What Bush did while Americans gave thanks

On Wednesday, the George W. Bush administration released three controversial new policies that will significantly weaken previous environmental standards. Although each of the new policies is individually objectionable, the Bush administration’s method of informing the public is more controversial. The administration knew the new policies would be unpopular, so it chose to release them the day before Thanksgiving, when Americans are preoccupied with celebrating the holiday and obviously were not paying attention to national news. This behavior is politics at its lowest, a form of deceit Bush so fervently campaigned against.

The administration approved the operation of Mexican trucks and buses to operate anywhere in the United States. Previously, such trucks had been restricted from operating in the United States, although they could be operated in a 20-mile-wide zone along the U.S.-Mexico border. Although Congress had increased some standards for training of the drivers, and the number of border inspectors has increased in response to terrorism concerns, there are still fundamental objections to this policy. The Mexican trucks and buses pollute significantly more than U.S. trucks, the drivers are not held to the same standards as U.S. drivers and the trucks do not adhere to U.S. safety standards. There are important loopholes, as well, as only companies with four or more trucks will be subject to safety inspections.

The administration also lifted restrictions on environmental assessments for logging and commercial activity in national forests. Bush proposed letting managers of the 155 national forests approve such activity with little regard to environmental impact statements that had been required. Forest managers can now decide whether to require rules to protect species that might become endangered, as well as whether to take steps to conserve fish and wildlife. These rulings would provide less protection to wildlife than the set of rules issued by the Reagan administration.

In California, the Bush administration approved a power plant on sacred American Indian land that the Clinton administration had previously rejected. The land, called Telephone Flat, is in the Modoc National Forest two miles from Medicine Lake, which four local tribes consider sacred. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a federal preservation agency, advised Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton against the plant because of its sacredness to the tribes.

These three policies were announced when the Bush administration knew Americans were not looking. Although each is significant enough to deserve debates in public forums such as the media, unfortunately, this will not occur. The Bush administration is not concerned whether Americans even knew of these important policy changes and certainly not what Americans think of them. Bush has his own ideological agenda about helping corporations with little thought for environmental concerns. Releasing important policy changes under the smokescreen of a holiday illustrates that he has few thoughts about Americans’ concerns, either.