A central irony here is that the man supposedly counselling Clinton to sell out in the interests of political expediency saw more than a year ago that expediency required Clinton to hang tough on the environment. That man was the bad boy of the White House, Dick Morris. Morris is a Republican pollster and longtime Clinton intimate who was brought on board to help resurrect the administration two years ago. His polling data showed a stunning 70 percent support for strong federal environmental protections. The support cut across the economic and political spectrum and revealed a significant vulnerability for the Republican juggernaut. According to several White House sources, Morris strongly urged Clinton to veto the salvage rider.
But Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt ridiculed Morris's advice. Babbitt argued that signing the salvage rider was a win-win situation for Clinton. The administration could appease the big timber corporations and pick up some votes in key Western states without fear of losing the support of the environmental groups. The big green outfits, Babbitt sneered, would swallow nearly any betrayal by Clinton with barely a whimper of distaste. Where else could they turn? Babbitt was right.
As always with the Clinton gang, the rule has been "Watch what we say, not what we do." And the corporate press and many green organizations have played along with the scam. Alas, what they say is fraudulent, what they do has been dangerous to health and environment.
But Clinton's act may be starting to wear thin. Environmentalists such as Ed Begley and groups such as VOTE are beginning to stand up. And now Ralph Nader has given them a place to turn. It's his time to run seriously and not merely go through the motions. Nader has to run as though he hopes to win.