Friday, November 12, 2004

environment, elections, etc.

an article on john mccain, rebuplicans, and the environment:

...And then, last fall, he managed to force the first real Senate vote on actually doing something about the largest environmental peril our species has yet faced. The bill he drafted with Senator Joe Lieberman was modest to a fault, and it lost 55-43, but at least, 15 years after the issue first surfaced in the public consciousness, there'd been a vote. "We'll be back this year to do it again," he said when I talked with him in Washington earlier this year. "Campaign finance reform took us seven years. This may take longer, but we'll stay at it."
...How did the party of T.R. become so anti-environmental?

Consider, for instance, Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who chairs the Committee on Environment and Public Works. He didn't just vote against McCain-Lieberman -- he took to the floor during the debate over the bill to describe global warming as "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."
...mostly, says Jim DiPeso, the policy director of Republicans for Environmental Protection, it comes from a kind of worship of the market -- a deep belief that there's never any good to come from interfering with the free operation of laissez-faire economics. "Look at James Inhofe and people like him. They're so bought into the notion that economic prosperity is tied to the consumption of fossil fuels that they simply refuse to let go of it. They can't tolerate any argument that postulates that fossil fuels have downsides, that there are reasons to accelerate the transition to other forms of energy."
If you ask environmentalists who work the Hill about their contacts in the GOP, you get mostly blank stares. Aside from McCain and a handful of others, "we have trouble even getting into a lot of their offices," says Karen Wayland, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "They brand us as extremists despite the fact that the public has been long supportive of environmental regulations. When there's a big environmental vote we might be able to pull 20 Republicans in the House, and that's not a lot, because we lose some conservative Democrats." Debbie Reed, legislative director for the National Environmental Trust, says she thinks a few Republican senators actually believe that global warming is a problem. She cites Idaho's Larry Craig and Kansan Pat Roberts, who visited a National Science Foundation project in Antarctica and saw some of the scientific data firsthand -- but even they couldn't bring themselves to vote for the mild law proposed by McCain and Lieberman. Among other things, she says, they were unwilling to buck the president.
I'd been looking forward to interviewing McCain, who has a reputation among reporters as open and engaging. But our sessions were mostly anticlimactic. He consistently parried any questions about his newfound environmentalism. Instead, over and over again, he kept returning to the same idea: Special interests controlled the debate and, until they were overmatched by public opinion, little progress would be possible. At first I was frustrated -- most of us want to believe that it comes down to something more than the familiar refrain of money in politics, want to believe that minds could be changed by ideas, by rational debate, or by flying congressmen off to see melting glaciers. But the more I thought about it, the more grateful I was for McCain's insistence on the primacy of politics. In the end, only senators know what it's like to be a senator. "If there's one thing that everyone here's an expert on," says McCain, "it's getting elected."

i thought this was good too:

...When [McCain] finally hung up his uniform, he settled in Arizona only because it was the home of his second wife. "All my life I had been rootless," he says. In fact, the turning point in his first run for Congress in 1982 came when an opponent called him a carpet-bagger in one debate. "Listen, pal," he said. "I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the first district of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi."


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