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Bush Meets The Yuripeens

by Molly Ivins

The soft bigotry of low expectations works for George W. every time
Look at it this way: The president hasn't barfed on anyone yet, and he's only mispronounced one world leader's name so far. The bad news is it was the only guy over there who likes us, and he has only two syllables in his name.

I think we can assume George W. will skate through this trip because he'll turn out to be not as bad as they thought. The soft bigotry of low expectations works for him every time. But it was probably a mistake to schedule him for Slovenia-Slovakia -- that's just asking for trouble.

In case you were wondering just why the Europeans are so upset about our death penalty (MYOB, Yuripeens), it's because it's clear to everyone but us that the main crime that gets you sentenced to death in this country is being poor. This seriously undercuts our moral authority to speak on human-rights issues. The unfortunate case of the Spanish citizen who was sentenced to death here until the folks back home raised enough money to buy him some decent lawyering does not help.

National Missile Defense is a hard sell anywhere because it's one of those bizarre notions -- like the flat tax and school vouchers -- that the right wing gets hipped on and won't let go. It's a crummy idea because: A) it doesn't work, and B) it encourages paranoia among our non-allies, who think it's a reach for protected first-strike capability. It doesn't help to have President W. informing our allies, "The Cold War is over," as though they hadn't previously twigged to the fact. To have noticed that the Cold War is over without picking up on the news that the globe is getting warmer must seem odd to those are not accustomed to President Cognitive Dissonance.

Bush's last-minute attempt to put together a lame initiative on global warming was embarrassing. Now he's back to voluntary pollution control, which we have tried in Texas -- and it does not work worth a blue-bellied damn.

To give you an idea of how ineffective voluntary controls are, when Bush was elected governor, Texas had 850 plants with grandfather exemptions to the state's clean air act --- they had been grandfathered 23 years earlier and no one had done anything about them. These plants produce 36 percent of the state's total air pollution, and Texas' air is worse than any other state's.

Even the ineffective Texas environmental protection agency finally concluded something had to be done about the old plants. But Bush jumped in and supported a voluntary plan hatched by two dozen of the biggest polluters in the state (also major Bush contributors). The plan was put into a bill written by a lobbyist for the Texas Chemical Council, and Bush pushed it through. The results after two years ---- of the 850 grandfathered polluters, 28 had gone so far as to come up with a plan to reduce their pollution in the future, and three had actually done something. This kind of genius scheme is not going to save us from global warming. Neither is National Missile Defense.

Those with a realistic grasp of global warming believe the Kyoto Protocol itself is inadequate, and here's Bush acting as though it is the worst idea since the Treaty of Munich. He's already broken his campaign promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions, one of the main greenhouse gases, because it made the coal and oil industries unhappy.

Europeans, being understandably interested in self-preservation, are unlikely to comprehend Bush's solicitous concern for polluters. Whining, "But India and China don't have to do anything" (under the Kyoto accords) is beside the point. India and China don't produce that much pollution. We do -- 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the greenhouse emissions.

The smart thing to do would be to research and develop both energy-efficiency and pollution-control equipment, and then sell the stuff to India and China. What's good for the environment is, actually, good for the economy.

Bush appears to the Europeans, as a senior White House official put it, "a shallow, arrogant, gun-loving, abortion-hating Christian fundamentalist Texan buffoon." To dismiss this misimpression as a function of European snobbism, leftism or anti-Americanism (as did a splendidly ludicrous essay in The Wall Street Journal) misses the point. We are supposed to be the pragmatists, the shrewd Yankees, but Bush has embarked on two courses of folly simultaneously -- ignoring global warming and National Missile Defense.

As for why we should care what Europeans think of us, as was said at the beginning, "A decent respect for the opinions of Mankind" lays that responsibility on us.

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Albion Monitor June 16, 2001 (

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