Evaluating the Presidential Candidates' Environmental Records

MOTHER examines the environmental voting records and habits of the two primary presidential candidates, George Bush and Bill Clinton.

| October/November 1992

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    Al Gore and Bill Clinton, making the world safer with environmentally friendly lunch boxes.
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    President Bush at the Grand Canyon pledging support for the EPA.
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    Ed Begley, Jr., Jeremy Rifkin, and Morgan Fairchild at the New York City Earth Day celebration in 1989.
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    President Bush looks over the Grand Canyon.

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MOTHER is not in the business of endorsing presidential candidates, but rather of providing information. We assigned this piece with no formed point of view; we simply requested the facts. We feel the facts as presented and the respective records speak for themselves. 
—The Editors 

Every four years we must endure the paroxysm of politics and propaganda that's known as a presidential election. But this year has been weirder than most. Since January, we've witnessed the rise and fall of three decidedly dull Democratic candidates and one eccentric governor who have some of the better environmental records in the country. A former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan briefly threw his hat in the ring before it was fed to him in tatters by the Republican party. A reactionary columnist stood to sing the sermon of the right-wing and then slithered back home again. And a twangy Texas billionaire led, and then abandoned, the biggest just-say-no-to-Washington movement ever.

President Bush and Governor Clinton, as the primary survivors, are now running through their litanies on the economy, health care, and education. But the one issue that affects us all has received precious little attention: the environment. So we at MOTHER decided to scratch the composed facades and find out just how much green runs through each candidate's blood.

President Bush's Record on the Wetlands

"I would be a Republican president in the Teddy Roosevelt tradition. A conservationist. An environmentalist."—George Bush campaign statement, Sierra magazine, 1988.

When candidate George Bush stood on the banks of Boston Harbor and vowed to be the environmental president, it seemed a sea change from eight years of Ronald Reagan's neglect. Once elected, President Bush made an encouraging start by reinvigorating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and pushing for a stronger Clean Air Act. But as the economy slipped, so did Bush's resolve. Campaign promises ranging from "no new taxes" to "no net loss of wetlands" degenerated into Orwellian double-speak.

The wetlands issue was a classic example of how politics can blunt the best intentions of our regulatory agencies. By 1986, the U.S. was losing 290,000 acres of wetlands each year, mostly to agriculture. These fragile areas provide vital flood and pollution control as well as habitat for a myriad of plant and animal species. In 1989, scientists from four federal agencies issued a joint identification manual for wetlands, giving federal and state agencies a common standard to protect the estimated 103 million acres of wetlands remaining in the lower 48 states.

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