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On Monday Texas Gov. George W. Bush, a shoo-in for the Republican
presidential nomination later this summer, made a cogent argument regarding
who would be most effective managing environmental issues that few liberals
and Democrats — especially his likely challenger Vice President Al Gore –
could ever understand.

Specifically, Bush, in delivering a major policy speech in Pittsburgh on
the environment (his first on this subject thus far) nailed the issue when
he said his administration would allow states and businesses to work out
environmental and pollution control problems themselves, without the
overreaching and burdensome hand of the federal government.

In detailing Bush’s speech, however, the left-leaning Los Angeles Times,
like most other establishment newspapers that covered the story, claimed
that Bush was “moving toward the political center” in daring to enter the
fray over an issue “traditionally reserved to Democrats” (so now, I guess,
we’re picking our presidential issues on which party has a “traditional”
right to address it).

Bush said, “The command-and-control structure out of Washington, D.C.,
won’t work” anymore when it comes to environmental policy. “The idea of
suing our way or regulating our way to clean air and clean water is not
effective public policy.” Absolutely right; in fact, “suing our way out” of
a number of issues in this country is lousy public policy.

“The old system of mandate, regulate and litigate only sends potential
developers off in search of greener pastures — literally,” Bush said.

As expected, however, Gore’s campaign was quick to criticize.

“No amount of whitewashing can cover up his bad record on the
environment,” said Doug Hattaway, a Gore spokesman. “On his watch, Texas has
been the most polluted state in the country.”

“Last summer, Houston supplanted Los Angeles as the nation’s smog
capital. In addition, Texas ranks 46th among states for water-resources
protection and 44th in per capita spending on environmental programs,”
chimed the L.A. Times.

Yet, no one in Gore’s campaign or in the establishment press bothered to
mention that Texas, like every other state in the union, is bound to follow
strict environmental regulations issued from on high in Washington, D.C. The
Environmental Protection Agency, which should probably be renamed, “The
Government Land Reclamation Agency” for all the profitable private property
its regulations have made idle over the years, issues mandates like a
dictator would, and governors of every state know that you can’t “get out
of” complying with them, even if you wanted to.

Nobody bothered to ask why, if Texas is such a pollution pit, Gore, who
has been in the White House with Clinton for almost eight years, hasn’t
pushed his boss to declare the state a disaster area or, at a minimum, level
punitive measures against Texas for failing to follow federal guidelines.

With one of the most environmentally friendly administrations in office
in years, are we to believe that the environment has actually gotten
worse since Gore and Clinton came to power in 1992? The Gore
campaign’s charges would seem to suggest that, but if that were the case,
why would anyone believe “Mr. Environment” would do any better improving the
condition of air, water and industrial waste as president?

Regulations aside, states habitually compete for population because it
helps their tax base. Therefore, as cities like Houston and Los Angeles
grow, it seems reasonable to assume that, yes, they’ll also become more
polluted and congested — and no amount of federal regulation, short of
banning cars or anything that produces “pollution” — will do much to
prevent that.

If you listen to the Gore campaign, you’d believe that Bush is opposed to
clean air, clean water, clean streets and clean industrial sites. How absurd
can you get? Nobody could win the Oval Office with such a platform, which is
why Gore is trying to create the illusion that Bush hates cleanliness. If
any candidate does, it would have to be Gore, whose complaining about the
awful state of our environment comes on the heels of his eight years at the
helm of Washington bureaucratic policymaking. Not a good endorsement, I’d
say, and it shatters Gore’s credibility on an issue “traditionally” credited
to him and his party.

While Bush just defined the true issue of environmentalism for the next
administration, he also, perhaps inadvertently, defined his candidacy and
why electing him would be better than electing a compromised Clinton stooge
like Gore.

On a range of issues other than environmentalism, Americans should ask
themselves: Do they want Washington to continue big government growth and
policymaking with “one size fits all” solutions that don’t work or would
they rather work out their problems with their own state leaders and
business communities? The latter gets my vote; I’m all for decentralizing
the federal government, starting with the EPA or a variety of other federal
agencies.

Bush defined the environmental problem as a states’ rights issue and
rightfully so. Those who say he has no experience to do so are wrong because
compared to Gore, who has never been a governor and on the receiving end of
countless Washington bureaucratic mandates, Bush is light years ahead.

Any presidential candidate who believes that states play a secondary role
to federal power doesn’t deserve the White House because he or she has the
power arrangement backwards. We don’t live in a monarchy.

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