ATLANTA -- The Bush administration's appallingly indifferent response to its own admission that global warming is real, potentially dire in its effects and largely man-made is of a piece with the administration's default on a growing list of matters that call for leadership.
President Bush and his staff took a sabbatical from the Israeli-Palestinian standoff with consequences that now bloody the issue almost daily.
Though the economic news is more good than bad, the stock market continues to falter, in some substantial part because investor confidence has taken a heavy hit from business scandals -- in the accounting industry, in corporate governance, in brokerage machinations, energy scams. And that's to name just a few.
The White House, however, supports only cosmetic reforms, and even those lukewarmly. Without leadership from the president, Congress -- its members broadly beholden to campaign contributions from exactly the malefactors they should be riding herd on -- runs from the stern measures that are necessary to reestablish market credibility.
And although it stepped up firmly to the terrorist attacks and has in the main handled the campaign against terrorism well, the administration refuses to ask for any commitment from the nation. Just the opposite. The president plausibly suspects this campaign will take years and cost a treasure, but he is trying to entrench his massive tax giveaways and even extend them. Are we going to pay for this thing with bake sales?
The report from the Environmental Protection Agency says that the likely consequences of global warming include constant drought, the loss of coral islands and barrier reefs, hugely expensive damage from storms that will increase in frequency and severity, and broad health problems from pollution, stress and increased insect activity.
And what does the administration suggest we do about all that? Get used to it, it says. Get used to it!
Here's what we're not going to do, although each of these steps would reduce the production of greenhouse gases implicated in the warming: We are not going to require the automakers to up the mileage of their SUVs and pickups, we are not going to clamp down on power plant pollution, we are not going to join virtually all the other industrial nations in the common effort to reduce warming emissions.
Here is what we are going to do: We are going to kiss off conservation.
Bush came to office holding that global warming was the phony baloney of Chicken Little environmentalists and anticapitalists. Global warming was something you could believe in or not, like Santa.
Bush's EPA has finally bowed to nearly universal scientific judgment, conceding the phenomenon and its human causes, but Bush himself remains disdainful. Slammed for the report by conservative Flat-Earthers, the president waved the report aside as just something "put out by the bureaucracy." Going on a year and a half in office, the president doesn't seem to understand that it is his bureaucracy.
Bush is hemmed in by ideological rigidities and tangled in a restraining web of political IOUs to big-spending corporate interests. Unable to move against an array of problems, the president substitutes denial for solutions.
© Copyright 2002 Star Tribune