Where Right and Left Collide: A Zeek Debate, p.2

between Jay Michaelson and Evan Sayet
Moderated by Dan Friedman

2. The Environment and General Political Outlook

DF: President Bush has said that he is following in the footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt as a great Republican environmentalist -- what do you think that means?

ES: There is a misconception amongst Democrats (many on the left actually being socialists who seek to undermine capitalism) that any new regulation that hurts businesses must be good for the environment. Despite the spin and the lies of many in the leftist press this President has struck a wonderful balance between business and the environment. In fact I'll give two examples where the Democrats, given a choice between hurting business and helping the enviroment opted to do damage to our environment.

The President rightly recognized that our forests were dangerously overgrown. Disease and death was rampant. This created a fire hazard that the President sought to alleviate by allowing the thinning of the overgrown trees. The Democrats simply went on the attack, claiming in what has become typical hyperbole that the President wanted to clear the world's forests (because Republicans don't breathe air). So they prevented the very logical thinning of the forests that would have been good both for business AND the environment. The result? Here in California the entire forests burned to the ground. But, of course, the loggers didn't make any extra money so it was a victory for the left. The reality is that in society we need to strike a balance between business and the environment. All of the onerous regulations that do little to actually help need to be repealed without the bogus attack that bad legislation is good because ALL legislation is good.

JM: I'm happy to respond to these claims, since as a former environmental lawyer, who drafted legal briefs regarding forest protection, I feel qualified to say that Evan's facts are simply wrong. The "healthy forests" initiative, to which he refers, is the single most destructive piece of environmental legislation in the history of this country. It will destroy millions of acres of forest, without environmental review, and pave new logging roads in roadless areas. Forests are not "overgrown." They have been growing on their own, perfectly well, for millions of years, without the need for human beings to manage them and clearcut them. Do we really think mother nature needs our help? This is a good example of the Right wing simply ignoring science because it has a financial interest at stake - in this case, appeasing big timber companies.

Climate change, of course, is the biggest example. There is no scientific doubt that climate change is real and it is occurring due to human agency - none. Yet a few bogus, industry-paid "scientists" are regularly trotted out by the Right to show that there is uncertainty. The reality is, this president has been the worst environmental president ever. He has an abysmal rating from nonpartisan groups such as the League of Conservation Voters. His energy plan was written by Big Oil, in secret meetings. He flip-flopped on climate change and clean air. This is an unambiguous issue.

One last small point. The rhetoric of "balance" is appealing, because it can go any way you want. There are always different interests to be "balanced." What you have to do is look at the facts. An Interior department run by former lobbyists for the mining indusry. An energy plan that addicts us even more to Saudi oil - at great peril to our national security. Once again, it's fine to chant slogans about socialism, but just look at the facts in black and white.

ES: These arguments are typical hyperbole (such as "the Patriot Act is designed to steal all your human rights!!!" The reality is that nothing called for the "clear cutting" of the forests. But if the argument was made in realistic terms -- that overgrown brush was causing a danger to homes, families and human life and that thinning the dead and dying trees was good all around the leftists wouldn't be able to support their argument.

Time and again the arguments put forth by the left are half-truths or worse. For example, the silly notion that the energy policy was "made by the oil companies" is pure drivel. Yes, the Vice President met in private meetings with oil company executives. This is a practice, however, that has gone on since just about the founding of our nation. He also met with all kinds of other experts. Why WOULDN'T you meet with the EXPERTS in the field. Would anyone really object if the President met with car makers when considering legislation about gas mileage?

As for the meetings being private this is actually a good thing (and again not a precedent in the slightest). If these discussions were public then the companies would not be open and honest but instead they would have to put on a PR show. So here, again, you have something that is good, right, and been done by previous administrations but because it's an 'attack point' you hear it time and again from the left. It is actually destructive to the leftists that they engage (not just here but at the highest levels) in the most ludicrous of hyperbole. Bush's "environmental program is THE WORST EVER" and his foreign policy is "the most inept EVER!!" and he wants to clear cut ALL OF THE TREES, and the Patriot Act is designed to STEAL ALL YOUR HUMAN RIGHTS, etc.

As with so many other things the President has simply done what is right and let the left attack with half-truths. This president has been strong for both the environment AND business. After almost four years of "the worst enviromental program in HISTORY!!!" the result has not been the catastrophe that the left assured us it would be. The notion that Bush is "anti-environment" because he's in the "pocket" of the lumber industry is just another vicious attack devoid of fact, evidence, etc.

JM: Here is the evidence of lies and misrepresentations around the Healthy Forests program: From the American Lands Alliance: Clear Myths and Facts about every aspect of it (note it's a pdf document), including false claims about wildfires, acreage, etc. More evidence, of course, is that the Bush interior department is made up of timber, mining, and grazing lobbyists. Here is a partial list, from an earlier article in Zeek.

As for the energy plan, the energy lobby published its position papers in 2000 and 2001, as all lobbyists do. The Cheney energy plan is a verbatim copy of those papers. That's what is meant by "energy plan made by the oil industry." I'm not sure how much clearer that can be. Besides, if there's nothing to hide, why won't Cheney release the notes of the meetings? Because Cheney didn't meet with the experts ot a single academic, not one expert on energy policy, not a single environmental lawyer. The only people invited were oil industry lobbyists. Are those the only experts? No, obviously not.

I have not stated any hyperbole - I have stated facts, about Bush's ratings from nonpartisan watchdog groups. Bush received a Zero rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Zero! Their rating was based on a clear methodology, going vote by vote, item by item; check the website for detailed information. Of course, my colleague will say they are biased, just like the so-called liberal corporate media.

I don't need hyperbole. The Patriot act destroys enough rights on its own - I don't need to exaggerate and say "all" (as I never did). Wiretaps without warrants? Scary. Allowing companies to put more arsenic in the environment? Scary. Lying about Saddam and 9/11, claiming a link where there never was one? Also scary. No hyperbole necessary. Just facts. If we were going to discuss rhetoric as its own topic, then obviously the most dangerous hyperbole is when folks like Dick Cheney say "A vote for John Kerry is a vote for terrorists." Or when my colleague said a few minutes ago that the left wants to "poll other nations" to determine what good policy is. At best, these are hyperbole. They are outrageous statements meant to terrify the American voter. I don't want to exaggerate or terrify anyone.

But the Right has to change the subject, and talk about rhetoric instead of the facts. Because the facts are hard to defend. Defend the Estate Tax repeal, defend the details of Healthy Forests - these policies are out of step with the American voter. Average Americans do not support these extreme policies. So we get smoke and mirrors.

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Images: American Lands Institute

October 2004

Empowering Jewish Progressives
Leah Koenig

Deconstructing Zell Miller (and Reconstructing Kerry)
Jay Michaelson

A Demonstration in Words
Hila Ratzabi

Where Left and Right Collide
a debate
moderated by
Dan Friedman

Art at War
Bara Sapir

Jews and Bush
An Online Resource Guide

Belly of the Beast
Cullen Goldblatt

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From previous issues:

Stones of Jerusalem
David Goldstein

I'm Hearing Music from a Different Time
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One Ring Zero: As Smart as They Are
Paul Fischer