Bush enrages California, again. Plus: Does global warming really need a lot of new research?

Published June 12, 2001 10:00PM (EDT)

Rant: Pump-slapping the Golden State

So much for President Bush's olive branch to California. Just two weeks after visiting the state in an effort to make amends, President Bush has once again stuck it to California by forcing the state to use the fuel additive ethanol. The move could send gas prices -- already over $2 per gallon in much of the state -- up at least another 5 cents a gallon at the pump this summer.

California had applied for a waiver from a Clean Air Act requirement to use clean fuel additives like ethanol to cleanse its gasoline. Two years ago, Gov. Gray Davis banned the additive MTBE, which helped clean the air but also contaminated the state's water supply. Davis and other Californians argued there are now cheaper ways to clean up gasoline than ethanol, but Bush denied the waiver that would have let the state use them.

By refusing California's request, Bush enjoys a win-win-win situation. He gets to bolster his environmental cred as a clean air guy, though that's probably still a pretty tough sell in most parts. More importantly, he gives a boost to corn-producing swing states like Iowa, a state Bush lost in November by just 4,000 votes. And of course, he gets to sock it to California -- again.

To be fair, California's waiver was also opposed by Senate Majority Leader (and possible Democratic presidential contender) Tom Daschle. (Never underestimate the power of the Iowa Caucus.) Clearly, the move is aimed more at shoring up support in key farm-belt swing states than it is at gouging California. But sometimes, things just have a way of working out. Bush gets to placate farm-belt states, look a little greener and thumb his nose at chief critic Gray Davis. That's some welcome good news on the domestic front, while he's struggling to appease allies in Europe.

-- Anthony York

Daily line

"The Kyoto Protocol was fatally flawed in fundamental ways. But the process used to bring nations together to discuss our joint response to climate change is an important one."
-- President Bush in a statement about global warming

Bush buzz

President Bush is still expressing doubts about global warming, and has ordered additional studies of the perpetually studied phenomenon before he'll commit to do anything about it. In a Rose Garden speech, Bush acknowledged that global warming is a reality, but refused to commit America to conservation measures that might counteract its effects. He also reiterated his opposition to the Kyoto treaty, which would mandate reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.

To many conservatives, this is a sign of strength, an indication that Bush won't be bullied into politically popular but unrealistic statements about environmental policy. But environmentalists and some scientists claim that the president's remarks indicate his continuing ignorance about the issue. They believe that climate change skeptics like Bush are years behind the established findings on global warming, and that the questions the president wants to research have already been answered by previous studies.

As for the Kyoto treaty, even some of its supporters from the Clinton administration have expressed concerns that implementing its mandates could have a negative impact on the American economy. But those reservations are unlikely to win the sympathy of the European leaders Bush will meet with in the coming week. American allies there have grown impatient with what they see as this nation's unwillingness to do its share to clean up the environment.

In another area of dispute, the execution of Timothy McVeigh has reinvigorated European criticism of the death penalty in the U.S. While the environment, missile defense and trade disputes are expected to dominate much of Bush's formal discussions with European leaders, disgust with capital punishment will add fuel to the protests expected to dog Bush through his travels.

Distrust of Bush, his policies and his abilities is reportedly pervasive in European society, from grass-roots protesters to heads of state. What's more, according to the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, many Americans think the president doesn't command the respect of the international community. While 56 percent of those surveyed said that Bush "does a good job of representing the country to people overseas," 47 percent said foreign leaders "do not have much respect for Bush."

On this side of the Atlantic, the Bush administration is trying to work through the politically sticky topic of embryonic stem cell research. Early in his administration, Bush stalled federal funding for such research and ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to study its ethical implications. While hardcore anti-abortion activists oppose stem cell research, many doctors believe that it has the potential to help fight a wide variety of medical problems, such as juvenile diabetes and Parkinson's disease. Further complicating matters for Bush, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson was a proponent of the research during his tenure as Wisconsin governor, and reportedly would like to move forward on the issue soon.

Meanwhile, the new Democratic majority in the Senate is moving forward with an investigation that is likely to undermine Bush's energy policy plans. Under the direction of Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Senate will probe whether recent spikes in gasoline prices were the result of price fixing by the oil industry.

And don't miss House Republicans playing host to donors at the Six Flags theme park just outside Washington. The event helped the National Republican Congressional Committee pocket $200,000. Critics claim the donor field trip was inappropriate because the House is currently considering a bill that would strengthen federal oversight of amusement park safety. Six Flags Inc. has declared the legislation unnecessary.

In tax cut news, the much ballyhooed rebate check may not be in the mail for many Americans. An independent study has found that a quarter of the nation's taxpayers won't get a dime when the IRS hands out rebate checks this summer, while nearly 40 percent will get less than the $300 that singles and $600 that married couples were told to expect.

Tuesday schedule: The president is in Spain, where he meets first with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia and then with President Jose Maria Aznar Lopez. The president also drops in on the staff of the U.S. Embassy and holds a news conference in the early evening.

-- Alicia Montgomery

This day in Bush history

June 12, 1995: Gov. George W. Bush signed legislation that allowed landowners to sue if they felt that the government had taken their property improperly. "These new laws say if you own land in Texas, you have certain rights and your government must respect those rights," Bush said. The law was a reaction to property use restrictions resulting from the Endangered Species Act.

Poll watch

President Bush's Republican allies have told Democrats repeatedly to forget about Florida and its messy presidential recounts. Right after the U.S. Civil Rights Commission released its draft report about election irregularities in that state, a Fox News poll shows that the American people are not over the Sunshine State's electoral tangle, and that a majority of them are still mad.

The survey, taken June 6 to 7, shows that 58 percent of the public gets angry when they are "thinking of how ... votes were counted" in Florida's 2000 presidential contest, while 28 percent say that they are "satisfied." Predictably, negative feelings were strongest among Democrats, with just 18 percent reporting satisfaction and 81 percent still angry. That compares with 36 percent of Republicans who are mad and 49 percent who are satisfied. Political independents were right in the middle of the road; the recount left 58 percent angry and 20 percent satisfied.

The poll has a three-point margin of error.

Bush job approval

  • 59 percent, Fox News, June 6 to 7
    Steady at 59 percent, May 9 to 10

  • 55 percent, ABC News/Washington Post, May 31 to June 3
    Down from 63 percent, April 19 to 22

  • 52 percent, CNN/Time, May 23 to 24
    Down from 55 percent, March 21 to 22

  • 53 percent, Pew Center, May 15 to 20
    Down from 56 percent, April 18 to 22

  • 56 percent, Gallup, May 18 to 20
    Steady at 56 percent, May 10 to 14

  • 57 percent, CBS News/New York Times, May 10 to 12
    Up from 56 percent, April 23 to 25

  • 50 percent, Newsweek, May 10 to 11
    Down from 57 percent, May 3 to 4

    -- A.M.

    Burning Bush

    Links to the Web's best sites for hardcore Bush watchers.

    Send questions, comments and tips to bushed@salon.com.

    Bushed! contributors: Eric Boehlert, Karen Croft, Gary Kamiya, Kerry Lauerman, Daryl Lindsey, Alicia Montgomery, Fiona Morgan, Scott Rosenberg, Jake Tapper, Joan Walsh, Anthony York

    Take a look at the previous edition of Bushed!

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