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Jewish World Review April 25, 2001 / 3 Iyar, 5761

Martin Schram

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Consumer Reports

The man who made Bush what he is -- HOW tedious, these analyses of the new administration's First 100 Days. So superficial. So artificial. So identical.

So today let's shatter the conventions of punditry and tell it like it really is. Let's look at The First 100 Days of the Nader-Bush-Cheney administration.

And let's look at it from the perspective of the man who made George W. Bush what he is today. Meet and greet Ralph Nader, the Green Party's candidate for president in 2000.

Now, there are some who keep writing that a bunch of dimpled and dangling guys named Chad won Florida for Bush. Not so. Bush's margin of victory over Democrat Al Gore in the Florida Recount Wars may have been a few hundred votes or a thousand or so - but that is inconsequential once you realize that Ralph Nader received 97,419 votes in Florida from people partial to the environmental activist cause. Early in the election year, Republicans realized that Nader was their politically green ace in the hole. The GOP strategists were prepared to cast Gore as an enviro-nut (via the dastardly tactic of using Gore's direct quotes from his book, "Earth in Balance," passages that dripped with liberal activism). But then GOP strategists realized that attack would convince environmentalists to vote for Gore instead of wasting their votes on Nader. So the Republicans just zipped their well-watched lips while Nader and his environmentalists did their Green thing - which cost Gore the presidency. (Nader also enabled Bush to win in New Hampshire, where the Republican's 7,882 margin of victory would have been easily eclipsed had it not been for the 22,156 votes Nader received there.)

So the Green Party, previously a non-power in American politics, became a kingmaker. And for the past week, its standard-bearer worked the TV news-talk circuit, to commemorate celebrations of Earth Day by giving his opinions of the environmental actions of Bush and Cheney.

Nader's performance was bizarre. He put himself through all manner of rhetorical contortions to avoid saying anything bad about Bush's policies. But he gleefully bashed the policies of Bill Clinton - often blaming the vice president for the shortcomings of the president. Rationalizing what he hath wrought, Nader contended that environmental groups never had it so good.

"... the environmental groups have never been more dynamic," Nader told Wall Street Journal columnist Al Hunt on CNN. "They no longer have an anesthetizer in the White House who says the right things and does nothing."

Nader is right in criticizing Clinton's policies. After the Clinton administration signed the Kyoto treaty on global warming, Clinton never fought for its ratification at home - and never fought internationally for much-needed modification. His head apparently was elsewhere in his last years of personal crisis.

Nader is also right when he says: "Clinton laid a trap for Bush by these post- November 7 standards he issued ... on lead, on ergonomics." Indeed, Clinton issued a number of executive orders affecting environmental policy - with little or no explanation - that should have been issued earlier, with ample elaboration, had he not been spending his political capital on saving his presidency.

But Nader discredits all that he has ever claimed to stand for when he then bobs and weaves to avoid full frontal attacks on Bush's environmental policies that even Republicans criticize. And it is especially pathetic to watch Nader snake and slither to avoid saying that Al Gore would have been a better environmental president than Bush. Not even when Hunt pointedly ran down the list, asked Nader if Gore would have done what Bush did: suspend Clinton's order lowering levels of arsenic in water, reneged on a campaign promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions, pushed for oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge.

Savvy Republicans know: The Nader-Bush-Cheney environmental performance during the First 100 Days has as much in common with consistent policy achievement and political adroitness as the Keystone Cops had with dramatic achievement. Bush began by doing in ham-fisted ways what he ideologically wanted to do. Then polls showed sharp drops in support, especially among GOP voters in suburbs. Shazaam! The new president reversed his course and costumed himself as an Evergreen Bush, in made-for-TV photo-ops that only were saying he wasn't going to scrap other minor Clinton orders.

Ralph Nader, once a public-serving teller of consumer truths, is today a self-serving man in denial, a pathetic lone traveler on an unrelenting ego trip. Rewind and replay his Earth Day interviews and you'll see what he has become: Unrepentant at Any Speed.

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