Squander This

by Julie Walsh on March 10, 2008

Being a little behind on my reading I just encountered former Bush speechwriter and current Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson’s friday column weighing in to add context to Sen. Hillary Clinton’s claim that “the world was with us after 9/11. We have so squandered that goodwill and we’ve got to rebuild it”. Along the way he lends some unjustified support to it.

Yes, hers is a standard talking point since, oh, 2002. Yes, the point isn’t that Congress caused this rift but President Bush. And, yes, there is something to it, if generally not that which is attributed to the problem. Recall the late Tom Lantos’ observations how relations between the U.S. and its two greatest 2001-2006 antagonists, France and Germany, improved remarkably not with any change in our leadership, but changes in theirs.

Typically associated with this cooling of the relations are two complaints specifically echoed by Gerson, Guantanamo and global warming. The relevant tension will be remedied because “the next president, Republican of Democrat, is likely to close Guantanamo and sign legislation to restrict American carbon emissions, mollifying two justified European criticisms.” (emphasis added)

Leaving the Gitmo issue to Andrew McCarthy and the gang at the Corner, let’s walk through our progressions on the other point, shall we?

Gerson’s implication of course is that part of the Bush-driven rift with Europe (which he, too, admits has lessened appreciably) arises from said lack of CO2 legislation.

Question: how does such legislation come to be signed by presidents? If you guessed “Congress first passes it” you are correct. So once Bush is gone Congress will pass such a law, which they have chosen to not do to date. Congressional inaction driven by fear of a Bush veto is logically Gerson’s presumption in possible explanation why this point goes without elaboration.

Question: has this Congress shown a reluctance to pass bills on the fear – or even express promise – that Bush will veto them? If you also guessed “no” you’re at the head of the class.

So, at this point we know that if Congress acts in a way that to date they have chosen to not act if without a good excuse, Bush’s rift will be healed. But this wasn’t clear from the piece.

Also unspoken was the whole Kyoto thing, which hangs over Gerson’s column like those plumes of other-than-CO2 emissions (CO2 is invisible) that the media show you to dramatize any story about CO2 emissions (for fun, Google “squander post-9/11 goodwill Kyoto”, and gape in slack-jawed amazement at the number of returns).

To repeat: Bush articulated his Kyoto policy on March 17, 2001. Whatever your calendar – Julian, Gregorian, Wookie… – this event came six months before 9/11 and is very ill-timed for anything that might be described fairly as having contributed to “squandering post-9/11 goodwill.”

Further, that position that Bush articulated on 3/17/01 was that he had no interest in seeking Senate ratification. Period. The mythical “unsigning” is as real as the silly, contradictory news stories claiming that Bush “refused to sign” Kyoto. Clinton (specifically, then-Acting Ambassador to the U.S.’s UN Mission, Peter Burleigh) signed it on November 12, 1998.

It is inarguable that as a substantive matter this position articulated six months before the world was united beside us was an affirmation of the Clinton-Gore policy, regardless of whether the latter ever had a press conference to announce it (they tried to keep word of signing the thing as quiet as such things can be – go ahead and find it on the internet, you’ll see one Planet Ark story – so I assure you they never did that). I'm not saying the French liked him actually saying that, just that that's all he did and said.

So for over three years after Gore originally agreed to the pact for us on December 11, 1997 until they left office, the Clinton-Gore administration’s policy was the Bush policy.

Finally, why might Europe "justifiably criticize" us for not passing a law to cap CO2 emissions? Presumably because they are doing that themselves, right? Somehow capping emissions, that is, not passing laws at the EU level which we by now know to be unenforceable and more subject to gaming than even domestic carbon laws. See below, aware that when this chart is updated, likely in the last week or so of June, after a drop of about 0.8% in 2005 these emissions will have risen 2006-over-2005 by about a percent and a half, according to member-state data already in the public domain.


In short, Europe has absolutely zero grounds for claiming that CO2 or Kyoto justified their anti-American snit(s) after we were dealt with ground zero. Period.

Everyone’s emissions are increasing; everyone’s. Of course, not everyone’s are increasing as fast as Europe’s. And as regards the U.S., our emissions went down the last year on record, 2006; over the period since 1997 when Europe began its grandiose promises, US CO2 emissions performance is to have increased emissions at an annual rate that is half of Europe’s, even while our economy and population grew faster than theirs. Since 2000, the gap widens significantly. Europe’s criticisms are not justified. Period.


In a normal election year, this would be an issue, and these facts would become more widely known. This clearly, however, is not a normal election year.

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