by Cat Lazaroff
Meanwhile, conservatives say they are pleased with the president's choices, and with the degree to which the president relies upon their counsel in making his decisions.
The first 100 days of a new presidency has been used as a benchmark since the days of President Franklin Roosevelt. The public, the media and Bush's fellow lawmakers used this past Sunday, Bush's 100th day in office, to take a look at how Bush has performed on the issues they care about.
During his radio address on Saturday, Bush congratulated his administration for what he called "100 days of Congress and the President working together for the American people."
Bush said he believes lawmakers are "making progress toward changing the tone in Washington," one of his major campaign pledges. The president said he is meeting his goal of reducing the "bitterness and divisiveness" which blocked the Clinton administration from reaching agreements on many major pieces of legislation.
But Congressional Democrats did not echo the president's optimism.
"During the campaign, George Bush said he would be the 'uniter not the divider.' But the rhetoric has not matched the reality," said House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt. "President Bush has been the opposite of a uniter, and it has been divisive. I think the first one hundred days can be summed up in one word: disappointment."
"Instead of working with Democrats, this President has pursued a 'my way or the highway' agenda that includes no consultations, no negotiations, no collaboration and no compromise," added Gephardt.
and other Bush critics are particularly concerned by Bush's environmental decisions.
"He decided to block the rules that were designed to protect millions of acres of national forests as a favor to the timber industry. He decided to block the new [carbon dioxide] standards and to reject our signing of the Kyoto Treaty," said Gephardt. "He wants to drill in the Alaskan wildlife refuge. He wants to drill off the coast of Florida. And he rolled back regulations to reduce the amount of arsenic in our water to keep our children and families safe and healthy.
"This President is in league with the oil, mining, gas and chemical industries, and he's been busy flouting the bipartisan consensus on the environment, trying to roll back 30 years of environmental progress in just 100 days," concluded Gephardt.
The Democratic leader noted that Bush appears more concerned with pleasing corporate America than with taking care of the public interest.
"He appointed the most far right, anti-woman, anti-environment, wealthiest and best connected cabinet in a generation," said Gephardt.
A majority of Americans seem to agree that Bush has taken the wrong environmental tack. Polls taken last week by news organizations and environmental groups found that most Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of environmental and energy issues.
For example, a poll released by the Sierra Club and the Mellman Group found that by a two to one margin, Americans prefer to solve energy shortages by reducing demand rather than increasing supply, as Bush has proposed.
Americans strongly disapprove of President Bush's plans to seek new energy sources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a host of national monuments. Overall, 58 percent of voters polled gave Bush a negative rating for protecting the environment and only 27 percent gave him a positive rating.
"In his first one hundred days in office, President Bush rejected safeguards that protect our families from arsenic in our drinking water and broke his campaign pledge to curb global warming," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "The mining, chemical and oil industries that heavily funded his campaign got what they paid for, and as a result, Americans do not trust President Bush to protect America's environment for our families or for our future."
"President Bush's environmental policies are costing him public support," added Mark Mellman, president and CEO of the Mellman Group. "The more these issues are debated and the more the public learns, the greater the damage to President Bush. President Bush's job performance on the environment is strikingly low, and Americans do not trust him to fight for them on environmental issues."
The Sierra Club has launched "W. watch," a website highlighting President Bush's environmental record.
Earth Week last week, Bush and his cabinet members put on their greenest faces in hopes of overshadowing the negative press his anti-environmental decisions have garnered.
Bush used his radio address this week to tout his plans for "adopting new, scientifically sensible rules to discourage emissions of lead, to protect wetlands, to reduce the amount of arsenic in drinking water, to curb dangerous pesticides and to clean the air of pollution from on road diesel engines."
Bush ignored the fact that his administration opted to discard a new rule on arsenic that was crafted by the Clinton administration. The wetlands, lead emissions and diesel engine rules he is claiming as his own were also Clinton era regulations, and the international pesticide agreement that Bush announced his support for last week was negotiated largely by the Clinton administration.
"We're at work on a plan to increase America's energy supply in the long term," said Bush. "At the same time, we are acting in a common sense way to defend our environment."
Bush's top environmental advisor, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman, echoed Bush's optimistic words.
"The President has shown that he will leave America's air cleaner, water purer, and land better protected at the end of his administration than it was when he took office," Whitman said at a White House ceremony honoring the winners of the President's Youth Awards.
Whitman then touted the same Clinton era rules that Bush highlighted in his radio address.
"Clearly, President Bush is a believer in recycling, he's claiming credit and seeking praise by recycling the environmental policies of the past administration," said Deb Callahan, president of the League of Conservation Voters. "Now, he's taking credit for not standing in the way of reductions in diesel exhaust emissions, for not standing in the way of reporting on lead emissions, for not standing in the way of the international treaty on persistent organic pollutants, among other things."
In fact, the only pro-environment decisions that Bush can truly claim as his own are proposed funding measures in his first federal budget, including full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $4.9 billion to address the national park system maintenance backlog. In addition, a Bush proposal to promote cleanup of brownfields, or lightly contaminated abandoned industrial areas, has now won support in Congress.
the Bush administration's best efforts to put its greenest foot forward for Earth Day, environmental groups agree that President Bush's tenure in the White House is likely to do the environment more harm than good.
"We appreciate that Bush recognizes clean air and water are significant enough issues to justify the time and attention the administration dedicated to it last week for Earth Day," said the League of Conservation Voters' (LCV) Callahan. "However, these efforts should not be singled out and held up as an indicator for this administration's full environmental commitment."
Among the decisions singled out for criticism in LCV's "Citizen's Guide to the First 100 Days" are proposals to:
According to Callahan, all eyes now to turn to Congress to see whether a bipartisan coalition for the environment will be the last line of defense against the administration's attacks on protections for air, water and land.
"The 2002 elections are going to be a referendum on the nature of environmental protection in America," Callahan said. "Bipartisan polling shows by more than a three to one margin that voters prefer candidates who support environmental protection over those supporting corporate interests. Upcoming votes on the president's anti-environment agenda will show which side members of Congress are on, placing their political future and the environmental future of our country on the same footing."
Today, protesters rallied in front of the White House to ask President Bush to "Stop the Rollbacks" on environmental protections. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which released its own review of Bush's record at the rally warned that Americans and lawmakers need to act now to curb Bush's attacks on environmental protections.
"This has been the worst three months for environmental protection in the last 30 years," said Gregory Wetstone, NRDC's director of advocacy. "At this rate, by the end of President Bush's four year term there will be little remaining of the popular environmental programs that protect our air, water, land and wildlife."
May 2, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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