There was a time not so long ago when Vice President Al Gore was considered the nation's greenest politician -- so green, in fact, that then-President George Bush called Gore "Ozone Man."
But now that Gore is running for president, he has been toning down his color on environmental issues, from a bright green to a pale green. These days the man who wrote that the environment should be "the central organizing principle for civilization" appears to be looking for political cover on controversial environmental issues.
Take, for example, Gore's waffling on the huge commercial jet port proposed at the old Homestead Air Force Base in south Miami-Dade County. Bill Bradley, Gore's vanquished challenger, at least had the political courage to speak out against the controversial project, which could threaten environmentally sensitive lands in Biscayne National Park and the Everglades. Gore, on the other hand, had only this to say about the proposal, which happens to be a pet project of prominent Florida Democrats including U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas: "I would urge the continued discussion of how a balanced solution can be found that can help the community without hurting the environment."
Environmentalists are so annoyed with Gore's unwillingness to condemn the jetport proposal, they had planned to picket the vice president at a rally last month in South Florida. But they didn't get the chance. The rally was abruptly canceled by Carol Browner, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, after she learned that protesters might be present.
Former White House chief of staff and Gore supporter Leon Panetta says the environment still is a "gut issue" for the vice president. But campaign strategists say Gore has made a calculated effort to tone down his environmental rhetoric during the campaign, fearing he might alienate supporters in the business community and complicate his efforts to cast himself as a centrist Democrat.
It's enough to make voters wonder if Gore's idea of green is the color of political money.
© St. Petersburg Times.