will be much more enjoyable.