Saturday, December 10, 2005

Bushit Bullies Flat wrong

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

By Carl Pope

The bullies in the White House, it appears. This week in Montreal, the Bush administration's approach to global warming became increasingly embarrassing. Indeed, to much of the world the U.S. is in danger of resembling a third-world despotism in which the government's legitimacy runs only as far as the nearest international airport.

Things were already going sour when the U.S. delegation refused to allow discussion of the proposal the Bush administration has put forward on global warming. But early this week it turned out that the effective nerve center of American diplomacy on global warming was not the State Department in Foggy Bottom, D.C., but Exxon-Mobil headquarters in Irving, Texas. On Monday the Washington Post revealed that Harlan Watson, the head of the U.S. delegation, had actually been nominated for his role very early in the Bush administration -- by Exxon-Mobil itself.

According to the Post, the oil company suggested to House Speaker Dennis Hastert that Republicans "make Watson, who at the time worked for the House Science Committee -- 'available to work with the team' of Americans attending international climate change meetings.'"

Watson got the job Exxon-Mobil nominated him for, and for the past week has been engaged in destroying whatever shreds remain of America's worldwide reputation as a responsible member of the global community.

But all week long, various Americans tried to send the rest of the world the message that the White House is not America.

Local officials from the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast urged action to reduce the risk of "hyperhurricanes." Then officials from California, a state with a Republican Governor and by itself the eighth-largest economy in the world, held an event in which they make it clear that they are going to increase renewable energy to 33 percent by 2020, tackle CO2 emissions from cars, and engage in an ambitious program to achieve significant CO2 emissions overall in the decades to come.

Senate Democratic Energy leader Jeff Bingaman brought with him a letter from two dozen Senators criticizing the U.S. position, and pointing out that the country has a binding treaty obligation under the Rio Accord to act on climate change and avoid dangerous buildup of greenhouse pollution.

Then 25 prominent American economists, including three Nobel laureates, called on the country to act now to avoid more costly consequences later.

But it was only when the Man from Hope got on a plane and flew to the conference that the Administration melted down completely. President Clinton was originally going to appear in a formal venue as the guest of the City of Montreal. But backstage the U.S. protested loudly and, according to insiders in the Canadian government, threatened that they might blow the whole conference up if Clinton was allowed to appear at an official venue. So the Sierra Club du Canada stepped in and created an unofficial venue for him, and the U.S. tried to cover up its temper tantrum by issuing an official statement saying that such events are "useful opportunities to hear a wide range of views on global climate change." (Not useful enough, it turned out, for anyone from the U.S. delegation to attend. Evidently only foreigners benefit from such exchanges of views.)

Clinton's statement was clearly designed to reassure the rest of the world that not all Americans were entirely clueless. Clinton made his point simply and eloquently. Here's how the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, led into the story: "OTTAWA, Dec. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- The economy does not have to be weakened if there is a serious effort to use existing clean energy and energy conservation technologies, former US president Bill Clinton told the UN climate change conference in Montreal Friday."

The Toronto Globe and Mail said, "Former U.S. president Bill Clinton told an audience of diplomats, environmentalists and others Friday that the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is "flat wrong" in its view that reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to fight global warming would damage the U.S. economy."

The Bangkok Post selected this quote: "Who can refuse to have this discussion?"

Even Saudi Arabia, facing a unified global community, softened its previous opposition to any action against global warming.

But the Administration wouldn't yield. Ultimately, it turns out, bullies are usually cowards. John Kennedy had it right. We should never fear to negotiate.

As the conference winds up today or tomorrow, the U.S. will be left standing alone, left behind by the world -- without even the thin cover of a Coalition of the Unwilling.

How sad for our nation.

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