Bush will not attend summit
August 21, 2002
support for the US after September 11 was not enough to
influence him on green issues, writes Julian Borger
As far as newsworthiness goes, the revelation
that President George Bush will not be attending the earth
summit in Johannesburg this month, ranks alongside the
Queen turning down an invitation to a Sex Pistols tribute
never going to happen.
Blair seems to have believed until the last moment that
he could persuade the president to disrupt his month-long
vacation in Texas to make an appearance in South Africa.
told he made a series of appeals to him, but here the
prime minister appears to have been a victim of his own
rationale for the blank-cheque support offered to US foreign
and security policy relies heavily on the "change-from-within"
argument - employed by many an erstwhile student radical
on taking up a lucrative job in the City.
Washington to the hilt in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the
Blair government maintained it would be able to influence
the Bush administration on other issues on the prime minister's
social interventionist agenda.
it has been.
the glib talk about a "Marshall plan" for postwar Afghanistan,
the US is already turning off the financial tap.
set its face determinedly against the use of American
troops for an expansion of the International Security
Assistance Force - a peacekeeping effort advocated by
Britain and almost everyone else as a precondition for
to the predictions of British diplomats, Blair has had
no tangible effect on this administration's Middle East
policy, which has sided ever more decisively with the
Israeli government of Ariel Sharon.
hopes of putting third world development high on the international
agenda as a positive counterweight to the "war on terror"
has also been rendered empty rhetoric by the US farm bill
- that subsidised American agro-industries at the expense
of African farmers - and the Bush administration's complete
lack of interest in development themes at the G8 summit
in Canada in June.
told that Colin Powell will go to Johannesburg in the
president's place, and in many administrations the secretary
of state would be viewed as a reasonable substitute.
it is clear by now that Powell has next to no influence
on core policy objectives, and tends to be sent along
- often against his will - to deal with international
problems that the White House has no interest in, or expectation
the Middle East, or global warming.
minister's evident faith that he could turn Bush green
if only for the duration of a single South African photo
opportunity seems all the more naive because the very
idea conflicts with the president's two deepest political
* Do what
your biggest campaign contributors tell you to do.
do what your daddy did when he was president .
tenets, underpin a surprising proportion of the Bush agenda.
principle is self-evident when it comes to the environment.
While he was Texas governor, Bush literally allowed the
big energy companies like Exxon-Mobil to write their own
emissions laws, and the result was an entirely voluntary
stations and oil refineries pumped out more pollution
than they themselves said they ought to, they would try
to do better the next year.
governance like this that helped Bush amass the biggest
war chest of corporate campaign contributions ever seen
in the history of presidential politics by far.
hardly surprising then, that he brought the same simple
environmental policy to the White House.
predictably that Congress has still not been able to view
the list of oil company executives who filed in to the
White House in spring 2001 to help draw up the administration's
the head of enforcement at the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) until he resigned in protest in February,
has just published a chilling account of how the Bush
administration undermined any attempt to hold corporations
accountable for their effluent.
In an article
in Washington Monthly, he describes how the White House
and energy department officials collaborated with corporate
lobbyists to enlarge loopholes in the country's environmental
EPA administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, even advised
corporate polluters not to settle with the agency out
of court, while she reviewed its litigation and gutted
the enforcement department.
"In a matter
of weeks, the Bush administration was able to undo the
environmental progress we had worked years to secure,"
to repay campaign contributors in kind is also the principal
factor behind Bush's tax cuts, which focus their benefits
overwhelmingly on the richest 1% of the population while
pulling the federal government back into deficit for the
is one of several fields in which both Bush principles
elder raised taxes despite his campaign appeal to voters
to read his lips and well-to-do Republicans never forgave
one of the reasons why Bush I lost US election 1992 to
Bill Clinton despite winning the Gulf War.
of the father's grasp on a second term is a major trauma
in Bush family lore and one that the son is anxious to
avoid at all costs.
I was seen as out of touch with ordinary voters during
the nation's last economic downturn, Bush II has spent
hours of his holiday this month at an economic "forum"
with a cast of invited "ordinary Americans" while simultaneously
schmoozing with some of his top campaign contributors.
I got tough with the hardline Israeli government of his
day - alienating Jewish and fundamentalist Christian voters
- Bush the younger has stood shoulder to shoulder with
Sharon, the "man of peace".
Bush I famously let President Saddam Hussein live to fight
another day back in 1991.
has vowed not to repeat the mistake.
for environmentalists hoping for something meaningful
to emerge from Johannesburg, Bush I went to the earth
summit in Rio ten years ago.
signed the Climate Change Convention, which was supposed
to provide a framework for the reduction of greenhouse
alone was probably enough to ensure Bush I would never
case, there is also a Fortune 500 list of companies willing
to pay for him not to go.